Monday, May 3, 2010

Cold War and its Conflict in Detail

The Cold War was the period of conflict, tension and competition between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies from the mid-1940s to the early 1990s. Throughout the period, the rivalry between the two superpowers was played out in multiple arenas and had a number of distinguishing characteristics. The Cold War dominated international relations between major global powers such as the US, Britain, France, the USSR and China. It was characterised by a number of flash-points around the globe which threatened to turn the Cold War hot. A few examples of these potentially explosive situations are the crises in Germany in general and Berlin in particular, the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), and the wars in Korea (1950 – 1953), Vietnam War (1964 – 1975), and Afghanistan (1979 – 1989). There were also, however, periods when tension was reduced as both sides sought d├ętente. Although many “hot” wars were fought over the period in question, the superpowers never fought one another directly. They did, however, support opposite sides in various conflicts, thus opposing each other indirectly. The main deterrent to a direct military confrontation (and, consequently, a Third World War) was the severe threat posed by the respective nuclear arsenals of the two sides. They were very large and offered the very real possibility of mutual assured destruction. It was an ideological struggle between Western, democratic, capitalist states and the Eastern bloc of communist, autocratic nations. Both sides attempted to win other countries (particularly in Asiaand Africa) over in support of their respective ideologies. Being a multi-faceted conflict, the Cold War also comprised propaganda, psychology, rival military coalitions, espionage; military, industrial and technological developments (including the space race); costly defense spending; a massive conventional and nuclear arms race; financial, military and food aid to Third-World nations; confrontations within the UNO; and numerous proxy wars.

There never was a direct military engagement between the US and the Soviet Union, but there was a half-century of military build-up, and political battles for support around the world, including significant involvement of allied and satellite nations. Although the US and the Soviet Union had been allied against


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