The Cold War/Introduction

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After the Allies had defeated Nazi Germany in 1945, two nations emerged out of the war as world superpowers - the United States of America (USA) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (the Soviet Union or the USSR).

By the end of World War 2, they had earned their place as the strongest countries in the world. But although they had been fighting the war as allies, there were many things which separated them:

  • Economic System - the USA had a capitalist economic system which basically means that the industry is owned by private individuals who can make and keep their profit independently. The Soviet Union had a socialist economic system. All industry and land was owned by the state (i.e., the government) and the wealth generated distributed to the population.
  • Social System - the USA believed in freedom of speech (for example, allowing criticism of the government), freedom of personal belief and freedom of the press. Citizens exercised these rights under the constitution which limited the powers of the state. The Soviet Union did not guarantee these rights to its citizens, it subordinated these rights to the "greater interest" of the state. This led to censorship of those things considered "undesirable" or and potentially "dangerous" to the government. The government controlled the media.
  • Election Process - the USA believed in free, multi-party elections which allowed all types of parties no matter how far right or left they were, to be represented and allowed to be voted for in elections. The party which won the majority of votes by the population would get into power. The Soviet Union held elections but allowed only one political party - the Communist Party - effectively preventing citizens from choosing who would govern them.

So what was the problem?[edit | edit source]

Germany was a common enemy in World War 2, leading to cooperation between the USSR and USA. With the end of the war the clashes of system, process and culture led to the countries falling out. With two years of the end of the war, the former allies were now enemies and the Cold War began. It was to last for the next 40 years and would be fought for real, by proxy armies, on battlefields from Africa to Asia, in Afghanistan, Cuba and many other places.

The fundamental problem was their ideologies:

  • The USA was a fundamentally capitalist society. They believed in a free market, and in freedom to earn social status, power and respect.
  • The USSR was a communist state. They believed in the inevitability of world revolution - the passing of power into the hands of the people. This meant that, in creating this society, everyone had to be equal.

As a result, they were enemies; the USA wanted to secure its position in the world, whereas the USSR wanted to spread its ideology across the world.

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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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