Why did the Cold War intensify and then wane during the decade of the 1980s?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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In the 1980s, the Cold War intensified for a period of time. However, by the end of the decade, the Cold War was over. There are some factors to explain this.

When Ronald Reagan ran for President, he campaigned on the idea of strengthening our military and making other countries respect us or fear us again. President Reagan believed we were being perceived as a weaker country than in the past. Thus, once elected, Reagan began to talk tough about fighting the Communists and countries that supported terrorism. Reagan began to build up our military. We went deeper into debt because of this military spending. Reagan proposed controversial ideas like the Strategic Defense Initiative. He moved our military into Grenada to oppose the Soviet Union there. There were many other military actions while Reagan was President including actions in Lebanon and Honduras. President Reagan wanted us to be viewed as a strong country.

During this time, President Reagan built up a very close relationship with the leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. He told Gorbachev that his system was a failed one. He informed him that the Soviet Union couldn’t keep up with our military spending. President Reagan knew there were issues with the Soviet economy. Mikhail Gorbachev knew that also. Mikhail Gorbachev began a series of reforms in the Soviet Union. These reforms led to changes that basically ended the communism system and Cold War. By the end of the 1980s, the threats that led to the Cold War had subsided, bringing an end to the Cold War.

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