Cold War



  • Political
  • Ideological
  • Economic
  • Security

Cold War:

The tussle between Capitalist nations and Communist nations for power and ideological influence, which began after the Second World War, is referred to as the 'Cold War'. Walter Lippmann, an American political columnist, was the first to use the term 'Cold War'.

Communism is a philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is establishing a communist society, namely a socioeconomic order structured upon the ideas of common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state. Communism includes a variety of schools of thought, which broadly include Marxism and anarcho-communism as well as the political ideologies grouped around both, all of which share the analysis that the current order of society stems from capitalism, its economic system and mode of production, namely that in this system there are two major social classes, the conflict between these two classes is the root of all problems in society and this situation can only ultimately be resolved through a social revolution.

The two classes are the proletariat (the working class), who make up the majority of the population within society and must work to survive, and the bourgeoisie (the capitalist class). This small minority derives profit from employing the working class through private ownership of the means of production. According to this analysis, the revolution would put the working class in power and establish social ownership of the means of production, which is the primary element in transforming society towards communism. Along with social democracy, communism became the dominant political tendency within the international socialist movement by the 1920s. The emergence of the Soviet Union as the world's first nominally communist state led to communism's widespread association with Marxism-Leninism and the Soviet economic model. Almost all communist governments in the 20th century espoused Marxism-Leninism or a variation of it. Some economists and intellectuals argue that the model was a form of state capitalism or a non-planned administrative or command economy.

Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. Central characteristics of capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets, a price system, personal property, the recognition of property rights, voluntary exchange, and wage labour. In a capitalist market economy, decision-making and investments are determined by every wealth, property, or production ability owner in the capital and financial markets. In contrast, prices and the distribution of goods and services are mainly determined by competition in goods and services markets. Economists, historians, political economists, and sociologists have adopted different perspectives in their analyses of capitalism and have recognised various forms of it in practice. These include laissez-faire or free-market capitalism, state capitalism, and welfare capitalism. Different forms of capitalism feature varying degrees of free markets, public ownership, obstacles to free competition, and state-sanctioned social policies. The degree of competition in markets, the role of intervention and regulation, and the scope of state ownership vary across different models of capitalism. The extent to which different markets are free and the rules defining private property are matters of politics and policy. Most of the existing capitalist economies are mixed economies that combine elements of free markets with state intervention and, in some cases, economic planning.

Background of Cold War:

The aftermath of the Second World War created conditions leading to the onset of the Cold War. England and France lost their primary positions in world politics. Russia gained prominence in Eastern Europe during the World War, while America, England, and France gained prominence in Western Europe. Thus, Europe was divided into Eastern and Western Europe. The Eastern European nations, under the influence of Soviet Russia, adopted communist ideology. The Western European nations, under the influence of America, adopted capitalist ideology and a democratic system. This situation caused the emergence of the 'Cold War'.

Progression of 'Cold War':

After the Second World War, America had a 'Marshall Plan' for the post-war reconstruction of Europe. Under this plan, America started providing financial help to these nations. Soviet Russia began to encourage the freedom movements in Asia and Africa. Because of the division of Europe into Eastern Europe and Western Europe, political tension was created between America and Soviet Russia. Although a direct war between them never took place, the sense of the looming Third World War prevailed at the global level. However, both parties have been mutually avoiding any possibility of such a world war. Now, the situation was such that both America and Russia perennially, appeared to be ready for a war. Tension prevailed on both sides, but the actual war did not happen. This situation, by and large, is referred to as the 'Cold War'. In the immediate post-World War II period, Europe remained ravaged by war and thus susceptible to exploitation by an internal and external Communist threat. In a June 5, 1947, speech to the graduating class at Harvard University, Secretary of State George C. Marshall issued a call for a comprehensive program to rebuild Europe. Fanned by the fear of Communist expansion and the rapid deterioration of European economies in the winter of 1946-1947, Congress passed the Economic Cooperation Act in March 1948 and approved funding that would eventually rise to over $12 billion for the rebuilding of Western Europe.

The Marshall Plan generated a resurgence of European industrialisation and brought extensive investment into the region. It also stimulated the U.S. economy by establishing markets for American goods. Although the participation of the Soviet Union and East European nations was an initial possibility, Soviet concern over potential U.S. economic domination of its Eastern European satellites and Stalin’s unwillingness to open up his secret society to Westerners doomed the idea. Furthermore, it is unlikely that the U.S. Congress would have been willing to fund the plan as generously as it did if aid also went to Soviet Bloc Communist nations. Thus, the Marshall Plan was applied solely to Western Europe, precluding any measure of Soviet Bloc cooperation. Increasingly, the economic revival of Western Europe, especially West Germany, was viewed suspiciously in Moscow. Economic historians have debated the precise impact of the Marshall Plan on Western Europe, but these differing opinions do not detract from the fact that the Marshall Plan has been recognized as a great humanitarian effort. Secretary of State Marshall became the only general ever to receive a Nobel Prize for peace. The Marshall Plan also institutionalized and legitimized the concept of U.S. foreign aid programs, which have become an integral part of U.S. foreign policy.

Europe was divided based on political, economic, and military concerns after the Second World War. However, the division of Europe leading to the Cold War was mainly based on ideological differences. Ideology is fundamental to national goals and aspirations. The communist ideology of Soviet Russia was based on the principle of governmental ownership, and the capitalist ideology of America was based on the principle of private ownership.

The Cold War did not remain restricted only to Europe, but it spread to the Asian continent as well. Two significant events took place in the first half of the twentieth century. They were the 'Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship' and the 'Korean Conflict'. New China established diplomatic relations with the USSR, other socialist countries, and some friendly countries. China publicly declared that it stood on the side of socialism.

Following the establishment of Sino-Soviet diplomatic relations, an important question calling for a prompt solution in Sino-Soviet relations was how to handle the 1945 Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Alliance signed by Old China and the Soviet Union to set forth new the guiding principles and legal basis for the new Sino-Soviet relations in a changed situation. During his visit to the Soviet Union in the winter of 1949, Chairmen Mao Zedong suggested to Stalin that the two countries sign a new treaty to replace the outdated Sino-Soviet Treaty. To this, the Soviet side agreed. Subsequently, Premier Zhou Enlai led a Chinese Government Delegation to the Soviet Union for the negotiations. On 14 February 1950, the two sides signed the "Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance" and other agreements. The Foreign Ministers of the two countries exchanged three notes, declaring null and void the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Alliance and the other agreements signed by the Soviet Government and the Kuomintang Government of China on 14 August 1945. After the surrender of Japan at the end of World War II, on 15 August 1945, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel into two zones of occupation. The Soviets administered the northern half, and the Americans administered the southern half. In 1948, due to Cold War tensions, the occupation zones became two sovereign states. A socialist state was established in the north under the totalitarian leadership of Kim Il-sung and a capitalist state in the south under the authoritarian leadership of Syngman Rhee. Both governments of the two new Korean states claimed to be Korea's sole legitimate government, and neither accepted the border as permanent.

North Korean military (Korean People's Army, KPA) forces crossed the border and advanced into South Korea on 25 June 1950. The United Nations Security Council denounced the North Korean move as an invasion. It authorized the formation of the United Nations Command and dispatched forces to Korea to repel it. These UN decisions were taken without the participation of the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, both of which supported North Korea. Twenty-one countries of the United Nations eventually contributed to the UN force, with the United States providing around 90% of the military personnel.

The Cold War began during the times of Russian Premier Stalin. He was succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev, who understood the destructive nature of nuclear war, brought changes in the past Soviet policies, and adopted policies based on a more realistic outlook. He looked forward to creating a peaceful coexistence between Russia and America. His policies could make the meeting possible between him and the American President, Eisenhower.

In 1959, the President of America, Mr. Eisenhower, and the Soviet Russian leader, Mr. Nikita Khrushchev, met at Camp David in America. In 1961, Soviet Russia built the 'Berlin Wall'. This prevented contact between West Berlin and East Berlin. This instance resulted in increased tension in Europe. In 1962, Cuba became the centre of the tension created by the Cold War because of the deployment of nuclear missiles to Cuba by Soviet Russia. This incident is known as ‘The Cuban Missile Crisis’. Measures like a bilateral agreement establishing a Moscow-Washington hotline for instant communication were taken to reduce this tension between the two countries. In 1972, American President Richard Nixon and the Premier of Soviet Russia, Leonid Brezhnev, met in Moscow. In the America-Soviet Russia summit held that year in Moscow, it was unanimously agreed to limit the number of nuclear missiles. This agreement reduced the tension between the two countries to some extent. The same year, America officially acknowledged the People’s Republic of China as a State. The process of relaxing the political tensions is referred to as 'detente'.

Later, the American President visited China and officially recognised the communist government of China. Both used 'Veto' in 'The Security Council' of the United Nations, in various instances like supporting friend nations, signing various military treaties, economic exchanges, trading concessions, and granting the status of 'friend nation'. This indirectly promoted the division of the member nations into distinct groups. This highlighted the ideological differences between Capitalism and Communism, thus creating mutual fear and disbelief. There was a lack of any effective system that would clear political misunderstandings. Ultimately, the Cold War remained alive for some time.

The Decade of 'Detente':

America and Russia decided to continue the process of détente. The Paris Conference in 1973 was an attempt to end the Vietnam War. The peace talks were furthered in the 1975 Helsinki Conference. This conference was attended by representatives of 35 European countries, along with the President of America and the Premier of Soviet Russia. This conference was organized to lessen the strain between Eastern and Western European countries. A conference was held at Camp David in 1978 to resolve the strife between Israel and Arabs.

In 1979, there was a revolution in Iran. The last Monarch (Shah) of Iran was overthrown, and Ayatollah Khomeini became the country's supreme leader. Iran suspended all diplomatic relations with the USA and withdrew from ‘CENTO’. In the same year, Russia intervened in Afghanistan and established a socialist government under the leadership of Babrak Karmal.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was created in 1949 by the United States, Canada, and several Western European nations to provide collective security against the Soviet Union. NATO was the first peacetime military alliance the United States entered into outside the Western Hemisphere.

After the destruction of the Second World War, the nations of Europe struggled to rebuild their economies and ensure their security. The former required massive aid to help the war-torn landscapes re-establish industries and produce food. The latter required assurances against a resurgent Germany or incursions from the Soviet Union. The United States viewed an economically strong, rearmed, and integrated Europe as vital to preventing communist expansion across the continent. As a result, Secretary of State George Marshall proposed a program of large-scale economic aid to Europe. The resulting European Recovery Program, or Marshall Plan, facilitated European economic integration and promoted shared interests and cooperation between the United States and Europe. Soviet refusal either to participate in the Marshall Plan or to allow its satellite states in Eastern Europe to accept the economic assistance helped to reinforce the growing division between East and West in Europe.

In 1947-1948, a series of events caused Western European nations to become concerned about their physical and political security and the United States to become more closely involved with European affairs. The ongoing civil war in Greece and tensions in Turkey led President Harry S. Truman to assert that the United States would provide economic and military aid to both countries and any other nation struggling against an attempt at subjugation. A Soviet-sponsored coup in Czechoslovakia resulted in a communist government coming to power on the borders of Germany. Attention also focused on elections in Italy as the communist party had made significant gains among Italian voters. Furthermore, events in Germany also caused concern. The occupation and governance of Germany after the war had long been disputed, and in mid-1948, Soviet premier Joseph Stalin chose to test Western resolve by implementing a blockade against West Berlin, which was then under joint U.S., British, and French control but surrounded by Soviet-controlled East Germany. This Berlin Crisis brought the United States and the Soviet Union to the brink of conflict, although a massive airlift to resupply the city for the blockade's duration helped prevent an outright confrontation. These events caused U.S. officials to grow increasingly wary of the possibility that the countries of Western Europe might deal with their security concerns by negotiating with the Soviets. To counter this possible turn of events, the Truman Administration considered the possibility of forming a European-American alliance that would commit the United States to bolstering the security of Western Europe.

CENTO never actually provided its members with a means for guaranteeing collective defence. After the withdrawal of Iraq from the Baghdad Pact, CENTO moved its headquarters to Ankara, Turkey, and the United States continued to support the organization as an associate but not as a member. CENTO never created a permanent military command structure or armed forces, but the United States provided assistance to its allies in the region. By the close of the Eisenhower Administration, it had become clear to CENTO members that the organization was a better conduit for economic and technical cooperation than a military alliance. In 1979, the Iranian revolution led to the overthrow of the Shah and Iran's withdrawal from CENTO. Pakistan also withdrew that year after determining the organization no longer had a role in bolstering its security. CENTO formally disbanded in 1979.

There was intense competition for developing nuclear weapons and space programmes between America and Soviet Russia. The field of sports was also subjected to Cold War politics.

America and Soviet Russia knew their policies could inevitably lead to the Third World War. However, both wanted to avoid it. Both countries signed treaties limiting the number of nuclear weapons and preventing the possibility of a Third World War.

Mikhail Gorbachev's Era:

Mikhail Gorbachev became the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Soviet Russia and the Premier of Soviet Russia in 1985. His period saw the end of the Cold War. He introduced important reforms in Soviet Russia through his policies known as ‘Perestroika’ (Restructuring) and ‘Glasnost’ (Openness). During his time, the Russian economy had grown weaker. Gorbachev tried to normalise it by restructuring the political and economic systems of Soviet Russia. He attempted to democratise the political system by way of open elections and to end the authoritarian rule of the communist party. He decentralized the economic machinery of the state. Authors, journalists, and intellectuals were given more freedom of expression. However, Gorbachev, who gave momentum to the unification of East and West Germany, could not stop the disintegration of his own country. Soviet Russia disintegrated during his period. After 1991, global history coined two new terms: ' Post Cold War World’ and Post Soviet Russia world order’.

Aftermath of the 'Cold War':

During the period of the Cold War, there were many factors which threatened the very future of humanity. They included political misunderstandings among nations, the world’s nations splitting into two distinct groups, priorities to secret political moves and treaties, absence of priority to the process of disarmament, use of science for producing destructive weapons, neglect of basic and vital issues like food, clothing, and housing, etc. Both the USA and Soviet Russia had to pay very heavily for their strategy of letting the situation of the Cold War prevail over a prolonged period. The consequence of the dissolution of Soviet Russia left the USA as the only superpower in the world.

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