American History Week 32 The Fall of the USSR

Prompt: “In January 1992, would you have predicted a smaller or larger Pentagon budget in 1993? Why?”

In 1980 the first Olympics to take place in Russia were held. Many westerners attended the games and socialized with Russians. This lead to Russians visiting their friends in America, and seeing first hand how wealthy the west really was. One story I heard about such an event actually made me tear up. It was about a Russian visiting an American and asking to see an American grocery store. The American took him to see the closest store, and the Russian was shocked. He said, “No, I don’t want to see the stores for the rich. Show me a commoners store.” The American replied, “Well, that’s what this is.” The Russian shook his head and demanded to see a store for commoners. So the American took him to a different shop. Again the Russian wasn’t satisfied. He again demanded to see a commoners store. So the American once again brought him to a different nearby shop. Upon entering the third shop and seeing the vibrant lights, colors, and plentiful food on every shelf tears began to fill the Russians eyes. He looked at his American friend and he said, “They lied! They lied, they lied, they lied!! You have wealth!”

That is an example of the immediate visible different between the American and Russian economy in the 1980’s. Russians who traveled to America and saw this difference returned to Russia and shared this news with their friends. This began the first seeds of doubt in the USSR to sprout in the minds of many Russians. Mikhail Gorbachev came onto the scene, and with his more liberal communist views began to open up the country in ways never before tried. Russia’s satellite states also began to push for freedom, a famous example being East Germany. President Reagan’s 1987 speech at the Berlin wall included the famous line “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Intense pressure began to build up on the USSR. It’s people were realizing how second class their economy was, military defeat left its defense weakened, and the anti communist movement was heating up to a boil in the west. The USSR eventually couldn’t handle all this pressure, and dissolved (In American time) December 25 1991. My professor said this was the best Christmas present he ever got.

With the fall of the USSR also came the fall of the Cold War, a war of mutually assured destruction that had kept both America and Russia in fear of each other for nearly 45 years. The worry of nuclear devastation was finally over, the curtains closed and the iron curtain fell. After such an affair I would imagine that the pentagon would lesson their military spending. The war was over, it was time to build up the economy. This is in fact what took place, until 2001. But that’s another story.

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