The cold war is a face-off era between the US and USSR. There were two groups: 1) The western bloc and 2) the Eastern bloc. The western bloc was headed by the US and the Eastern bloc was headed by the USSR. The Eastern bloc held Russia and its allies whereas the Western bloc included the US and its allies. It was an ideological war between America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, USSR. This was also termed as “psychological war”, “4th Generation war”, or “No Attack war”. It was because there was no direct confrontation between the countries. However, both countries fought proxy wars.
Post-WWII Europe: The Beginning of the Cold War
After the end of WWII, Europe underwent many changes:
- Ideological Difference
There was an ideological war. This war was between two ideologies: capitalism and communism. The US wanted to advance capitalism, but Russia wanted to expand communism.
Though Europe had won WWII, it had become so difficult for it to control large territories. In addition to it, colonized countries were demanding independence. So, many countries got independence.
- Russia as a superpower
Surprisingly, Russia recovered from the aftermath of WWII so quickly. And it became the second nuclear power in 1949. Its economy was also shifted from agrarian to industrial.
- Arms Race
Seeing Russia as a competitor, the US started increasing its arms. And the world witnessed an arms race between Russia and the US. Arms were produced in the largest quantity in human history.
- Distrust between Russia and the USA
Since both countries were the only nuclear powers in the world, they were competing to emerge as the sole superpower in the world. The arms race, space exploration, ideological containment, and proxy war became part of this cold war.
Events of the Cold War
The Berlin Blockade, (1948-49)
The end of World War II followed the division of Germany. East Germany was under the control of Russia and West Germany was under the control of the US. Being the capital of Germany, Berlin was also divided. Russia got East Berlin and the US got West Berlin. In the context of this cold war, Russia blocked West Berlin and stopped supply to West Berlin. Why Russia did do so? There are two major reasons: west Berlin was developing day by day as compared to East Berlin which could lead to an invasion of East Berlin in the near future. And the second reason was the changed currency. America introduced a new currency to West Berlin which hit the economy of East Berlin. Therefore, Russia blocked the routes to West Berlin. After some time, America started using air routes for its supply to West Berlin. Hence, the tact of blocking failed.
Nuclear Angle, 1949
Till 1948, the US was the sole nuclear power in the world, but Russia conducted its first nuclear tests in 1949 and declared itself as a nuclear power. Now, there was a balance of power between Russia and America and obviously, America was not happy with it.
Creation of NATO and Warsaw Pact
North Atlantic Treaty Organization was a security coalition which was headed by the US. Many European countries became part of it. On the other hand, Russia formed the Warsaw Pact of the same model. Countries such as Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania joined it. Both of these security organizations assured mutual security to its membered countries.
Before WWII, Korea was part of Japan. Then after WWII, it was also divided. Russia got North Korea and the US got South Korea. Aiming at making a communist-unified Korea, North Korea invaded South Korea. This first proxy war between the US and Russia ended with an armistice in 1953.
In this era, communism spread across many countries. China, Korea, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, and Vietnam became communist countries. It was an alarming situation for the US. As a result, the US adopted a “containment policy”. It decided to impede and contain the advancement of communism by starting proxy wars.
U2 Plane Incident,1962
Both countries used to spy on each other. Using a Pakistani base, the US sent a plane into Russian territory. Unfortunately, that plane got crashed and Russian forces captured the pilot and investigated. When Russia came to know that the Pakistani base was used for this secret mission, Russia-Pakistan relations deteriorated.
Berlin Wall construction, 1961
People who dissented from communism started shifting to West Berlin. So, Russia built Berlin Wall to stop this migration which resulted in the physical division of the city of Berlin.
Cuba Missile Crisis, 1962
In 1962, Russia built up its missile in Cuba and American territories were also coming into their range. America asked Cuba to displace these missiles from its territory, but it didn’t pay attention. Then America blocked Cuba. Nobody was allowed to enter Cuba or leave Cuba. As a result, Russia had to remove its missiles from Cuba.
Several peace talks were held to end this rivalry and to ensure de-entente. The SALT 1 agreement was signed between Russia and America. According to this treaty, both countries were supposed to limit their arms manufacturing. However, none of the talks could bring complete peace.
The Russian Invasion of Afghanistan (1979)
Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979. It wanted to install a pro-communist government in Afghanistan. America encountered Russia with the help of Pakistan using its territory and forces. Finally, Russia had to withdraw from Afghanistan in 1989. It was the last proxy war between the US and USSR. As a result of this war, Russia was disintegrated and the cold war ended.