Lasting from 1946 until 1991, the Cold War was the longest of the 20th century s many wars and in many ways the most complicated. The last four links above document aspects of the initial phase the drawing of lines in the sand, so to speak and allow us to see something of the atmosphere of the immediate postwar years. In early 1946 George Kennan wrote a close analysis of Soviet aims and methods of achieving those aims and proposed a multi-phased strategy for the United States.
The timeline in the first link above provides headings and a list of significant events. Use it to divide the Cold War into separate phases and then correlate Kennan s recommendations for U.S. strategy with the various phases. That is, decide which of Kennan s proposals seemed to be behind U.S. policy and activities in each of the phases provided by the timeline. More than one proposal may be relevant to a single phase.
The Cold War was definitely a war which could be described as long and complicated without much of a final result in the end as it included belligerence in talk but little in result of action. The war perhaps reached its peak in the 1961 Cuban Missile crisis but could be said to have had its beginnings in the Berlin airlift of 1946 and in the immediate aftermath of Winston Churchill’s famous speech in Fulton, Missouri where he outlined the now legendary, ‘Iron Curtain’ phrase. Kennan’s analysis of Soviet strategy is highly instructive as it sheds new light on what Moscow was planning for the immediate post war world especially in eastern Europe and in other theatres of war such as the Far East.
The Cold War began in earnest after the war in Korea where we had the first fruits of collaboration from the Soviet side on the part of the North Koreans while the Americans supported the South. This then became a sort of pattern in future Cold War conflicts where both superpowers would back warring nations in other theatres such as the Far east to establish their hegemony in that area. Other important timelines for the development of the Cold War were the revolt in Hungary in 1957 which was brutally suppressed by the Russian backed Communist regime and the similar uprising in Czechoslovakia in 1968 which was similarly and ruthlessly suppressed. America stood by in both cases.
The Space Race provided a new dimension to the Cold War due to the fact that it was now known that the Russians had the capability to launch rockets into the atmosphere with the intrinsic possibility that these could also have nuclear warheads. In this manner, the US upgraded its nuclear development programme and continued to stockpile weapons as a deterrent to Soviet military might.
This all came to a head in the Cuban Missile Crisis which had followed the disastrous bay of Pigs invasion a few months earlier. Here tactical diplomacy eventually won the day but it is generally understood that the world had never come closer to a nuclear conflagration such as here. Basically Kennan argues that the Soviet’s determination to go ahead with the strategic placement of the missiles was bluff and this continued to emphasise the assumption that the Cold War was simply a series of chess moves.
Certainly it appears clear that American policy was principally focused on moderation and tactical diplomacy which espoused itself into the Truman doctrine of assisting western Europe to build itself up once again. Although this meant abandoning Eastern Europe to decades of authoritarian repression, in the long run it seemed to be the most logical solution to the whole crisis which was eventually borne up by the thawing of relations with the Russians when the Berlin Wall came crashing down. Perhaps the Cold war was nothing more than a bold chess game amongst nations who wished to prove their power in a post war world still ravaged by destruction as a deterrent for that destruction never to occur again.
Cold War timeline
Retrieved from: http://americanhistory.si.edu/subs/history/timeline/
George Kennan, "Excerpts from Telegraphic Message from Moscow of February 22, 1946"
Retrieved from: http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/longtel.html
Winston Churchill’s "Iron Curtain" speech
Retrieved from: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/churchill-iron.html
Joseph Stalin’s reply to Churchill
Retrieved from: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1946stalin.html
Retrieved from: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1947TRUMAN.html
Perry M; Western Civilisation Vol 2; New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007, Print