The Cold War/How was the Cold War fought?

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The Soviet Union and the West did not directly fight against each other in the Cold War, even though they were dangerously close to doing so. If they did, then it would have been a "hot" war. But there were various other ways in which they actively fought:

Intelligence[edit]

Both sides were actively spying on each other in an attempt to gather as much military secrets and other top-secret information as possible about the enemy. Each side had their own national intelligence agencies which was responsible in carrying out these tasks. Below are a number of them:

  • USA - C.I.A.
  • Soviet Union - K.G.B.
  • Britain - MI5
  • Canada - C.S.I.S.
  • East Germany - S.T.A.S.I
  • West Germany - B.N.D.
  • Australia - A.S.I.S.

Nuclear Arms Race[edit]

The USA and USSR were also locked in competition over developing more deadly weapons than the other side, and in countering the other side's latest inventions.

Media Propaganda[edit]

During the Cold War, each side tried to portray each other's government and social living order as inferior, "evil" and a great injustice to mankind, through the use of newspapers, books, television, radio etc.

American Propaganda[edit]

The Americans tried to portray the Soviets and other communists as having a cruel and dictatorial regime which ignored human rights.

Anti-communist sentiment influenced nearly all areas of life.

Many Hollywood films and some cartoons, showing the Russians, as the antagonists, eventually being defeated. There was a great supply of anti-communist literature being distributed in many locations, including pubs, churches, places of work and schools! In the early and mid-20th century, although not many Americans had televisions, many had radios. The US Government seized the opportunity to fund radio stations, such as Voice of America and Radio Liberty, which spread negative propaganda about communism.

Soviet Propaganda[edit]

The Soviets also used propaganda as a tool to portray the Americans and other Western capitalists as fat, greedy, money-worshiping businessmen who treated their workers as slaves.

The media and press were mostly state-controlled and the government used it to publish their own propaganda.

In schools, pupils were taught to be anti-American, and history was regularly rewritten to fit the official government view. Also, radio stations, such as Radio Moscow, and television channels showing propaganda, were funded. Many films were released portraying the West as imperialistic and expansionist. One U.S. film called "Uncle Tom's Cabin", about a black slave in America, was used and highly publicized by the Soviet Union, so to depict the West as "evil" and racist.

Space Race[edit]

The technological race between the USA and the Soviet Union wasn't just on Earth. It also reached into space in what came to be known as the "Space Race". Both sides competed against each other to explore inner space. The USSR started the Race by sending the first ever satellite, "Sputnik" into orbit. For the next half a century, they competed to be the first country to put a man in space or on the moon and to explore the planets.

Proxy War[edit]

On the more violent side, the USA and the Soviet Union indirectly fought wars against each other overseas through a third party or "proxy", which could either be a government or an armed group. Each side "fought" the other, by providing money, arms, training and logistical support to their proxy and sending it to war against the other side's proxy. Sometimes, a proxy was used to fight more directly with the opposing superpower.

Examples of two proxies fighting each other were the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and the War in Angola, and examples where a proxy fought the army of the superpower itself include the Vietnam War (1962 - 1975) and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (1979 - 1989).

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The Cold War

Introduction - Background - Strategy - Truman Doctrine - Marshall Plan - Berlin Blockade - Korean War - Hungarian Uprising - Cuban Missile Crisis - USSR under Gorbachev - USA under Reagan - Arms Race - Space Race


Cover - Contents - Study Guide


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Polack, Peter (2013). Last Hot Battle of the Cold War. Casemate. ISBN 978-1612001951.