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From Empire to Nationhood

Cold War ends

Afghanistan mapAfghanistan mapDĂ©tente proved a short-lived phenomenon, overtaken by events such as the hostage crisis following the Iranian revolution that overthrew the pro-western government of the Shah in 1978-9.

The crisis helped end the presidency of Jimmy Carter and ushered in the administration of Ronald Reagan who was elected in November 1980.

Reagan and his new ally, Margaret Thatcher, adopted a more hard line attitude to the USSR in the wake of its invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

This seemed to confirm fears that the Soviet Union was embarked on a policy of expansionism, and led to covert US military support of the Afghan resistance.

The new, uncompromising, direction of US policy was made public in 1983 when the President described the USSR as an 'Evil Empire'. His speech, along with other statements, threw down a challenge to communism itself as a system of life. A central plank of Reagan's policy was a modernisation of America's nuclear capability.

This led to the controversial decision to station Cruise and Pershing II missiles in Western Europe in 1984 in response to the introduction of the Soviet SS-20 Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile. The move sparked huge anti-war demonstrations, particularly in West Germany, which would have borne the brunt of a tactical nuclear exchange.

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