What was the Cold War? How did the United States respond?
Among people who lived in the second half of the twentieth century, a word-combination “cold war” is strongly associated with the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union after the Second World War. At that time, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was a serious competitor, as it had a well-known authority on the international scene and the status of one of the most powerful superstates in the world. Instead of developing good cooperation between the winner countries, they constantly expressed mutual distrust. It led to the beginning of the Cold War, “a contest for supremacy” between the Soviet Union and the United States (Harper 1). The investigation and analysis of the nature and lessons of the Cold War are very important, as they can help to avoid the repetition of similar destructive events.
The term “Cold War” was introduced by Winston Churchill during his public appearance in the United States in 1946. In his speech, he stated that Europe appeared to be divided by the Iron Curtain and called on Western civilization to proclaim the war on communism. In fact, the conflict between two systems and ideologies started earlier, in 1917, but took the shape of a deliberate confrontation after the Second World War.
The global geopolitical, military, economic and ideological confrontation between the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc lasted up to 1991. The main opponents, the USA and the USSR did not unleash official military fighting. However, they took participation in the conflicts and interfered in the course of events in many parts of the world. Two superpowers put much effort into gaining dominance in the political sphere. The United States and the Soviet Union created their spheres of influence, which led to the creation of NATO and The Warsaw Treaty Organization. The rivalry between two blocks resulted in the outbursts of local armed conflicts in the countries of the Third World.
The Cold War was accompanied by the nuclear arms race and the development of intercontinental missiles (Suri par. 3). These processes had a potential risk of provoking the Third World War. The Cuban Missile Crisis was one of the most critical events, as it almost led to the beginning of a nuclear war in 1962. The end of the confrontation was related to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Communistic governments in the countries of Western Europe lost their control even earlier, in 1989-1990 years. The causes of the end of the Cold War are still the theme of debates in the study of international politics (Haas 145).
The United States had to oppose the ambition of the USSR to occupy a superior position on the international scene. After the attempts of the USSR to put pressure on Turkey and Greece, the Truman Doctrine proclaimed its support to these countries. The USA stated that its policy is “opposed to the expansion of communism anywhere in the world” (“Cold War” par. 17). When the Soviet Union tried to blockade Western Berlin, the United States responded with the airlift of food and medicines to the citizens of that part of the city.
After South Korea had been invaded by the North with the support of the USSR, the USA responded with intervention in the Korean War. When the Soviet Union initiated the programs aimed at the quick development of its nuclear potential, the US responded by investing in the development of superior nuclear arms. When the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, the CIA put much effort into establishing an anti-communist movement there.
Besides direct intervention to the conflicts, the government of the United States took action to promote civil rights inside the country and treated it as a part of the Cold War policymaking (Dudziak 15). The response of the United States to numerous events related to the aggression of the Soviet Union, directed on gaining political superiority, was forceful and resulted in the victory. During the Cold War, the United States lost nearly 400.000 people. In 2007, the Cold War Service Medal was instituted for the people who served in the armed forces and offices of state during the period from 1945 until 1991.
There are numerous lessons needed to be learned by the world based on the results of the Cold War. Joseph Nye stated that the understanding of the fact that bloodshed can and should be avoided in regulating global and local conflicts is one of the main lessons of the Cold War (Nye 85).
Nye also pointed to the fact that military power had no critical importance for the result of the confrontation (Nye 87). The economic strength of the state and the ability of the economic system to adjust to the needs of the modern world are of the greatest importance. The use of soft power also plays an essential role. The USSR and the communistic ideas had a great potential after the rout of Nazism, but this potential was lost after events in Hungary and Czechoslovakia and further usage of military power. The whole world community and every country separately should remember these lessons to avoid the possibility of the development of the scenario similar to the events of the Cold War.
Cold War. n.d. Web.
Dudziak, Mary. Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2011. Print.
Haas, Mark. “The United States and the End of the Cold War: Reactions to Shifts in Soviet Power, Policies, or Domestic Politics?” International Organization 61.1 (2007): 145-179. Print.
Harper, John Lamberton. The Cold War, Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.
Nye, Joseph. “Lessons of the Cold War for the Modern World.” From Fulton to Malta: How the Cold War Began and Ended: Proceeding of a Conference Held 1 March 2006 at The Gorbachev Foundation Building. Moscow: The Gorbachov Foundation, 2008. 85-90. Print.
Suri, Jeremy. The World that Superpowers Made. 2006. Web.