Section 1- Introduction
The cold war is the name given to a period of history between 1945 and 1989. During this time the USA and the USSR challenged each other. This was a time of extreme tension and threat of war. The USA and the USSR were known as superpowers as they were far stronger and more powerful than any other countries.
Although fear and threats of war were very real and there were times when this seemed imminent, the war never happened. However, the threat was very real. However, both sides knew the extent of war would be great due to nuclear weapons. This meant conflict was always resolved using diplomatic means.
The ideological rivalry between the Superpowers is central to understanding the cold war.
The ideological preference of the USA was a commitment to democracy and free enterprise leading to a capitalist society. This was characterised by: • free elections, which a choice of parties
• democratic freedom- freedom of speech, expression and assembly • free mass media- independent media sources
• free enterprise- business, manufacturing, banking etc • Individual rights- the right to vote, to a fair trial etc.
The Soviet Union
The Russian communist ideology was based on Marxism/Leninism with a commitment to equality. Exemplified by: • A one party state, with only the communist party
• A totalitarian system- all aspects of life influenced by communism • An emphasis on equality for all
• Strict control of the media- censorship
• State control of the means and creation
• Suppression of dissenting opinions and opposition-secret police
How the cold war ‘fought’ or conducted?
The cold war was conducted in a number of ways with conflict always being short.
The Arms Race
The two sides engaged in ongoing nuclear and conventional arms race from 1945 onwards. Each side tried to develop increasingly powerful and sophisticated weapons. Nuclear weapons were never meant to be used.
Both sides had a network of spies and secret agents engaged in intelligence and information. The USA made extensive use of CIA and the USSR used the KGB.
Alliances were key to the cold war. This included NATO for the USA and the west and the Warsaw pact for the USSR. Both had well organised command networks and carried out regular drills and exercises.
The space race was configured by the cold war. The USSR derived great prestige from the launch of the first space satellite, Sputnik 1 in 1957. The USA succeeded with the moon landings in 1969.
USA and the USSR competed against each other in the Olympics.
During the cold war both sides offered aid to countries in urgent need of help. This begun with the American Marshall Plan in the late 1940s. USSR began offering aid to independent African and Asian countries. Both sides were trying to influence the recipient.
Crisis Management: Tests of leadership for the superpowers
During the cold war serious episodes of tension and crisis developed. This increased the risk of armed confrontation and war.
In some cases the crisis involved only 1 superpower. E.g. USSR in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. In this instance the USA responded only by diplomatic protest. This was tactical as the USA accepted the USSR was working within the area of responsibility so had little to do with the USA.
The war in Vietnam was the boldest episode of the Cold war. The USA intervened in Vietnam in strength and made a major commitment to stop advancing communism. The USSR limited it’s actions to supplying military resources to North Vietnam.
The Berlin Crisis in 1962 was potentially very serious with direct confrontation between the USA and USSR.
The Cuban Missile Crisis 1962 was the ultimate crisis. This was a direct conflict between the USA and the USSR with war...