The term "Cold War" was introduced by Winston Churchill during his speech at Fulton (USA) on March 5, 1946. In his speech, he mentioned that Europe was divided with the "Iron Curtain" and called the Western civilization to declare war against communism. In fact, the war between the two political and economic systems, two ideologies had been in a latent stage since 1917, however, it transformed into a confrontation though not open, just after the World War II. The reasons of it are reasonable if to take into account that even Hitler himself was confident of a huge controversy between East and West, and that`s why he decided to start a war against the powers that would not unite. After the World War II, the Allies were so strong, and means of warfare became so destructive that it was clear that the old methods of finding consensus would not work. Thus, the Cold War broke out shortly after the end of World War II, when the Allies were reviewing its results. Then the half of Europe was in the Soviet zone of influence, and there pro-Soviet regimes were arising. Other factors that led to an escalation of low-intensity conflict were the powerful wave of the liberation movement in the colonies against the colonial powers and turning of the world into polarized and bipolar. In addition, the interests of the Western countries started to come up against the interests of the USSR in different parts of the globe. All these factors led to the new state of the world order that formed after the World War II.
Parties to the war
After World War II, Western Europe and the U.S. united against the USSR. The Soviet Union seeking to protect its borders created around them a buffer surrounding its citizens with the countries in which pro-Soviet government were ruling. Thus, the world became divided into two camps: the capitalistic and socialistic. In both of them, the so-called systems of collective security – military blocs – were created. In April 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created, which included the U.S., Canada and Western European countries. In May 1955 –the Warsaw Pact was signed. It included (at the time of signing) Albania (Later, in 1968, it denounced the Warsaw Pact), Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania and the USSR. Polarization of the world was over, and the coalitions newly created, headed by the leading USA and the USSR, began their struggle for influence in the Third World.
The Arms Race
The first, and perhaps the most vivid expression of the "old War – was the arms race. Its beginning was marked with the nuclear weapons. In 1945, the United States was the only nuclear power in the world. However, the American monopoly on nuclear weapons remained only for four years. In 1949, the Soviet Union conducted tests of its first atomic bomb. This event was a real shock to the Western world and a milestone of the Cold War. The arms race was growing rapidly. Senseless, as in my opinion, but justifiable in those years competition affected all areas of lives of two superpowers. They were competing everywhere: in the creation of new small arms (the Soviet AKM and its analogue U.S. M-16), in construction of tanks, aircraft, ships and submarines, but the most dramatic was the competition in the creation of missile technologies.
The USSR surpassed the U.S. rocket engineering. Soviet Union launched the world's first satellite in 1961, sent the first man into open space. As a result, the Americans organized the landing of man on the Moon. At this point, the parties have reached strategic parity in armaments. However, this did not stop the arms race.
The Cold War was fought not only in politics but also in culture and sports spheres. For example, the United States and many Western European countries boycotted the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. In response, the athletes from Eastern Europe boycotted the next Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984.
Finally, both parties subsequently suspended the arms race. A range of agreements limiting the accumulation of arms was signed. For example, the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and under water (1963), the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1968), the creation of nuclear-free zones (1968), SALT-1 (the limitation and reduction of strategic weapons) (1972), the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (1972) and many others.
The struggle for influence in the Third World
Another side of the Cold War was the struggle of the superpowers for influence in the Third World. Starting from achieving the strategic parity (in the early 1960s), the military component of the arms race gradually recedes to the background, the scene became occupied with the struggle for influence in the Third World. At first, the competition of the superpowers resulted in a de-colonization (the period of the African Liberation, for example), but later new independent states openly and very efficiently were using their choice of political orientation on one or the other superpower. This led to open armed conflicts in many countries of the Third World.
Crises of the Cold War
The Cold War was marked with the frequent occurrence of local conflicts all over the world. Every local conflict took shape of world one, thanks to the fact that the opponents to the Cold War supported the opposing sides in their local fight.
The Korean War (1950-1953)
For example, after the liberation of the Korean peninsula from the Japanese troops in 1945 the Communists came to power in the North, in the South – the military backed by the U.S. Consequently, on the peninsula two states were formed: North Korea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and South Korea. North Korea's leadership dreamed of uniting the country that led to the 3-year conflict. American troops were dominating among the world forces allocated by the UN to solve the conflict. The USSR, alongside with communist China gave much financial and military support to the North Korea that resulted in long-lasting warfare.
Erection of the Berlin Wall
In 1955, the final division of Europe between the East and the West was shaped. However, a clear border of confrontation divided the whole Europe not to the end. The last open entry was remaining in Berlin, in the city separated in half, through which many East Germans were leaving communism to a better future in the West. In August 1961, the Soviet and East German authorities decided to close the border between the two parts of Berlin. Prior to its construction escalation of tensions between two ideological systems was noticed that hardly did not lead to an open conflict. Throughout the world, the construction of the Berlin Wall was seen as a symbolic completion of the post-war division of Europe.
The Cuban Missile Crisis
The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 was another manifestation of enormous discrepancies between two superpowers. In May 1962, Nikita Khrushchev put forward the idea of displacing Soviet nuclear missiles on the island of Cuba. The USSR managed to place some of nuclear missiles that led to the fact the world was at the edge of destruction by the missiles of the antagonizing powers. Only flexible behavior of two leaders of the superpowers – Khrushchev and Kennedy – allowed saving the world peace. The Soviet Union had brought missiles and nuclear bombers away from Cuba.
The wars in Vietnam and Afghan
War in Vietnam that started with the Gulf of Tonkin incident, 1964, was considered by the United States as a quick pacification; however, it turned into a nightmare for America. In 1975, the United States found it best to announce that they have fulfilled their mission and proceed to the evacuation of its troops. Just as in Korea, the USSR provided much assistance to the Vietnamese communists fighting the US.
In April 1978, after a coup in Afghanistan Afghan communists gained control of the country, which provoked another conflict, which consequences are visible up to nowadays. In 1979, the Soviet Union`s troops entered the Afghanistan territory and the same scenario took place as during other local Cold War conflicts. However, that time the USA was sponsoring the troops fighting against the Soviets. On February 15, 1989, the last Soviet soldier left Afghanistan where the last conflict of the Cold War armed conflicts took place.
Détente and the end of the Cold War
Little détente in the confrontation of the superpowers occurred in the 1970s. Its climax was the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The participating countries were deliberating for two years, and in 1975 in Helsinki, these countries signed the Final Act of the Conference. This document legitimized the postwar division of Europe, what was sought by the USSR. In exchange for this concession of the West, the Soviet Union pledged to respect human rights. However, in December 1979, Soviet troops entered Afghanistan – and another period of Cold War began. Relations between the West and the East reached the freezing point, when at the decision of the Soviet government a South Korean civil plane was shot down in Soviet airspace in 1983. After this event, the U.S. President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an "evil empire and the center of evil". Only by 1987, the relationship between the East and the West began to improve gradually.
In 1988-89, with the beginning of Perestroika in the Soviet Union a decisive change was marked. In November 1989, the Berlin Wall ceased to exist. On July 1, 1991, there was a dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. Socialist camp collapsed. In some countries – the USSR former members –democratic revolutions took place, which were even supported by the USSR. The Soviet Union also refused to expand its influence in the Third World. Such a serious turn in Soviet foreign policy is associated with the name of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
The end of the Cold war put an end to a great threat to all humanity. For the first time in the history of the twentieth century, powerful nations were no longer getting prepared to attack each other.
Nowadays we can confirm the duality of the results of the Cold War. On the one hand, all local conflicts around the world brought enormous fatalities and sorrow, people lived in constant fear of nuclear war. On the other hand, the Cold War presented the world the very important and necessary lessons, without which the further life on Earth would be very short. This war was marked with a set of positive results. First, due to its nature, parties at war did not resort to armed force, which could lead to more victims. Secondly, the “War” for the first time made the opposite sides negotiate and make certain rules in the confrontation (the whole system of treaties limiting the arms race is a proof). Alongside with the drawbacks of the armaments race, this phenomenon gave birth to what can be called as the "golden age" of science, achievements of which we are using nowadays in everyday life.
Cold War (n.d.). BBC History. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/coldwar/
Leffler, P. Melvyn, & Westad, A. Odd. (Eds.). (2010) The Cambridge History of the Cold War. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
The Cold War. (n.d.). History Learning Site. Retrieved from http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/coldwar.htm