After the success of their temporary wartime alliance against Nazi Germany, the USSR and the US saw each other as profound enemies of their basic ways of life. The Soviet Union created the Eastern Bloc with the eastern European countries it occupied, annexing some and maintaining others as satellite states, some of which were later consolidated as the Warsaw Pact (1955–1991). The US financed the recovery of western Europe and forged NATO, a military alliance using containment of communism as a main strategy (Truman Doctrine).
The US funded the Marshall Plan to effectuate a more rapid post-War recovery of Europe, while the Soviet Union would not let most Eastern Bloc members participate. Elsewhere, in Latin America and Southeast Asia, the USSR assisted and helped foster communist revolutions, opposed by several Western countries and their regional allies; some they attempted to roll back, with mixed results. Among the countries that the USSR supported in pro-communist revolt was Cuba, led by Fidel Castro. The proximity of communist Cuba to the United States proved to be a centerpoint of the Cold War; the USSR placed multiple nuclear missiles in Cuba, sparking heated tension with the Americans and leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, where full-scale nuclear war threatened. Some countries aligned with NATO and the Warsaw Pact, and others formed the Non-Aligned Movement.
The Cold War featured periods of relative calm and of international high tension – the Berlin Blockade (1948–1949), the Korean War (1950–1953), the Berlin Crisis of 1961, the Vietnam War (1959–1975), the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), the Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979–1989), and the Able Archer 83 NATO exercises in November 1983. Both sides sought détente to relieve political tensions and deter direct military attack, which would probably guarantee their mutual assured destruction with nuclear weapons.
In the 1980s, under the Reagan Doctrine, the United States increased diplomatic, military, and economic pressures on the Soviet Union, at a time when the nation was already suffering economic stagnation. In the late 1980s, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the liberalizing reforms of perestroika ("reconstruction", "reorganization", 1987) and glasnost ("openness", ca. 1985). The Cold War ended after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, leaving the United States as the dominant military power. The Cold War and its events have had a significant impact on the world today, and it is often referred to in popular culture, especially films and novels about spies.
Origins of TermsEdit
At the end of World War II, English author and journalist George Orwell used the term Cold War in his essay “You and the Atomic Bomb”, published October 19, 1945, in the British newspaper Tribune. Contemplating a world living in the shadow of the threat of nuclear warfare, he warned of a “peace that is no peace”, which he called a permanent “cold war”, Orwell directly referred to that war as the ideological confrontation between the Soviet Union and the Western powers. Moreover, in The Observer of March 10, 1946, Orwell wrote that “[a]fter the Moscow conference last December, Russia began to make a ‘cold war’ on Britain and the British Empire.”
The first use of the term to describe the post–World War II geopolitical tensions between the USSR and its satellites and the United States and its western European allies is attributed to Bernard Baruch, an American financier and presidential advisor. In South Carolina, on April 16, 1947, he delivered a speech (by journalist Herbert Bayard Swope) saying, “Let us not be deceived: we are today in the midst of a cold war.” Newspaper reporter-columnist Walter Lippmann gave the term wide currency, with the book Cold War (1947).
End of World War II and post-war (1945–47)EditThe Allies disagreed about how the European map should look, and how borders would be drawn, following the war. Each side held dissimilar ideas regarding the establishment and maintenance of post-war security. The western Allies desired a security system in which democratic governments were established as widely as possible, permitting countries to peacefully resolve differences through international organizations.
Given the Russian historical experiences of frequent invasions and the immense death toll (estimated at 27 million) and the destruction the Soviet Union sustained during World War II, the Soviet Union sought to increase security by dominating the internal affairs of countries that bordered it.
The Western Allies were themselves deeply divided in their vision of the new post-war world. Roosevelt's goals – military victory in both Europe and Asia, the achievement of global American economic supremacy over the British Empire, and the creation of a world peace organization – were more global than Churchill's, which were mainly centered on securing control over the Mediterranean, ensuring the survival of the British Empire, and the independence of Eastern European countries as a buffer between the Soviets and the United Kingdom.In the American view, Stalin seemed a potential ally in accomplishing their goals, whereas in the British approach Stalin appeared as the greatest threat to the fulfillment of their agenda. With the Soviets already occupying most of Eastern Europe, Stalin was at an advantage and the two western leaders vied for his favors. The differences between Roosevelt and Churchill led to several separate deals with the Soviets. In October 1944, Churchill traveled to Moscow and agreed to divide the Balkans into respective spheres of influence, and at Yalta Roosevelt signed a separate deal with Stalin in regard of Asia and refused to support Churchill on the issues of Poland and the Reparations.
Further Allied negotiations concerning the post-war balance took place at the Yalta Conference in February 1945, albeit this conference also failed to reach a firm consensus on the framework for a post-war settlement in Europe. In April 1945, both Churchill and new United States President Harry S. Truman opposed, among other things, the Soviets' decision to prop up the Lublin government, the Soviet-controlled rival to the Polish government-in-exile, whose relations with the Soviets were severed.
Following the Allies' May 1945 victory, the Soviets effectively occupied Eastern Europe, while strong US and Western allied forces remained in Western Europe. In Allied-occupied Germany, the Soviet Union, United States, Britain and France established zones of occupation and a loose framework for four-power control.
The 1945 Allied conference in San Francisco established the multi-national United Nations (UN) for the maintenance of world peace, but the enforcement capacity of its Security Council was effectively paralyzed by individual members' ability to use veto power. Accordingly, the UN was essentially converted into an inactive forum for exchanging polemical rhetoric, and the Soviets regarded it almost exclusively as a propaganda tribune.[