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Who Won The Cold War? Essay

2279 words - 10 pages

Who won the Cold War?
From the nuclear crisis in the Korean peninsula to the war on terror, the echoes of the Cold War prevail in the conflicts of the 21st Century (Bisley2007: 233). Great relevance exists in the need to understand thisarmed yet never-directly-confrontational conflict between the United States of America (USA) and the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).The Cold War, given its distinction from conventional warfare, can be described as a ‘managed rivalry’ as both protagonists aimed to contain opposing ambitions, rather than destroy the other(Cox 2010: 68). By briefly addressingthe concept of “winning” and examining key ideological features,this paper argues that ...view middle of the document...

The USA has persisted in a long and continuing relationship witha system of governance which advocates capitalism and individual liberty, entailing a liberal democratic way of carrying out its internal affairs (Knutson 1997: 234). On the other end of the spectrum, the USSR has experienced centuries of by and large authoritarian monarchical rule, which gave rise to particular social fractures thatembraced a particular form of communism, namely Marxism-Leninism (Kramer 1999: 539).Marxism-Leninism which became the governing principle of Russia in 1917includes the notion of collective ownership and centrally planned allocation of resources, both of which lack the major tenants of capitalist democratic governance. It was the opposing natures of the two ideologies and their perceived world domination that led to the initial breakdown of the Grand Alliance in WWII (Young and Kent 2004:2). Following this geopolitical collapse,almost half of the 20th Century was consumed by the global instability which transpired from the bi-polar world order, resulting in the deaths of nearly 25 million people in various proxy wars (Cox 2010: 68).
Retrospective examination of the symbolic events of 1989-91 (the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the USSR) identifies that the USSR did not win the Cold War.The USSR failed to bring socialist governance mechanisms into the dominant global paradigm.Along with ideological failure, the military build-up produced a global Cold War economy where spending was focused on defense, causingpublic fundsto be taken away from other sectors of the economy. The people of the USSR bore a disproportionate majorityof the economic disparity, with one third of the USSR budget continuously flowing into military expenditure (Markusen 1992: 389). It can be argued that the USSR may have lost the wardue to Gorbachev’s self-conscious decision to accommodatethe western principle of self-determination by toleratingand in some cases even facilitating the nationalisticmovements throughout Eastern Europe (Collins 1998: 201). Another explanation by Deudney and Ikenberry (1992: 132)points out thatthe declining soviet economy was not sustainable for the kind of military ambition in the Brezhnev Doctrine hailed by Gorbachev’s predecessors. There is a case that the USSR’s forcible implementation and continuation of Marxism-Leninismdid not emerge as a dominant global paradigm.
On the surface, the USA appeared to be the winner due to the democratization and the eventual dissolution of the USSR in the late 1980’s, but further analysis shows otherwise.It is true thatthe dissolution of the USSR alone demonstrated the impracticality of a forcible system of governance prominent in the USSR.However, such a claim can only be legitimized by assuming that the USA’s aim was primarily to democratize and/or dissolve its antagonist.In 1945, Moscow-based US diplomat, George Kenan,elaborated in his famous ‘long telegram’sent to US President Harry Truman two...

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