The Cold War
Learning how the Cold War contributed to contemporary economic globalization.
A Brief History...
- During World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union fought together as allies against the Axis powers (Germany, Italy and Japan)
- However, the relationship between the two nations was a tense one... Americans had long been critical of Soviet communism
- They were also concerned about Russian leader Joseph Stalin’s tyrannical, blood-thirsty rule of his own country
- For their part, the Soviets resented the Americans’ decades-long refusal to treat the USSR as a legitimate part of the international community as well as their delayed entry into World War II, which resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of Russians
- After the war ended, these grievances led to an overwhelming sense of mutual distrust and hostility
- Post-war Soviet expansionism in Eastern Europe fueled many Americans’ fears of a Russian plan to control the world
- Meanwhile, the USSR came to resent what they perceived as American officials’ aggressive rhetoric, arms buildup and interventionist approach to international relations
- In such a hostile atmosphere, no single party was entirely to blame for the Cold War; in fact, some historians believe it was inevitable
The Cold War: Containment
- By the time World War II ended, most American officials agreed that the best defense against the Soviet threat was a strategy called “containment”
- It was a political force committed fanatically to the belief that with the U.S. there can be no permanent agreement between parties that disagree; as a result, America’s only choice was the “long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies”
- President Harry Truman agreed. “It must be the policy of the United States,” he declared before Congress in 1947, “to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation…by outside pressures”
- This way of thinking would shape American foreign policy for the next four decades
The Cold War: The Atomic Age
- The containment strategy also provided the rationale for an arms buildup in the United States
- In 1950, the US believed that the country should use military force to "contain" communist expansionism anywhere it seemed to be occurring
- To that end, the report called for a four-fold increase in defense spending
- In particular, American officials encouraged the development of atomic weapons like the ones that had ended World War II, thus beginning a deadly "arms race"
- In 1949, the Soviets tested an atom bomb of their own
- In response, President Truman announced that the United States would build an even more destructive atomic weapon: the hydrogen bomb, or "super-bomb." Stalin followed suit
- The ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation had a great impact on American domestic life as well
- People built bomb shelters in their backyards... They practiced attack drills in schools and other public places
- In these and other ways, the Cold War was a constant presence in Americans’ everyday lives
The Cold War Abroad
- The fight against subversion at home mirrored a growing concern with the Soviet threat abroad
- Many American officials feared this was the first step in a communist campaign to take over the world and deemed that non-intervention was not an option
- Truman sent the American military into Korea, but the war dragged to a stalemate and ended in 1953
- Other international disputes followed. In the early 1960s, President Kennedy faced a number of troubling situations in his own hemisphere
- Since the 1950s, the United States had been committed to the survival of an anti-communist government in the region, and by the early 1960s it seemed clear to American leaders that if they were to successfully "contain" communist expansionism there, they would have to intervene more actively on Diem’s behalf
- However, what was intended to be a brief military action spiraled into a 10-year conflict
The Close of the Cold War
- Almost as soon as he took office, President Richard Nixon began to implement a new approach to international relations
- Instead of viewing the world as a hostile, "bi-polar" place, he suggested using diplomacy instead of military action
- To that end, he encouraged the United Nations to recognize the communist Chinese government and, after a trip there in 1972, began to establish diplomatic relations with Beijing
-At the same time, he adopted a policy of détente, or relaxation, toward the Soviet Union
- In 1972, he and Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev signed the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I), which prohibited the manufacture of nuclear missiles by both sides
- Despite Nixon’s efforts, the Cold War heated up again under President Ronald Reagan... He believed that the spread of communism anywhere threatened freedom everywhere
- As a result, he worked to provide financial and military aid to anti-communist governments and insurgencies around the world
- Even as Reagan fought communism in Central America, however, the Soviet Union was disintegrating
- In response to severe economic problems and growing political ferment in the USSR, Premier Mikhail Gorbachev took office in 1985 and introduced two policies that redefined Russia's relationship to the rest of the world: "glasnost," or political openness, and "perestroika," or economic reform.
- Soviet influence in Eastern Europe waned. In 1989, every other communist state in the region replaced its government with a non-communist one.
- In November of that year, the Berlin Wall–the most visible symbol of the decades-long Cold War–was finally destroyed
- By 1991, the Soviet Union itself had fallen apart... The Cold War was over.