Polychronicon 140: Why did the Cold War End?


By Tony McConnell, published 23rd November 2010

Personalities, Poland and Pershing II: why did the Cold War end?

The end of the Cold War is a controversial subject. Contemporary analysts did not see it coming. Any explanation of its ending which seeks to build up a network of causation will therefore be forced to make arguments based on events whose significance was not  necessarily seen at the time. Given that the Cold War can partly be characterised as a war in which there were substantial asymmetries  of information, it follows that interpretations of its ending might be  similarly problematic. Historians' work in this area seems to depend on their own careers, and the sources which they have seen. Interpretations of the end of the Cold War tend to fall into one of four categories. It might have been a combination of the leaders' personalities (but which leaders were important?). It might have been a recognition among the non-superpowers that enough was enough. Perhaps the United States actually won the war. Or perhaps the war has not really ended.

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