The Cold War ended in 1988 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, then the Malta Summit a few weeks later. Though the common belief is that the Cold War ended in 1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the actual end comes a bit earlier. In 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall became an enormous symbol of democratic triumph in Europe, a symbol whose visual impact on the world cannot be underestimated. It is the fall of the Berlin Wall best remembered by those alive during the period, not the technical dissolution of the USSR. Furthermore, the Malta Summit, coming on the heels of such a tremendous event, represented the arrival of peace. The summit was so essential that Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev declared “The world is leaving one epoch and entering another. We are at the beginning of a long road to a lasting, peaceful era. The threat of force, mistrust, psychological and ideological struggle should all be things of the past.” Therefore, if it is recognized by the leaders of the countries involved, President Bush and Chairman Gorbachev, as the turning point in the Cold War, it should be remembered by history in that way as well.
Although the Malta Summit and the fall of the Berlin Wall were paramount to the ending of the Cold War, the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 remains more than a formality. It is only with the formal declaration that communism in Europe is not to retain the same shape, and that many of the societies behind the iron curtain now have the opportunity to remake themselves in their own vision, that the Cold War could end.