North America 1989: End of the Cold War
The US funded the Nicaraguan Contras partly through secret arms sales to embargoed Iran, causing a political scandal when uncovered. However the importance the US placed on the Central American wars was soon to fade. By the late 1980s, the Soviet Union was facing economic woes and a costly war in Afghanistan, while the US threatened it with a high tech arms race. The new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, responded with huge reforms and in 1989 allowed elections and revolutions to overthrow the communist regimes in eastern Europe. The Cold War was over.
24 Apr 1984 SDI program started▲
United States Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger signed the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization charter, launching what would be nick-named the “Star Wars” program to produce a high technology missile defense system.
11 Mar 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev▲
Following the deaths in quick succession of Supreme Leaders Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, and Konstantin Chernenko, the Politburo appointed its youngest member, Mikhail Gorbachev, as the new General Secretary.
20 Aug 1985–4 Mar 1987 Iran-Contra affair▲
Political scandal erupted in the United States when covert government funding of Contras in Nicaragua through secret arms sales to Iran, the subject of an arms embargo, was uncovered. Nine members of the national security apparatus were indicted and seven were convicted, but most were later pardoned by incoming President George H.W. Bush or had their convictions overturned in federal court.
15 May 1988–15 Feb 1989 Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan▲
Soon after Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Soviet Union, he gained the support of the Politburo in seeking a withdrawal from the war in Afghanistan. In the 1988 Geneva Accords, the Soviets agreed to withdraw immediately, removing their last troops out in February 1989, but continuing political support of the moribund People’s Republic of Afghanistan.
9–10 Nov 1989 Fall of the Berlin Wall▲
After Hungary and Czechoslovakia opened their borders to Austria, allowing tens of thousands of East Germans to escape to the West, the government of East Germany partially opened its border with West Germany. In the confusion over the new regulations, masses of East Germans gathered at the Berlin Wall, overwhelming the guards and demanding to cross to the West. At 10:45 pm on 9 November, the guards relented. The Wall was swamped by celebrating East and West Germans, then torn down over the ensuing days.
17 Dec 1989–3 Jan 1990 Operation Just Cause▲
In Operation Just Cause, United States forces invaded Panama, with US President George H. W. Bush citing Panamanian dictator General Manuel Noriega’s threat to US lives and human rights, his role in drug trafficking and related activities, and the danger he posed to the Panama Canal’s neutrality as reasons for intervention. The US successfully occupied Panama in just a few weeks, capturing Noriega on 3 January 1990 and restoring democratic rule to the country. Noriega was flown to the US, where he was brought to trial and, in 1992, sentenced to 40 years in prison.