Why the Cold War Ended: A Range of Interpretations

By Ralph Summy; Michael E. Salla | Go to book overview

12
How the Cold War Became an Expensive Irrelevance

Keith Suter


INTRODUCTION

There are various interpretations as to how the Cold War ended. As with the related questions of "why did the Cold War begin" or "when did the Cold War begin," it may be necessary for historians to agree to disagree on the various explanations. The answer to each of the three questions may contain several strands, and the dispute may be a matter of how much emphasis should be placed on each strand. In that same way, this chapter puts forward two strands of an explanation. It is not possible to determine the amount of emphasis that should be accorded to each.

This chapter argues, first, that the Cold War became too expensive to continue because of the economic and social costs of military expenditure and, second, that changes in the global system of nation-states made the Cold War irrelevant to the larger issues that were emerging.

In terms of Michael Salla's diagram in the last chapter, my argument straddles three interpretative positions: economic-historical (because of the cost of running the arms race), systemic-international (because of the change from the Westphalian System to a new global order), and politico-cultural (since there are references to nongovernmental organizations such as the peace movement).

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