Read this article to learn about how the cold war came to an end!

The world had from about the 1990, entered the post-Cold War era.

Many efforts had been made since the 1950s to promote relaxation of tensions and on many occasions in the past it appeared that the two power blocs had entered the period of detente.

The Non-Aligned Movement played a crucial role in promoting a climate of peace.

Cold War

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However, many developments that seemed to mark the beginning of detente were followed by new tensions and conflicts. One of the factors that played an increasingly important role in changing the policy of confrontation was the realisation that unlike the past events in human history, the practicability of an all-out war simply could not be the basis of conducting international relations.

The reports prepared by scientists on the effects of a nuclear war and the voices raised by them against the armaments race and the doctrines of MAD and Nuclear Deterrence, and the popular anti-war movements around the world, played an important role in creating an atmosphere of detente.

The Non-Aligned Movement, since its inception, pressed for disarmament so that the vast resources released by it could be utilised for development and for ending misery in the world. Since the early 1960s, the rigid military alliances showed tendencies of breaking down. From 1956, the Soviet leaders began laying stress on peaceful coexistence. After the split in the communist movement which began in the late 1950s, the theory of the danger of the expansion of communism lost much of its relevance.


The hostility between the Soviet Union and China destroyed the fear of communism which had been earlier viewed as a monolithic bloc. Albania went out of the Warsaw Pact in 1961 and Romania began to play an independent role. US relations with China improved in the early 1970s and China was admitted to the United Nations in 1971.

There were changes in the US-sponsored military alliances also. France withdrew her military contingents from the NATO forces in 1966 and NATO forces and bases were removed from French territory. In the early 1970s, SEATO also began to be phased out as a military alliance. Pakistan withdrew from SEATO in 1973 and France in 1974.

The process of the end of the Cold War was not an easy one. At a number of occasions the breakout of an all out nuclear war seemed imminent. In 1956, there was an uprising in Hungary and in 1968 a change of government in Czechoslovakia.

In both cases, it meant these countries going out of Soviet control and following political and economic policies which deviated from the Soviet sponsored ‘socialism’. Both these countries were invaded by Soviet troops. In Czechoslovakia they were joined by troops from some other countries of the Warsaw Pact and a pro-Soviet government was installed there.


In 1961, East Germany built a wall between East and West Berlin to make it impossible for East Germans to escape to West Berlin. This created widespread resentment in the West.

In 1979, the Soviet Union sent her troops to Afghanistan to help the Afghan government crush the rebels who had been armed by the United States and were operating in Afghanistan from and with the support of Pakistan.

There were also many instances of US overt or covert intervention in many countries, particularly in Latin America. In Africa also, the US aided rebels against regimes which she considered pro-Soviet and pro-communist.

As it has been pointed out earlier that, the elimination of the means of destruction can alone ensure peace. The existence of the weapons whose destructive power is beyond ordinary human imagination is itself a source of tension.

The end of confrontation, therefore, must lead to disarmament, to begin with, nuclear disarmament. Though disarmament remains a far cry, some positive steps were taken in this direction.

In 1963, a Test Ban Treaty was signed by the US, the Soviet Union and Britain which prohibited the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, in outer space and underwater. France and China, however, had refused to sign the treaty and continued to carry out nuclear tests in the atmosphere.

In 1969, negotiations aimed at the reduction of arms began between the United States and the Soviet Union and in 1972 an agreement was reached on limiting certain categories of missiles. These negotiations were known as Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT).

The negotiations for disarmament were hampered in the 1980s when the US started working on a new system of weaponry called the Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI), popularly known as the “Star Wars” programme.

This would mean taking the arms race to a new terrible height by extending it to outer space. However, some progress was made in eliminating some categories of nuclear missiles and in cutting down others. A treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, popularly known as NPT, was also signed by many countries. Its aim is to prevent the countries that do not possess nuclear weapons from acquiring them but does not require that countries already in possession of nuclear weapons should eliminate them.

Because it gives the five nuclear powers—the countries that presently possess nuclear weapons—the exclusive monopoly over nuclear weapons, this treaty is considered discriminatory by some countries, including India.

India has tested a nuclear device in 1974 and, more recently in 1998, both India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests. Israel is believed to be in possession of nuclear weapons; the number of nuclear weapons she is said to possess is estimated to be 50.

Some very important events could be said to have brought the Cold War to an end. In 1989, the Communist parties’ monopoly of power in the countries of Eastern Europe came to an end. This can be considered a major consequence of the policies pursued by the new leadership headed by Mikhail Gorbachev which came to power in 1985. The Soviet control over the governments of East European countries was loosened and new governments were formed after free elections were held in these countries.

In October 1990, Germany was reunited. In 1991 the Warsaw Pact, the military bloc headed by the Soviet Union, was formally dissolved. It may be noted that NATO was not dissolved; it has in fact, expanded over the years with 26 countries being its members at present.

In 1991, the Communist Party’s exclusive control over the Soviet Union, which it had exercised soon after the October Revolution in 1917, came to an end. By the end of the year, the Soviet Union broke up into 15 independent republics. With the collapse of the Soviet Union the Cold War finally came to an end.

The term, Cold War, is used to describe the confrontation and rivalry between the two military blocs—one consisting of West European and North American countries headed by USA, and the other consisting of the Soviet Union and European countries ruled by communist parties.

It had its impact on almost every conflict in every part of the world because almost every major conflict in every part of the world was seen in terms of this confrontation and rivalry or, as is often said, in terms of the Cold War.

The Cold War was also often seen as confrontation and rivalry for world domination by two opposing political, economic and social systems—capitalist and communist. This ‘war’ remained ‘cold’ because even though there were many conflicts and tensions and even wars in which the two military blocs were, directly or indirectly, involved, there was no widespread general war and in none of the wars the two superpowers—USA and Soviet Union—directly fought against each other.

The end of the Cold War means the end of the confrontation and rivalry between the two military blocs. It does not, however, mean that tensions, conflicts and wars have come to an end. The danger of a general conflagration can be said to have certainly come to an end.

After the end of the cold war USA became the sole ‘superpower’ in the world and often acted as one. The world it was often said had become ‘unipolar’. However, recent developments in the world have eroded the belief in uni polarity. Some experts have already started describing the period up to about the 1990 as the First Cold War and the possibility of another ‘cold war’ breaking out.