The Cold War Throughout the course of the last decades the world has up until recently been embroiled in a philosophical political war period that has been labeled and known as the Cold War. It was the attempt between the two super powers, USA and U. S. S. R, to gain control of as much power as possibility in order to spread their influence. This undertaking on both sides led to a plethora of crisis, and various wars throughout the world, which were directly causes of their attempt for world superiority.
Cold War is a military term meaning a conflict between countriesthat doesn t progress into actual fighting or hot war. It was the open yet restricted rivalry that developed after World War II between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies. The Cold War was waged on political, economic, and propaganda fronts and had only limited recourse to weapons. The term was first used by the American financier and presidential adviser Bernard Baruch during a congressional debate in 1947. There were many reasons for the Cold War.
The most important one was the difference in political beliefs between the Western Allies and the USSR. Although they fought together to defeat the Nazis in WW II, their worldviews were so completely different that a rivalry was unavoidable. Another reason was the many events that happened after WWII. The Western Allies and USSR were each so concerned with their own interests and goals, that before long, they realized they were on the verge of another War. Both sides pulled back in their own way; actual war was avoided, proxy wars started to commence and the Cold War had nonetheless begun.
Following the surrender of Nazi Germany in May 1945 near the close of World War II, the uneasy wartime alliance between the United States and Great Britain on the one hand and the Soviet Union on the other began to unravel. By 1948 the Soviets had installed left-wing governments in the countries of eastern Europe that had been liberated by the Red Army. The Americans and the British feared the permanent Soviet domination of eastern Europe and the threat of Soviet-influenced communist parties coming to power in the democracies of western Europe.
The Soviets, on the other hand, were determined to maintain control of eastern Europe in order to safeguard against any possible renewed threat from Germany, and they were intent on spreading communism worldwide, largely for ideological reasons. The Cold War had solidified by 1947-48, when U. S. aid provided under the Marshall Plan to western Europe had brought those countries under American influence and the Soviets had installed openly communist regimes in eastern Europe. In February 1945, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin met at the Yalta Delta.
Stalin wanted to protect the USSR from Western attacks by creating a buffer zone. He wanted a politically friendly and larger Poland. And so it was done. Poland s border was extended, and Poland became a Communist nation. On the other hand, Churchill and Roosevelt wanted the USSR to fight against Japan because Russia had a larger, unstoppable army, and they were closer to the fighting. This too was agreed upon. The alliance that defeated Germany in WWII began to disappear into thin air between 1945 to 1946.
Russian leader Joseph Stalin, seeking Soviet security, used the Red Army to control much of Eastern Europe. U. S. President Harry S. Truman opposed Stalin s policy and moved to unite post-war Europe under American influence. Suspicion grew as both sides broke wartime agreements. Stalin failed to honor pledges to hold free elections in Eastern Europe. Truman refused to honor promises to send expenses from the defeated Germany to help rebuild the war-devastated Soviet Union. The Cold War reached its peak in 1948-53.
In this period the Soviets unsuccessfully blockaded the Western-held sectors of West Berlin (1948-49); the United States and its European allies formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a unified military command to resist the Soviet presence in Europe (1949); the Soviets exploded their first atomic warhead (1949), thus ending the American monopoly on the atomic bomb; the Chinese communists came to power in mainland China (1949); and the Soviet-supported communist government of North Korea invaded U. S. -supported South Korea in 1950, setting off an indecisive Korean War that lasted until 1953.
The West believed in a political system based on election to a multi-party government, with economic policies determined by the free market. People were able to earn and spend their own money, based on their own ambition and effort. Such a system would work, if certain basic freedoms such as those of political and religious belief existed. This system was known as the capitalistic free enterprise. The East was controlled by the communism ideal, in which the needs of the individual were second to those of society as a whole.
Although the ideology, of having everything being shared between the whole populations appeared lucrative, the Soviets were forced to impose strong central control on the economy and society in an attempt to put it into practice. To the West, it destroyed freedom of the individual. To the Soviets, it meant a much fairer, less chaotic society. In 1946, Communist parties were organized in Bulgaria and Romania. The next year Hungary fell, and in 1948, the USSR gained control of Czechoslovakia. With Poland already in the group, these countries became known as Soviet satellites.
Albania and Yugoslavia would later become satellite members too. Things were looking tough for the West; Communism was spreading, and the USSR was gaining strength. Then things worsened. On February 24, 1947, Great Britain announced it could no longer pay military aid to Greek royalists or continues to help prevent Stalin from establishing bases in Turkey. Britain s announcement triggered Truman into launching a worldwide crusade against Communism, known as the Truman Doctrine. The Truman Doctrine had two objectives: to send U. S. id to anticommunist forces in Greece and Turkey, and to create a public attitude so Americans would be willing to fight the Cold War.
Truman achieved both goals. These objectives were followed by the disclosure of a broad strategy to keep Western Europe out of communist hands. This strategy was known as the Marshall Plan. It was named after General George Marshall, Truman s Secretary of State, who was the first to suggest it. On June 5, 1947, Marshall proposed massive U. S. economic aid to Europe to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist.
To the pressured Europeans, it was too good to resist, and they didn t hesitate to agree. The U. S. -sponsored program was designed to rehabilitate the economies of 17 western and southern European nations in order to create stable conditions in which democratic institutions could survive. The United States feared that the poverty, unemployment, and dislocation of the postwar period were reinforcing the appeal of communist parties to voters in western Europe.
On the basis of a unified plan for western European economic reconstruction presented by a committee representing 16 countries, the U. S. Congress authorized the establishment of the European Recovery Program. Aid was originally offered to almost all the European countries, including those under military occupation by the U. S. S. R. Though the U. S. S. R. , had been devestated by war, they withdrew early on from participation in the plan, however, and was soon followed by the other eastern European nations under its influence. The main reason was the obligations, which inevitably were forced to be accpeted, nonetheless, these clearly contradicted with those of the U. S. S. R and thus they declined the aid of the Marshall Plan.
Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and western Germany were the Sixteen countries that used the Marshall aid, receiving a total of 72. 5 billion dollars by December 1959. The money played an important part in the postwar economic recovery of Western Europe. After 1950, two thirds of the money was used for military purposes. In June 1948, Stalin provoked a deliberate crisis over Berlin, probably in an attempt to test the resolve of the West in its policy of anti-communism.
Access to the city from the west was restricted, though Stalin finally let the United States, France, and Great Britain into their sectors, where they immediately started aiding the people of their sectors. Joseph Stalin cut off all ways out of West Berlin trying to get the allies to leave Berlin. The West then airlifted food and supplies in to the people of West Berlin. Terror mounted as East Berlin filled up with Soviet troops. The United States met this build up by sending bombers carrying atomic bombs to London. The airlift continued until May 12, 1949, when Stalin lifted the blockade after admitting defeat.
As a consequence the West founded an organization developed to implement the North Atlantic Treaty, signed on April 4, 1949, which sought to establish a military counterweight to the Soviet military presence in post-World War II Eastern Europe. NATO continued thereafter as the primary collective-defense agreement of the Western powers in opposition to communist forces in Europe. There were originally twelve countries- Belgium, Great Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and the United States.
The Berlin crisis was still going on during the creation of this group. The strong point of NATO was Article 5, which stated that an attack on any member country of NATO would be viewed as an attack on all members. In October 1949, China turned to communism under the leadership of Mao Tse-tung, which immediately led to the Chinese withdrawing from the United Nations. In June 1950, the North Koreans, with USSR backing, invaded pro-American South Korea. Russia was hoping for expansion, but instead got a three-year war that they didn t have to fight in.
On March 5, 1953, Joseph Stalin died, ending an era in which the USSR had emerged as a potential superpower, strong enough to challenge the United States for world influence. That same year Truman left office. Both countries now had to find a new leader. In 1955 Nikita Khrushchev emerged as the First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party and he, unlike Stalin, was willing to talk to the Western powers. Khrushchev offered to withdraw Soviet troops from Austria if the West would do the same, and Austria would become a neutral state. Three months later, the Austrian State Treaty was formed.
In July, major leaders of the West met with Khrushchev, which eased tension, even though nothing substantial was accomplished. A few months later, Khrushchev willingly attacked the policies of Stalin, calling him a tyrant, and that there was a desirable peaceful coexistence between the East and West. Nonetheless, this was not the end of the Cold War, a great number of various other events were still to follow. One such event, that can also be considered an escalation of the Cold War, was by using a new tact. This diplomacy was the decision to recognize the existence of West Germany by ending the occupation and allowing the country into NATO.
NATO had expanded by then, with the addition of Turkey and Greece. This move angered the Soviets, ten years after a war that killed 20 million Russians; the Germans were being armed with weapons. The Soviets reacted by forming the Warsaw Pact, one day before West Germany became a part of NATO. The Warsaw Pact included Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Rumania, and the Soviet Union. East Germany was declared as an official observer. The next year it joined. Now Europe was split into two. In 1962, Khrushchev felt that the United States was weakening.
Under such circumstances, the Soviets tried to see how far they could push the US without their reacting. This would give the Soviet Union some new advantages in the Cold War. The most important one would be their threat of basing nuclear missiles in Cuba. The Cuban missile crisis showed that neither the United States nor the Soviet Union were ready to use nuclear weapons for fear of the other’s retaliation (and thus of mutual atomic annihilation). The two superpowers soon signed the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty of 1963, which banned aboveground nuclear weapons testing.
But the crisis also hardened the Soviets’ determination never again to be humiliated by their military inferiority, and they began a buildup of both conventional and strategic forces that the United States was forced to match for the next 25 years. President Kennedy reacted on October 22, when he delivered a speech to the American people. Kennedy announced that Cuba would be quarantined, that no ship carrying any offensive military equipment would be allowed past a US naval blockade, and that any missile attack by Cuba would be taken as a missile attack from Russia.
On the 28th of October, the Soviets withdrew their missiles from Cuba. The Vietnam conflict began in the late nineteenth century. The French conquered Vietnam and made it a protectorate. For nearly forty years, Vietnam had not experienced settled peace. The League for the Independence of Vietnam ( Viet Minh ) was formed in 1941, seeking independence from the French. On September 2nd, 1945, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed it independent of France. The French opposed their independence from 1945 to 1954. The first representatives of de Gualle s government landed by parachute in Saigon and Hanoi on August 23rd, 1945.
The French wanted to reestablish their rule in Vietnam but were beaten at the battle of Dien Bien Phu on May 7th, 1954. The French Expeditionary Force tried to prevent the Viet Minh from entering Laos and Dien Bien Phu was the place chosen to do so. The French were not very careful and this allowed the Viet Minh to cut off their airway to Hanoi. After a siege that had lasted for fifty – five days, the French surrendered. Ho Chi Minh led the war against France and won. After the war there was a conference in Geneva where Vietnam was divided into two parts along the seventeenth parallel.
North Vietnam was mainly Communist and supported Ho Chi Minh, while the south was supported by the United States and the French were based there. There were still some Communist rebels within South Vietnam. These were the Viet Cong. The South Vietnam ruler was Ngo Dinh Diem who was anti – Communist. At the conference, Laos and Cambodia became independent states. North Vietnam wished to unify North and South Vietnam through military force. Since the United States feared the spread of communism in Asia, John F. Kennedy provided economic and military aid to South Vietman to prevent the takeover by North Vietnam.
At this time, this was still a civil war. The United States was not yet officially involved. The North Vietnamese resented the little intervention by the United Sates and so, three Vietnamese torpedo boats fired on the U. S. destroyer, ” Maddox ” on August 2nd, 1964. The ” Maddox ” had been in the Gulf of Tonkin (international waters), thirty miles off the coast of Vietnam. On August 3rd, 1964, Johnson gave the right ” to attack with the objective of destroying attacking forces ” ( Pimlott 1982, 36 ). Retaliation air attacks began on August 3rd.
Their aim was to destroy North Vietnam’s gunboat capability. As two more United States destroyers were supposedly sunk, more air and sea forces were sent. Up until now, the U. S. had refrained from direct combat. This is when the United States formally entered the Vietman War. The U. S. did this for two reasons. We wished to maintain the independence of South Vietnam and we had to prove to allied nations that we would help them resist Communist overtaking. As Congress was about to vote whether or not to allow the combat to move into North Vietnam, the North Vietnamese attacked a major U. S. airbase at Bein Hoa. On February 7th, 1965, Johnson ordered retaliation bombing on North Vietnam.
Rolling Thunder was the name of this operation. Its purpose was to put pressure on Hanoi and convince them that Communism could not and would not win. At the end of 1965, one hundred and eighty thousand Americans were in South Vietnam under General William S. Westmoreland (Encyclopedia Britannica, 12, 361 ). The U. S. mainly depended on superior firepower and helicopters. The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese depended on surprise attack and concealment.
The United States soldiers realized that the war would last for many more years and wondered if the U. S. war effort could succeed. At the end of 1968, The number of American troops in South Vietnam reached it’s peak of 542, 000 men ( Pimlott 1982, 53 ). The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese launched a major invasion against the United States called the Tet offensive from January 30th to February 25th, 1968. At the Khe Sanh U. S. firebase, there was a major ground battle. There was a siege from January 21st to April 14th.
It was thought to be the ” American Dien Bien Phu “. The United States turned it around however, with their victory at Hue. By 1969, combat decreased rapidly and American troops began to return home. The role of Communism was extremely important in this conflict. Communism was one of the main reasons of why the United States entered the war in the first place. The U. S. ” had ” to enter the war to stop the spread of Communism in Asia since North Vietnam was Communist. If North Vietnam were to succeed in converting Vietnam into a Communist country, it could become very powerful and go on to ” persuade ” other countries to become Communist.
The U. S. elieved that Vietnam could become powerful. They were amazed that the Vietnamese had beaten France, an Allied power. North Vietnam was a Communist country. The man who had proclaimed Vietnam independent, Ho Chi Minh, was a Communist. He was a Marxist and believed in ” national Communism ” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 5, 955). During the war with the French, Ho Chi Minh took refuge in northern Vietnam and settled there with his followers. He founded the Indochina Communist Party and the Viet Minh. The Viet Minh did not become Communist until the 1950’s. He became the president of North Vietnam from 1945 to 1969.
North Vietnam was a poor area and was cut off from the agricultural benefit of South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh was forced to ask assistance from major Communist allies – the Soviet Union and China. Both aided North Vietnam before and during the war. The North Vietnamese invaded South Vietnam. They wanted to use Military tactics to force unification. The United States did not allow their unification. The U. S. knew that the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese wished to establish one ruling government, the Communist Party. This led to the Vietnam War and U. S. intervention.
On January 27th, 1973, South Vietnam Communist forces (Viet Cong), North Vietnam, South Vietnam and the United States agreed on many things during peace talks that were held in Paris. The talks had lasted for over two years before any agreements were made that suited all of them. The forces involved agreed that U. S. troops would gradually withdraw from Vietnam and all prisoners of war would be released. They also agreed that South Vietnam had the right to choose their own future, whether or not to unite with North Vietnam. North Vietnamese troops were given the right to remain in South Vietnam but they could not be reinforced.
Nixon was the U. S. president who finalized the accepted treaty and began to remove United States troops. On the other side, Russia had its own Vietnam with Afghanistan. It all began during late December of 1979. This was the first time the Soviets took their military forces outside the Warsaw Pact area since 1945. The Soviets invaded Kabul, and killed all of the political leaders, but it soon became a Soviet nightmare. The Soviets were fighting anti-Communist Muslim rebels known as mujaheddin ( holy warriors ). The Soviets were not used to the terrain, giving the mujaddins an extremely large advantage.
The Soviet tanks became useless. Although it might not be true, it was also heard that themujaddins used chemical warfare to prevent Soviet invasion. It was a humiliating loss to a third world country for Russia. Eventually, Communism began to topple in eastern European countries. In August 1980, a wave of unrest began in Poland, led by the shipyard workers at the port of Gdansk. The workers went on strike demanding fewer hours, less censorship, and higher wages. The Soviets feared this. Trouble flared throughout the country and Solidarity, the Polish trade union, demanded free elections of the Polish Parliament.
Soviet leaders began to organize troops on the border, convinced that the Polish government was being overthrown. On December 13, 1981 General Jaruzelski responded by imposing martial law banning all trade union activity. Soviet forces withdrew, and left Poland alone to solve its own problems. In July 1983, the martial law was officially lifted. The 1970s saw an easing of Cold War tensions as evinced in the SALT I and II agreements of 1972 and 1979 respectively, in which the two superpowers set limits on their antiballistic missiles and on their strategic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
This was followed by a period of renewed Cold War tensions in the early 1980s as the two superpowers continued their massive arms buildup and competed for influence in the Third World. But the Cold War began to break down in the late 1980s during the administration of Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev. He dismantled the totalitarian aspects of the Soviet system and began efforts to democratize the Soviet political system. When communist regimes in the Soviet-bloc countries of eastern Europe collapsed in 1989-90, Gorbachev acquiesced in their fall.
The rise to power of democratic governments in East Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia was quickly followed by the unification of West and East Germany under NATO auspices, again with Soviet approval. Gorbachev’s internal reforms had meanwhile weakened his own Communist Party and allowed power to shift to Russia and the other constituent republics of the Soviet Union. In late 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed and 15 newly independent nations were born from its corpse, including a Russia with a democratically elected, anticommunist leader. The Cold War had come to an end.