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Unfolding the Cold War Era 1945-1991

Cold war era
Written by CSS Planet

The War of Ideologies

It is a fact that they were allies during WW2, however; the US and the Soviet Union had diverging worldviews. They gathered at Yalta Conference by the end of the WW2.

They agreed upon the division of Germany and Berlin into four zones, each zone would be occupied by the UK, France, the US and the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republic).

The “Big Three” (Source: Wikipedia)

Even during the WW2, the US and the USSR had competing ideologies. The former was capitalist and the latter was communist. After the end of WW2, the conflicting ideologies grew and led to the Cold war.

Cold war means the war that had not been fought on the battleground. Rather, it was the era of geopolitical tensions between the Western bloc and Eastern bloc. It was based upon propaganda, conspiracies, blockades, threats and other indirect methods of war.

Cold war started in 1945 after the WW2 and ended in 1991 with the disintegration of the USSR. The World had turned bipolar. The both superpowers tried to vie for:

  • Their domination at global level;
  • Attracting rest of the world to their ambit of ideologies
  • The Iron Curtain 1946:

By the time, the distrust among big three allies such as, the UK, the USSR and The US grew. Iron Curtain means a line separating Western Europe from the Soviet Union. The British PM, Winston Churchill visited Missouri in 1964.  He proclaimed there;

From Stettin in the Baltic Sea to Trieste in the Adriatic, iron curtain has descended across the continent.

  • The Truman Doctrine 1947:

After Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman became the President of America. He came up with a “Containment Policy” via “Truman Doctrine”. It was the policy to contain the spread of communism ideology to Eastern Europe.

As per the doctrine, Greece and Turkey were supported with the aid of around $400 million. It was aimed at making them strong enough to counter the Communism. Also, they would not be pressurized from outside.  

  • The Marshall Plan 1947:

George Marshall was the Secretary of State of America. He presented a plan to provide financial assistance to the countries struggling with “Poverty, violence, hunger and chaos” as European economy was in shambles. This was known as the Marshall Plan. He stated:

Our Policy is directed against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos.

Owing to the European recovery program, the amount of $13 billion was spent from 1948 to 1952. It was a successful plan to contain communism to an extent due to industrial and agricultural growth in Europe.

  • The Berlin Blockade and the Berlin Airlift 1948:
Division of Germany in 4 Zones after WW2 (Source: Wikipedia)

The USSR was jealous of the growth in Western Germany and Soviets initiated a blockade in the Western Berlin as it was in East Germany. The Western Europeans (UK, France and US) retaliated by flying the food and fuel to Western Berlin. It was known as Berlin Airlift.

In 1961, the Berlin wall was built to stop the poor Berliners of East Berlin from going to the Western Berlin. However, the wall fell in 1989.

  • Western Defense: A joint military alliance

In 1949, the North Western countries established a joint military alliance, called NATO. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was the product of Brussels Pact of 1948 among Britain, France and BENELUX states (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg).

Later on, other Scandinavian and European states became the member of the Organization. Today, it is an organization of 30 members.    

  • The Korean War 1950-53:

The situation further aggravated when the US backed South Korea was attacked by the USSR backed North Korea in 1950. North Korea was Pro-Communism and South Korea was Pro-Capitalism.

The war ended in 1953, keeping the division of the Korean Peninsula at 38th parallel. However, the Cold war was still simmering between the superpowers of that period.

  • SEATO (1954) and CENTO (1959):

To curb the Communist Ideology in the Asian part, the South East Asia Treaty Organization was set up in 1954. It was the Asian equivalent of NATO by the US, the UK, France, New Zealand, Australia, Pakistan, Philippines and Thailand.

Also, Baghdad pact in 1955 was created to complete the Western Alliance. It included Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Britain. In the wake of anti-Western coup in Iraq, it was renamed as Central Treaty Organization (CENTO).

  • The Vietnam War 1955-75:

The events of 60s and 70s also intensified the cold war between the two blocs. Basically, Vietnam was colonized by France and independence movement emerged there. By the time, it had evolved into “Cold war confrontation”.

It became the war between the Communist North Vietnam and the Capitalist South Vietnam. The war ended in 1975 and the US lost it.

  • The Budapest risings and Cuban Missile Crisis:

The Budapest rising of 1956 and Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 had given another blow to the already dilapidated conditions and strained relations between the US and the USSR.

Suez Crisis of 1956 also added fuel to the fire.

During 70s, the policy of “DÉTENTE” and the fear of “Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD)” helped stabilize the war to some extent. Détente is the policy of reducing the tensions and MAD theory implies the “Complete catastrophe” due to nuclear warheads.

The New Cold war era of 80s:

For some reasons (even though the system was corrupt and built on propaganda), Russia appeared to be winning by the 1980s because:

  • It invaded Afghanistan (A war they lost, ultimately)
  • Had more productive economy
  • Better missile capability
  • Growing navy

America once again started fearing Russian Domination. Therefore, it also moved to:

  • Re-arm and build up forces
  • Placing many new missiles in Europe
  • Ronald Reagan increased defense spending
  • Strategic Defense Initiative to defend against nuclear attacks
  • End MAD principle
  • The culmination of Cold war:

After the death of the Soviet leader, Brezhnev in 1982, Gorbachev rose to power in 1985. He felt that change was needed to support the crumbling Russia. He also renounced the Brezhnev Doctrine at the UN forum.

On the other hand, the condition in Eastern Germany was deteriorating. Poland conducted free elections. Honecker, the leader of East Berlin resigned. As the leadership in East Germany withered away, the Berlin wall fell after a few days.

The Soviet Union was itself the next to fall in 1991. In the meantime, the Communist hard liners attempted a coup against Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin became the new leader. Resultantly, the USSR was disintegrated and “The Russian Federation” was created.

The Socialist era, began in 1917, was now over, and so was the Cold War.

Best of Luck, aspirants!

About the author

CSS Planet

This is Ruby Nawaz! The founder of CSSPlanet.pk, PUGC Alumna, a Business Post-Grad, Tutor, Book Enthusiast, and Content Writer/Blogger. She has written various articles for a Business-motivation website InspoHigh. She is aspiring to make difference in lives of CSS/PMS aspirants in her humble capacity by explaining tricky concepts, providing exam cracking tips and serving them with quality content.

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