Period of tension and competition between two superpowers—the United States and the Soviet Union—lasting from 1945 to 1991. The Cold War defined U.S. foreign policy during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, who famously referred to the Soviet Union as an “evil empire.” As a result, the threat of nuclear annihilation haunted the American popular imagination throughout the 1980’s. At the end of the decade, however, the Cold War came to an end, as the Soviets instituted liberal reforms and the Berlin Wall was torn down. At the beginning of the 1990’s, the so-called evil empire collapsed, and Russia and its former republics and satellite nations embarked on a project of rebuilding and transforming their governments.
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