What effect did the Cold War have on the Soviet Union?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Cold War was one of the major factors that impacted the Soviet Union from 1945 until the Soviet Union stopped existing.  It had many important influences on that country.  Let us look at two of these influences.

First, the Cold War impacted life inside the Soviet Union, making it much more politically oppressive.  During the Cold War, the Soviet leaders constantly felt the need to ensure that their populace was united in support of the regime.  That led a situation in which the government felt the need to be extremely repressive.  The Cold War, then, led to less freedom within the Soviet Union.

Second, the Cold War also helped to make economic life harder.  Because of the Cold War, the Soviet Union had to spend a great deal on its military.  It had to do this so that it would not fall behind in the struggle for power with the US.  When it spent on the military, it was unable to spend on things that would have helped average Soviet citizens. 

When combined, these effects helped to cause the end of the Soviet Union.  The repression and the poor economy made people very unhappy in the Soviet system.  This helped cause the Soviet Union to collapse when Gorbachev attempted his reforms.