End of the Soviet Union

In a quite unlikely scenario, the country dubbed the “Evil Empire” by President Ronald Reagan ceased to exist 26 years ago.

The Soviet Union folded with a whimper, not a bang. Its president, Mikhail Gorbachev, ceded power to Boris Yeltsin, president of the Russian Federation. On Dec. 17, 1991, Yeltsin announced that the Soviet Union would cease to exist.

That the end came so peacefully seemed a miracle to those of us who grew up having drills at school to prepare for a nuclear war with the dreaded Communist Bear that spread from Eastern Europe across the entire north of Asia. We listened as Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev vowed “We will bury you!” in a shouting tirade against the United States.

We endured a series of confrontations with the Soviets that began with the Berlin airlift in 1948. The Soviets backed the North with materiel, training and pilots during the Korean War. The provocation of the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 was followed a year later by the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. While China was North Vietnam’s chief facilitator against our efforts in Southeast Asia, the Soviets lent supplies and advisers to the North.

Throughout these conflicts and others, there was a delicate chess match played between the United States and the Soviet Union. Both sides carefully avoided conflicts that would have to be solved with the nuclear button. The military strategy of “mutually assured destruction” meant simply that each side had enough nuclear weapons to wipe out the other one.

And, always, there were diplomatic efforts to rein in those nukes. The fortunate pairing of Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan paved the way for the end of the Soviet Union. Reagan sensed that Gorbachev did not have the iron fist mentality of his predecessors. The U.S. thus backed movements like Solidarity in Poland that sought freedom for its people. And that freedom spread throughout most of Eastern Europe.

By December 1991, most of the republics that made up the Soviet Union had already declared their independence. Thus, Yeltsin’s announcement 26 years ago was almost anti-climactic. The Soviet Union was gone.

(Source – History.com)

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