The expansionism of the Soviet Union
Taking advantage of the decline of the United States on the international scene due to the humiliation suffered in Vietnam and the pacifist policy of President Carter, the Soviet Union took the opportunity to engage more, particularly in Asia, Africa and South America, but also in Europe (euromissile crisis). The Soviet Union begins to deploy more and more new generation weapons worrying the technological advance of the West.
America is back! (1981)
In the United States, discredited by his international policy deemed disastrous and despite good management of the economic crisis, Carter was defeated in the elections by Ronald Reagan. Under the presidencies of Reagan (1981-1989) then Bush Sr. (1989-1993), the United States returned to its traditional values:puritan morality and economic liberalism. Foreign interventions are developing:outside, they deny the détente, thus relaunching the Cold War by denouncing the Soviet Union as the "Evil Empire" (during the national convention of evangelists) and giving the United States the military means to “defend freedom and democracy” (sic). Interventions multiplied throughout the world:Nicaragua in 1981-1986 and Grenada in 1983.
The arms race, the balance of terror and its breakdown
For military purposes, several countries equip themselves with equipment, often beyond what is in practice necessary to ensure their survival and domination, whether geopolitical or economic. The United States and the USSR frantically acquired destruction equipment where each attempted to demonstrate its superiority over the other. However, with wear, this arms race, technical progress being continuous, it was the excessive weight of the military-industrial complex on the economy of the USSR which put an end to this race.
The result of the arms race in 1982
During this race, these two countries have created a climate of terror among their enemies. Along the way, they demonstrated that they possessed a nuclear arsenal sufficient to destroy anyone who would significantly oppose their plans. Being assured of their mutual destruction, they maintained what is called the balance of terror, i.e. a situation where no one can win following a nuclear conflict.
On March 23, 1983, Ronald Reagan announced the IDS (Strategic Defense Initiative) or “Star Wars” project:the United States would be protected from nuclear weapons by a very expensive computer “space shield” which would deflect them. The Soviet Union cannot follow, abandons the arms race and agrees to negotiate. Clinton renounced the IDS in 1993 and Bush Jr. realized it (December 2001).
Wars in Africa
In Africa, communist guerrillas took power after 1975 in the newly independent countries of the former Portuguese colonial empire (Angola, Mozambique, etc.) and began military action towards South Africa with the support of the Cuban army, leading to real pitched battles, particularly in Namibia. In Ethiopia, the Red Army and the Cuban forces intervened against the movements fighting against the dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam from 1976. Destabilization actions were sometimes thwarted, such as the rescue of Kolwezi by the French army.
The missile crisis in Europe
This period is marked by the expansion of the USSR and its influence in new territories, particularly in Europe, with the strengthening of the Warsaw Pact. This expansion led to the Euromissile Crisis from 1979 to 1985:NATO installed cruise missiles and Pershing 2s to counterbalance the Soviet SS-20 missiles.
This led to large peaceful demonstrations, supported by the communist parties in the countries concerned, whose main slogan “Rather red than dead” ((de) Lieber rot als tot) led, among others, to this sentence by French President François Mitterrand in the Bundestag:“Pacifism is in the West, missiles are in the East”.
Despite the pressure, these missiles were finally installed from 1985 and, faced with a fait accompli, the USSR began negotiations which would lead to the American-Soviet agreement of May 27, 1988 on the elimination of intermediate-range nuclear missiles from arsenals of both States.
The problem of Poland
Poland plays a big role in the weakening of the Soviet Union and the fall of communism:
* On October 16, 1978, Karol Wojtyla was elected the 262nd pope under the name of John Paul II. Polish, he is the first non-Italian pope since Adrian VI († 1523). Getting involved on the international scene, he will actively fight against communism;
* On August 31, 1980, metalworker Lech Walesa founded the Solidarnosc trade union, supported by Westerners who disapproved of the establishment of a very harsh regime, that of General Wojciech Jaruzelski, supported by the Soviet Union in Warsaw (13 Dec. 1981).
The first war in Afghanistan
In 1978, the Republic of Afghanistan was proclaimed. Socialist, she is pro-Soviet. Afghan Islamists come into conflict with the power in place. In 1979, Moscow sent the Red Army, starting the first war in Afghanistan. The United States got involved in this conflict by feeding the anti-Soviet resistance on the spot, by financing and by offering military training to groups of mujahideen, Islamist “holy warriors” resisting the Soviet occupier. The armies of the USSR withdrew from Afghanistan in February 1989.