The restructuring and openness of the Soviet political system was one of the turning points that helped in ending the cold war.
➡ By 1989 and 1990, the Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan, and Gorbachev agreed to the reunification of Germany.
➡ The fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 marked the complete end of the Cold War.
Although the SALT II was successfully negotiated (1979), the U.S did not ratify the pact, because the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in the following year.
➡ The period between 1979-85 saw tension mounting again due to the strong anti-communist policies undertaken by President Reagan of the United States.
➡ The reforms (namely and ) introduced by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev made a major contribution in ending the Cold War.
The fear of a surprise attack and the necessity for retaliation soon dominated the strategic thinking of the Cold War. Every year, technological advances compressed time and added more urgency to decision-making. At a top-secret briefing in 1961, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was told that a Soviet surprise attack on just five targets—the Pentagon, the White House, Camp David, Site R, and High Point, a bunker inside Mount Weather, Virginia—had a good chance of wiping out the civilian leadership of the United States. By striking an additional nine targets, as part of a “decapitation” attack, the Soviet Union could kill America’s military leadership as well. The Soviets might be able to destroy America’s nuclear command-and-control system with only thirty-five missiles. Under McNamara’s guidance, the Kennedy Administration sought ways to maintain Presidential control over nuclear weapons. The Pentagon deployed airborne command posts, better communications and early-warning systems, Minuteman missiles that could be quickly launched, and a large fleet of ballistic-missile submarines.
William J. Perry, who served as Secretary of Defense during the Clinton Administration, not only opposes keeping Minuteman III missiles on alert but advocates getting rid of them entirely. “These missiles are some of the most dangerous weapons in the world,” Perry wrote in the Times, this September. For many reasons, he thinks the risk of a nuclear catastrophe is greater today than it was during the Cold War. While serving as an Under-Secretary of Defense in 1980, Perry also received a late-night call about an impending Soviet attack, a false alarm that still haunts him. “A catastrophic nuclear war could have started by accident.”
The harsh rhetoric on both sides increases the danger of miscalculations and mistakes, as do other factors. Close encounters between the military aircraft of the United States and Russia have become routine, creating the potential for an unintended conflict. Many of the nuclear-weapon systems on both sides are aging and obsolete. The personnel who operate those systems often suffer from poor morale and poor training. None of their senior officers has firsthand experience making decisions during an actual nuclear crisis. And today’s command-and-control systems must contend with threats that barely existed during the Cold War: malware, spyware, worms, bugs, viruses, corrupted firmware, logic bombs, Trojan horses, and all the other modern tools of cyber warfare. The greatest danger is posed not by any technological innovation but by a dilemma that has haunted nuclear strategy since the first detonation of an atomic bomb: How do you prevent a nuclear attack while preserving the ability to launch one?
Richard Barnet, The Economy of Death (New York: Atheneum, 1969); Jeff Sharlett, “Manipulation of Men for a War Economy,” Science for the People Newsletter, Vol III, No. 3, July 1971, pp. 7, 8; and Barbara Barksdale Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War: The Sputnik Crisis and the National Defense Act of 1958 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1981).
Logevall, Choosing War, pp. 165-166; and the Pentagon Papers, Vol. III, pp. 418-19. Although Ambassador Taylor warned against U.S. troop deployments, he sought an increase in the bombing of North Vietnam in order “to convince Hanoi authorities they faced prospect of progressively severe punishment.” George McTurnan Kahin, “Bureaucracy’s Call for U.S. Ground Troops,” in Jeffrey P. Kimball, To Reason Why: The Debate about the Causes of U.S. Involvement in the Vietnam War (Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press, 1990), p. 235.
“Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy at the Conference on Vietnam Luncheon in the hotel Willard, Washington, D.C., June 1, 1956,” ; U.S. Congress, Senate, “Background Information Related to Southeast Asia and Vietnam,” 89th Congress, 1st session (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1965), p. 73; and Clarence R. Wyatt, Paper Soldiers: The American Press and the Vietnam War (University of Chicago Press, 1995), pp. 63-65.
Gabriel Kolko, Vietnam: Anatomy of a War, 1940–1975 (London: Unwin Paperbacks, 1985), p. 89; the Pentagon Papers, Vol. I, p. 255; and Jeremy Kuzmarov, Modernizing Repression: Police Training and Nation Building in the American Century (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2012), pp. 144-147.
The Pentagon Papers, Vol. 1, Ch. 5, “Origins of the Insurgency in South Vietnam, 1954-1960,” p. 299; Jean Lacouture, Vietnam: Between Two Truces (New York: Random House, 1966), p. 79; and Edward Miller, Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the Fate of South Vietnam (Harvard University Press, 2013). On “personalism,” see Jessica M. Chapman, Cauldron of Resistance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and 1950s Southern Vietnam (Ithaca Cornell University Press, 2013), p. 121.
Appy, Patriots, pp. 49-50. See also Christian G. Appy, American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity (New York: Penguin Books, 2016), Chapter One.
Young, The Vietnam Wars, p. 220; John Paul Vann, letter to Roger Darling, May 14, 1968, Neil Sheehan Papers, quoted in Turse, Kill Anything That Moves, p. 105; and Philip Jones Griffiths, Vietnam Inc. (New York: Macmillan, 1971), cited in Young, The Vietnam Wars, p 219.
For an excellent analysis of economic motives interwoven in the American quest for hegemonic power in Asia as well as ideological-driven rationales, see Noam Chomsky, At War with Asia: Essays on Indochina (New York: Vintage Books, 1970; republished, Chico, CA: AK Press, 2004).