1. Definition of Cold War:

The term “Cold War” had an American origin and was used for the first time by Bernard Baruch who observed thus on 16 April 1947.

“Let us not be deceived today. We are in the midst of a Cold War.”

The term was picked up by Walter Lippmann who through his book on the Cold War popularised it. After that, the term Cold War was used to describe the relations between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers after the World War 11. Cold War has been defined by R.K. Garthoff as “the conflict between the Communist Powers and the rest of the world waged by means short of overt major war.”

USA vs USSR Fight! The Cold War: Crash Course World History #39 ...

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Prof Young Hum Kim writes, “Though the term Cold War defies precise definition, it may be described as the international environment characterised by persistent tensions and conflicts between the free world and the Communist camp in general and between the United States and the Soviet Union in particular.

This new war of cold realities in international politics has been waged in every conceivable field of international life, especially in national defence, economic growth, diplomacy and ideology.”

Cold War was not a state of armed struggle but a state in which the rivals while maintaining their peace-time diplomatic relations continued their hostility. They used all means other than war to weaken each other. The Cold War was an ideological war or a propaganda war or a diplomatic war. It was neither a condition of war nor a condition of peace. It was a state of uneasy peace. R. Bamet calls it “hot peace.” Kennedy describes it as “hard and bitter peace.”

2. Its origin:

There is a difference of views regarding the origin of Cold War. One view is that its beginning can be traced back to the time of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 when the Communists openly declared their intention to control and dominate the world. Some writers find the genesis of the Cold War in the period of the Grand Alliance of World War II.


Although the Western Powers and the Soviet Union cooperated during the War, there were sharp differences among them particularly over the treatment of anti-Nazi resistance forces in Poland and Yugoslavia, the establishment of the Second Front, coordination of military strategy and post-War reconstruction.

Still another view is that the Cold War actually crystallized only in 1947 when the Soviet Union and the Western Powers intensified and formalised the differences in the interpretation of the provisions of the Yalta and Potsdam Agreements. The delay in opening the Second Front, the secrecy over the atom bomb and refusal to invite the Polish provisional Government to San-Francisco made Russia suspicious of Anglo-American designs.

Likewise, the Western Powers were agitated over the occupation of considerable portions of territory in the Far East by Russia by declaring war against Japan at the last moment. Prof Young Hum Kim writes, “At the war’s end, the basic incompatibility between Soviet Communism and Western democracy in terms of ideology and security took a new turn towards higher intensity as Stalin reverted from the policy of war-time expediency (alliance with the West) to the policy of pre-War orthodoxy (hard lined dogmatism)”.

The view of some scholars is that the first signal for the development of Cold War was given by Winston Churchill in his Fulton speech in which he observed, “If the Western democracies stand together in strict adherence to the principle of United Nations Charter, their influence for furthering those principles will be immense and no one is likely to molest them. If, however, they become divided or falter in their duty and if these all important years are allowed to slip away, then indeed catastrophe may overwhelm us all”.

3. Reasons for Cold War:

Many reasons have been given for the Cold War. Though the Soviet Union and the Western Powers cooperated with each other during the World War II, there did not develop a spirit of real cooperation among them. Towards the end of the war, tension increased tremendously. The opposite stands taken by the Soviet Union and the Western Powers on various matters failed to arouse a spirit of cooperation and friendship.


The actions of both the parties showed that mutual distrust existed among them. Another cause of the Cold War was the existence of ideological differences between the Soviet Union and Western democracies. The Western Powers considered the Soviet Union a greater enemy than Hitler and Mussolini. They followed a policy of appeasement towards Hitler and Mussolini because they felt that Communism was a greater danger than Fascism and Nazism.

Narrow national interests after the end of the World War II also contributed to the Cold War. In spite of protests from the Western Powers, the Soviet Union continued her plans to increase her influence in Eastern Europe. After consolidating her position there, she started penetrating into the Middle East which was resented by the Western Powers.

4. Its beginning:

The view of Possony is that “the Cold War began while the hot war was still raging.” Even before the end of the World War II, the Soviet Union imposed Communist regimes in the East European countries of Poland, Bulgaria, Rumania, Hungary and Yugoslavia.

After putting Eastern Europe behind the iron curtain, the Soviet Union turned her attention towards Western Europe. She also put pressure on Turkey and Iran to get concessions. She engineered a Communist revolution against Greece and expanded her influence in Italy.

These moves of the Soviet Union were viewed with great concern by the Western countries. When Britain expressed her inability to check Soviet expansion, the United States took up the responsibility of containing the onward march of Communism.

The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan were the steps to save the European Continent from further Communist influence. The Soviet Union also initiated the Molotov Plan and established the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance. These moves and counter-moves constituted the beginning of the Cold War.

5. Truman Doctrine:

On 12 March 1947, President Truman addressed a joint session of the American Congress and enunciated what came to be known as the Truman Doctrine. Truman asked the Congress to sanction 400 million Dollars by June 1948 to help Greece and Turkey. In May 1947, the American Congress authorised aid to Greece and Turkey.

It was found in 1950 that American policy had completely changed the state of affairs in Greece and Turkey. The guerillas were completely eliminated from the Greek soil and peace was restored. The same was the case in Turkey. The danger from Communism was successfully checked by American action.

6. The Marshall Plan (1947):

The Marshall Plan was an extension of the principle underlying the Truman Doctrine. It dealt with Europe in general and not with any particular state or states as was the case with the Truman Doctrine. It was essentially an economic plan. It represented an elaborate programme which was to last for four years. It showed an anxiety on the part of the United States to avert the economic crisis which was apprehended as a result of the World War II.

It also underlined American determination to fight against Communism. The situation in France and Italy was a source of great anxiety to the United States. The Communist parties of France and Italy were gaining in strength. It was felt that in order to put a check on Communist influence, the United States must come to their help.

The Marshall Plan was welcomed in the United States as it was directed against the Soviet Union. By the time the programme was completed, its object was achieved and the danger from Communism was successfully met.

The Soviet Union and the Communist and non-Communist countries of Eastern Europe were invited to accept the Marshall Plan but the offer was rejected. It was contended that under the cover of the Plan, the United States aimed at creating an economic empire by taking advantage of the conditions in Europe. The negative attitude of the Soviet Union towards the Plan led to the continuance of the struggle between Eastern and Western Europe.

7. Brussels Treaty (1948):

The Marshall Plan stiffened the Cold War between Eastern and Western Europe instead of bringing about a rapprochement between the two. The Soviet Union had already branded the Truman Doctrine as imperialistic. In order to check Russian supremacy and influence, Britain, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxemburg, etc. signed the Treaty of Brussels in March 1948. The signatories to the treaty expressed their complete reliance on the Charter of the United Nations and pledged mutual military, economic and political cooperation. This treaty played a vital role in strengthening the unity and security of the Western countries.

8. NATO (1949):

The North Atlantic Treaty was signed on 4 April 1949 by the United States, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and the United Kingdom. Greece and Turkey became its members in February 1952. West Germany joined it m May 1955. The NATO was a defensive organisation.

After the signing of the Brussels Treaty and particularly when the conflict between Eastern and Western Europe over the German problem assumed serious proportions, the United States decided to establish a Mutual Military Assistance Organisation with the Western countries and the NATO was the result.

The NATO was intended to strengthen the morale of Western Europe. The association of the United States with the other NATO Powers was bound to halt Soviet expansion Westwards. As the stand taken by the United States was definite and clear, the Soviet leaders were not prepared to take any risk in Western Europe. The result was that the Communists made no territorial gains in Europe or the Atlantic area after April 1949.

9. Germany:

After the World War II, there was a conflict of interests between Eastern and Western blocs over Germany. The defeat of Germany and her occupation by the Soviet Union and the Western Powers gave rise to complications in the field of European and international politics. The United States, Russia Britain and France partitioned Germany among themselves into four zones. In January 1947, British and American zones were unified.

The French zone was also merged into it in the same year. The three zones came to be known as West Germany. East Germany came into existence under Russian control. As a result of the Cold War, Germany became the centre of dispute between Eastern and Western blocs and that continued for years.

When the Soviet Union proceeded to collect reparations from Eastern Germany, disputes and tension began to develop between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers. In 1948, the Western Powers introduced currency reforms in West Germany. In reply to that, the Soviet Union blockaded the city of Berlin by closing down all her entrances. However, the Western Powers managed to supply the necessary foodstuffs to the citizens of Berlin by airlift from June 1948 to September 1949.

The representatives of the Western Powers met in Bonn and drafted the Bonn Constitution. The Federal Republic of West Germany was born and elections were held in 1949. The Soviet Union proclaimed the German Democratic Republic in East Germany under her control. West Germany joined the Anglo-American bloc and East Germany joined the Soviet bloc. Tension between the two blocs continued over the question of Germany.

10. China:

The United States refused to recognise the new Communist Government of China set up in 1949, and continued to recognise the Nationalist Government of Formosa under Chiang Kai-shek. The result was that the Nationalist Government of Formosa continued to be a permanent member of the Security Council till October 1971 when there was reconciliation between Communist China and the United States. If the United States backed Formosa, the Soviet Union backed Communist China and the cold war continued.

11. Korea:

By 1949, the territorial limits of the cold war in Europe were more or less established. By 1950, the theatre of the cold war shifted from Europe to East Asia. Under the impact of the cold war, Korea was divided into North Korea and South Korea. In North Korea, a Communist government supported by the Soviet Union was set up. In South Korea, an American-sponsored Government was set up. On 25 June 1950, North Korea attacked South Korea.

The Security Council declared North Korea as the aggressor and authorised the creation of command under the Flag of the United Nations to repel the aggressor. The Korean War was virtually a conflict between the Soviet bloc and the Western bloc. If North Korea was fighting with Soviet weapons and Chinese troops, the United States was fighting on behalf of South Korea under the Flag of the United Nations. The result was that the Cold War was turned into a hot war. After the death of Stalin in 1953, an armistice was signed on 27 July 1953.

12. Anzus Pact (1951):

When the Communist success in China and the Korea war creased an atmosphere of uneasiness in the Pacific region, the United States signed a treaty with Australia and New Zealand in 1951 known as the Anzus Pact. It was to remain in force for an indefinite period. This Pacific security system was an endeavour of the Western Powers to meet the Communist challenge.

13. Indo-China:

After the fall of Japan in 1945, Britain and China occupied Southern and Northern parts of Indo- China respectively. France regained her lost hold over the whole of Indo-China in 1946. The Vietminh refused to acknowledge the authority of France. Supported by Communist China, the Vietminh attacked the Red River Valley in 1949. As Communist China helped the Vietminh, the United States helped France with money and arms. The Soviet Union also helped the Vietminh.

The result was that a clash between the Soviet Union and the United States became almost inevitable. The fall of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 brought the final collapse of France in Indo-China. At the Geneva Conference in July 1954, Vietnam was partitioned between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. In spite of the Geneva Settlement, there was no peace in Vietnam.

The United States did everything in her power to help South Vietnam against North Vietnam which was supported by Communist China and the Soviet Union. In spite of strong action by the United States, there was no end of the war. Negotiations started in Paris in 1968 but without any settlement. The forces of North Vietnam made headway against South Vietnam in the beginning of 1972 and the United States intensified the bombing of North Vietnam. Mines were spread in the harbours and rivers of South Vietnam.

On many occasions, negotiations were started for peace but without any result. North Vietnam backed by the Soviet Union continued to fight till the fall of South Vietnam in April 1975. Thus the Cold War was fought in Indo-China between the Soviet Union and the United States and the Soviet Union was the victor.

14. SEATO:

Like the NATO, the SEATO (1954) was born out of Communist fear. Its object was to put a stop to the further spread of Communist influence in South-East Asia. The United States was not happy over the establishment of a Communist regime on the mainland of China in 1949. She was also not happy over the events in Indo-China where French power was being liquidated. The decisions taken in Geneva in 1954 were not to her liking.

Hence the SEATO was set up by the United States, in collaboration with Britain, France, Australia, Thailand, The Philippines and Pakistan, to stop the further infiltration of Communist influence in that area. The signatories to the treaty agreed to consider enemy attack upon any one of them as an attack upon all of them and to cooperate with one another against the enemy In the long run, the SEATO failed in its objectives and had to be wound up but it served its purpose for the time being.

15. The Baghdad Pact:

Another centre of the Cold War between the Eastern and Western blocs was the Middle East. Some of the countries of that region were associated with the Soviet Union and some with the American bloc. The Baghdad Pact was an attempt by the Western Powers to form an anti-Soviet bloc in the Middle East. This Pact was signed in 1955 between Turkey and Iraq. Later on, Britain, Pakistan and Iran joined it.

The United States guaranteed the territorial integrity of the Baghdad Pact countries. She joined the Baghdad Pact in the economic sphere in May 1956 and in the military sphere in 1958 to combat international Communism. When Iraq withdrew from the Pact in March 1959, it was renamed Central Treaty Organisation.

16. The Warsaw Pact (1955):

The Soviet Union was alarmed at the aggressive attitude of the Western Powers when the NATO was formed, but for a few years she was not able to set up a rival organisation. She strongly protested against the entry of West Germany into NATO.

On 4 May 1955, the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Albania and East Germany signed the Warsaw Pact. The signatory states agreed to resist the attacks of the imperialists and capitalist states upon any member state. The Warsaw Pact, in its essential features, was a carbon copy of the NATO. Its only object was to meet the challenge from the NATO Powers. Between 1955 and 1958, West Asia became the centre of the Cold War. This fact is proved by the signing of the Baghdad Pact with a view to exclude the Soviet Union from that region.

17. Austria (1955):

No treaty had been concluded with Austria in spite of the lapse of many years after the ending of the World War in 1945. That was due to the differences between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers over the terms of the peace treaty.

However, at the Summit Conference of July 1955, the Austrian Peace Treaty was signed and Presidents Eisenhower and Bulganin exchanged assurances that neither of them will start a nuclear war. Both of them undertook not to seek political or economic union of Austria with Germany, directly or indirectly Austria was not to join the NATO and remain neutral.

Friedman writes, “The Austrian Peace Treaty is the first major international treaty on which the four erstwhile allies have been able to agree after years of an unbroken record of dissension and tension, sometimes threatening to lead to the brink of war.” On the Suez Canal crisis of 1956, both the Super Powers stood on the same side and thus a major crisis was averted.

18. Eisenhower Doctrine (1957):

The United States proclaimed the Eisenhower Doctrine on 5 March 1957 by which the Truman Doctrine was extended to the Middle East. Its object was to check the possibility of Communist aggression, direct or indirect, in that region. The United States was to give military assistance and protect any state whose territorial integrity and political independence was threatened.

19. Hungary:

There was a revolt in Hungary in 1956 and the Soviet Union sent her troops to suppress it. The Soviet action was condemned by the countries belonging to the American bloc. A demand was made that the Soviet Union must withdraw her troops but she refused.

20. Germany:

There was a tussle between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers in 1956 over the issue of elections in Berlin. As the Social Democratic party won the elections by defeating the Communist party, the Soviet Union abrogated that election by applying her veto power. That led to tension between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers.

In November 1958, Khrushchev stated that the imperialists wanted to make Germany a chronic problem and were disturbing the peace of East Germany, Poland and other socialist states. He warned that any march towards East Germany would lead to disastrous consequences.

He handed over notes to Western Powers asking them to withdraw from West Berlin within six months. The reply of West Germany was that if the Soviet Union renounced unilaterally her international treaties, political tension would increase and the Soviet Union would be held responsible for violating international law. The Western Powers showed their determination to defend their rights.

During 1959, there were negotiations between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers regarding the unification of Germany. In September 1959, Khrushchev met Eisenhower at Camp David and agreed to resume talks on the Berlin question at the proposed Summit Conference to be held in May 1960 in Paris.

On 25 April 1960, Khrushchev warned the Western Powers that if they did not sign a peace treaty with East Germany, their right of access to West Berlin would cease and the Soviet Union would conclude a separate peace treaty with East Germany. He also declared that as the city of Berlin was situated within East Germany, the latter would have complete control over the whole of Berlin.

The Western Powers protested and maintained that their right over West Berlin was not due to any concession from the Soviet Union but was based on their conquest of Germany. They also contended that the Soviet Union could not revoke unilaterally all the treaties regarding Germany and Berlin. When Khrushchev met President Kennedy in Vienna in June 1961, he declared that the Camp David formula was dead.

A serious situation was created in Germany as a result of the influx of refugees from East Germany to West Germany in large numbers. On 13 August 1961, East Germany sealed her border between East Berlin and West Berlin and 25-mile long Berlin Wall was erected between two Berlins. There was great tension. After lengthy negotiations, the pass system was introduced between the two cities in September 1963.

There was another crisis in 1969 when the West German government decided to hold Presidential elections on 5 March 1969 in West Berlin. East Germany protested and reimposed restrictions on land routes to prevent the members of the Electoral College from reaching West Berlin. The West German Government managed to send the members of the Electoral College and other officials to West Berlin by air. President Nixon threatened action if the Soviet Union resisted and the result was that the Soviet Union kept quiet.

In September 1971, the Soviet Union, the United States, France and Britain signed the Berlin Accord. In November 1972, the Basic Treaty was signed between East Germany and West Germany. In September 1973, both East and West Germany became members of the United Nations and thus the Cold War ended in Germany.

21. Cuban Crisis (1962):

The Cold War was at its height at the time of the Cuban crisis in 1962. The Soviet Union sent military equipment to Cuba along with a larger number of technicians and other military personnel. The United States opposed the Soviet move and declared her intention to use all possible means to end the Soviet presence in Cuba. There was every danger of a war between the Soviet Union and the United States.

However, U Thant, Secretary-General of the United Nations, prevailed upon the United States to suspend the blockade of Cuba and asked Khrushchev to halt shipments to Cuba and also withdraw the offensive weapons from Cuba. The Soviet Union agreed to dismantle the Cuban missile sites and transport the missiles back to the Soviet Union. It was in this way that a great catastrophe was avoided.

22. The Congo:

In the Congo, Soviet activity was of the most Cold War kind. The sending of vehicles, aircrafts, transport aircrafts, provisions and equipment in the summer 1960 was an act of intervention. Khrushchev sent a telegram to Kasavubu and Lumumba in July 1960 in which he declared that “if the hand of the aggressor is raised against the Congo, then the Soviet Union declares that the necessity will arise of taking more effective measures”. The Soviet Union continued to help the Congo in order to balance her influence against that of the Western Powers.

23. Détente:

After the Berlin crisis and the Cuban crisis, the stage was set for a thaw in the Cold War. It was realised by both sides that any nuclear war between them would lead to mutual destruction. That realisation pointed to the necessity of peaceful coexistence.

The result was the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty on 5 August 1963 between the Soviet Union, the United States and Britain. It provided for a limited ban on nuclear tests in the atmosphere including outer space or under water. A Hot Line Agreement was signed between the Super Powers.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed in 1968 between the Soviet Union and the United States. On 25 May 1972, two agreements were signed in Moscow by President Nixon and Communist Party Chief Brezhnev. Those agreements were the Treaty on Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile System and the Interim Agreement on certain measures with respect to the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms. Brezhnev visited Washington in June 1973. He signed with President Nixon an agreement by which they committed their countries to negotiate before the end of the next year a treaty calling for the reduction of nuclear weapons.

In June-July 1974, President Nixon visited the Soviet Union and agreed with Brezhnev to limit underground testing for five years. In November 1974, President Ford (successor of President Nixon) and Brezhnev met at Vladivostok and a US-Soviet agreement on guidelines for 10-year “cap on the arms race” was reached. The 35-Nation Summit Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe opened on 30 July 1975 at Helsinki and concluded on 1 August 1975. It was attended by President Ford, Brezhnev, Prime Minister Wilson and others.

The Treaty on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms signed in 1972 between the United States and the Soviet Union lapsed in October 1977 but both sides tried to preserve its main provisions. The Ford administration made little efforts for negotiations on a new agreement. However, after prolonged negotiations, a treaty was signed between the United States and the Soviet Union in Vienna on 18 June 1979 on the limitation of strategic offensive arms. This treaty is popularly known as SALT-II.

It is true that President Carter signed the SALT-II treaty but he began to have doubts about it even before he returned to Washington. The United States discovered the presence of a Soviet brigade in Cuba and demanded its withdrawal but the Soviet Union refused to oblige.

In 1979, the Shah of Iran was overthrown and the United States made a bid to secure base facilities in Kenya, Somalia and Oman to protect American interests in the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf region. The NATO decided to deploy American-made cruise missiles and advance medium-range Pershing II missiles in Western Europe from 1983.

When such was the situation, Soviet armed intervention in Afghanistan in December 1979 aggravated the situation. The American Government arranged secret supply of arms to Afghan rebels to pressurise the Soviet Union to negotiate but that did not happen.

When the United States intervened in El Salvador, the Soviet Union and her allies supplied arms to insurgents and also gave them training. President Reagan projected the issue of El Salvador as an international confrontation between the West and the Soviet Union.

There are certain differences between the old and new cold wars. Unlike the cold war of 1950’s, the alliance partners are not actively involved in the new cold war. China, Japan and even Western European countries are lukewarm in their support and the war persists mainly between the two Super Powers.

In the old cold war, nuclear armaments build-up was not an issue and the main stress was on quantitative build-up of conventional arms. In the new cold war, there is a nuclear arms race between the two Super Powers and they are trying to achieve greater sophistication in conventional, weaponry. The new cold war is more threatening than the old cold war.

However, efforts are being made to stop the nuclear arms race. Talks on the limitation of missiles began in Geneva on 1 December 1981. The Soviets walked out in 1982 but the talks were resumed in 1985. There was a two-day summit at Geneva on 19 and 20 November 1985 between President Reagan and Soviet leader Gorbachev.

In a joint statement issued after the end of negotiations, the two leaders acknowledged that there were differences between them on vital issues but they affirmed that any confrontation between the two countries would have catastrophic consequences.

They emphasized the importance of preventing any war between them. They agreed to accelerate nuclear arms control negotiations and to meet again “in the near future”. Gorbachev accepted an invitation from President Reagan to visit the United States and President Reagan agreed to visit the Soviet Union.

A summit meeting was held at Reykjavik on 12 and 13 October 1986. However, the negotiations broke down over the US refusal to yield on its Star War research. On 8 December 1987 the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty for the destruction of Europe- based missiles was signed between the United States and the Soviet Union. For the United States, the treaty meant scrapping of Pershing missiles stationed in West Germany and Tomahawk cruise missiles in Britain, West Germany, Italy and Belgium. The Soviet Union was to eliminate Silo-based SS-4 rockets, SS-20. SS-22 and SS-23 missiles. On 1 June 1988, that treaty was ratified in Moscow by President Reagan and Soviet leader Gorbachev.

On 14 April 1988, Pakistan and Afghanistan formally signed a US and Soviet Union guaranteed Accord at Geneva by which the Soviet Union agreed to pull out all Soviet troops from Afghanistan within a maximum period of nine months from 15 May 1988. Half of those troops were to be withdrawn by 15 August 1988. This Accord was the result of the pressure exercised by the Soviet Union on Afghanistan and the United States on Pakistan.

In August 1988, South Africa, Angola and Cuba announced a cease-fire as agreed upon during the negotiations in Geneva. This was the result of Moscow’s pressure on Angola and Cuba and that of Washington on South Africa. In the same month, Iran and Iraq ended the war which was going on for many years.

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