The Fall of a Wall and an Empire

Fall of a Wall and an Empire QuotePresident Reagan’s famous speech in which he implored Mikhail Gorbachev “to bring down” the Berlin Wall solidified his public identity with the end of the Cold War.  However, contemporary historians largely credit Texas’ own George H.W. Bush and Gorbachev as the leaders who successfully managed to bring the Cold War to a close.  Gorbachev’s political campaigns of “glasnost” (publicity), to reduce corruption in the Communist party, and “perestroika” (restructuring), to introduce capitalism into the Russian economy, ushered in a new era of international cooperation, closely watched and reported on by media across Texas.  Upon his arrival in the Oval Office, President Bush took time to carefully evaluate the changes in Russia that had taken place during the Reagan administration, including the removal of intermediate and short-range missiles in both countries.  Bush showed similar restraint when responding to the fall of the Berlin Wall by not declaring it a Western victory. While not a popular response at home, for which he was publicly teased on Saturday Night Live, Bush’s “prudent” approach served to improve diplomatic relations with Russia and Eastern Europe and paved the way for further negotiations with Gorbachev in normalizing U.S.-Soviet relations and economic reform.

In February of 1989, Gorbachev withdrew troops from Afghanistan, therefore withdrawing their effort to extend Soviet influence. Then Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania’s communist governments all fell in rapid succession. Most notably, in 1989, the Berlin Wall – the most notorious symbol of the Cold War – fell as joyous German citizens took hammers to it. In 1990, East and West Germany were reunified, and in 1991, the USSR officially dissolved, marking the end of a unique era in America’s history – an era that nonetheless continues to define our foreign policy today.