The Cold War summary

The Cold War is the most vital political and diplomatic issue of the second half of the 20th century. A dynamic struggle that occurred is often depicted through movies, books, paintings or pictures, and tends to assume mythological dimension of good versus evil.

Historically, it was the threat that each side perceived from the other that allowed for the development of mutual suspicion, augmented by distrust and misunderstanding that ultimately fueled the entire conflict for decades. In the years immediately after World War II the United States dominated global affairs. With homeland undamaged from the bitter war, additionally inspired by the great victory, the entire nation was confident of its mission at home and abroad.

United States leaders wanted to maintain the democratic structure of the world they had defended at tremendous as well as the benefits of prosperity deriving from international economic cooperation. For more than 20 years the majority of Americans remained supportive of the strong stance approach against the Soviet Union in the Cold War that unfolded. A postwar economic prosperity created new levels of affluence, which led to the growth of government authority. By 1960, most American families had a car, a television, and a refrigerator and owned their own home.

Rising tensions in Asia and the iron curtain
President Truman believed that only industrialization and democracy in Germany and over the Europe would ensure long term stability. On the other hand, the Soviet Union tried to diminish Germany's industrial capabilities in order to prevent remilitarization and wanted the country to pay outrageous sums in war reparations. As a protective measure from any future invasions they built a network of friendly communist governments throughout Eastern Europe creating the so-called iron curtain. Unable to compromise or find common ground, the world's two nuclear superpowers inevitably clashed.

During the Cold War international tensions increased and eased over the years. Both sides tried actively to influence political and economic developments around the world. There were several key points upon which struggle took place. In Asia, the Soviet Union provided military, economic, and technical aid to communist governments. In response, the United States established the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization with goal of helping other Asian nations to fight communism.

The conflict escalated when communist North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950. Determined to stop the spreading of communism in East Asia, President Truman quadrupled military spending while ordering General MacArthur to retake the southern half of the Korean peninsula. The general's campaign was successful and eventually pushed the North Koreans almost up to the Chinese border. At that moment, a Sino-Soviet alliance between Chinese and Soviet Union intervened in February of 1950. Over a million soldiers from China poured into peninsula and remained involved for almost three years on behalf of North Korea.

General MacArthur was forced to retreat back to the 38th parallel, the original border between North Korea from South Korea. The North Korea remains a controversial issue even today and you can find more information about the country here. Another conflict arose in the middle 1950s when the United States sent military advisers to help South Vietnam defend itself against the communist North Vietnam. History shows that the aid would later become a prolonged period of American involvement in Vietnam.

Suez Canal, Berlin blockade and Cuban Missile Crisis
The Middle East was also affected by the Cold War tensions. Egypt planned to build the Aswan High Dam on the Nile River in the 1950s. Searching new allies both east and west offered aid in the project. But after Egypt bought weapons from the communist government of Czechoslovakia, the western forces withdrew their offer. In 1956, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser seized control of the company that operated the Suez Canal, a vital trading route.

A few months later, British and French forces attacked Egypt while the Israel invaded the Egyptian Sinai. The Suez crisis was solved through United Nations resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire, supported both from the United States and the Soviet Union. Finally, in Europe remained the problem of the iron curtain.

Divided Germany produced many conflicts, since tens of thousands of East Germans tried to flee to the West Berlin. As a means of stopping them, East Germany's communist government built a wall separating the eastern and western parts of the city of Berlin. The wall was heavily guarded and orders were given to shoot anyone who tried climbing over. The Soviet Union unsuccessfully tried to force the western forces out of Germany on many occasions, resorting to all available methods other then direct war.

However, the most serious issue appeared before the United States President Kennedy, when American intelligence reports discovered Soviet missiles in Cuba. The Cuban missile crisis was the closest the world ever came to a nuclear war. After a nervous week, Soviet leader Khruschchev finally agreed to remove the missiles if the United States agreed not to invade Cuba.

Next: The Cold War aftermath