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Cold War Radar

The Fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union

In 1989 it was declared that East Berlin occupants could go into West Berlin again.  People took down the Berlin Wall which had separated the two with their hands and whatever else they had.  For some, this was regarded as the end of the Cold War. 

However, the Soviet Union did not fall until 1991, leaving 15 independent republics.  There are a number of reasons given for the fall of the Soviet Union and the subsequent end of the Cold War. 

Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet leader, relied on the people’s support and in 1985 he was elected.  He was from a new generation and he wanted to reform economic issues at home and raise living standards.  He started to talk with the Americans about lowering the number of nuclear weapons.  He opened up the economy so it would not collapse and gave autonomy to some republics which would later lead to independence.

Some have argued that this is why the Soviet Union fell, that if he would have stuck to dictatorship it would have worked.  Those on the other side say it was the dictatorships that had come before that caused it to fall and that totalitarianism could not succeed in the long term.  Others even say that the flaw was in communism itself.

Another reason that has been given, especially by those who were part of the Reagan administration, was the American increase in military budget.  Under Reagan, the United States had been re-militarized, the budget being increased by 40%.  The Soviet Union was having political and economic problems and he wanted to take advantage of this. 

In reality, it was probably a mixture of these reasons.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, there could be no more Cold War, although it was hard for people to believe.  It was made clear though in 1992 at a summit when Russian leader Yeltsin and American President, Bush Sr. shook hands and admitted it was over.

The United States is said to have won since they were the last man standing.  The Cold War has had impacts on modern life.  For example, the importance of jets came out of the Cold War and the interstate highway in America was originally built for a quick way to get people out and troops in.  Radar improvements and systems also grew out of the Cold War as can be seen throughout this exhibit.