The Cold War.
Cold war refers to the period of open yet restricted rivalry that took place after World War II between the United States and the Soviet Union and their allies. The rivalry was established along economic, political, and propaganda fronts with limited use of weapons. The war lasted through the span of the Truman Doctrine of 1947 to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The term “cold” comes into play because these two superpowers did not record large-scale fighting. This conflict was a construct of geopolitical and ideological struggle for global supremacy following their victory from a temporary alliance formed against Nazi Germany in 1945.Further, these two superpowers employed indirect means such as espionage, psychological warfare, propaganda campaigns, far-reaching embargoes, and rivalry at technological competitions or sports events to express their dominance. George Orwell first used the phrase “cold war” in 1945 in an article he had published (McCauley, 45). He foresaw a nuclear standoff involving two superpowers, whereby each possessed disastrous weapons capable of killing millions of people in a matter of seconds.
The alliance between Great Britain and the United States on one hand and the Soviet Union on the other unraveled as a result of Nazi Germany’s surrender in May 1945. By 1948, the Soviets had set up left-wing governments in Eastern Europe countries freed by the Red Army. The Americans and the British feared the permanent domination of eastern European countries by the Soviets. This posed the threat of having communist parties dominating western Europe democracies (Peng 67). In addition to the global spread of communism, the Soviets wanted to maintain eastern Europe’s control to secure it from renewed threats from Germany. By 1948, the cold war solidified when aid provided by the United States’ Marshall plan in western Europe brought together countries that had been influenced by Americans. By this time, the Soviets had already established a communist system of government in eastern Europe.
The United States and its European allies created the National Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949 in response to Soviet attacks and declared their global policy in containing Soviet influence. In response to formation of NATO, the Soviet Union formed the Warsaw Pact in 1955. Major crisis including the Berlin blockade, the Korean war, the Chinese civil war, the Suez, the Cuban Missile of 1962, and the Berlin crisis of 1961 took place. At this point, the United States and the Soviet Union were competing to decolonize Asian and African states and influence the Middle East and Latin American countries. The Cuban Missile crisis led to the split between the Soviet Union and China, which further complicated political relations in the communist sphere. Consequently, France, an ally of the United States, increased its demand for autonomy of action. In 1968, The Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia to suppress the Prague Spring, while the United States went through internal unrest from opposers of the Vietnam War and civil rights movements (Westad, 12). An international peace movement began to sprout globally in the 1960s. Campaigns against nuclear disbarment and arms testing were on the rise and by 1970s, both parties were receptive to addressing peace and security, resulting in eased relations that eased strategic arms limitation talks and opened US relations with China. Eventually, détente collapsed, leading to the increased military, economic and diplomatic pressures on the Soviet Union by the United States.
The close of the cold war happened after President Richard Nixon took office and adopted a new approach towards international relations. As opposed to viewing the world as bipolar, he suggested the use of diplomacy as opposed to military action. President Nixon encouraged recognition of the communist Chinese government by the United Nations following his trip there which led to establishment of diplomatic relations with Beijing. Worth noting, at this point, President Nixon had adopted the détente policy of relaxation towards the Soviet Union. In 1962, President Nixon, signed the Strategic Arms Limitation with Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhev, which banned the production of nuclear missiles by each side. This step was turning point because it eliminated the threats of nuclear war that had lasted decades. Noteworthy, despite all the efforts made by President Nixon to end the war, it spouted again under the rule of Ronald Regean who was president between 1911 and 2004. Just like many leaders of his time, he was of the idea that the spread of communism anywhere would threaten freedom everywhere in the world. As s result, President Reagan worked to provide military and financial aid to insurgencies and anticommunist governments across the world.
McCauley, Martin. Origins of the Cold War 1941-1949. Routledge, 2015.
Peng, Juanjuan, and Hongjie Wang. “World History II (GA Southern).” (2018).
Westad, Odd Arne. The Cold War: a world history. Basic Books, 2017.