Cold war was the state of conflict, tension and competition between the United States of America and Soviet Union (USSR) and their respective allies from mid 40s to early 1990s. “The cold war was the conflict between the communist nation led by Soviet Union and the democratic nations led by the United States of America”.
It was known as cold war because there were no arms or hot conflict involved. The two countries competed in the fields of weapon development, technological advancement and industrialization. The rivalry was aggravated by the desire of the US to end the spread of communism in Europe and Middle East which she believed it threatened political democracy.
During this period, some international crisis were experienced which raised fears of third world war. The Korean War, Berlin crisis, Vietnam War and the Soviet-Afghan war all happened during the cold war. America government mounded more pressure on Russian military and economy during the early 90s, as result the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and America remained the sole world power.
The cold war was triggered by many reasons which include; first, the two nations presented different forms of government. America had a democratic elected government while Russia had a communist government. The US, believed that democracy was the only government which respected the rights and freedom of its citizens. The Russia on her side wanted to convert the whole of Europe and Asia into communism. As the result of the opposing government, the two can not be compromised and tension emerged between the two countries.
Secondly, there was conflict on international trade, with the US advocating for free trade through out the world whiles the Soviet Union, wanted to distract from the international trade. Thirdly was the power rivalry where each wanted to dominate the other causing conflicts. The world war two saw the end of many pre-war world superpowers except Russia and the America who survived. For example in 1945 the US developed and used atomic bomb to attack Japan and USSR was determined to develop one of its own. The following years saw both develop huge arsenal with the US testing a hydrogen bomb in 1952 and three years later USSR made one too.
In late 50s, the space race gave chance to each power to demonstrate its technological supremacy. In 1957 the Soviet Union launched a satellite into orbit of the earth with year later the US, launching its own. Russian Yuri Gagarin was the first human being to in the space. The US was never left behind in the race and in 1969 Neil Armstrong landed on the moon.
Lastly, the soviet dominance in Europe, The Soviet Union had extended its influence in Europe before the end of World War II and by 1944 Russia had consolidated much of Eastern Europe which expanded the communist rule. This did not encourage the US and from that moment, the US advocated for strong resistance against Russia so as to keep a freely-elected government in Europe.
Both countries spend huge amount of money in defense and development of nuclear arms and participation in several wars. Although the two were allies during the World War II, a disagreement evolved on many topics immediately after the war. “The two powers never wished to fight each other directly thus they much involved themselves in proxy war during the cold war” (Fehrenbach 90). For instance, in the Korean War the Soviet Union and the china aided the communist in North Korea and china against the United Nations forces led by United States of America. Although the Soviet Union did not directly participate in the war, it was reported to have sent pilot to fly for communist in fighter jets.
The cold war erupted in 1947 when the US offered military and financial assistance to Greece and Turkey to fight with the communist guerillas. American troops intervened and defeated the communist guerrillas. American offered to assists financial European countries in economic reconstruction in her a commitment to end communist rule in Europe
The cold war between the Americans and the Soviet Union had effects on Europe and the rest of the world. In Europe communism was replaced by democracy in many states. Both the Americans and the Soviet Union embarked on strengthening their control over their satellites within their area of influence in Europe where American influence was felt in west while Russia to east.
In 1947 the communist party in Germany was declared illegal and its ministers in the coalition government were removed in France and Italy. In 1948, the US government intervened elections in Italy and urged voters to vote in Christian Democratic Party. America threatened to withdraw aid to the Italians if the communist party won the election. The election went as per the American optimism where the Christian party won majority.
Due to the cold war the Soviet Union exerted its control in Eastern Europe: In 1947 the democratic elected prime minister of Hungary was forced to free, same year a leading opponent of soviet domination in Bulgaria was arrested and hanged to death and in October of very same year a leader of democratic party in Poland was forced to flee to the west. Russia was behind these entire moves in her quest to convert Europe into communism. The Czech was organized democratically but on external affairs, it supported the soviet dominance. In her quest to restructure herself, the Czech was ready to accept marshal support from the US despite strong opposition from Russia.
As a result of this the Russian opted to deter the Czech from independence. The Russian carried raid in Prague and with assistance of communist in Czech a pro Russian government under leadership of Russian communist leader was established. Russia established a communist information bureau to help coordinate her satellites in Europe and to help in struggle against the Anglo-American imperialism. Apart from Yugoslavia all other countries in Eastern Europe were under control of Soviet Union by 1948.
The Berlin crisis was escalated by the cold war. Russian move to occupy Germany was seen by many western countries as move to force them out of Germany and finally out of Europe. This resulted to a conflict between the Russians and the western European countries. Russia was supposed to occupy the eastern side of Germany as stipulated in the Yalta conference but Russian wanted to occupy the whole of Germany. In the conference it was agreed that Russia was to provide raw materials to the west while the East provides food to the Russians. Russia did not honor the agreement because she was concerned in exploiting all of the resources in eastern Germany.
Britain and the America were determined to revive Germany’s economy and therefore challenged industries in west to increase their production. Russia was disturbed by the move because she feared that Germany might establish itself as powerful supporter of western countries strengthening the anti-communist regime. The Britain and the American move to expand Germany’s industries caused some fear in Russia. The United States established a marshal plan and included West Germany. To the Russians, they viewed this as an attempt by the Americans to launch anti- communist campaign against the soviet Russia and replied by claiming that Berlin was within her territory.
In reaction from the west, America, Britain and France signed agreement in London to establish a democratic West German government. This was a move by the American to make West German an anti-soviet. This hostility between the soviet and the US geared the Berlin crisis. This crisis was intensified further when the western reformed the West Germany currency. The main aim of the new currency was to revive the economy of western Germany after her marks value had collapsed. After the new currency was introduced in the market, the Soviet Union misinterpreted the move and she reacted by deterring communication between West Berlin and western Germany through land. The move was referred as Berlin blockade.
According to America this move was anticipation by the Soviet Union to force withdrawal of western powers from West Berlin, as a move to strengthen the soviet control of eastern and central Europe and move to encourage communist in Western Europe. The western countries embarked on air-lifting food and water to the starving people in West Berlin. This resulted to formation of military alliance between the America and western European countries which were against the communist rule. This move triggered Russia into opening the land between West Berlin and West Germany after accepting that she could not force the west from the Western Europe.
The Russians could not unify again after the crisis and in September 1948, a West Germany federal government was created through free election. The construction of Berlin wall in 1962 increased tension to the cold war. Before then, many eastern Europeans had escaped from the soviet rule into Germany, causing a negative effect to the economy of Eastern Europe and gave a negative impression on the political landscape of Soviet Union. The wall cut the movement of people from East Germany into West Berlin. The Berlin crisis ended at a time when Russian dominance in Europe was weakened by the forces led by the America. After the Second World War the tension between the western and Eastern Europe intensified which called for formation of military alliances. A result several treaties were signed which included,
The Dunkirk and Brussels treaties of 1947, and 1948 respectively. After the world war two Russia emerged from the war more stringer than any other European nation. As a result the western European countries felt threatened by the military power of the Russia. As a precaution to the foreseen threat, Britain and France formed a treaty they referred it as Treaty of Dunkirk. The treaty helped in improving military assistance among the member countries in case the Russian threatened to attack one of the member countries. Later Britain saw the need to include other western European countries, and then the Dunkirk treaty was expanded to include Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg which culminated to the treaty of Brussels. The treaty encouraged collective self defense, economic and social collaboration. Another treaty was the North Atlantic treaty Organization abbreviated as NATO. In her mission to control the spread of communism, the America formed the north Atlantic treaty with countries from Western Europe and Canada. The treaty had twelve members led by the US. All these countries had one view that the Russian communist posed a new threat to the democracy in the world and had to be stopped. It was agreed that incase of the members was attacked from outside, other members countries would join to help that member. This treaty all western European countries were united together under leadership of America giving the members an upper hand against the threat of Russia.
The Warsaw act was formed between Russia and her satellites in Eastern Europe in may 1955. The pact was aimed at protecting the communist countries from the threat of the anti-communists. In Asia the anti-communist countries formed south East Asia treaty to counter the communist who had already won the Indo-china war. On other hand NATO had been strengthened by inclusion of West Germany into the treaty. The formation of these anti-communist movements across Europe, America and eastern Asia geared Russia into forming the Warsaw treaty with Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and East Germany. This treaty allowed Russia to station her troops in Eastern Europe from where he could easily attack Western Europe.
America versus Russia cold way effects spread to Eastern Asia especially Korea and China. Russian army had arrived in Korea. At that moment there was growing hostility between North Korea and South Korea in trying to unify Korea with help of external powers. “On October 1, 1949, the people’s Republican, under Mao Zedong, was claimed in china” (Foot 415). Communist seemed to have extended into the entire Asia which was a great concern to America.
The chances of the American of controlling the spread of communism in East Asia were hampered by Chinas move to help Russian in the war. These events culminated to Great War in Korea. After the end of World War II, Korea north had been occupied by the Russians while the south was dominated by the Americans. Two kind of leadership governed the Koreans. The Americans, in the north established a democratic form of government while the Russian who dominated the south adopted their communism movement.
America and Russia refused to acknowledge the political organization established by the Korean people. These American and Russian moves led to outbreak of the Korea civil war. Koreans had suffered much under Japanese colonization and were not ready to accept another country to rule them. As result several protests and workers strikes were experienced across both the south and North Korea. This lead America to drop the soviet- supported accord and ask for election in both Korea where anti-communist leader won the election. South Korea was invaded by the North Korea troops in 1950 with a move to bring the whole of Korea into one country under communism.
America reacted to the Russian move by sending her troops to fight back the invading Russian troops. With assistance from the Chinese communist armies, the Russian army managed to drove the American army back. The war continued for two years with each of the two superpowers wanting to take control of the entire south and North Korea.
The Korean War marked the begging of armed confrontation of cold war. The Korean people suffered as result of the war between the American and the Russian as each nation sought to dominate the other. It also proved that the American and Russia avoided engaging in war directly but they could use war in other nation to prove ones prowess.
Both Koreans were heavily destroyed by the war led by America and the Russians.
South Korea revived from the effects of the war and a decade later was able to industrialize and improve her economy from previous stagnation. However, North Korea was quick to recover from the effects and by 1975 her recovery rate over took that of South Korea. The economy of North Korea slowed down and today, her economy have collapsed while that of South Korea is growing at an accelerated rate. It is estimated that, today North Korea’s gross domestic product is far much lower than that of her counterpart South Korea.
Presently both Koreas are not in good term with South Korea disagreeing with America on maters concerning North Korea. Even today America has continued bothering the operations of the Korea with present Bush insisting that, America will only form a peace treaty with North Korea if she abandons her nuclear programs.
Both the America and Russia had made hydrogen bombs by 1953.As a result to two superpowers feared that the use of those bombs would destroy each other and therefore opted to improve on their relationship and again on the same period their satellites reduced their support to their leaders (US and Russia). Due to this reason the tension of cold war eased.
There was conflict between the western European countries, the south East Asia, Middle East and the America concerning their interests. America wanted to increase her troops in Western Europe to defend the Western Europe from Soviet Union, but the western countries objected the America move because they were not ready to fund the military expenditure. In Asia America participate in Vietnam, Thailand and Lais, with intension of controlling the spread of communist. America believed that incase one country in south East Asia was conquered by the communist then with time all the countries might become communist. In Middle East the American wanted to establish mutual relationship with the Arabs in view of restricting the spread of communism which was against France and Britain move who were after oil.
In 1956, countries under communist rule underwent some transitions both politically and economically. Czech and Poland gained some economic independence which encouraged other to transform. As a result rebellion was witnessed against the Russian rule and Hungary was first to react demanding not only economic independence but both economic and political autonomy. Although these countries did not succeed, Russia eased her control over Eastern Europe to avoid similar confrontations in future.
A mutual relationship between the America and Russian showed to be improving especially after the reaction of America on Hungary uprising against Russia and their cooperation in the Suez crisis. American did not assist Hungary in her quest for economic and political autonomy from Russia while, the two “enemies” co-operated to condemn Britain and France in their attack on Egypt. In 1960 the tension between the Russian and America eased, as result the relationship between the European countries improved and there was peaceful co-existence.
Chang, T. K. The cold war. 2008. Web.
Fehrenbach, T. R. This Kind of War: A Study in Unprepared ness. New York: Macmillan Co., 1963: 90.
Foot, Rosemary, “Making Known the Unknown War: Policy Analysis of the Korean Conflict in the Last Decade,” Diplomatic History 15 1991: 411-31.