The cold war was a 44 year tense and hostile period that pitted the United States of America against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It started at the end of the Second World War after the U.S had bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The war is referred to as the cold war because it was passive and no real fight took place neither were weapons used during the war (Halliday 8). Most likely, it is the fear of nuclear proliferation that prevented an active war.
The conflicts that were there during the war were not overt. These included Vietnam and the Korean conflicts. However, a nuclear war nearly broke up when USSR set a missile base in Cuba, which is just near the United States of America, and this sparked protest from the U.S which feared attacks from the Soviet Union. America almost invaded Cuba to wipe out the Soviet missiles.
How the war began
The cold war was caused by intense rivalry between capitalism and communism. During the Second World War, The U.S, Britain, and U.S.S.R were allies. Germany was the main aggressor during the war and had been completely vanquished. At the end of the war, a conference called the Yalta conference was held. During this conference, Germany was subdivided into four parts. The parts were controlled by the three allies plus France.
The city of Berlin was also split into four parts. The real start of the cold war was sparked by a disagreement over the reunification of the German republic. The Soviets signed a border pact with Poland which angered the British and the U.S governments which put them against Stalin. The competition between the communist and the capitalistic forces marked the whole tense and hostile period.
There were attempts by the anti communistic forces in the west to curb the spread of communism that was being undertaken by the U.S.S.R under the guidance of Stalin. After the Second World War, Russia took control of the Eastern part of the German republic and most of Eastern Europe and the west saw this as a creation of a curtain aimed at dividing Europe. Harry Truman vowed to keep communism in check and worked to help any country that had not been touched by Russian communism to resist it.
That is why his country started the Marshal Plan. The Marshal Plan aimed at helping the countries that had not been touched by communism to rebuild themselves after the atrocities of the Second World War. The parts of Germany that France, the U.S, and Britain controlled were brought together to form West Germany. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republic retaliated by blocking Berlin so that the western influences could not access the eastern part of Germany that the U.S.S.R controlled. This marked the division of the country into two and the creation of the famous Berlin Wall.
Communism versus Capitalism
Many other factors engendered the cold war. America’s ideology of democracy was being threatened by the spreading of communism and the worst hit to the Americans came when Mao Zedong took over the leadership in China. However, to America’s advantage, the relationship between Mao and Stalin never took off. China and U.S allied to contain the growing influence of the Soviets. The Soviets were also alarmed by the growing military prowess of the United States especially after it acquired the atomic weapons.
This made the Soviets develop their own because of the fear of attacks from the Americans. The tensions in the war were engendered by suspicions between the two countries and if any country did something, the other would react accordingly. For example, when Russia started space explorations and had Yuri Gagarin as the first human being to tour space, the US reacted by starting its space explorations that made Neil Armstrong be the first human being to tour the moon.
The U.S was also not happy with the Soviet presence in the eastern side of Europe and the things the communist were doing in the part of Germany they had occupied. The dislike that the west had for the Russian leader, Joseph Stalin also fueled the cold war, because Stalin was one of the most murderous dictators in the history of the world and he still posed a big threat to the security of the world.
The last decade of the cold war
The height of the cold war came in 1980 when the U.S.S.R invaded Afghanistan. The United States of America and its allies retaliated by pulling out of the Moscow Olympics in 1980. The following Olympic games in 1984 were held in Los Angeles and the Soviet Union and the states that backed it retaliated by pulling out of the games. The United States funded and gave military aid to the rebels in Afghanistan who were fighting the Soviets. This was the turning point of the cold war.
The Afghan war had a serious blow on the financial position of the Soviet Union and the country could not keep up with the US. Reagan’s administration in the 1980’s capitalized on the weakening of the Soviet Union and by the mid-eighties; the Soviet Union was too weak to respond to any move made by the U.S. This marked the start of the rise of the US to its current superpower position.
The end of the cold war started when Mikhail Gorbachev took over as the Russian leader in 1985 (Njolstad 45). Gorbachev was very conciliatory and his attitude towards the U.S was very different from that of his predecessors. During his tenure, the relationship between the Soviet Union and the U.S improved and many pacts were signed. Under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, the U.S.S.R withdrew from Afghanistan and resolved to withdraw from East Germany which led to the ultimate reunification of the country in 1990 (Gadis 50). The Berlin wall fell shortly afterward. The cold war came to an end at the start of the last decade of the twentieth century, marked by the collapse of the U.S.S.R.
The aftermath of the war
There were several effects of the cold war that had an impact on the entire world. To start with, both the U.S and the U.S.S.R developed huge reservoirs of ballistics and atomic weapons because each nation feared the other. The Cold War also led to the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization by the US and its allies. This was in retaliation to the formation of the Warsaw Pact military bloc by the communists. The other effects of the war were the Vietnam and Korean War, the end of the Warsaw pact, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, and the economic and political collapse of the Soviet Union. The end of the cold war also led to the independence of many Soviet and the Baltic States and the end of communism globally. America ultimately became the only superpower in the world.
In conclusion, there are very many lessons that the world learned from the cold war. To start with, the world learned that nuclear war does not have any victor and both sides lose. Secondly, war has a great toll on the whole world. The ones involved in the war and the ones who are not involved suffer during a war. The cold war had immense economic ramifications on the entire world as nations spent their resources towards armament and security at the expense of other areas of national interest. Thirdly, the fall of the Soviet Union reduced polarization in the world but this proved to be a disadvantage because the world now has just one superpower that has over the years become a bully. Most importantly, the world nations have learned to live in peace and after the effects of the cold war, it is highly unlikely that such a war will ever grace the face of this world.
Gaddis, John. Russia, the Soviet Union and the United States. An Interpretative History, McGraw-Hill. 1990.
This book is chronological account of the relations between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialistic Republic. The largest part of the book focuses on the alliance between the two countries during the Second World War that came to an end immediately after the war, leading to the start of the cold war. The book vividly highlights the counteractive strategies that the two countries employed during the cold war and the efforts of the two countries that ensured that the cold war did not go bloody
Halliday, Fred. Cold War. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2001.
This book provides a historical analysis of the cold war. It covers the entire 44 years of the war right from the bombings of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the independence of the Balkan and Soviet States. The book provides inner details of the war and expert analyses that reveal the tensions, suspicions and hostilities between the west and the east during the four decades of cold war.
Njolstad, Olav. The Last Decade of the Cold War. New York: Routledge. 2000.
This book focuses on the sunset days of the cold war especially the role of Reagan’s and Gorbachev’s administrations in ending the cold war. The book pays a lot of attention to the events that took place in the last three years of the cold war such as the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, the fall of Berlin wall and the end of communism worldwide. The book’s strengths lay in its analysis of the aftermath of the cold war and the lesson that the world learnt from the war.