The Cold War is a term used to describe the open yet restricted rivalry and hostility that developed after World War II between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Cold War lasted from the mid-1940s to the early 1990s. Numerous consequences resulted from the war, such as, the Korean War, the Truman Doctrine, and the Warsaw Pact.
Although it centered originally in Europe, the Cold War animosity eventually drew the United States and the USSR into local conflicts in almost every quarter of the globe. (Legvold 1).
Hatred between the United Sates and the USSR had its roots in the fading moments of World War I. Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin resolved to withdraw Russia from the war, but in 1918, the US and its allies intervened militarily in Russia to restore the collapse of the Eastern Front in their effort against Germany. The US and the European Powers took offense to Russia’s leadership. In 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or the USSR, was formed as a federal union of Russia under Communist control. Joseph Stalin ruled the USSR from 1929 to 1953. (The Cold War and post-Cold War eras: An overview 1)
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The United States and the USSR had become divided over political future in Poland, even before the defeat of Nazi Germany in May 1945. Stalin’s forces had driven Germans out of Poland in 1944 and 1945 and he established the pro-Communist temporary government there. The US accused the USSR of expanding Communism in Europe and Asia. In 1947, President Harry S. Truman issued the Truman Doctrine, which authorized aid to anti-Communist forces in Greece and Turkey. In the summer of 1947, the US committed itself to a massive economic aid program. This program was called the Marshall Plan, after the US secretary of state George C. Marshall. It was designed to rebuild Western European economically. (Legvold 3)
Many significant events that helped shape the Cold War were the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which was signed in April 1949 and followed the Berlin Blockade. In 1953, a serious impact to the Cold War was the death of Stalin. Meanwhile in 1955, a group of Eastern European communist nations led by the USSR formed the Warsaw Pact. The Construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 was to prevent East Germans from fleeing into West Germany. (Legvold 4)
In addition to these occurrences, in June of 1950, Stalin had looked as if to support the plans of North Korean Communist leader, Kim II Sung to attack South Korea. He assumed that the US and other powers would not get involved. This mistaken assumption led to the Korean War. Another instance where the Cold War turned hot was in the Vietnam War, which began in 1959 and lasted until 1975. It was a long bloody conflict and placed the Communist North Vietnamese and the National Liberation Front against the South Vietnamese. Also, the Cuban missile crisis informed both sides that nuclear war in pursuit of political objectives was simply too dangerous. (Legvold 4-5)
The Warsaw Pact was a military alliance of eight European Communist nations and was formed in 1955 in response to West Germany’s entry into NATO. Its terms included a unified military command and the stationing of the Soviet troops in the other member states. Though its obvious goal was to protect against NATO attack, the only occasions on which Warsaw Pact troops were called into action were to overpower uprising in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovak. Although the Warsaw Pact was officially renewed in 1958 for another 20 years, the political transformation of Eastern Europe at the end of the 1980s strongly weakened the organization. The alliance was dissolved in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, and the Soviet troops departed. (Burant 1, 4)
The Truman Doctrine was a pronouncement by President H. Truman. On March 12, 1947, he called for immediate economic and military aid to Greece, which was threatened by communist insurrection, and to Turkey, which was under pressure form Soviet expansion in the Mediterranean. While in the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the US sought to protect those countries from falling under Soviet influence after Britain announced that it could no longer give them aid. In response to Truman’s message, Congress held 400 million dollars for the two Mediterranean nations in aid. The uses of the Truman Doctrine expanded the nation’s role in checking the spread of communism in the postwar era. (Truman Doctrine 1)
The Korean War was a conflict arising after the post-World War II division of Korea. Negotiations failed to reunify the two halves, the North half being a Soviet client state and the South half being backed by the US. In 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea. The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling for the assistance of all United Nations members in slowing the invasion. President Truman ordered US troops to the assistance of South Korea. At first, the North Korean forces drove the South Korean and United Nation forces down to the South tip of the Korean peninsula. Although the brilliant tactics of General D. MacArthur turned the tide in favor of the United Nations troops and advanced to near the border of North Korea and China. The Chinese then entered the war and drove the United Nations forces back south. The front line stabilized at the 38th parallel. (Johnson 1)
MacArthur favored bombing China at this point and was relieved of his command when he refused to accept Truman’s decision to fight. President Eisenhower participated in the conclusion of an armistice that accepted the front line as the actual bounder between the two Koreas. At the end of the war, Soviet forces accepted surrender of Japanese forces in the North while US forces accepted surrender in the South. The war resulted in the deaths of 1.3 million South Koreans, 1 million Chinese, 500,000 North Koreans, 54,000 Americans, and smaller numbers of other nationals in the United Nations forces. (Cumings 1)
In 1991, the USSR dissipated, and Russia and the other Soviet republics appeared as independent states. Even with all the numerous consequences that came into play during the Cold War, much of the basis for the war had disappeared. However, the collapse of the Soviet power in Eastern Europe, and then of the USSR, gave a crushing conclusion to the end of the Cold War period. (Legvold 6)
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