History Of The Cold War: During the second half of the 20th century, the world’s two major powers were engaged in a face-off without direct confrontation for almost 45 years.
Let’s trace on a map the chain of events that shaped the Cold War.
At the end of World War II, major European powers are weakened after more than 60 million deaths over 6 years of fighting.
Two superpowers remain in the world: the United States of America and the USSR, who fought together as allies to defeat Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan.
The USSR or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is a vast area covering one-sixth of the land surface of the planet.
It is a federal state under a communist regime, consisting of 15 republics and headed by a single party.
The United States of America is a liberal democracy based on capitalism.
It has a military edge being the only power with nuclear weapons and also boasts the world’s strongest industry and economy.
Both powers try to peddle their influence In Europe.
The US, under its Marshall Plan, offers substantial loans to European countries to revive the economy and establish trade links.
The USSR, for its part, wants to protect its borders and set up pro-Soviet governments in liberated countries.
Europe is found divided into two blocks and separated by what is called the Iron Curtain.
In Germany, allies merge territories they control, in violation of agreements signed with the Soviets.
In response, the Soviet Union imposes a blockade on West Berlin, which is still under allied control.
An airlift is set up to bring supplies to the area.
Henceforth, both powers harbour a fear of the other. On both sides begins a witch hunt.
In the United States, federal employees sympathetic to Communist ideas are fired.
Even Hollywood is used as a tool to produce anti-communist propaganda.
In the USSR, any form of opposition is suppressed.
Beyond ideology and clout, the two powers battle for influence in the fields of science, industry, space, sports and military.
The Soviet Union invests heavily in industry and arms, and in 1949 tests its first atomic bomb.
History Of The Cold War
The same year, the United States sets up NATO, a military alliance between countries of the Western bloc.
Throughout the Cold War, there would be many indirect confrontations between the two powers and their allies.
The first one takes place in Greece where a rebel communist militia from the Second World War, supported by the Soviets and armed by Yugoslavia, enters into a civil war against the traditional monarchist party, supported and financed by Britain and then the United States.
However, following tensions, the USSR breaks its alliance with Yugoslavia.
As a result, Greek communists lose vital support and are forced to lay down their arms.
Greece then becomes part of the Western bloc.
In China, after 3 years of civil war, the communists prevail over the nationalists who retreat to Taiwan.
The USSR wins an important ally in the region that would influence two wars in particular.
The first was fighting alongside Communist North Korea against South Korea, which was supported by a United Nations-led international force directed by the United States.
After 3 years of fighting, a ceasefire leaves the Korean peninsula divided in two.
China also intervenes in French Indochina where it supports a rebel communist militia against France, which after struggling to regain control of its former colony, is forced to leave the region.
Vietnam is divided in two at the 17th parallel, with communists in the north and nationalists in the south supported by the United States.
This marks the beginning of the Vietnam War.
In response to NATO, the USSR organizes its own military alliance through the Warsaw Pact.
The following year, France and Britain unite with Israel in a surprise war against Egypt to regain control of the Suez Canal.
The United States and the USSR oppose this attack and quickly impose a ceasefire, marking the end of European dominance in the region to the benefit of the USSR.
The Soviet Union, which has now caught up in the military and industrial technology, installs hundreds of long-range missiles pointed at Western Europe.
In response, the US points its missiles towards Soviet territories.
Following disagreements, China breaks its alliance with the USSR, as the country aims to distance itself and become a new world power.
On the other hand, many countries break with the two main camps and choose to remain neutral by creating the Non-Aligned Movement.
In Latin America, the United States plays its part to ensure no room for communism.
But the country fails to militarily overthrow the new communist government in Cuba.
The USSR takes advantage of the American failure to diplomatically influence Cuba.
Soldiers and Soviet military ships are sent to the island and missiles are installed and pointed at the United States.
Tensions build to a point where the marine forces of both sides get ready to face off against each other.
The whole world holds its breath and many countries prepare for an eventual World War III.
But after negotiations, the USSR agrees to withdraw and remove its military facilities if in return the US promises not to attack
Cuba and removes its missiles in Europe.
This deescalates the situation.
In Vietnam, the United States fearing a Communist takeover of the south organizes a military invasion with more than half a million soldiers.
The decision antagonizes France, which prefers to find a peaceful solution.
France decides to distance itself from the increasingly assertive United States and leaves NATO.
In 1975, communists win the war, inflicting a heavy defeat for the United States, whose image is tarnished globally.
The USSR took this opportunity to revive its political influence in the world.
On the one hand, it supports communist militias in Africa ,which takes over power in newly independent countries.
On the other hand, the country sends its army to Afghanistan in support of the Communist regime fighting the Mujahideen, a group of Islamists supported and funded, among others, by the United States.
The USSR also upgrades and replaces its missiles directed towards Europe with more precise ones.
This marks the beginning of the Euromissile crisis, which threatens Europe and pushes the United States to install new missiles of its own.
This sparks an arms race, with the USSR investing up to 14% of its gross national product on the cause.
The Soviet Union begins to run out of money.
At the height of the crisis, it tries to implement economic reforms but to no avail.
The two global powers eventually meet to begin disarmament negotiations.
The USSR withdraws from Afghanistan and stops funding communist militias in Africa.
It attempts to open up to reforms and boost transparency, but it is already too late for the Soviets who can no longer quell multiple revolts.
The Berlin Wall is destroyed and Germany is reunited.
In 1991, the USSR implodes, and the 15 republics become independent states, marking the end of the Cold War.
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