Mikhail Gorbachev is one of the prominent figures who are believed to have had their part in bringing the end to the Cold War. It may also be said that he is the most controversial character among them. We have seen a multitude of contrasting opinions about the motivations and consequences of Gorbachev’s statesmanship, ranging from Western euphoric fascination in the 1990s to accusations of treason by the members of the collapsed Soviet establishment. More analytical judgments point to the problem of the factual importance of individual agency in shaping the considered events. Several years after the end of the Cold War it became apparent that the USSR was bound to ‘lose’ the prolonged competition with the Western world.
The rigid, wildly inefficient planned economy presented a self-defeating idea. Additionally, Communism as an ideology began to lose its appeal among third world countries, and in the early 1980s the Kremlin was beginning to realize that the possibility of a Communist expansion had become rather marginal. Simultaneously, there was growing pressure from the United States which reinitiated the arms-race with resources vastly beyond the Soviet capabilities. Parallel to these arguments is the recognition that even if the Soviet cause was moribund, it was not certain when and how the Cold War would end. The competition could have extended well into the 21st century – or could have ended in a nuclear confrontation.
Undoubtedly, when Gorbachev was elected the general secretary of communist party by the Politburo and the Central Committee, he inherited control over a state that was already crumbling economically. Among relatively immediate causes of the feeble economic outlook was a vast spike in oil prices which encouraged Soviet planners to over-invest in oil production infrastructure, hoping that the price trend will continue. In effect, the Soviet economy was heavily dependent on energy exports which accounted for 80 percent of the country’s hard currency earnings from the early 1970 till the mid-1980s.