The cold war had begun at a time when the allies, including the US and USSR had successfully defeated the Nazi Germany and her axis partners.
The world had expected the lasting friend among the victors when they split and formed two hostile camps.
The cold war ended (1990) at a time when the common man had come to live with it and it was expected that (despite ups and downs and detente) the east-west conflict would become permanent. When the cold war suddenly ended, the Western Bloc had not expected ‘victory’ and the Eastern Bloc was still dreaming of self destruction of capitalism.
The end of cold war came under the aegis of two rather improbable collaborators-Ronald Reagan and Mikhial Gorbachev. The American president had been elected to reaffirm the traditional varieties of American exceptionalism. He was expected to continue to contain communism, not to defeat it.
He represented the right in US society. Gorbachev was determined to reinvigorate what he considered a superior soviet ideology. Reagan and Gorbachev both believed in the ultimate victory of their side. Henry Kissinger compared the two men and concluded that while “Reagan understood the mainsprings of his society, whereas Gorbachev had completely lost touch with his society”.
The process of end of Cold War started in the second half of the 1980s when there was softening in the attitude of the top leaders and they adopted conciliatory posters towards each other. The first concrete manifestation of this change was the Malta Summit between president Bush of US and Mikhail Gorvachev of Soviet Union.
In this summit, held aboard ship off Malta on 2 December 1989, the two leaders made a serious bid to reduce tensions and check the growing threats or conflicts in various areas like middle-east. It has rightly been asserted that the Malta Summit marked the beginning of a new phase in the post World War II international politics. It also laid the foundation of political cooperation between US and USSR in shaping the post war order in Europe.
The Washington Summit (May 30-June 2, 1990) further contributed to the easing of cold war. At this summit president Bush and President Gorbachev concluded a number of agreements on nuclear, chemical and conventional arms. The two sides agreed to destroy thousands of tons of chemical weapons and reduce their stockpiles. They agreed to start destruction of these weapons in 1992 and finish it by 2002
AD. They also agreed to cease further production of these weapons with immediate effect. Another important outcome of this summit was that the two leaders agreed on principles regarding the strategic Armed Reduction Treaty (START) which was finally signed on 21 July, 1991. Under this treaty the two superpowers agreed to effect reduction to equal levels in defined strategic offensive arm over a period of seven years. They also agreed to set up a joint commission on certification and inspection.
This was followed by announcement of ‘Unilateral disarmament’ by President Bush. He even indicated his intention to take nuclear tactical weapons out of European soil and reduce possibility of any accidental war. President Bush removed from alert status all missiles covered by START and ordered removal of all nuclear artillery shells from overseas bases. He urged Soviet Union to match the nuclear arms cut.
The soviet leaders responded favorably and on 5 October 1991 President Gorbachev not only announced extensive cuts in tactical nuclear weapon, but also announced cut of more missiles then it was required under START. Further, Soviet Union also announced one year moratorium on nuclear testing.
This process of unilateral cut of nuclear arms was repeated by President Bush in Jan, 1992, and president Yeltsin of Russia responded equally and announced 10 point disarmament with the objective of liquidating all nuclear, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction.
In the meanwhile the leaders of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the Warsaw Pact held a conference on security and cooperation in Europe (CSCE), in Paris in November 1990 with a view to eliminate the threats of surprise attack and establish parity of conventional weapons in Europe.
The treaty provided for scrapping or conversion about 40,000 tanks and equal number of armored vehicle as well as more than 50.000 artillery pieces on both sides. It was also decided to refuse the number of fighting planes and helicopter gunships. In the wake of above developments the leaders of Warsaw Pact countries decided to dissolve the Eastern European alliance in July 1991. This put an end to east-west confrontation.
The factors which contributed to the end of cold war is that first, the changed strategic perception of two super powers greatly contributed to the end of cold war. As the two super powers attained parity in nuclear weapons, they realised that nuclear weapons.