How Did the Cold War End?

By Alicia Dawn Peterpaul

The result of the end of the Cold War was a combination of many things. First, I will explain just how destructive nuclear weapons have the potential to be when used. I will use the Hiroshima bombing as an example to present the after effects from the radiation. Then, I will explain all of the peace movements that took place all over the world as they united in anti-nuclear social movements, catching the eyes of politicians. I will also explain that as a result of their destructive capabilities there was really no other sensible choice for politicians but to reach an agreement because nuclear weapons could get in the wrong hands or if used completely destroy each side of the war. I will explain the arms control, nuclear disarmament and peace treaties that took place in order to end the Cold War. Ultimately, I will argue that it was nuclear weapons that were the reason the Cold War ended.
The Capabilities of Nuclear Weapons
This portion of my essay is to give the reader an idea of just how destructive nuclear weapons can be and some of the things that happen when they are used. Nuclear weapons were developed in the Cold War days. Today there is still much debate of just how much destruction nuclear weapons could have been if nuclear deterrence had not have taken place. Nuclear weapons were not only highly destructive when they were dropped but the exposure to radiation followed the survivors throughout the rest of their lives. (Brown and McCurry, 2005) Not to mention nuclear weapons are also very expensive to build. (Wilson, 2007) They were once used against Japan, the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They were part of the cause that led Japan to surrender in the war, the destruction was catastrophic. (Wilson, 2007) Nuclear weapons were very costly, as America had spent 2 billion dollars to create one atomic bomb. Aside from its cost the plants that build the atomic bombs or nuclear weapons were arguably strong enough to take out the entire world. (Wilson, 2007) The Hiroshima raid was approximately three or four times more powerful than typical non-nuclear bombings would be. It only took a few bombers to take out way more than a large city attack with conventional bombs would take out with the Hiroshima. (Wilson, 2007) The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was named Little Boy, and thousands of people died from burns that were a result of buildings setting on fire or from the buildings themselves collapsing. What was fascinating about the Little Boy was that when it was dropped scientists found that the nuclear weapon produced flash burns and serious injuries via the radiation that the bomb let off. (Brown and McCurry, 2005) The radiation also caused pregnant women to have miscarriages and men to have lower sperm counts. Interestingly enough, people without any external physical injuries would go on to suffer from what was called the Atom Bomb Disease, and even though they did survive they died soon after because of the exposure to radiation. The children of pregnant women who managed to survive were born with small heads and mentally challenged. Everybody who was exposed to the radiation given off by the atomic bomb were at risk for different types of cancers, along with many other types of diseases. (Brown and McCurry, 2005)
Peace movements
There were peace movements of multiple types nearing the end of the Cold War, protesting for peace and anti-nuclear war. The movements were left-wing movements and they happened all around the world. Peace movements against nuclear war and Third World issues merged together. (Ziemann, 2008) Student peace movements were huge for the end of the Cold War, and the impact that they had was an eye-opener for politicians. It was not only students protesting and engaged, the protests were happening off campus all over the world. (Ziemann, 2008) It was much easier for students to protest, however, because for the most part university students do not have children or full-time jobs. It is also much easier to recruit students to places from the universities, as they are already in one place. Students also had the privilege of gaining knowledge about protests from other countries around the world. There was a teach-in movement that took place in 120 universities across America encouraging students to criticize the government, and lecturers would often go to universities to speak about issues. (Ziemann, 2008) However, it was on-campus and off-campus organizations uniting that gained the most support, as many more people became engaged in the peace movements. In Britain, the peace movements were just as strong as in America. To name a few of the organizations there was “The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament”, “Independent Socialists” and the “Communist Party”. (Ziemann, 2008) Raegan was under the public pressure to make amends with the Soviet through activists in the Peace Movement. They protested that there would be no winners, and the question was raised of if they would ever use their nuclear weapons. (Tirman, 1999) The protests for peace were enormous when over 750,000 people gathered in central park in support of a freeze for all nuclear weapons. The citizens of America feared not only the destruction from nuclear weapons, but the cost was getting ridiculous as well. 82 percent of the public wanted both forces to cut their nuclear weapons in half. (Tirman, 1999)
No Other Sensible Choice
Leaders were left with no other sensible choice but to come to an agreement over arms control and nuclear disarmament, simply because the weapons were much too dangerous to own and use them. In 1986 a nuclear reactor shocked the Soviet Union. (Harper, 2011) The weapons had become so strong by the end of the Cold War. The Cold War came to an end when nuclear weapons came into the picture. When nuclear weapons were in play, it was realized that the avoidance of war was more important than the defence of a state. To engage in ways to avoid defence without actually having to defend. (Halle, 1991) The nuclear war would have been extremely messy, wiping out nearly all of the two sides. At this point defence was hopeless and unattainable so they were left with no sensible choice but to engage in deterrence. The two tremendous powers would have to come to an agreement, in order to avoid total destruction on both sides. (Halle, 1991) They agreed that while both encompassed a “second strike capability”, not one or the other had a “first-strike capability”. This meant that either side could strike back and most definitely would strike back, and this is what would decide that the two must settle with deterrence. (Halle, 1991)
It is also believed that the new leader and new ideas were the cause of the end of the Cold War. There was a new way of thinking with the Gorbachev leadership in the Soviet Union. New ideas involved reconciliation with America and Europe. Gorbachev and Soviet Georgian politician contributed greatly to the idea of new thinking, as they were not fearful of the contradistinction of the securities policies that were essentially, in their way. (Herrmann and Lebow, 2004) It is believed that the Cold War could not have some to an end if they had not withdrawn their military forces from Europe, as they wished to reconcile with the West. Gorbachev played a key role in the end of the Cold War because he really wished to move towards social democracy and also wished to make peace with the West. It seemed that everybody was moving towards the left progressively. However, the most essential turning point was the consolidation with Germany. The soviet was in an economic crisis, which led to reconciliation with the West. (Herrmann and Lebow, 2004) Accommodating to the West seemed like the only rational outcome for the Soviet. The resignation of troops from Afghanistan on behalf of the Soviet, along with arms control and the Soviets seeking reconciliation with the West, are all thought to be main contributors to the idea of this new way of thinking. (Herrmann and Lebow, 2004) New thinking involved the two superpowers; meaning America and Russia to play things more safely. They learned how to keep their diversity and how to coexist to prevent future wars. (Herrmann and Lebow, 2004)
Arms Control and Peace Treaties
Arms control, along with nuclear disarmament played key roles in the end of the Cold War. Peace deals were also signed as arms control was necessary in the period of the Cold War end. (Sauer, 1998) Tirman notes that it was Raegan who first wanted to move towards a peaceful arms production and offered it to the Soviet along with a reconciliation speech. (Tirman, 1999) In 1986 the Soviet and America agreed almost fully to demolish their nuclear weapons. In fact, the entire world started fearing the nuclear weapons and in 1987 the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty was signed. It would prove to be the first ratified documentation to end the nuclear absurdity. (Tirman, 1999) Many treaties were being formed because of this movement for peace, including the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty and eventually the ABM treaty. (Tirman, 1999) Nuclear disarmament proved to be a necessary action in the war because accidents could have easily happened with the nuclear weapons, but with such powerful weapons one mistake could cost a lot of damage, and not to mention lives. There was also the chance that the nuclear weapons could end up in the hands of terrorists, and the longer states have nuclear weapons the longer terrorists have a chance of working to get a hold of them. It was also a threat for both international peace and security. (Sauer, 1998) The Non-proliferation Treaty was a very important part of controlling the nuclear weapons to end the Cold War. Its main intentions were non-proliferation of nuclear weapons along with nuclear disarmament with its 190 different states as of 1997. It also stated that states with nuclear weapons were not allowed to give them to states without any. States without any nuclear weapons were not allowed to attain any, under the Non-proliferate Treaty. (Sauer, 1998) Another aim was nuclear disarmament of that states that had nuclear weapons, so they were to slowly start to get rid of their nuclear weapons. There was also a series of other Treaties that took place to help stop the Cold War, to list some off: the MTCR, the IAEA, and the NWFZ. States negotiated these treaties and finally were able to come to agreements as this was clearly the only answer to prevent total destruction of countries with nuclear power. (Sauer, 1998) Raegan was elected president in America in 1986, and his campaign surrounding peace and arms control. (Harper, 2011) The two forces began to engage and quarrel over anti-ballistic missiles, which would defend against any nuclear weapons so they ended up creating treaties. Much negotiation through Strategic Arms Limitations Talks and Strategic Arms Reduction Talks, or abbreviated as SALT I, SALT II and START and they were able to agree to preserve their own second strike capabilities. (Halle, 1991) They first agreed on a ten-year plan to each eliminate half of their nuclear weapons, and this was known as the ABM treaty. They also agreed on a five-year plan to eliminate offensive-ballistic missiles. The United States was able to keep some of them that they were using to explore in space were not prohibited, however. (Harper, 2011) Both sides signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty and this was a key element in the end of the Cold War that would go down in history. Both sides had agreed to destroy over 2,500 nuclear weapons. Things began to look up for the two great powers and Ronald Reagan went to visit the USSR just after the INF treaty had become legitimized. (Harper, 2011) This marked the progress toward a new world order. The Soviet also agreed to reduce its military by 500,5000 troops. (Harper, 2011)
The result of the end of the Cold War was a combination of many things. I have explained just how destructive nuclear weapons have the potential to be when used by using the Hiroshima bombing as an example to present the after effects from the radiation. I have also explained all of the peace movements that took place all over the world as they united in anti-nuclear social movements, catching the eyes of politicians. As a result of their destructive capabilities there was really no other sensible choice for politicians but to reach an agreement. I have put forth the arms control, nuclear disarmament and peace treaties that took place in order to end the Cold War. Ultimately, I will have argued that the reason for the Cold War coming to an end was ironically, because of nuclear weapons. If nuclear weapons had not come into play the Cold War very well may have continued. Nuclear weapons were a powerful force to fear for many reasons. If not for nuclear weapons, protestors and social movements may not have blown up to the extent that they did. Nuclear weapons left politicians from both sides of the war with really no other choice but to come to an agreement because it did not make sense to use nuclear weapons in war because the two sides could have quite possibly completely destroyed each other, as they definitely had the power to. Finally, the arms control and peace treaties were all surrounding nuclear weapons.
Works Cited:
Louis J. Halle, The Cold War as History, with a new epilogue on The Ending Of The Cold War, 1991, Harper Perennial.
John Lamberton Harper, The Cold War, 2011, Oxford University Press.
Herrmann, Richard K., and Lebow, Richard Ned, eds. 2004. New Visions in Security : Ending the Cold War : Interpretations, Causation, and the Study of International Relations. New York, US: Palgrave Macmillan. Accessed November 23, 2016. ProQuest ebrary.
Ziemann, Benjamin. Peace Movements in Western Europe, Japan and the USA during the Cold War. Frieden Und Krieg : Beitra?ge Zur Historischen Friedensforschung ; Bd. 8. Essen: Klartext, 2008.
Sauer, Tom. Nuclear Arms Control : Nuclear Deterrence in the Post-cold War Period. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire : New York: Macmillan Press ; St. Martin’s Press, 1998.
Wilson, Warden Jeffrey. “The Winning Weapon? Rethinking Nuclear Weapons in Light of Hiroshima.” International Security 31, no. 4 (2007): 162-79.
Brown, Hannah, and Justin McCurry. “Hiroshima: How Much Have We Learned?” The Lancet366, no. 9484 (2005): 442-4.
Tirman, John. 1999. “How we ended the cold war (Cover story)” Nation 269 no 14: 13-21. Academic search complete


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