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This dysfunctional Soviet Union mind-set was exacerbated by an ideological element. Here Western behavior was not all it might have been. The West may have over-estimated the threat posed to capitalism by communism. The fact that the Soviets attempted to foment revolution abroad may have been given too much weight. A bunker mentality settled in on both sides. Both were animated by ideologies that regarded the other as being, in Brand’s words, “heretical”. Both sides had their grievances. In the West the Soviets were seen as brutal, illiberal, totalitarian, and armed to the teeth; Kennedy’s running against Nixon on the basis of a totally fictional “missile gap” was but one of many symptoms of a western paranoia concerning Soviet capabilities. In the Soviet Union the West was perceived as hegemonic and utterly committed to the destruction of communism. Underlying all of this was the real fact that capitalism and communism were economic ideologies that did not, because they could not, admit that the other had a right to exist.
The Cold War ended in the Gorbachev years when the Warsaw Pact abruptly dissolved. The Soviet Empire collapsed of its own weight. It had always been a garrison state. Donaldson and Nogee have characterized it, in terms of its presence in Eastern Europe, as being an “alien system”, “managed by puppet regimes”, and lacking “in the deep roots of legitimacy”. Overly bureaucratic, centrally managed in an economically inefficient way, and engaged in an arms race with the richest nation on earth, the Soviet Union reached a point where the internal disillusionment was so profound that it collapsed. The Soviet Union spent itself into the ground in maintaining huge nuclear and conventional forces. The former gave it superpower status; the latter enabled it to keep its hold on Eastern Europe; neither did anything to provide its people with a decent standard of living. Eventually that proved to matter.