Cold War

The Cold War, 1946 to 1991, resulted from tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union after WWII when Soviet troops occupied Eastern Europe and Asia and forcibly imposed totalitarian communist governments.  The successful U.S. airlift of supplies to Berlin ended the 1948 Soviet blockade but the Soviets crushed Hungary’s revolt in 1956 and Czechoslovakia’s in 1968.  Tensions escalated in 1962 when the Soviets placed nuclear missiles in Cuba.

Germany’s defeat in WWII split the country; the eastern part went to the Soviets, the western part to the U.S., Great Britain, and France. The Berlin Wall divided the country from August 13th, 1961 to November 9th, 1989.

The failed Bay of Pigs invasion, April 17th, 1961 helped to strengthen the position of Castro’s leadership. This eventually led to the Soviet Union placing missiles in Cuba.  In response, President John F. Kennedy established a naval blockade around Cuba and The Cuban Missile Crisis ended two weeks later. The United States and Soviet Union came to agreement that the Soviet Union would no longer give nuclear weapons to Cuba as long as the United States does not invade Cuba again. This was the highest period of tension during the Cold War and it was the closest the world came to a nuclear war.

After Détente (1962–1981), the agreement that ended the Cuban Missile Crisis, relations between the two sides eased. Several treaties, designed to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, were signed. During this period, the United States began building a good relationship with China, a previous ally of Russia.  The policy of détente ended in 1981, when the U.S. president Ronald Reagan ordered a massive military build-up to challenge the Soviet Union’s influence around the world.

In the late 1980s the new Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev made an effort to make an ally of the United States to fix world problems caused by the war, with the ultimate aim of eliminating nuclear weapons completely. However, this did not take place because the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, insisted on having a nuclear missile defense system. The people of the Soviet Union were divided on their feelings about this.  Mixed feelings between the leaders created an atmosphere of political in-fighting, and the people were no longer united behind one goal which caused the Communist Party to crumble and the Soviet Union collapsed.

President Ronald Reagan’s “tear down this wall” speech on June 12th, 1987 helped to set the terms for the end of the cold war and the Soviets became interested in reducing the costly arms race.  Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan sign the INF Treaty at the White House, 1987.  After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and without Communist rule holding together the countries that comprised the Soviet Union, the USSR broke into smaller countries, like Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania and Georgia. The nations of Eastern Europe returned to capitalism, and the period of the Cold War was over.

The demolition of the wall began on June 13th, 1990 and was completed in 1992.  East and West Germany’s reunification was October 3rd, 1990.  Soviet reforms proved difficult and economic changes were badly transitioned which caused the Soviet Union to collapse. The Cold War ended in 1991; for more information, click here.