What happened during the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union
Following his three-hour-long meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping, US president Joe Biden said that “there need not be a new Cold War”. The two countries, according to Biden, need to work together on global issues like climate change and food insecurity.
The US and China have seemingly been at loggerheads for the past few years. On several occasions at international forums as well as on social media, the diplomats of the two largest economies of the world have often exchanged heated remarks. The main issues of contention were Taiwan, semiconductors and human rights.
Jinping’s remarks on Monday reflected similar views to Biden’s. He said that the current US-China situation “is not in the interest of the two countries”, calming the fears that a new Cold War might break out.
What was the Cold War?
Cold War is the name given to the open rivalry between the US and the Soviet Union, which began just after World War II. It was not a physical war but was waged on political, economic and propaganda fronts.
The term was first used in 1947 by American presidential advisor Bernard Baruch. The reference to the term is said to have been taken from George Orwell’s 1945 article, which said that there would be a nuclear stalemate between “two or three monstrous super-states”.
Cold War – The origin
The war originated soon after the end of WWII. After the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945, the rivalry between the Soviet Union and the US (with the UK) started to unearth. The central conflict was ideology. The Soviet Union established left-wing governments across eastern Europe, mainly in the countries the Red Army liberated. This included East Germany as well.
On the other hand, the US and its allies were staunch supporters of democracy. In the Marshall Plan of 1948, the US gave aid to several countries in western Europe, bringing them under its influence.
A line of division, often called the “Iron Curtain”, was virtually established in the middle of Europe. Western Europe was democratic and liberal, while the eastern part was largely communist.
Two superpowers at “war”
The Cold War reached its peak in the years between 1948 and 1953. The Soviet Union tried to blockade West Germany. In return, the US and its allies formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1949. In 1949, the Soviet Union tested its first atomic warhead. America was no longer a nuclear monopoly.
In 1950, the Soviet Union and China-supported North Korea attacked South Korea, which was supported by the US. The devastating Korean War lasted for three years till 1953 and ended indecisively.
In 1953, Soviet premier Joseph Stalin passed away, and the tensions remained relaxed till 1958.
Cuba and the second phase of tensions
In 1958, the US and the Soviet Union began developing intercontinental ballistic missiles. In 1962, reports emerged stating that the Soviet Union was installing missiles in Cuba. It posed a direct nuclear threat to the US. This is called the “Cuban Missile Crisis”.
In response to the Soviet aggression, the US surrounded Cuba intending to invade it. Also, missiles were installed in Turkey, putting the Soviet Union under direct threat. The two superpowers came to the brink of war before an agreement was signed between then-US president JF Kennedy and Soviet president Nikita Khrushchev.
Cuban leader Fidel Castro was reportedly furious at the Soviet retreat but largely helpless.
The 1964 agreement is mainly considered the turning point in the bitterness between the two countries.
Military alliances during Cold War
In 1948, the Soviet Union initiated a blockade in Berlin. The western countries formed an alliance to form a trans-Atlantic military alliance. In April 1949, the treaty to form the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was signed in 1949. The original signatories of the agreement were the US, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Norway and Portugal. Currently, it has 30 members.
In September 1951, the US, Australia and New Zealand signed a tripartite military alliance, ANZUS Treaty. However, it broke down in 1985.
Following it, in September 1954, an anti-communist alliance was formed to sign the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO). It was the Asia-Pacific version of NATO.
On May 9, 1955, West Germany was offered membership in NATO. This was the final straw for the Soviets. In the same year, the Soviet Union and the Soviet states met in Warsaw and signed the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, more commonly known as the Warsaw Pact.
Its eight member-states were the USSR, Poland, East Germany, Albania (until 1968), Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania.
After the Warsaw pact was signed, Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah, and Indonesian President Sukarno met in Belgrade, Yugoslavia to ensure “the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries”.
They undertook the conference of the head of state of the Non-Aligned Countries.
At the seventh summit of NAM in New Delhi in 1983, the movement declared itself to be “history’s biggest peace movement”.
The new world order
Several other countries saw economic prosperity in the 1960s and 1970s, giving way to a more complicated geopolitical order. The relations between China and the Soviet Union were not as pleasant, highlighting a split between communist nations.
On the other hand, Japan and western Europe showed dynamic economic growth, reducing their dependence on the US. The difference between western and eastern Germany was starker. On one side of the Berlin wall, which ran through the middle of the capital, people earned more and had more rights. And on the other hand, the economic conditions were not prosperous.
In the late 1980s, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev dismantled the totalitarian aspects of the Soviet economy. He also began to democratize the political system. Poland, Hungary and East Germany saw a rise in democratic leaders.
On November 7, 1989, the Berlin Wall was demolished and this marked the start of the fall of the Soviet Union.
Finally, on December 25, 1991, Gorbachev resigned from his post, marking the end of the Soviet Union. The Soviet hammer and sickle flag was lowered for the last time over the Kremlin. Boris Yeltsin became the president of the newly independent Russian state.
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