Study Guide

The Soviets in Eisenhower's Farewell Address

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The Soviets

The Soviets loomed large in the American consciousness during Ike's tenure as president, so it only makes sense he had to devote a few paragraphs talking about the Cold War and the communist threat. If he didn't mention it, people might have started wondering why they were huddling in bomb shelters and explaining to their children what to do if a thermo-nuclear device exploded above their city. (The correct answer is "be out of town on an extended camping trip.")

Ike had managed to defuse some of the worst hot spots around the world, most notably the Korean Peninsula. But both the U.S. and U.S.S.R. were escalating their nuclear tests, revolutionary governments were overthrowing dictators friendly to the West, and the The Soviets got to space before we did. We hate when that happens. All this converged to make the end of Ike's presidency one of the most strained times of the Cold War.

Although some might call it hypocritical that Ike used the CIA to overthrow what in hindsight appears to have been moderate or "liberal" capitalist regimes in Guatemala and Iran, he still thought the Soviets would ultimately be defeated by the classic American ideals left over from WWII. The thinking was that if the U.S. could stick to its principles of liberty and justice for all, then the Soviets would eventually be worn down by a superior system of government, economy, and culture.

Who doesn't want to be free?

But the Soviets weren't going away anytime soon. It would take decades for the internal contradictions in the Communist system to tear their Union apart, the threat of nuclear Armageddon looming all the while. With the ascension to power of Mikhail Gorbachev, there was a new era of openness and reform, and a movement towards a market economy. Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.

The official date of death of the Soviet Union was December 25, 1991, when Gorbachev resigned and the Soviet flag was lowered for the last time over the Kremlin, replaced by the Russian flag.

The coroner listed the cause of death as a severe thirst for freedom.

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