As key events fade over time, history must gather all the facts and feelings and present them to future generations. One such event, possibly the most significant of the twentieth century, has lost relevance in many people’s daily lives: the Cold War. The Cold War changed American foreign policy and political ideology, influenced the domestic economy and president, and influenced Americans’ daily life, resulting in anticipated uniformity and a normal situation. Dissent then increased around the end of 1950s, and peaked in the late 1960s. The Cold War would persist virtually until the fall of the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Union’s demise. The Cold War origin traces back to America’s Red Scare in the late 1910s. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, there was widespread suspicion and anxiety about the Soviet Union, which grew stronger under Josef Stalin’s ruthless government.
Decoding the Cold War
Following World War II, the Cold War is a tumulous and time of geopolitical tension between the massive United States, Soviet Union and their respective allies, the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc. The open but limited rivalry evolved between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies after the World War II. The Cold War occured primarily on political, economic, and propaganda, with limited use of weaponry. In a 1945 article, English writer George Orwell used the phrase to describe what he thought would be a nuclear standoff between “two or three monstrous super-states, each possessed of a weapon capable of wiping out millions of people in a few seconds.” Bernard Baruch, an American businessman and presidential adviser, used the phrase at a speech in Columbia at the State House in South Carolina, in the year 1947.
The phrase ” cold war ” was coined as there was no specific large-scale fighting occuring directly between the two superpowers. The term was coined, although they sponsored huge regional conflicts known as proxy wars. Following their temporary cooperation and triumph over Nazi Germany in 1945, the fight revolved around these two nations’ ideological and geopolitical ambitions for worldwide domination. Apart from the nuclear weapons development and the conventional military deployment, the struggle for dominance was fought indirectly through psychological warfare, media operations, espionage, far-reaching embargoes, sporting rivalries, and technological competitions such as the Space Race.
Beginning of the Cold War
When Nazi Germany surrendered in May 1945, near the end of World War II, the shaky wartime alliance between the US and the UK on the one hand, and the Soviet Union on the other, began to disintegrate; by 1948, the Soviets had installed left-wing governments in countries liberated by the Red Army in Eastern Europe. The United States and the United Kingdom were concerned about Soviet supremacy in Eastern Europe and the possibility of communist parties influenced by the Soviet Union attaining power in Western Europe’s democracies.
The Soviets, on the other hand, were hell-bent on preserving control of eastern Europe in order to shield themselves from a resurgent German threat, as well as extending communism throughout the world for ideological reasons. By 1947–48, the Cold War had solidified, with the US Marshall Plan bringing western Europe under American authority and the Soviets installing openly communist regimes in eastern Europe.
A Rivalry Between the Superpowers
The Cold War reached its pinnacle in 1948–53. During this time, the Soviets attempted but failed to blockade the Western-held areas of West Berlin (1948–49); the US and its European allies founded NATO, an united military command to combat the Soviet presence in Europe (1949). The Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb in 1949, breaking the American atomic bomb monopoly; mainland Chinese communists took power (1949).
Although the long-time Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin died in 1953, the standoff continued. In 1955, the Warsaw Pact, a united military organisation of Soviet-bloc countries, was founded, and West Germany was admitted to NATO the same year. From 1958–to 62, the Cold War was at its most intense. In 1962, the Soviet Union began surreptitiously placing missiles in Cuba that might be used to launch nuclear attacks on American cities. It provoked the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, which pushed the two countries to the verge of war before an agreement to evacuate the missiles was reached.
Cuban Missile Crisis
The Cuban missile crisis demonstrated that neither the US nor the Soviet Union was willing to use nuclear weapons for fear of retaliation from the other (and thus of mutual atomic annihilation). As a result, the two superpowers quickly signed the Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty of 1963, which prohibited above-ground nuclear weapons testing. The crisis, however, cemented the Soviets’ resolve never to be humiliated by their military inferiority again, and they started a buildup of both strategic conventional and strategic forces that the US was obliged to match for the following 25 years.
During the Cold War, the US and the Soviet Union avoided direct military conflict in Europe and only engaged in combat operations to prevent allies from overthrowing them after they had done so. Thus, the Soviet Union sent troops to East Germany (1953), Hungary (1956), Czechoslovakia (1968), and Afghanistan to maintain communist authority (1979). The US, for its part, helped remove a left-wing government in Guatemala in 1954, supported an abortive invasion of Cuba in 1961, invaded the Dominican Republic (1965) and Grenada (1983), and sought but failed to prevent communist North Vietnam from capturing South Vietnam (1964–75).
Why was NATO established?
The United States wasn’t the only one concerned about Stalin’s efforts to extend Soviet power westward and subjugate other nations. In 1948, the Soviet Union gave their support to a communist coup in Czechoslovakia and initiated a blockade of West Berlin, divided into occupation zones controlled by communists in the east and capitalists in the west.
The United States and its allies founded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, as a transatlantic mutual defence alliance to show unity. The United States, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United Kingdom- there was a signatory convention on April 4, 1949. There was a statement that “an armed attack against one or more…will be an attack against them all.”
How dangerously did Cold War came near to nuclear war?
The United States and Soviet Union got into an arms race when there was a face-off across the Iron Curtain, investing trillions of dollars into building nuclear arsenals.
At the commencement of the arms race, the United States held an advantage. However, as the Soviet Union developed its nuclear arsenal, the two sides were locked in a standoff over “mutually assured destruction,” or the belief that if one side struck, the other would retaliate, resulting in cataclysmic repercussions for both.
Both countries had missile defences aimed at each other, and the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 brought the Cold War to a head more than any other incident. Soviet missile bases and armaments discovered communist Cuba, roughly 90 miles south of Florida. President John F. Kennedy stated a demand that they be withdrawn, warning that a strike on US soil would result in an imminent nuclear strike on the Soviet Union.
The possibility of nuclear war marred nearly two weeks of difficult negotiations. Finally, the Soviet Union agreed to dismantle its weapons installations in exchange for a promise from the United States not to invade Cuba. In addition, the US agreed to remove nuclear weapons from Turkey behind closed doors; the arrangement was not made public until 1987.
Despite this, both sides’ nuclear arsenals continued to expand exponentially. By the late 1980s, the US had 23,000 nuclear weapons than the Soviet Union’s 39,000.
Aiming for a New World Order
The battle between the Soviet Union and American gave way to intricate international relations during the 1960s and 1970s. It was a time when there was no division into two oppositions in the world. The Soviet Union and China suffered a fundamental schism in 1960 that worsened over the years, destroying the communist bloc’s cohesiveness. Meanwhile, in the 1950s and 1960s, Western Europe and Japan saw rapid economic growth, lowering their relative disadvantage over the United States. Less powerful countries had more leeway to establish their independence, and they frequently defied superpower force or cajoling.
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) led to the SALT I and II accords of 1972 and 1979. As a result, the two superpowers placed limits on their anti-ballistic missiles and strategic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, indicating a de-escalation of Cold War tensions. Nevertheless, the two superpowers continued their major military buildup and battled for influence in the Third World, resulting in renewed Cold War tensions in the early 1980s.
However, during the administration of Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev in the late 1980s, the Cold War began to break down. He initiated efforts to democratise the Soviet political system by dismantling the dictatorial characteristics of the Soviet regime. As a result, Gorbachev agreed to the fall of communist regimes in the Soviet-bloc countries of eastern Europe in 1989–90. The union of West and East Germany under NATO auspices occured after the ascension to power of democratic administrations in East Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. Soviet sent approval for that too.
In the meantime, Gorbachev’s internal reforms had weakened his own Communist Party, allowing the authority to pass to Russia and the other Soviet republics. The Soviet Union fell in late 1991, leaving 15 newly independent states in its wake, including a Russia led by a freely elected anti-communist president. The Cold War was officially over.
Why the name ‘Cold War’?
The term “cold war” has been around since the 1930s, when France used the phrase “Guerre froide” to describe increasingly tense ties between European nations. British writer George Orwell coined the term shortly after the United States dropped the atomic bomb on the places Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the year 1945, in an article assessing the explosion’s international ramifications.
The atomic bombs murdered over 100,000 Japanese people. It revelaed a destructive force so scary that Orwell predicted it would dissuade great countries from fighting openly. This was instead of producing “a state that was unconquerable and perpetually at war with its neighbours.” As seeds of hostility between the former allies germinated, Orwell’s warning of a “peace that is no peace” came true.
How else may have the Cold War occured?
During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union fought several proxy battles worldwide. During the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and other armed confrontations, superpowers supported opposing factions or fought directly against communist or capitalist militias. Both sides sponsored revolutions, insurgencies, and political executions in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
In a 20-year Space Race, the United States and the Soviet Union competed for scientific supremacy. With the launch of Sputnik-1, the first artificial satellite, in 1957, the Soviet Union took the lead, while the United States was the first to send a man to the moon in 1969. Then, in the mid-1970s, the two countries started working together on joint missions.
What does the end of the Cold War imply?
The Soviet Union doesn’t exist anymore, and nuclear arsenals have plummeted thanks to nonproliferation accords signed by Washington and Moscow in the 1980s and 1990s. In addition, the United States and Russia have collaborated on various global challenges in recent decades, including Afghanistan and the fight against terror.
However, the Cold War continues to influence modern geopolitics. Both countries have geopolitical rivalries, enormous defence budgets, and worldwide military outposts. NATO continues to hold political power and now has 30 member states. Former Soviet republics and Warsaw Pact members such as Poland and the Baltic States are now part of the alliance, which runs to Russia’s borders. Russia has viewed NATO’s eastward expansion as a danger to its security since the 1990s.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, tensions between Russia and the West hit a new high point. Ukraine had applied to join NATO in 2008, but a new president delayed the idea two years later. As a result, some analysts have compared the current crisis to the start of a new Cold War.
The United States’ presidency changed as a result of the Cold War. Both internal and external pressures affected the developments. Internally, Truman’s tough stance against Stalin exerted enough pressure on his administration to influence several presidential decisions. To improve their lot, politicians used anti-communist panic to campaign on a strong, rightist platform. They occasionally started accusing the present administration of weakness. Due to the Cold War, American foreign policy became one of containment as the two countries’ mutual trust eroded. It was a a chess game using the globe map as the board developed. The US-backed corrupt and anti-democratic governments were friendly to the US. Meanwhile, the Soviets supported organisations that served their interests.