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The Cold War: Summary of a Costly War That Was Never Fought

Summary of the Cold War
A war which was never fought, but still cost both the United States and the Soviet Union billions of dollars, the Cold War was a period of intense military and economic competition. It lasted a good four decades, and left a significant legacy, wherein the world experienced the horrors of a nuclear arms race, deep divisions, and animosity amongst the nations of the world.
Historyplex Staff
Last Updated: Feb 21, 2018
war
By 1943, the outcome of World War II was inevitable. The Axis powers led by Germany were isolated and dealt with severely. The disastrous German invasion of Russia, tipping over of Italian support in favor of the Allies and American intervention resulted in the Allies getting stronger. Germany and Japan were contained in their mad race for procuring armaments and territories in Europe and Asia. Finally, in 1945, the suicide of Adolf Hitler marked the end of the war in Europe.
Germany was invaded by the American forces from the west and the Russian military in the east. The two forces closed in on Berlin and demarcated their areas of support. This led to the building of the Berlin Wall amidst the calm that the end of the war had ushered in.
The hushed animosity surfaced again in other territories and the air was filled with animosity. The only withholding fear was the presence of nuclear warfare. This led to a build up of tension, but the aversion to war and hence the term 'Cold War' was adopted.
The United States represented the preference for a capitalist form of government, while the Soviet Union represented the Communist Bloc. The whole of Europe and Asia got divided, with every nation either willingly accepting or being forced into an alliance with any one side.
The end of the Second World War also ushered in an era of decolonization and subsequent, liberation of many enslaved nations. These newly liberated countries battled with bankrupt economies and territorial divisions that led to an exodus of refugees. Taking advantage of the situation, the Communist and Capitalist nations began to influence the people and empower them with financial aid.
The monetary aid and alliances strengthened and fueled the rivalry between the two superpowers. The Cold War was characterized by a number of domestic and international military coalitions, political propaganda, armament race, espionage and technological development of the destructive kind.
This space and nuclear arms race resulted in proxy wars between the pawns used by the US and USSR. Ironically, the liberated countries now became part of a bipolar world, forced to align themselves with either one of the superpower blocs. It took grit and courage for nations like Yugoslavia and India to rally a Non-Aligned Movement.
The rivalry between the two power blocs was suppressed and while the US capitalized on alliances in Western Europe and the Middle East, the Soviet Union encouraged revolutionary movements in Eastern Europe, the Asian Subcontinent and Latin America.
Timeline of Events in the Cold War
1945 to 1950
In 1945 The Allies agree in Potsdam to the fundamental conditions of the occupation of Germany. American nuclear bombs destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The US offers assistance to countries threatened by communism and in 1947, US Secretary of State George C. Marshall announces a massive aid program for the reconstruction of World War II-torn Europe, known as the Marshall Plan.
The first major Berlin crisis during the Cold War occurs when The Soviet blockade of West Berlin begins on June 24 1948.
On April 4, 1949 the NATO Treaty is signed in Washington and on May 23rd the Federal Republic of Germany is established. Later that year on October 7th the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR) comes into existence. On the other side of the world, the People's Republic of China is established by the Communist Party under Mao Zedong.
On 25th June 1950, North Korea attacks South Korea, subsequently UN troops led by the United States invade the country. China and the Soviet Union back North Korea.
1951 to 1955
In 1952, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin offers to hold negotiations on the reunification of Germany with the condition that the unified Germany remain neutral. But the Western allied powers in conjunction with the West German parliament reject the offer.
In 1953, a cease-fire is declared halting the Korean War. The two countries are forced to maintain their pre-war status.
On June 17, 1953, a workers' strike in East Germany quickly turns into an uprising that is violently suppressed by Russian tanks.
The first Germany army to exist after Hitler's fall, the Bundeswehr, is formed as the Federal Republic of Germany joins NATO on 9th May 1955.
A mutual defense treaty between eight communist nations of Eastern Europe is signed on 14th May 1955. Commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact was a strategic counter to the NATO treaty signed by the US and its allies.
1956 to 1960
On October 23rd 1956, a nation-wide revolt against the Communists government of Hungary begins in Budapest. After 17 days of protests the Hungarian uprising is brutally crushed as Soviet tanks roll into the capital, leading to 2,500 deaths.
In July 1956, Egypt announced its plans to nationalize the Suez Canal. This led to military action by the forces of Britain, France and Israel with the objective of occupying the Suez Canal. The US and Soviet Union, along with the UN, put pressure of the three nations to withdraw and avert a major escalation of conflict.
In 1959, Cuba is taken over by Fidel Castro and he promptly allies himself with the Soviet Union and its policies.
1961 to 1965
In April 1961 the Bay of Pigs invasion, an exercise planned by the CIA to support rebels against Castro in Cuba, fails horribly causing embarrassment to the US.
In 1962 the world is on the verge of nuclear war for 14 long days, after the Soviets position nuclear war heads in Cuba and the US threatens war.
In 1963, the US, Great Britain and the Soviet Union mutually agree to suspend surface and underwater tests of nuclear weapons.
The first combat forces of the US land in South Vietnam in March 1965 signifying the direct involvement of the US in the Vietnam War.
1966 to 1970
On January 23rd 1968 an American research ship USS Pueblo is captured by the North Koreans along with its 82 crew members. The crew was released after 11 months, but the ship still remains with the North Koreans even today.
Soviet troops along with other Warsaw Pact members entered Prague on August 21st 1968 to halt reforms and liberalization policies followed by the Czechoslovakian government popularly known as the Prague Spring.
On September 1, 1969 Muammar al-Gaddafi overthrows the monarchy in Libya and aligns with the Soviet Union, expelling US and British personnel.
1971 to 1975
The signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks - I (SALT - I) agreement on May 26th 1972 signals the easing of strained relations between the United States and Soviet Union.
Signing of the Paris Peace Accords on January 27th signals the end of American involvement in Vietnam.
1976 to 1980
On June 18th 1979, U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, sign the SALT-II agreement, outlining guidelines and limitations for nuclear weapons.

The USSR invades Afghanistan to save the crumbling government there. The occupation would last almost 10 years and result in one of the costliest wars for the Soviet Union.

Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the US imposes sanctions on the Russians and boycotts the Moscow Olympic Games of 1980.
1981 to 1985
A Korean Airlines flight carrying 239 civilians is shot down by Soviet interceptor aircraft on 1st September 1983.

On March 23rd 1983, US President Ronald Reagan announces the development of a world-wide "Star Wars" missile defense system with his Strategic Defense Initiative.

On 21st November 1985, Geneva, Switzerland, host to a summit between Reagan and Gorbachev, for the first time, where they agree to hold two more summits.
1986 to 1991
In October 1986, Reagan and Gorbachev hold successful talks and agree to remove all intermediate nuclear missiles from Europe.
U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in Washington, D.C on 8th December 1987, and also agree on the START - I treaty.
Mounting losses and little significant gain leads the Soviet Union to admit defeat in Afghanistan and announce withdrawal of the troops in early 1989.
In the later half of 1989, a spate of revolutions across Eastern Europe see governments in Poland, Romania and Hungary fall to democratic and liberal forces led by its people.
In December 1989 at the Malta summit, US President George Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev announce the beginning of a long-lasting era of peace. This summit is regarded by many observers to be the start of the end of the Cold War.
On December 25th 1991 Mikhail Gorbachev resigns as the President of the Soviet Union, the Soviet flag is lowered over the Kremlin for the last time.
The Council of Republics of Supreme Socialist of USSR recognize the dissolution of the USSR.
On 31st December 1991 all Soviet institutions are disbanded and cease operations, officially marking the end of the Cold War.
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