Cold War Causes and Consequences

The cold war is a term used to describe the 40+ years of struggle and rivalry between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and its allies and the United States and its allies. During the Cold War period, the 1940s to late 1980s, global politics were shaped heavily by the strong opposition between these two power blocs. The United States embraced capitalism backed by Britain, West Germany, Canada, France, and Japan. The Soviet Bloc embraced Communism with the full backing of Hungary, East Germany, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia.

The root cause of the Cold War date back to 1918 during world war 1 when the United States with its allies, Japan, Britain, and France used military intervention against Russia in the restoration of the collapsed Eastern front in their war effort against Germany. Russian leader at that time, Lenin interpreted this attack as an insult to Russia. This led to Russia joining and signing an agreement with Germany indicating that they will not attack one another during the Second World War.

Even though the United States and its allies rallied behind and assisted Russia when Germany attacked it, the relationship between the two nations was that of mistrust. The political future of Poland did not do any good to the relationship between the two powerful countries. Stalin, the new Russian leader, felt that his country had the sole prerogative to control Poland for security reasons on the Russian side. The United States leadership on the other hand felt that their country was best suited to control Poland. Thus the struggle to control Eastern Europe set the crucial phase of the Cold War. The USSR accused and stood against an attempt by the United State to stamp out revolutionary activities in Europe while the United States accused the USSR of expanding communism in the European Nation.

The cold war was of great significance in the revolution and the colonial system all over the world. The United States and its allies, like Britain, France, Japan, and Canada became capitalist States, while those countries that supported Russia embraced Communism. Some countries like China and Cuba which were not directly involved in the pre-Cold War conflict, but shared the same ideology with the Soviet Bloc mostly because of their opposition to the United States and its allies. These countries which were allies to Russia have been known to revolt against western ideology.

With the rivalry between the two blocs hardening into a permanent preoccupation, Military revolution was inevitable. The need to form a military alliance as a precaution measure toward aggression from either side became a necessity. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created by the United States and its allies, the Western Power Bloc, in 1959. The USSR and its allies formed the Warsaw Pact. What followed was an ending conflict between the USSR and the United States in every corner of the world as each country advanced its ideology. The military revolution led to the Cold War arms race, as the two powerful blocs compete to accumulate the most advanced military hardware and weapons.


David Reynolds (2001) One World Divisible: A Global History Since 1945, W.W.Norton & Company publishers, New York.