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In many ways, the Cold War ended as it began. Two men, this time US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, met in Moscow in 1988 to set the stage for a new mode of relations between their societies. They did not have to do this. The domestic and international pressures acting upon them were strong, but fundamentally these two men chose out of personal conviction to leave the Cold War behind. Their decision to end the Cold War rivalry, like Truman's and Stalin's choice to accept this rivalry, created an opening for fundamental changes. The revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe, the Tiananmen Square protests in China the same year, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism as a formidable international force all grew out of the superpower actions that ended the Cold War. Reagan and Gorbachev neither anticipated nor desired most of these developments, but they made them possible. Although the power of the superpowers had definite limits, they made and un-made the Cold War world. ()

US and world military spending and budgets are very high, almost back to Cold War levels.

The Cold War did not, as many hoped, end after 1968. Through détente the superpowers managed to repress their critics, create stability in the most dangerous areas of potential conflict, and heighten their military and ideological competition in the 'third world'. Small states and mobilised citizens could attract attention and create short-term crises, but they could not redesign the structure of international power that grew out of the Second World War. The continuation of the Cold War through the late 1980s, despite so much opposition, proves the extraordinary resilience of superpower hegemony. ()


Economic history of the United States - Wikipedia

America is still the world’s biggest economic and military superpower by far, but its geographic isolation means this power cannot rise any more. Its power will last if the Chinese still think the American market is important for its own growth – and that could last for another decade or so.

1. Yep, outside the scope of the article. In my article on Europe (linked in the piece), I discussed the likely balance of power alliances there – based mostly on historical patterns. I think that China will become so powerful by 2030 – note that it’s population will be more than 10x Japan’s, and perhaps as wealthy per capita as Korea today – that relations in East Asia begin to follow the traditional pattern for that region (which is a tributary relationship of everyone else to China, inc. Japan). And this will, of course, add a further boost to Chinese power – although not an overly significant one, because becoming the first superpower is a necessary condition for achieving these tributary relations anyway. I don’t see how the decline part would be affected either. Japan can’t add new lands, water, energy resources (if anything it will suffer from the same ailments as China in a warming world), which are the driving forces behind the rise of the Arctic states.