Cold war was not an actual war; but it was more than an actual war for United States and former Soviet Union. It was all about political conflicts, military tensions, proxy wars or economic competitions between America and Soviet Union during the period between 1947 to1991. Even though the Second World War ended in 1945, another undeclared cold war started immediately between America and Soviet Union for capturing supremacy in global political and economical matters. The different political ideologies prevailed in these superpowers (America is under democratic administration whereas Soviet Union was under communist administration) strengthened the cold war immensely. Communist world except China polarised with Soviet Union whereas the most of the democratic countries tied up with United States during this period. Most of the Eastern European countries were under communist administration during cold war and Soviet Union succeeded in bringing all of them under their umbrella, forming an Eastern Bloc whereas the Western European countries were mostly democratic in nature and hence they joined hand in hand with America during the cold war era. Even though, the militaries of these superpowers never clashed directly each other, there were too many proxy wars, espionage, propaganda, conventional and nuclear arms races, appeals to neutral nations, rivalry at sports events, and technological competitions such as the Space Race etc between these superpowers during the cold war era. This paper briefly analyses different dimensions of cold war.
The term “Cold War” was first used in 1947 by Bernard Baruch, senior advisor to Harry Truman, the 33rd president of the United States, in reference to the frequently occurring and exacerbating crises between the United States and the former Soviet Union, despite having fought side-by-side against Nazi Germany in the Second World War. (Cold War)
Even though, no direct clashes between America and Soviet Union occurred during cold war period, proxy wars like Berlin Blockade (1948–1949), the Korean War (1950–1953), the Berlin Crisis of 1961, the Vietnam War (1959–1975), the Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979–1989) etc were some of the major problems developed during this period in which both America and Soviet Union actively participated both directly and indirectly. Nuclear arms race and the struggle for domination in the space missions were too much during the cold war era. “In 1992, a Soviet defector revealed to Western intelligence that he had overseen an extensive, illegal programme to develop smallpox into a highly effective biological weapon” (Flight). Moreover, the secret agencies in these countries also played their role effectively to strengthen the cold war. During the cold war era “the KGB, the 'sword and the shield' of the USSR, pitted its wits against its principal adversaries – the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States (CIA) and the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS)” (Knightley)
Even though, Germany, Britain and France were major forces prior to Second World War, after the Second World War, only America and Soviet Union did emerge as the world’s superpowers. The friendship between America and Soviet Union during the Second World War was only to destroy their common enemy Nazi Germany. “In fact, one of America’s leading generals, Patton, stated that he felt that the Allied army should unite with what was left of the Wehrmacht in 1945, utilize the military genius and fight the oncoming Soviet Red Army” (What was the Cold War?). In short, even though America and Soviet Union cooperated in the fight against Nazi Germany, they never wasted any opportunities to blame each other.
It was difficult for other countries to stay alone without seeking help from any of these superpowers at that time. Some countries like India, Yugoslavia, Egypt etc were tried to form another political bloc in the name of Non Aligned Movement (NAM), in order to keep equal distance with the two major superpowers. NAM started its operations with 25 countries as members; however, it succeeded in increasing its member strengths to more than 100 later. The motivation behind the formation of NAM was the fear and increasing possibility of another world war between Soviet Union and the USA.
Different American presidents and different Soviet administrations handled the cold war in different ways. Some of them kept a soft approach whereas some others were hard at times while dealing with the issues which affected them directly or indirectly. Former American president Eisenhower and former Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev were believed to be aggressive Cold Warriors whereas former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and former American President Ronald Reagan were soft Cold Warrior.
The Soviet Union on the eve of Gorbachev's perestroika (reconstruction) had serious political and economic problems. Technologically, it was falling behind not only Western countries but also the newly industrialised countries of Asia. Its foreign policy evinced a declining capacity to win friends and influence people. Yet there was no political instability within the country, no unrest, and no crisis. This was not a case of economic and political crisis producing liberalisation and democratisation. Rather, it was liberalisation and democratisation that brought the regime to crisis point (Brown)
During the latter part of 1980s, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev introduced his revolutionary principles like perestroika (“reconstruction” and “reorganization”) and glasnost (“openness”) in Soviet Union which marked the beginning of destruction of Soviet Union and the subsequent destruction of communism from Eastern Europe. The people under the communist administration were facing severe human right violation and they were ready for a change. Perestroika and glasnost were welcomed wholeheartedly by the public since they perceived that it is an opportunity for them to achieve freedom from the tight communist dictatorship. The Cold War ended after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, giving an absolute victory to United States Perestroika and glasnost was helpful for the Soviet public and other people in the Eastern Europe communist countries in breathing the air of freedom. Communist administrations in these countries were destroyed along with that in Soviet Union. Moreover, Soviet Union itself faced lot of partitions and Russia emerged as the major power from former Soviet Union. However, Russia has not enough power in challenging American supremacy at present. At present America is enjoying an absolute monopoly in international matters even though China is raising major threats to America.
To conclude, the cold war between America and former Soviet Union, threatened the world immensely after the Second World War. A third World War was on card for many years; however, the political reformation implemented in Soviet Union by former leader Mikhail Gorbachev resulted in the destruction of Soviet Union and it marked the end of cold war with America emerged as the clear winner.
Brown, Archie. “Reform, Coup and Collapse: The End of the Soviet State”. 2010. Web.
16 February 2011.
“Cold War”. 2010. Web. 16 February 2011.
Flight, Colette. “Silent Weapon: Smallpox and Biological Warfare”. 2010. Web. 16
Knightley, Phillip. “The Cambridge Spies”. 2010. Web. 16 February 2011.
“What was the Cold War?”. 2011. Web. 16 February 2011.