The Cold War

Stemming from the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia with implications on world events for most of the 20th century, two superpowers teetered on the brink of nuclear war. We explore the 50 years of globally divisive conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union, which came to be known as the Cold War.

cold war

The cold war started just after the Second World War, when the Soviet Union dominated Eastern Europe. The fall-out from the war meant that an impoverished Blighty was no longer a world power, and the United States prepared to take on the responsibility of world leadership. It didn't help that deciding what to do with a fallen Germany was proving to be a bit of an issue. The Soviet Union, America and Britain battled over the future of Berlin. Of course the Berlin wall was erected at the time and became one of the most enduring symbols of the Cold War conflict.

It's always fascinating to study the history of the world's great leaders; moustachioed nutter Joseph Stalin is certainly no different. With the split between east and west becoming more defined, Stalin insisted that all of The Soviet Union's client states adopt his idea of communism, quashing all who opposed him. In the US Joseph McCarthy carried out his 'witch trials', persecuting anyone who was suspected of having communist leanings. Lines were being drawn and tension was growing.

A less violent conflict during the Cold War was the space race. In October 1957, the first Russian satellite, Sputnik, orbited the Earth. America was getting a bit peeved by its own unsuccessful space programme, and elected John F Kennedy president, who promised that, within a decade, America would put a man on the moon. This galactic competition extended well into the 1980s culminating in the notorious star wars programme, which saw Reagan and Gorbachev pouring their entire defense budgets into outer-space.

The split between East and West proved to be more wide-reaching than anyone could have predicted. America's ill-fated forays into Korea and Vietnam may have come about due to it's crusade to destroy communism, and the Americans were determined to prevent any Latin American government from embracing communism. There was also an atmosphere of mutual fear and apprehension, resulting in the development of institutions such as the KGB, FBI and MI6. It certainly gave old 007 something exciting to do.

For a war that lasted 50 years, there was certainly very little bloodshed; it could more appropriately be described as a grand scale stand off. The closest the two powers came to all-out war was during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when Khrushchev decided to site missiles in Cuba as retaliation for Kennedy's missile power in Turkey. At the time, it seemed that the world was on the verge of nuclear war, but bombing the enemy would mean provoking retaliation and destroying everything. This became known as 'mutual assured destruction'; more appropriately known as MAD. Fortunately the Cold War did end without the super powers coming to blows and since 1945, nuclear weapons have not been used in war.