For nearly 50 years, the United States and Soviet Union waged a global war of ideas fueled by politics, intrigue, and nuclear weapons. But how did the polarized ideologies of these two global powers threaten the existence of the entire world?
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The Cold War
Discover more stories like this. Like Stitcher On Facebook. Listen Whenever. Similar Episodes Related Episodes.The Cold War was waged on political, economic, and propaganda fronts and had only limited recourse to weapons. This hostility between the two superpowers was first given its name by George Orwell in an article published in The Cold War began after the surrender of Nazi Germany inwhen the uneasy alliance between the United States and Great Britain on the one hand and the Soviet Union on the other started to fall apart.
The Soviet Union began to establish left-wing governments in the countries of eastern Europe, determined to safeguard against a possible renewed threat from Germany. The Americans and the British worried that Soviet domination in eastern Europe might be permanent. The Cold War was solidified by —48, when U. Nevertheless, there was very little use of weapons on battlefields during the Cold War. It was waged mainly on political, economic, and propaganda fronts and lasted until In the late s, both the United States and the Soviet Union were developing intercontinental ballistic missiles.
In the Soviet Union began to secretly install missiles in Cuba to launch attacks on U. The confrontation that followed, known as the Cuban missile crisisbrought the two superpowers to the brink of war before an agreement was reached to withdraw the missiles. The conflict showed that both superpowers were wary of using their nuclear weapons against each other for fear of mutual atomic annihilation.
The signing of the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty followed inwhich banned aboveground nuclear weapons testing.
Still, after the crisis, the Soviets were determined not to be humiliated by their military inferiority again, and they began a buildup of conventional and strategic forces that the United States was forced to match for the next 25 years. The Cold War came to a close gradually.
Meanwhile, Japan and certain Western countries were becoming more economically independent. Increasingly complex international relationships developed as a result, and smaller countries became more resistant to superpower cajoling.
The Cold War truly began to break down during the administration of Mikhail Gorbachevwho changed the more totalitarian aspects of the Soviet government and tried to democratize its political system.
The Soviet Union collapsed in lategiving rise to 15 newly independent nations, including a Russia with an anticommunist leader. A brief treatment of the Cold War follows. For full treatment, see international relations. By the Soviets had installed left-wing governments in the countries of eastern Europe that had been liberated by the Red Army.
The Americans and the British feared the permanent Soviet domination of eastern Europe and the threat of Soviet-influenced communist parties coming to power in the democracies of western Europe. The Soviets, on the other hand, were determined to maintain control of eastern Europe in order to safeguard against any possible renewed threat from Germany, and they were intent on spreading communism worldwide, largely for ideological reasons.
The Cold War had solidified by —48, when U. The Cold War reached its peak in — In this period the Soviets unsuccessfully blockaded the Western-held sectors of West Berlin —49 ; the United States and its European allies formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization NATOa unified military command to resist the Soviet presence in Europe ; the Soviets exploded their first atomic warheadthus ending the American monopoly on the atomic bomb; the Chinese communists came to power in mainland China ; and the Soviet-supported communist government of North Korea invaded U.
From to Cold War tensions relaxed somewhat, largely owing to the death of the longtime Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in ; nevertheless, the standoff remained. Another intense stage of the Cold War was in — The United States and the Soviet Union began developing intercontinental ballistic missilesand in the Soviets began secretly installing missiles in Cuba that could be used to launch nuclear attacks on U.Part of a series on the History of the Cold War.
The period is generally considered to span the Truman Doctrine to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The term " cold " is used because there was no large-scale fighting directly between the two superpowersbut they each supported major regional conflicts known as proxy wars.
Cold War History
The conflict was based around the ideological and geopolitical struggle for global influence by the two powers, following their temporary alliance and victory against Nazi Germany in Aside from the nuclear arsenal development and conventional military deployment, the struggle for dominance was expressed via indirect means such as psychological warfarepropaganda campaigns, espionagefar-reaching embargoesrivalry at sports events and technological competitions such as the Space Race.
The West was led by the United States as well as the other First World nations of the Western Bloc that were generally liberal democratic but tied to a network of authoritarian states, most of which were their former colonies. The US government supported right-wing governments and uprisings across the world, while the Soviet government funded communist parties and revolutions around the world.
As nearly all the colonial states achieved independence in the period —they became Third World battlefields in the Cold War. The United States created the NATO military alliance in in apprehension of a Soviet attack and termed their global policy against Soviet influence containment. Following the Cuban Missile Crisis, a new phase began that saw the Sino-Soviet split between China and the Soviet Union complicate relations within the Communist sphere, while US ally France began to demand greater autonomy of action.
In the s—70s, an international peace movement took root among citizens around the world. Movements against nuclear arms testing and for nuclear disarmament took place, with large anti-war protests.
The early s were another period of elevated tension. The United States increased diplomatic, military, and economic pressures on the Soviet Union, at a time when it was already suffering from economic stagnation. In the midsthe new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the liberalizing reforms of glasnost "openness", c.
Pressures for national sovereignty grew stronger in Eastern Europe, and Gorbachev refused to militarily support their governments any longer. The result in was a wave of revolutions that with the exception of Romania peacefully overthrew all of the communist governments of Central and Eastern Europe.
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union itself lost control in the Soviet Union and was banned following an abortive coup attempt in August This in turn led to the formal dissolution of the USSR in Decemberthe declaration of independence of its constituent republics and the collapse of communist governments across much of Africa and Asia.
The United States was left as the world's only superpower.The period occurred betweenthe year of the Truman Doctrine, andwhen the Soviet Union collapsed. Alternatively, if you would like to learn about the conflict in video form, check out this nine-minute explainer video.
It was also agreed that the German capital Berlin would be divided into four zones. The plan was rejected outright by Stalin and any Eastern Bloc country considering accepting aid was reprimanded severely.
Consequently the aid was only given to Western European Countries. This meant that those living in Western Berlin had no access to food supplies and faced starvation. March 5th Death of Stalin Joseph Stalin died at the age of He was succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev.
July 27th Korean War The Korean war ended. It quickly gathered momentum and on 24th October Soviet tanks entered Budapest. The tanks withdrew on 28th October and a new government was formed which quickly moved to introduce democracy, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion.
The Soviet tanks returned on 4th November encircling Budapest. Hungary fell to Russia on 10th November October 30th Suez Crisis Following military bombardment by Israeli forces, a joint British and French force invaded Egypt to regain control of the Suez Canal which had been nationalised by the Egyptian leader Nasser.
The attack was heavily criticised by World leaders, especially America because Russia had offered support to Egypt.
The British and French were forced to withdraw and a UN peace keeping force was sent to establish order. The attempt failed. President Kennedy set up a naval blockade and demanded the removal of the missiles.
War was averted when the Russians agreed on 28th October to remove the weapons. The United States agreed not to invade Cuba. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the murder but there has always been speculation that he was not a lone killer and that there may have been communist or CIA complicity. He was replaced by Leonid Brezhnev. When he refused to halt his programme of reforms Dubcek was arrested. November 4th Iranian hostage crisis A group of Iranian students and militants stormed the American embassy and took 53 Americans hostage to show their support for the Iranian Revolution.
He also advocated free elections and ending the arms race. The death count is unknown. August Poland Tadeusz Mazowiecki elected leader of the Polish government — the first eastern bloc country to become a democracy October 23rd Hungary Hungary proclaimed itself a republic November 9th Fall of the Berlin Wall The Berlin wall was torn down November 17th — December 29th Velvet Revolution The Velvet Revolution, also known as the Gentle Revolution, was a series of peaceful protests in Czechoslovakia that led to the overthrow of the Communist government.
It is seen by some as the beginning of the end of the cold war.Instead, they opposed each other in conflicts known as proxy wars, where each country chose a side to support. Most of the countries on the other side were allied in the Warsaw Pact whose most powerful country was the Soviet Union.
The Western Bloc was the name of the capitalist countries led by the United States. The new government in Russia was a democratic socialist government. Unfortunately, it was ineffective, and people were still unhappy. In Novembera communist group called the Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin overthrew the new government.
They were supported by groups of workers called Soviets. However, not everyone supported the communists. The White Army was not very united or organized. The start of the Cold War in was due to a belief that all governments would become either communist or capitalist.
The Western allies feared that the Soviet Union would use force to expand its influence in Europe, and was especially concerned that Soviet agents had obtained information on making the Atom Bomb after the war. Both groups of nations had opposed Nazi Germany. The Soviet Union had sporadically co-operated with Germany and shared in the division of Poland inbut Germany turned against the Soviet Union in June with Operation Barbarossa. The victorious Allies that occupied it split it into four parts.
In the western half of Germany, one part was given to the United States, one to the United Kingdom, and one to France. The city of Berlin was also split among the four countries, even though it was entirely within the Eastern half. It was a capitalist democracy.
West Berlin was considered a part of the country. It was a communist dictatorship. The United States and its allies supplied the city through airplanes until September in what became known as the Berlin Airlift.
Many East Germans wanted to live in West Germany due to its greater quality of life and political freedoms. Thus, inthe East German government built the Berlin Wall, dividing the two halves of the city.
It was heavily guarded to prevent people from escaping to the West. Espionage"spying" has been around for a long time, and was very important during the Cold War. Catching foreign spies was among KGB functions, as well as fighting domestic subversion.All rights reserved.
Between and the United States, the Soviet Union, and their allies were locked in a long, tense conflict known as the Cold War. Though the parties were technically at peace, the period was characterized by an aggressive arms race, proxy wars, and ideological bids for world dominance.
The term cold war had existed since the s, when it was used to describe increasingly fraught relationships between European countries. Inshortly after the United States used the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, writer George Orwell used the term in an essay that explored what the atom bomb meant for international relations.
The Truman Doctrineas it was called, was the first salvo in a decades-long containment policy in which the U. Byboth countries had missile defenses pointed at one another. That year, the Cuban Missile Crisis brought both countries closer to actual conflict than any other event in the Cold War.
Multiple proxy wars stood in for actual conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Korean WarVietnam Warand a number of other armed conflicts, during which both sides either funded one side of the war or fought directly against a communist or capitalist force, are all considered Cold War proxies. Both sides also funded revolutions, insurgencies, and political assassinations in Central America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Though the Cold War ended with the dissolution of the Soviet bloc in the s and the fall of the Soviet Union init still affects modern geopolitics.
As the last remaining superpower, the U. NATO, an alliance between the U. Today, increased tensions between Russia and the West have been referred to as a second Cold War. Culture Explainer. The year standoff between the West and the U. Some say another could be starting as tensions with Russia rise. Read Caption. President John F.
From Allies to Adversaries
Kennedy, on a department store television inannounces the Cuban blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a defining moment in the Cold War.
Instead of your usual battles, these two bozo-countries participated in "proxy wars" by supporting allied nations in numerous "hot" wars—like KoreaVietnamand Angola—and playing lots of head games. The Cold War defined both countries' foreign policies through the second half of the 20th century. Both Americans and Soviets competed for allies to maintain and widen their respective spheres of influence around the world and each side viewed the Cold War as a battle between civilizations.
For more than 40 years, the Soviet-American conflict hung heavy over global affairs, shaping the world with massive military buildups, a never-ending nuclear arms race, intensive espionage, and fierce technological competition as each side tried to gain the upper hand in preparation for the thermonuclear "hot war" all humans feared would someday come.
The joyous victory celebrations that marked the end of World War II had barely ended before that war's greatest victors—the United States and Soviet Union—found themselves locked in a terrifying new conflict. These were the questions that haunted American life in the second half of the twentieth century, as the Cold War shaped every aspect of American society—its politics, its military and diplomacy, its education system, its culture, even its highway system.
The decades-long standoff between American capitalists and Soviet communists ended peacefully, with the sudden dismantling, from within, of the Soviet empire after America prevailed.
But just because the long conflict ended happily doesn't mean it should soon be forgotten. The lessons learned while staving off nuclear holocaust during the Cold War may yet prove vital to the survival of humanity on this planet.
Timothy W. European youth, however, preferred American rock and roll to its philharmonic concerts. Little Richard, Here's Little Richard Little Richard's electric debut rock and roll album, Here's Little Richard was an American cultural export scooped up by European youths—even by teens in East Germany and the Soviet Union, who at the height of the Cold War risked angering their countries' oppressive rulers by listening to the enemy's music of youthful rebellion.
Bob Dylan, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan Many of the songs on this record were inspired by the general fear of nuclear war that had defined Dylan's generation.
A-Bomb Aftermath Hiroshima after the atomic bombing of August Trinity The first atomic bomb test, code name Trinity, occurred in New Mexico in