End of the Cold War

In 1989 and 1990, communist systems unraveled at a dizzying pace in half a dozen countries across Central and Eastern Europe, opening the way for democratic elections, capitalism, and other Western influences. 

In Poland on June 4, 1989, in the first open parliamentary elections in more than forty years, Solidarity candidates swept almost all contested seats. 

On November 9, 1989, Germans celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Four months later, in March 1990, East Germans voted in the first free elections since 1932 and supported parties favoring rapid reunification with West Germany. 

In Czechoslovakia, following the Velvet Revolution, playwright Vaclav Havel was elected president by the Federal Assembly on December 29, 1989; parliamentary elections followed in June 1990. 

In Hungary in March and April 1990, the Hungarian Democratic Forum and its allies secured almost 60-percent of seats in the first free parliamentary elections since 1945. 

By Christmas Day of 1991, the Evil Empire itself was consigned to the history books, as the Soviet Union dissolved following the resignation of Mikhail Gorbachev as President (>).

The dramatic events across the Atlantic changed the playing field on which the 1992 American campaign would be fought.[1]  In 1988, Bush had emphasized his foreign policy experience.  In the 1992 campaign, national security, traditionally a Republican strong point, would be less of an issue than it had been in past elections.  Candidates did discuss varying notions of a "peace dividend," but the central issue was state of the economy.  In a sense, the end of the Cold War weighed against President Bush, who had presided over its conclusion.

1. See for example: President George H.W. Bush's May 31, 1989 speech "A Whole Europe, A Free Europe (>)."  and  R.W. Apple Jr.. "White House Race Is Recast: No Kremlin to Run Against," fifth of a 6-part series "After the Cold War."  New York Times, February 6, 1992, page 1.