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The Cold War: What was it about?

The Cold War was not an actual warfare involving armies from different countries fighting each other when all talks failed.

A clash of beliefs, geopolitics, ideologies, and economy between the world’s two superpowers –  the United States and the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), known as the Soviet Union.

So the two superpowers, who were former allies during World War II (WW2), never declared war on each other, but they fought indirectly in proxy wars, the arms race, and also the space race.



The Cold War began in 1945, not long after the end of (WW2). It was a long period of tension between the democracies of the Western World and the communist countries of Eastern Europe, which lasted until 1991.

After Germany surrendered in May 1945 near the close of WW2, the discomfort between the US, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union began to unravel.

In 1948, the Soviets established left-wing governments in the countries of Eastern Europe that had been liberated by the Red Army.

That incident had the Americans and British fear Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Communist parties influenced by the Soviet were gradually rising to power in the democracies of Western Europe.

The Soviets were determined to maintain control of Eastern Europe in order to protect it from any possible threat that may come from Germany. The Soviets also wanted to spread it’s communist ideology on a global scale.



The United States and the Soviet Union often ‘fought’ with each other through what was called the ‘proxy war’. The ‘proxy war’ were wars fought between other countries, but each side received backup and support from either the US or the Soviet Union.

Proxy wars included the Vietnam War, Korean War, the Yom Kippur War, and the Soviet Afghanistan War.

The peak of the Cold War was between 1948 and 1953.

Some of the important events that took place during that period:

1948 – 1949: The Soviets did not succeed in obtaining the Western-held sectors of West Berlin

1949: The United States and its European allies formed a unified military command to resit the Soviet presence in Europe,  known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

In the same year, the Soviets tested their first atomic warhead, which ended the American monopoly on the atomic bomb, and Chinese communists came to power in mainland China. 

1950: North Korea (backed by the Soviets) invaded US supported South Korea, which then triggered the Korean War.

1953: End of the Korean War. 

After WW2, Korea was divided into two, North and South Korea. South Korea became a capitalist country while the North came under communist rule.

In the Korean War, the North Korean army invaded South Korea. The United Nations (UN) then sent soldiers to assist the South, and China did the same to help the North.

However, neither side won the war after it ended in 1953, they remain divided until today.



Arms Race and Space Race are terms used to describe the fight between the US and the Soviet Union by demonstrating their power and technology.

The Arms Race witnessed both countries trying to outdo each other by inventing the best weapons and the most nuclear bombs.

The two superpowers thought that a large stock of weapons would prevent the other side from attacking.

In the Space Race, each side tried to show the world that it had better technology and scientists by competing with each other on who was able to accomplish numerous space missions first.



The Cold War eventually ended in 1991 after 45 years of struggle.

In the 1980s, the relationship between the US and Soviet Union improved significantly. In October 1986, Mikhail Gorbachev, one of the Soviet leaders, proposed a 50% reduction in the nuclear arsenals produced by each side at a summit in Reykjavik, Iceland.

The summit was not a success but a year later on 8 December  1987, Washington signed the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which resulted in the elimination of an entire class of nuclear weapons.

The INF Treaty was the first formal arms-control agreement to reduce nuclear arsenals rather than just prohibiting proliferation.

Two years later, (9 November 1989), one of the most famous symbols of the Cold War – the Berlin Wall, was brought down. By the end of the year, leaders of every Eastern European nation (except Bulgaria) had been toppled by uprisings.

By mid-1990, most of the Soviet republics had declared their independence.

However, conflicts within the Soviet Union still continued, as there were several attempts to overthrow Gorbachev.

8 December 1991, marked the end of the Soviet Union and Boris Yeltsin, president of the Russian Republic, then formed the Commonwealth of Independent States (C.I.S.).

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