The Space Race : A Reflection of Overarching, Fluctuating Cold War Tensions. Isabel IBHL2 European History Ms. Gifford. THESIS STATEMENT.
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IBHL2 European History
The Cold War is characterised as a state of suspended tension, this tension comprising heightened competition for superiority in political and academic fields,increased public anxiety, opinion, and influence, and a gap between the perceived importance between military and civilian sectors. All these tensions were exacerbated and illustrated by the Space Race (at heart, structured by inherently opposing ideological differences). Further Cold War themes, also self-evident in the Space Race, include those of ethical parameters, the importance of political personality, brinkmanship, Perestroika, Glasnost, and détente.
To understand how and why the Space Race is such an apt example of overarching Cold War tensions, we must first examine its origins.
The Space Race implicitly assumed the title of political superiority. As ideologies attempting to contain each others’ spread, a universally accepted political dominance carried heavy weight; thus, the subsequent prioritization of winning such a scientific competition.
With the rapid influx of information and technology development, all of which was publicized, the general populations of both Soviet and American nationality became heavily invested in the Race; specifically, in the form of heightened public anxiety.
Perhaps the most remembered line, “[…]”, reveals not only the ethos behind JFK’s diction, but also its ability to frame the Space Race as more an academic endeavor than militaristic competition - an important factor, considering the ‘60s were a time when rampant public opinion oftentimes sharply affected foreign policy, and even more so considering the Cold War is one based on the premise of a majority ideology, or set of principles and beliefs.
Thatcher’s role in alleviating tensions and increasing assurance played a huge role in convincing Reagan that Gorbachev was a man reasonable enough to permanently alter the atmosphere of not only the Space Race, but of the Cold War as a whole.
CONCLUSION (BRINKMANSHIP, PERESTROIKA, GLASNOST, DÉTENTE)
Had it not been for the amicable political personalities of Thatcher, Gorbachev, and Reagan, the relations between the three nations might not have been as positively affected. This speaks to the importance of politician relations; it is through this that the easing of tensions brought the Space Race through times of Brinkmanship (the armament race, the thermonuclear and ICBM technologies and such), Perestroika and Glasnost (initiatives sprung by Gorbachev in an attempt to revitalize USSR economy and political system), and, eventually, détente.
Though the Space Race was but an glimpse of the entirety of the Cold War, it did serve to reflect the latter’s overarching tensions – heightened superiority competition, increased public anxiety, opinion, and influence, and a gap between the perceived importance between military and civilian sectors – as well as themes of ethical parameters, political personality compatibility, brinkmanship, Perestroika, Glasnost, and détente.