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Disintegration of Soviet Union and the Rise of the Unipolar World: Factors leading to the collapse of Soviet communism and the Soviet Union, 1985-1991; End of the cold war and US ascendancy in the World as the lone superpower: Part I

Disintegration of Soviet Union and the Rise of the Unipolar World: Factors leading to the collapse of Soviet communism and the Soviet Union, 1985-1991; End of the cold war and US ascendancy in the World as the lone superpower: Part I

Second Cold War (1979–85)

  • The term Second Cold War refers to the period of intensive reawakening of Cold War tensions and conflicts in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
  • Tensions greatly increased between the major powers with both sides becoming more militaristic.
  • US President Reagan went all out to fight the second cold war, by supporting counterinsurgencies in the third world.
  • The intensity of this ‘Second’ Cold War was as great as its duration was short.
  • The early 1980s were another period of elevated tension, with the Soviet downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 (1983), and the “Able Archer” NATO military exercises (1983).
  • The United States increased diplomatic, military, and economic pressures on the Soviet Union, at a time when the communist state was already suffering from economic stagnation.

(1) Soviet war in Afghanistan:

  • In April 1978, the communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) seized power in Afghanistan in the Saur Revolution.
  • Within months, opponents of the communist government launched an uprising in eastern Afghanistan that quickly expanded into a civil war waged by guerrilla mujahideen against government forces countrywide.
  • The Peshawar Seven insurgents (Seven Party Mujahideen Alliance) received military training and weapons in neighboring Pakistan and China, as well as weapons and billions of dollars from the United States, the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia, while the Soviet Union sent thousands of military advisers to support the PDPA government.
  • Meanwhile, increasing friction between the competing factions of the PDPA – the dominant Khalq and the more moderate Parcham – resulted in the dismissal of Parchami cabinet members and the arrest of Parchami military officers.
  • By mid-1979, the United States had started a covert program to assist the mujahideen.
  • In September 1979, Khalqist President Nur Muhammad Taraki was assassinated in a coup within the PDPA orchestrated by fellow Khalq member Hafizullah Amin, who assumed the presidency.
    • Distrusted by the Soviets, Amin was assassinated by Soviet special forces in December 1979.
  • A Soviet-organized government, led by Parcham’s Babrak Karmal but inclusive of both factions, filled the vacuum.
    • Soviet troops were deployed to stabilize Afghanistan under Karmal in more substantial numbers.
    • As a result, however, the Soviets were now directly involved in what had been a domestic war in Afghanistan.
  • US President Carter responded to the Soviet intervention by:
    • withdrawing the SALT II treaty from the Senate,
    • imposing embargoes on grain and technology shipments to the USSR,
    • demanding a significant increase in military spending, and
    • further announced that the United States would boycott the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics.
  • The Afghan War quickly settled down into a stalemate, with more than 100,000 Soviet troops controlling the cities, larger towns, and major garrisons and the mujahideen moving with relative freedom throughout the countryside.
    • Soviet troops tried to crush the insurgency by various tactics, but the guerrillas generally eluded their attacks.
    • The Soviets then attempted to eliminate the mujahideen’s civilian support by bombing and depopulating the rural areas.
    • These tactics sparked a massive flight from the countryside.
    • The mujahideen were eventually able to neutralize Soviet air power through the use of shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles supplied by the United States.
  • The war in Afghanistan became a quagmire for what by the late 1980s was a disintegrating Soviet Union.
    • The Soviets suffered some 15,000 dead and many more injured.
    • Despite having failed to implement a sympathetic regime in Afghanistan, in 1988 the Soviet Union signed an accord with the United States, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and agreed to withdraw its troops.
    • The Soviet withdrawal was completed on Feb. 15, 1989.

(2) Reagan and Thatcher:

  • Four years prior to becoming president, Ronald Reagan bluntly stated: “My idea of American policy toward the Soviet Union is simple, and some would say simplistic,” he said. “It is this: We win and they lose“.
  • In 1980, Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election, vowing to increase military spending and confront the Soviets everywhere.
  • Both Reagan and new British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher denounced the Soviet Union and its ideology.
  • By early 1985, Reagan’s anti-communist position had developed into a stance known as the new Reagan Doctrine—which, in addition to containment, formulated an additional right to subvert existing communist governments.
  • Besides continuing Carter’s policy of supporting the Islamic opponents of the Soviet Union and the Soviet-backed PDPA government in Afghanistan, the CIA also sought to weaken the Soviet Union itself by promoting political Islam in the majority-Muslim Central Asian Soviet Union.
    • CIA encouraged anti-communist Pakistan’s ISI to train Muslims from around the world to participate in the jihad against the Soviet Union.

(4) Polish Solidarity movement and martial law:

  • Pope John Paul II provided a moral focus for anti-communism; a visit to his native Poland in 1979 stimulated a religious and nationalist resurgence centered on the Solidarity movement that galvanized opposition.
  • Solidarity, a Polish Trade Union, was formally was founded on Sept. 22, 1980, when delegates of 36 regional trade unions met in Gdańsk and united under the name Solidarity. Wałesa was elected chairman of Solidarity.
    • It was the first trade union in a Warsaw Pact country that was not controlled by the Communist Party.
    • Its membership reached 10 million.
    • Solidarity was a broad anti-bureaucratic social movement, using the methods of civil resistance to advance the causes of workers’ rights and social change.
    • By early 1981 Solidarity had a membership of about 10 million people and represented most of the work force of Poland.
    • A separate agricultural union composed of private farmers, named Rural Solidarity, was founded in Warsaw on Dec. 14, 1980.
  • Throughout 1981 the government (led by General Wojciech Jaruzelski) was confronted by an ever stronger and more demanding Solidarity, which inflicted a series of controlled strikes to back up its appeals for economic reforms, for free elections, and for the involvement of trade unions in decision making at the highest levels.
  • Solidarity’s positions hardened as the moderate Wałesa came to be pressured by more militant unionists.
  • Jaruzelski’s government, meanwhile, was subjected to severe pressure from the Soviet Union to suppress Solidarity.
  • For the first time however, the Soviet Union abstained from military intervention unlike on previous occasions such as the Prague Spring of 1968 or the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, and thus left the Polish leadership under General Wojciech Jaruzelski to impose martial law to crush the opposition on their own.
    • Mikhail Suslov, the Kremlin’s top ideologist, advised Soviet leaders not to intervene if Poland fell under the control of Solidarity, for fear it might lead to heavy economic sanctions, representing a catastrophe for the Soviet economy.
  • On Dec. 13, 1981, Jaruzelski imposed martial law in Poland in a bid to crush the Solidarity movement.
    • Solidarity was declared illegal, and its leaders were arrested.
    • Reagan imposed economic sanctions on Poland in response.
  • The union was formally dissolved by the Parliament on Oct. 8, 1982, but it nevertheless continued as an underground organization.
  • Although martial law was lifted in 1983, many of the political prisoners were not released until the general amnesty in 1986.
  • In 1988 a new wave of strikes and labour unrest spread across Poland, and prominent among the strikers’ demands was government recognition of Solidarity.
    • In April 1989 the government agreed to legalize Solidarity and allow it to participate in free elections to a bicameral Polish parliament.
    • In the elections, held in June of that year, candidates endorsed by Solidarity won 99 of 100 seats in the newly formed Senate (upper house) and all 161 seats (of 460 total) that opposition candidates were entitled to contest in the Sejm (lower house).

(5) Soviet and US military build up and economic issues:

  • By the early 1980s, the USSR had built up a military arsenal and army surpassing that of the United States.
    • Soon after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, president Carter began massively building up the United States military.
    • This build up was accelerated by the Reagan administration, making the largest peacetime defense buildup in United States history.
  • Tensions continued intensifying in the early 1980s when Reagan:
    • revived the B-1 Lancer program that was cancelled by the Carter administration,
    • installed US cruise missiles in Europe,
    • announced his experimental Strategic Defense Initiative, dubbed “Star Wars” a defense program, to use ground-based and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles to shoot down missiles in mid-flight.
      • The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than the prior strategic offense doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD).
  • With the background of a buildup in tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States, and the deployment of Soviet ballistic missiles targeting Western Europe, NATO decided, under the impetus of the Carter presidency, to deploy MGM-31 Pershing and cruise missiles in Europe, primarily West Germany.
    • This deployment would have placed missiles just 10 minutes’ striking distance from Moscow.
  • After Reagan’s military buildup, the Soviet Union did not respond by further building its military because the enormous military expenses, along with inefficient planned manufacturing and collectivized agriculture, were already a heavy burden for the Soviet economy.
  • At the same time, Saudi Arabia increased oil production, even as other non-OPEC nations were increasing production. These developments contributed to the 1980s oil glut, which affected the Soviet Union, as oil was the main source of Soviet export revenues.
  • Issues with command economics, oil prices decreases and large military expenditures gradually brought the Soviet economy to stagnation.
  • On 1 September 1983, the Soviet Union shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007, with 269 people aboard, including sitting Congressman Larry McDonald, when it violated Soviet airspace —an act which Reagan characterized as a “massacre”. This act increased support for military deployment.
  • The Able Archer 83 exercise in November 1983, a realistic simulation of a coordinated NATO nuclear release, has been called most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis, as the Soviet leadership keeping a close watch on it considered a nuclear attack to be imminent.
  • US domestic public concerns about intervening in foreign conflicts persisted from the end of the Vietnam War.
    • The Reagan administration emphasized the use of quick, low-cost counter-insurgency tactics to intervene in foreign conflicts.
  • In 1983, the Reagan administration intervened in the multi sided Lebanese Civil War, invaded Grenada, bombed Libya and backed the Central American Contras, anti-communist paramilitaries seeking to overthrow the Soviet-aligned Sandinista government in Nicaragua.
    • While Reagan’s interventions against Grenada and Libya were popular in the United States, his backing of the Contra rebels was mired in controversy.
  • Meanwhile, the Soviets incurred high costs for their own foreign interventions.
    • Although Brezhnev was convinced in 1979 that the Soviet war in Afghanistan would be brief, Muslim guerrillas, aided by the US and other countries, waged a fierce resistance against the invasion.
    • The Kremlin sent nearly 100,000 troops to support its puppet regime in Afghanistan, leading many outside observers to dub the war “the Soviets’ Vietnam”.
    • However, Moscow’s quagmire in Afghanistan was far more disastrous for the Soviets than Vietnam had been for the Americans because the conflict coincided with a period of internal decay and domestic crisis in the Soviet system.
    • The invasion resulted in part from a domestic crisis within the Soviet system.

Final years (1985–91)

  • In the mid-1980s, the new General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the liberalizing reforms of perestroika (“reorganization”) and glasnost (“openness”) and ended Soviet involvement in Afghanistan.
  • Pressures for national independence grew stronger in Eastern Europe, especially Poland.
  • Gorbachev meanwhile refused to use Soviet troops to bolster the faltering Warsaw Pact regimes as had occurred in the past.
  • The result in 1989 was a wave of revolutions that peacefully (with the exception of the Romanian Revolution) overthrew all of the Communist regimes of Central and Eastern Europe.
  • The Communist Party of the Soviet Union itself lost control and was banned following an abortive coup attempt in August 1991.
  • This in turn led to the formal dissolution of the USSR in December 1991 and the collapse of Communist regimes in other countries such as Mongolia, Cambodia and South Yemen. The United States remained as the world’s only superpower.

(1) Gorbachev reforms:

  • By the time the comparatively youthful Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of Soviet Union in 1985, the Soviet economy was stagnant and faced a sharp fall in foreign currency earnings as a result of the downward slide in oil prices in the 1980s. These issues prompted Gorbachev to investigate measures to revive the ailing state.
  • Perestroika (Restructuring):
    • An ineffectual start led to the conclusion that deeper structural changes were necessary and in June 1987 Gorbachev announced an agenda of economic and political reform called perestroika or restructuring.
    • Perestroika was instituted to restructure Soviet economic and political policy.
    • Seeking to bring the Soviet Union up to economic par with capitalist countries such as Germany, Japan, and the United States, Gorbachev decentralized economic controls and encouraged enterprises to become self-financing.
    • Perestroika relaxed the production quota system, allowed private ownership of businesses and paved the way for foreign investment.
      • These measures were intended to redirect the country’s resources from costly Cold War military commitments to more productive areas in the civilian sector.
    • The economic bureaucracy, fearing the loss of its power and privileges, obstructed much of his program.
    • Gorbachev also proposed reducing the direct involvement of the Communist Party leadership in the country’s governance and increasing the local governments’ authority.
      • In 1988 a new parliament, the Soviet Congress of People’s Deputies, was created.
      • Similar congresses were established in each Soviet republic as well.
      • For the first time, elections to these bodies presented voters with a choice of candidates, including noncommunists, though the Communist Party continued to dominate the system.
    • Perestroika is often argued to be the cause of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe, and the end of the Cold War.
    • Despite initial skepticism in the West, the new Soviet leader proved to be committed to reversing the Soviet Union’s deteriorating economic condition instead of continuing the arms race with the West.
  • Glasnost (Openness):
    • Glasnost was Soviet policy of open discussion of political and social issues. It began the democratization of the Soviet Union.
    • Partly as a way to fight off internal opposition from party cliques to his reforms, Gorbachev simultaneously introduced glasnost, or openness which increased freedom of the press and the transparency of state institutions.
    • Glasnost was intended to reduce the corruption at the top of the Communist Party and moderate the abuse of power in the Central Committee.
    • Ultimately, fundamental changes to the political structure of the Soviet Union occurred: the power of the Communist Party was reduced, and multi-candidate elections took place. Glasnost also permitted criticism of government officials.
    • Glasnost also enabled increased contact between Soviet citizens and the western world, particularly with the United States, contributing to the accelerating détente between the two nations.

Common European Home

  • Gorbachev presented his concept of “our common European home” during a visit to Czechoslovakia in April 1987.
  • In his main address in Prague he declared: We assign an overriding significance to the European course of our foreign policy…. We are resolutely against the division of the continent into military blocs facing each other, against the accumulation of military arsenals in Europe, against everything that is the source of the threat of war. In the spirit of the new thinking we introduced the idea of the “all-European house”.

(2) Thaw in relations:

  • In response to the Soviet’s military and political concessions, Reagan agreed to renew talks on economic issues and the scaling-back of the arms race.
  • The first Reagan-Gorbachev summit (Geneva Summit, 1985):
    • The first summit was held in November 1985 in Geneva, Switzerland in November 1985.
    • A joint statement proposed a 50 percent reduction in the superpowers’ nuclear arsenal.
  • The second Reagan-Gorbachev summit (Reykjavík Summit, 1986)
    • Reykjavík summit of 1986, meeting held in Reykjavík, Iceland, on October 11 and 12, 1986, between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev.
    • The meeting, the second between the two leaders, was intended to explore the possibility of limiting each country’s strategic nuclear weapons to create momentum in ongoing arms-control negotiations.
    • The Reykjavík summit almost resulted in a sweeping nuclear arms-control agreement in which the nuclear weapons of both sides would be dismantled.
    • Although no agreement was reached, many historians and government officials, including Gorbachev himself, later considered the Reykjavík summit a turning point in the Cold War.
    • Reagan had been committed to opposing the Soviet Union at every opportunity.
      • The White House believed that American supremacy was key to U.S. survival, and it was thought that an accelerated arms race would cause irreparable harm to a faltering Soviet economy.
      • Reagan, however, was gradually being perceived as an extremist hard-liner bent on the complete destruction of the Soviet Union. To allay such fears, he attended the summit meetings.
    • Meanwhile, Gorbachev based his presidency on the dual reform programs of perestroika (“restructuring”) and glasnost (“openness”).
      • The Soviet Union was faltering under the strain of its outmoded economic system and industrial infrastructure.
      • To compete against the West, the Soviet economy and society would need drastic restructuring.
      • Gorbachev, however, could not afford to continue down the path to reform without assurances about national security. He needed an arms-limitation treaty to accomplish that.
    • During the exchange of proposals, the leaders agreed that nuclear weapons must be eliminated, and they nearly produced an agreement to eliminate the Soviet and American nuclear weapons stockpiles by 2000.
    • What prevented such an agreement was the space-based missile defense system known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) under consideration by the United States.
      • President Reagan refused to limit SDI research and technology to the laboratory.
      • Gorbachev, however, would not accept anything less than a ban on missile testing in space.
    • Despite the failure to reach an agreement on that issue, both sides felt that the meeting was a success and that it opened the way for further progress.
  • The third Reagan-Gorbachev summit (Washington Summit, 1987)
    • Reagan and Gorbachev discussed regional conflicts in Afghanistan, Central America, and Southern Africa, arms control issues for chemical weapons as well as conventional weapons, the status of START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) negotiations, and human rights.
    • A notable accomplishment of the Washington Summit was the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
      • The INF treaty eliminated all nuclear-armed, ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers and their infrastructure.
  • The fourth Reagan-Gorbachev summit (Mascow Summit, 1988)
    • Reagan and Gorbachev finalized the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) after the U.S. Senate’s ratification of the treaty in May 1988.
    • Reagan and Gorbachev continued to discuss bilateral issues like Central America, Southern Africa, the Middle East and the pending withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.
    • Reagan and Gorbachev continued their discussions on human rights.
    • The parties signed seven agreements on lesser issues such as student exchanges and fishing rights.
    • A significant result was the updating of Soviet history books, which necessitated cancelling some history classes in Soviet secondary schools.
  • Malta Summit, 1989
    • The Malta Summit comprised a meeting between U.S. President George H. W. Bush and U.S.S.R. leader Mikhail Gorbachev, taking place between December 2-3, 1989, just a few weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
    • It was their second meeting following a meeting that included then President Ronald Reagan, in New York in December 1988.
    • No agreements were signed at the Malta Summit.
    • Its main purpose was to provide the two superpowers — the United States and the Soviet Union — with an opportunity to discuss the rapid changes taking place in Europe with the lifting of the Iron Curtain.
    • The summit is viewed by some observers as the official end of the Cold War.
    • During the summit, President Bush expressed his support for Gorbachev’s perestroika initiative, and other reforms in the Communist bloc.
    • Both men announced that there would be a sizeable reduction in troops within Europe as a whole and that a reduction in weaponry would be the main plank of discussions at a meeting scheduled for June 1990.
    • The then Soviet leader, Mikail Gorbachev, later stated that: “The Malta Summit in 1989 was so important, that if it had not taken place, the world out there would be unrecognisable to the one we live in today.
    • Late on 31 July 1991, Gorbachev and George H. W. Bush signed the START I arms control treaty (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms).

(3) East Europe breaks away (Revolutions of 1989):

  • It became apparent to the Soviets that oil and gas subsidies, along with the cost of maintaining massive troops levels, represented a substantial economic drain.
  • In addition, the security advantage of a buffer zone was recognised as irrelevant and the Soviets officially declared that they would no longer intervene in the affairs of allied states in Central and Eastern Europe. In 1989, Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan.
  • By 1989, the Soviet alliance system was on the brink of collapse, and, deprived of Soviet military support, the Communist leaders of the Warsaw Pact states were losing power. Grass roots organizations, such as Poland’s Solidarity movement, rapidly gained ground with strong popular bases.
  • The Revolutions of 1989 were part of a revolutionary wave that resulted in the Fall of Communism in the Communist states of Central and Eastern Europe. The period is sometimes called the Autumn of Nations.
  • The events began in Poland in 1989, and continued in Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Romania.
  • One feature common to most of these developments was the extensive use of campaigns of civil resistance demonstrating popular opposition to the continuation of one-party rule and contributing to the pressure for change.
  • Romania was the only Eastern Bloc country whose people overthrew its Communist regime violently.
    • Attitudes had changed enough that US Secretary of State James Baker suggested that the American government would not be opposed to Soviet intervention in Romania, on behalf of the opposition, to prevent bloodshed.
  • The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 failed to stimulate major political changes in China. However, powerful images of courageous defiance during that protest helped to spark a precipitation of events in other parts of the globe.
  • On June 4th, Solidarity won an overwhelming victory in a partially free election in Poland leading to the peaceful fall of Communism in that country .
  • Hungary physically dismantled its section of the Iron Curtain leading to a mass exodus of East Germans through Hungary and destabilizing East Germany.
    • This would lead to mass demonstrations in cities such as Leipzig and subsequently to the fall of the Berlin Wall, which served as the symbolic gateway to German reunification in 1990
  • The 1989 revolutionary wave swept across Central and Eastern Europe peacefully overthrew all the Soviet-style communist states: East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria. Romania was the only Eastern-bloc country to topple its communist regime violently and execute its head of state.

(4) Fall of Berlin Wall and German Unification:

  • In 1989, a series of radical political changes occurred in the Eastern Bloc, associated with the liberalization of the Eastern Bloc’s authoritarian systems and the erosion of political power in the pro-Soviet governments in nearby Poland and Hungary.
  • The swift and unexpected downfall of the German Democratic Republic was triggered by the decay of the other communist regimes in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
  • The German reunification was the process in 1990 in which the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) joined the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) to form the reunited nation of Germany, and when Berlin reunited into a single city.
  • The East German regime started to falter in May 1989, when the removal of Hungary’s border fence opened a hole in the Iron Curtain.
    • It caused an exodus of thousands of East Germans fleeing to West Germany and Austria via Hungary.
    • Thousands of East Germans had followed this route, while thousands of others sought asylum in the West German embassies in Prague and Warsaw, demanding that they be allowed to emigrate to West Germany.
    • At the end of September, 1989, Genscher, West Germany’s foreign minister, arranged for their passage to West Germany, but another wave of refugees from East Germany soon took their place.
    • Mass demonstrations in the streets of Leipzig and other East German cities defied the authorities and demanded reforms.
  • In an effort to halt the deterioration of its position, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) Politburo deposed Honecker (General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party) in mid-October and replaced him with another hard-line communist, Egon Krenz.
    • Under Krenz the Politburo sought to eliminate the embarrassment occasioned by the flow of refugees to the West through Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.
  • On the evening of November 9, Günter Schabowski, a communist functionary, mistakenly announced at a televised news conference that the government would allow East Germans unlimited passage to West Germany, effective “immediately.”
    • While the government had in fact meant to require East Germans to apply for exit visas during normal working hours, this was widely interpreted as a decision to open the Berlin Wall that evening, so crowds gathered and demanded to pass into West Berlin.
    • Unprepared, the border guards let them go.
    • In a night of revelry tens of thousands of East Germans poured through the crossing points in the wall and celebrated their new freedom with rejoicing West Berliners.
    • Over the next few weeks, euphoric public chipped away parts of the wall. (Fall of Berlin Wall)
  • The opening of the Berlin Wall proved fatal for the German Democratic Republic.
    • Ever-larger demonstrations demanded a voice in government for the people, and in mid-November Krenz was replaced by a reform-minded communist, Hans Modrow, who promised free, multiparty elections.
    • When the balloting took place in March 1990 the SED, now renamed the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), suffered a crushing defeat.
    • The eastern counterpart of West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s Christian Democratic Union, which had pledged a speedy reunification of Germany, emerged as the largest political party in East Germany’s first democratically elected People’s Chamber.
  • A new East German government headed by Lothar de Maizière, a long-time member of the eastern Christian Democratic Union, began negotiations for a treaty of unification.
    • A surging tide of refugees from East to West Germany that threatened to cripple East Germany added urgency to those negotiations.
  • The final barrier to reunification fell in July 1990 when Kohl prevailed upon Gorbachev to drop his objections to a unified Germany within the NATO alliance in return for sizable (West) German financial aid to the Soviet Union.
    • Gorbachev consented to German reunification.
  • A unification treaty was ratified by the Bundestag and the People’s Chamber in September and went into effect on October 3, 1990.
  • The fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for German reunification, which was formally concluded on 3 October 1990. When the Berlin Wall came down, Gorbachev’s “Common European Home” concept had began to take shape.
  • Other negotiations between the GDR and FRG and the four occupying powers produced the so-called “Two Plus Four Treaty” (Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany) granting full sovereignty to a unified German state.
  1. How the collapse of Berlin Wall in 1989 brought new ideas of co-operation in Europe?
  • The Berlin wall which was created in 1961 with an immediate reason of stopping the mass migration of people from East Berlin (controlled by the USSR) to West Berlin (controlled by western bloc led by the USA).
  • However, the prime motive of erecting the wall was to find an escape route from the embarrassment over the poverty of East Berlin under communist rule in sharp contrast of prosperity in its western counterpart under capitalist regime.
  • However, by the time Mikhail Gorbachev took over the presidency of erstwhile USSR in 1985, things have been changed. The USSR’s economic position was of no match to the western powers.
  • Also, Gorbachev policies of glasnost and perestroika were signaling liberal reforms in the political, social and economic sphere.
  • It is with this background that Gorbachev met with west Germany Chancellor Helmut Kohl and virtually promised him freedom of East Germany (and Berlin). This led to the collapse of Berlin wall. This brought new ideas of co-operation in Europe because:
    • After the collapse of the wall, East Germany and West Germany also got unified. The reunification of Germany once again after Bismarck led further socio-economic integration of Europe which got culminated into the European Union for which Germany became a vital part.
    • The cooperation was extended by the western powers in East Vs West Berlin issue. The USA agreed that reunification could take place. The Great Britain and France, though were less happy about German unification (due to the possibility of increased Berman power) felt bound to go ahead with the flow.
    • The co-operation between West Europe and East Europe including Russia increased as Europe was no longer divided in blocs. The Cold War ended giving further hope for co-operation.
    • Many Eastern European countries became part of European Union, which strengthened European unity.
    • Europe also started co-operating more with rest of the world.
  • However, the path of co-operation was not smooth and this included confrontations also.
    • Britain and France initially did not like unification of Germany due to possibility of even more powerful Germany.
    • Membership of EU and NATO to Eastern European countries was despised by Russia.
    • Also integrating poor East Germany to rich West Germany and poor East Europe with rich West Europe faced difficulties.
    • There were also voices against co-operation and integration from many Europeans who feared loss of national identity, economic problems due to integration.
  • Hence, the collapse of Berlin walls not only signified the end of communism and disintegration of the USSR but also new level of cooperation in Europe, in spite of facing obstacles.

(5) Soviet republics break away:

  • In the USSR itself, glasnost weakened the bonds that held the Soviet Union together and by February 1990, with the dissolution of the USSR looming, the Communist Party was forced to surrender its 73-year-old monopoly on state power.
  • At the same time freedom of press and dissent allowed by glasnost and the festering “nationalities question” increasingly led the Union’s component republics to declare their autonomy from Moscow, with the Baltic states withdrawing from the Union entirely after Baltic Way.
    • The Baltic Way or Baltic Chain was a peaceful political demonstration that occurred on August 23, 1989. Approximately two million people joined their hands to form a human chain spanning 675.5 kilometres across the three Baltic states – Estonian SSR,Latvian SSR, and Lithuanian SSR, republics of the Soviet Union. The protest was designed to draw global attention by demonstrating a popular desire for independence for each of the entities.

(5) Soviet dissolution:

  • Gorbachev’s permissive attitude toward Central and Eastern Europe did not initially extend to Soviet territory; even Bush, who strove to maintain friendly relations, condemned the January 1991 killings in Latvia and Lithuania.
  • New Union Treaty:
    • The Union of Sovereign States was the proposed name of a reorganization of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (total 15) into a new Confederatory body.
    • Proposed by President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, the proposal was an attempt to avert the collapse of the Soviet Union.
    • The proposal was never implemented in the wake of the August Coup and the eventual dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
    • The overall proposal was resurrected as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
  • The 1991 Soviet coup d’état attempt (August Putsch or August Coup)
    • It was a coup d’état attempt by a group of members of the Soviet Union’s government to take control of the country from Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev.
    • The coup leaders were hard-line members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) who were opposed to Gorbachev’s reform program and the new union treaty that he had negotiated which decentralised much of the central government’s power to the republics.
    • By August 1991, hard-line elements of the Soviet government and military decided to act and staged a coup against Gorbachev.
      • Gorbachev was put under house arrest, and his enemies demanded that he resign as leader of the Soviet Union.
      • Gorbachev refused, but many outside of Russia began to feel that his government could not survive.
    • Yeltsin and many of his supporters, who had taken refuge in the Russian Parliament, then stepped in.
      • Yeltsin correctly perceived that if the coup were successful, even the limited reforms begun by Gorbachev would be destroyed.
      • He called on the Russian people to strike and take to the streets to oppose the coup.
      • The people responded by the thousands, and the poorly organized coup collapsed only a few days later.
    • Although the coup collapsed in only two days and Gorbachev returned to government, the event destabilised the Soviet Union and is widely considered to have contributed to both the demise of the CPSU and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
    • The damage to the Gorbachev regime was nonetheless disastrous. In December 1991, with the Soviet Union crumbling around him, he resigned as leader of the nation.
    • The USSR was fatally weakened by a failed coup and a growing number of Soviet republics, particularly Russia, who threatened to secede from the USSR.
    • Yeltsin emerged from the crisis as Gorbachev’s heir apparent.
      • When Gorbachev announced his resignation in December, Yeltsin immediately removed all flags of the former Soviet Union from government buildings in the state of Russia and continued to serve as the leader of the most powerful of the former soviet socialist republics.
  • Dissolution of Soviet Union and The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)
    • The Soviet Union collapsed with dramatic speed in the last quarter of 1991.
    • Between August and December, 10 republics declared their independence, largely out of fear of another coup.
    • By the end of summer, Gorbachev no longer had the authority to influence events outside of Moscow.
      • He was challenged by Yeltsin, who had begun taking over what remained of the Soviet government, including the Kremlin.
    • The final round of the Soviet Union’s collapse began with a Ukrainian popular referendum on December 1, 1991, in which 90 percent of voters opted for independence.
      • The secession of Ukraine, the second-most powerful republic, ended any realistic chance of Gorbachev keeping the Soviet Union together even on a limited scale.
    • The leaders of the three principal Slavic republics, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, agreed to discuss possible alternatives to the union.
      • On December 8, the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus secretly met in western Belarus, and signed the Belavezha Accords, which proclaimed the Soviet Union had ceased to exist and announced formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) as a looser association to take its place.
      • They also invited other republics to join the CIS.
      • Gorbachev called it an unconstitutional coup. However, by this time there was no longer any reasonable doubt that, as the preamble of the Accords put it, “the USSR, as a subject of international law and a geopolitical reality, is ceasing its existence.”
      • On December 12, the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR formally ratified the Belavezha Accords and renounced the 1922 Union Treaty.
    • The Russian deputies were also recalled from the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. In effect, the largest and most powerful republic had seceded from the Union.
    • On December 17, 1991, along with 28 European countries, the European Community, and four non-European countries, the three Baltic Republics and nine of the twelve former Soviet republics signed the European Energy Charter in the Hague as sovereign states.
    • Doubts remained over the authority of the Belavezha Accords to disband the Soviet Union, since they were signed by only three republics.
      • However, on December 21, 1991, representatives of 11 of the 12 former republics – all except Georgia – signed the Alma-Ata Protocol, which confirmed the dissolution of the Union and formally established the CIS.
    • In a nationally televised speech early in the morning of December 25, 1991, Gorbachev resigned as president of the USSR. He declared the office extinct, and all of its powers (such as control of the nuclear arsenal) were ceded to Yeltsin.
    • On the night of December 25, 1991,after Gorbachev left the Kremlin, the Soviet flag was lowered for the last time, and the Russian tricolor was raised in its place, symbolically marking the end of the Soviet Union.
    • CIS was viewed as a successor entity to the Soviet Union but its purpose was to “allow a civilized divorce” between the Soviet Republics and is comparable to a loose confederation.
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