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An Outline of American History
End to the Cold War
by U.S. Department of State


Superpower relations in the late 1980s were driven by political turmoil in Eastern Europe. The United States and the world watched as popular uprisings for democratic reforms resulted in the fall of communist governments throughout the region.

Despite a successful 1989 summit meeting between Bush and Gorbachev in Malta, few would have predicted the extraordinary achievements to be made in U.S.-Soviet relations in 1990. In his January State of the Union message, President Bush announced his intention to cut U.S. troops stationed in Europe to 195,000. In February, the Bush administration held discussions with the Soviets on arms control as well as the unification of East and West Germany. Within seven months, after numerous bilateral and multilateral discussions, the Soviet Union had renounced its wartime rights and accepted a unified Germany with full membership in NATO. The Treaty on the Final Settlement with respect to Germany was signed in Moscow on September 12.

President Bush and the heads of state of 21 other countries signed the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) on November 19, 1990, at a three-day summit meeting of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). The CFE Treaty was one of the most complex and ambitious arms agreements ever concluded, covering thousands of tanks, aircraft and artillery pieces deployed by NATO and the countries of the former Warsaw Pact from the Atlantic to the Ural Mountains.

Then, on July 31, 1991, the United States reached its last major arms agreement with the Soviet Union when Presidents Bush and Gorbachev signed the long-negotiated Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in Moscow, which mandated cuts of 30 to 40 percent in the nuclear arsenals of both sides. But even these cuts were dwarfed by President Bush's agreement with Boris Yeltsin, president of the new Russian Federation, to eliminate all multiple-warhead missiles completely by the year 2003. In combination, the two agreements would reduce the number of nuclear warheads by two-thirds, from approximately 21,000 to between 6,000 to 7,000. The disposal of nuclear materials, and the ever-present concerns of nuclear proliferation superseded the threat of nuclear conflict between Washington and Moscow.

The Cold War was indeed over.

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