A brief timeline of the cold war

Hey readers, I’d written this article for publishing in the official newsletter of the Acadia University, Canada. The newsletter is called “The Athenaeum”. I won this publication as a result of my journalistic skills at a conference. The newsletter can be found here on page 7. 

Hope you enjoy it! 


The voice behind the veil

The Cold war was the birth child of distrust between two superpowers, namely the United States of America and the Soviet Union. The main ideological difference that came into play was that of communism versus a democracy. Post the Second World War, the victory of the “Big three” which included Britain, United States of America and the Soviet Union had differing views on the future of the countries involved.  The future of Poland and Germany were deemed to be of maximum importance. For this purpose, a conference of the big three was held in Yalta and it was evident that there was a major clash of ideas between the three nations. While the United States and Britain wanted Poland to be a free democracy and for Germany to be made strong through means of militarizing once again; the Soviet Union feared the rise of Germany and wanted it to be a communist nation to save them from a possible future threat. Eventually, Germany was split, with the Soviet Union in control of East Germany while France, Britain and United States took over West Germany. This in my belief was bound to lead to further problems since the division of one country between two ideologically clashing superpowers would lead to worse clashes while governing the same.

The untimely death of Franklin Roosevelt was the turning point for relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. Harry S Truman, the successor to Franklin Roosevelt was against communism and further went on to claim in his policy that if countries did not stand with them, they stood with the Soviet Union and were seen as their adversary. This was the beginning of the straining ties and dubiety. When a superpower refuses to accept the neutral status of other countries, the global community falls on either one of the extremes making it difficult to return balance and neutrality.

There were essentially three major factors highlighted that led to loss of faith between the nations. Firstly, Stalin believed that the United States took longer than required to set up a second front in the midst of the war simply to allow Germany to enfeeble the Soviet Union. Secondly, the exclusion of the Soviet Union during the creation of the atomic bomb by Britain and the United States led to further distrust between the nations. The third factor was the Marshall Plan which was drawn up by the United States to remodel Europe in 1947. Under this plan, United States was willing to impart aid to any country as long as they put a stop to communist activities within their borders. This was a direct and upfront challenge in the face of the Soviet Union increasing the clashes between the two states.

The Soviet Union and United States stood firm over their beliefs. While the Soviet Union believed that all power should be held by the government; the United States wanted democracy which followed the simple principal of ‘rule of the people’. The period after the Second World War was one full of threats, dangers and uncertainty. This period gave rise to what came to be known as the Berlin crisis.

The Berlin crisis essentially involved blockades and airlifts. The Soviet Union had decided to block the entry of supplies into West Berlin through means of land and rail. However, this wasn’t successful as the United States and Britain resorted to means of air transport to carry and drop supplies to that region. As a result, the Berlin wall was built on 13th August 1961 to keep people in the east permanently locked out from the west. This action by the Soviet Union strained ties to the extent of no return, the United States would took this as a challenge and would resort to any means necessary to combat what they saw as a grave threat: the spread of communism.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was the next high point of this ongoing cold war and perhaps the only period where the world stood in the face of a potential nuclear war. In the March of 1961, unhappy with Fidel Castro’s control in Cuba, the United States of America attempted to invade Cuba. However, this invasion was inefficacious and so they decided to discontinue trade with the Caribbean country. President Kennedy was stricken with paranoia when he was informed of the Soviet missile sites being set up in Cuba.  To prevent further transfer of Soviet militia stockpiles, Kennedy placed a naval blockade around Cuba. Realizing the damage and devastation a nuclear war would bring, both parties that included Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev and United States president John F Kennedy came to an agreement. As a part of this agreement, the Soviet Union agreed to deconstruct these missile sites and the United States agreed not to invade Cuba along with withdrawal of its weapons from Turkey. This crisis spread fear and horror across the world and is still remembered as period of the “Red Scare”.

Eventually, MAD or Mutually Assured Destruction became the means to ‘fight’ this cold war. The main idea behind MAD was to possess more weapons than the enemy in order to deter them from attacking. Both parties also made military alliances with other allies to ensure supporters and fallback options if at all either of them attacked the other. For this purpose, the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) of the United States and the Warsaw Pact; the military alliance of the Soviet Union were signed.

A strategy taken up by the United States was that of ‘containment’ which proved to be fairly effective in Greece, Guatemala, Iran and Chile. This strategy was based on the weakness of the Soviet Union not having a strong foundation. It aimed at containing them in a manner similar to ‘quarantine’ on them and their ideology. Another strategy taken up by the nations was ‘detente’ meaning release from tension.  A part of this strategy was the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks or ‘SALT’ and the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty. However, upon the invasion of the Soviet Union into Afghanistan, this period of release ceased to exist. In the midst of the cold war there were also instances of actual battle wherein the Soviet Union and United States were not directly involved but backed nations in an indirect manner. These instances involve the cases of the Korean War, fought between north and South Korea; The Yom Kippur War, fought between Israel and various other Arab states including Syria and Egypt and the Vietnam War. Such indirect wars had a direct impact on the world community which till date sees instances of the strained ties between United States and what is now known as Russia.

The cold war eventually came to an end with the falling of the Soviet Union and its disintegration into fifteen independent states along with the symbolic fall of the wall in Berlin.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s