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The Cold War occurred in a period between 1945 up to 1991. It was caused by a continuing tension between the political states and the military forces of the Western world and the communist world. The Western world was led by the United States through the NATO allies while the communist world was led by the Soviet Union. It all began when US was left as the only superpower after their temporary success wartime alliance against the Nazi Germany. It led to political differences; hence the Soviet Union formed the Eastern Bloc with all the eastern European countries it occupied against the United States which occupied Western European countries through the Marshall Plan. This was the one then named the cold war since it did feature the military action directly. The reason why the military was not involved is that both sides possessed the nuclear weapons and involving their use would guarantee mutual destructions. (King, 2000)
During the Cold War time, both the United States and the Soviet Union believed that there was the need to stop the other side of power from extending its powers. However, this war was totally different from the 20th century conflicts in essence that the enemies did not engage the military action in its activities. Instead, the enemies pursued their rivalry through various strategies. The first strategy used was the foreign aid, whereby the superpowers tried to gain allies through giving the financial aids to other nations. Example for this strategy is seen when Egypt received the aid from the Soviet Union that it used in building the Aswan High Dam. The second strategy used was espionage. This means spying on each other due to the fear that the opponent might gain advantage over a person. The famous incident occurred when the Soviet Union downed the US U-2 spy plane in the year 1960 (Reconstructing the Postwar World, 2006, p. 982).
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The third strategy that the opponents used to defeat each other was through multinational alliances. Both the United States and the Soviet Union entered the alliances in order to gain the support of other nations. Examples of such alliances were the NATO of US, and the Warsaw of the Soviet Union. The fourth strategy that the enemies used in the cold war was through propaganda. Both superpowers used this technique to win the overseas support. For example, Radio Free Europe was used in broadcasting programs to the Eastern Europe and other parts of the world. The next strategy used was the brinkmanship stategy. This strategy meant that the enemy was going to the brink of starting the war with the aim of making the enemy backing down. Example of this was the Cuban Missile Crisis. The last strategy that superpowers used was through surrogate wars. Here, the superpowers fought indirectly in smaller conflicts through backing the opposing sides of their enemies.
The Cold war began officially on the 6th of August, 1945 after an atomic bomb was dropped in Hiroshima by the United States, that ended up destroying the city and almost half of the population. Two days later after this bombing, Russia declared war on Japan. In the 1943 Teheran Conference, the Soviet Union had reaffirmed on its pledge to enter into war against the state of Japan just after the defeat of Germany in the World War II. Russia’s entry to the war was confirmed again at the Yalta and the Potsdam conferences. On the following day, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki in the 9th of August. On August 15th, the Japanese capitulation declared the Russian invasion as unnecessary. Following these bombings, Stalin agreed that the Great Britain and the United States had created a strategy of using an atomic bomb in order to force Japan out of war. Later, Russia also complied with the plan and promised to join the war that was against Japan (King, 2003, p. 3).
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The Soviet Unions also believed that these bombs were only meant for intimidating the Russians, who like the Germans, had earlier done an experiment on the atomic bombs and were working on perfecting the weapon. United States then came up with a plan of sharing the nuclear capability within the superpowers after the end of World War II. Russia later rejected this plan and claimed it was unfair since it had suspicious conditions attached to it. This opposing nation went ahead and formed the Soviet Union, and began opposing the United States. The bomb that was used to end one crucial war (World War II) later became the beginning of another war – The Cold War. These events of 1945 are widely considered as the turning-point of the twentieth-century, where the United States unequivocally made itself the world power. During this period, America had a strong economy but it was war oriented, thus bringing about the long-standing suspicions from the European states in general. (King, 2000)
Tensions started building up in February 1946, when George Kennan from Moscow helped the Russians in articulating United State’s continuous hard lines towards the Soviet Unions, hence becoming the basis of the US strategy in overpowering the Soviet Unions. In September, the same year, the Soviet Union produced telegram that portrayed the United States as being the ones in the tight grip of the monopoly capitalist activities that were building up some military capabilities geared at wining the supremacy of the world in the new war. In September, the same year, James Byrnes made a speech in Germany repudiating the proposal that the United States had planned on partitioning and de-industrializing the post-war Germany state. In his speech, James also warned the Soviet Union that the US was planning to maintain an indefinite military base in Europe. This was part of the mind game thaat the Soviet Union were trying to use in order to overpower the US, since Byrnes himself admitted later that it was part of the plan to gain the German support.
On responding to this attack, the United States released the ‘Long Telegram’. British Prime Minister by then, Winston Churchill delivered an iron Curtain speech at Fulton, Missouri. In his speech, Churchill called for the formation of an Anglo-American alliance to fight against the Soviets, of whom he accused of trying to establish an “iron curtain” against the United States. Six years later, that is 1952, Stalin repeatedly called on Germany to form a single government. This election was to be overseen by the United Nations only if the new Germany promised to out of the Western military alliances, a proposal which received a significant blow since it was rejected by the Western powers. (King, 2000)
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The other superpower face off was witnessed in Afghanistan. For many years after the end of World War II, Afghanistan still maintained its independence from both the Soviet Union and the United States. In 1950s, the Soviet Union began to have most of its influencing activities in Afghanistan leading to a threat to topple the Afghanistan Community in 1970s by the Muslim revolt. This led to the Soviet invasion in 1979, and many of many were defeated. This defeat of the Soviet Union was aided by the United States since the state provided war materials to the rebel leaders. The United States maintained that they only armed the rebels since they considered the invasion by Soviet Union as a threat to the Middle East oil supplies. This marked the greatest fall of the Soviet Union as one of the vast superpowers hence leaving the United States with the privilege (Teacher Guide, 2003, p. 1).
In conclusion, the Cold War had both positive and negative effects. The positive effect comes to the Russian state economy since the state cut the military spending dramatically. This balance was hard to achieve first since the military-industrial area had earlier employed one of the every five Soviet adults, but this economy has since resumed in growth since 1999. On the other hand, the cold war is considered to have caused serious economic setbacks for the United States. This is because the US had to employ more military offices and set up military camps in the foreign nations. This action was aimed at maintaining their status as the world’s superpower. The total expenditure used by the United States military at the time of the Cold War was estimated to be around $8 trillion dollars, and also there was an estimate of around 100,000 Americans that lost their lives during the time of both the Korean and Vietnam wars. This added more disadvantage to the United States nation since the state spent more money in catering for the funeral functions of its killed soldiers. (King, 2000)
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