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A new era in the Cold War came about as Ronald Reagan became president and Mikhail Gorbachev assumed leadership in the Soviet Union. Reagan ratcheted up America’s arsenal of weapons and openly confronted the Soviets to “tear down this wall.? Gorbachev loosened the grips on his people by introducing some liberal measures while his nation pulled out of Afghanistan, an apparent defeat of the mighty Soviet army. By decade’s end, the USSR was imploding and the Eastern Block nations were breaking free of the Soviet grip.

1983

March 8 -- President Reagan characterizes the Soviet Union as “an evil empire? and “the focus of evil in the modern world,? undermining détente and increasing Cold War tensions.

  March 23 -- President Reagan proposes the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) in an address to the nation.  Reagan envisions a defense shield that could down Soviet missiles before they reached America.  Some sarcastically label SDI as “Star Wars.?
 

November 23 -- American Pershing II missiles are deployed in West Germany, angering the Soviet Union and prompting widespread protests in West Europe.

           
1985

March 10 -- Following the death of Brezhnev in 1982 and two subsequent Soviet leaders, Mikhail Gorbachev is made General Secretary of the Soviet Union.

 

November 19 -- President Reagan and Secretary Gorbachev meet in Geneva for three days and produce a joint statement calling for a 50 percent reduction in each superpower’s nuclear arsenal.

   
1986

February 25 -- General Secretary Gorbachev, at the 27th Party Congress, calls for a major restructuring plan for the Soviet economy and for greater openness in public affairs.

           
1987

June 12 -- President Reagan calls on Secretary Gorbachev to “tear down this wall? in remarks made before the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin.

 

 

1989

February 15 -- Following ten years of bloody fighting, the Soviet army withdraws from Afghanistan.

  June 4 -- In Poland, Solidarity candidates triumph in parliamentary elections, the first Communist regime to be defeated at the polls.
 

June 3 -- Chinese government sends troops into Beijing’s Tianamen Square to dispurse protestors demonstrating for greater freedom.  Many protestors are killed, as the West watches in horror.

  September 11 -- Hungary stops patrolling its border with neutral Austria and lifts travel restrictions on East Germans, who promptly begin streaming across the unguarded border.  This marks the beginning of the collapse of Communist control in East Germany.  By the end of the year the hated Berlin Wall falls.
  December -- Following the collapse of the East German government, Communist governments fall in Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Rumania.  The Soviet empire ends.