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International Politics

, Volume 48, Issue 4–5, pp 591–606 | Cite as

Ideas, discourse, power and the end of the cold war: 20 years on

  • Thomas Risse
Original Article

Abstract

Reagan's rhetoric and actions in the arms race triggered considerable opposition, which was necessary to establish a counter-discourse in particular through the peace movements in the West, which then impacted upon the discussions in Moscow. It enabled Gorbachev to overcome his considerable domestic opposition and to make the necessary concessions, which started to bring the cold war to an end. In this sense, the peace movements won the cold war, too. The end of the cold war was as much a discursive struggle over ideas about international order and the right mix of deterrence and détente as the East–West conflict itself. It is a matter of good fortune that the cold war had a relatively happy ending and that Europe was reunited. Claiming victory for one side or the other seems to be beside the point, even 20 years later.

Keywords

peace movements Gorbachev Reagan arms race German reunification 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The author thanks the participants of the Princeton workshop in March 2010 for their critical comments, in particular Michael Cox, Daniel Deudney and G. John Ikenberry.

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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Risse
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Transnational Relations, Foreign and Security Policy, Otto Suhr Institute for Political Science, Freie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany

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