The Cold War Review for AP World History
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The Beginnings of the Cold War
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill described the new postwar world order by stating that an "iron curtain" dividing free and communist governments had fallen across Europe. In order to prevent communist-dominated nations east of the Iron Curtain from spreading totalitarianism, the United States sponsored a program of European recovery known as the Marshall Plan (1947). The program provided loans to European nations to assist them in wartime recovery. The U.S. policy of containment of communism was set forth in 1947 in the Truman Doctrine. When Greece and Turkey were threatened by communism, U.S. President Truman issued his policy, which pledged U.S. support for countries battling against communism.
In 1946, Great Britain, France, and the United States merged their occupation zones into a unified West Germany with free elections. In 1947, Western attempts to promote economic recovery by stabilizing the German currency resulted in a Soviet blockade of Berlin—the divided city located within the Russian zone of occupation. For nearly eleven months, British and U.S. planes airlifted supplies to Berlin until the Soviets lifted the blockade.
Two opposing alliances faced off during the Cold War era. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), led by the United States, was founded in 1949. NATO allied Canada, the United States, and most of Western Europe against Soviet aggression. The Soviet Union responded with an alliance of its eastern European satellites: the Warsaw Pact. U.S.-Soviet rivalry intensified in 1949, when the Soviet Union developed an atomic bomb.
The Cold War escalated to military confrontation in 1950 when North Korean forces invaded South Korea. North Korea eventually received the backing of the Soviet Union and Communist China, while a United Nations coalition led by the United States supported South Korea. The Korean Conflict ended with the establishment of the boundary between the two Koreas near the original line.
The Beginnings of Decolonization
After the end of World War II, most European nations and the United States decided that their colonies were too expensive to maintain. Within the colonies, renewed nationalist sentiments led native peoples to hope that their long-expected independence would become a reality. In 1946, the United States granted the Philippines their independence. France was alone in wanting to hold on to its colonies in Algeria and Indochina.
In 1957, Ghana became the first African colony to gain its independence. By 1960, French possessions in West Africa were freed, and the Belgian Congo was granted independence. Independence movements in the settler colonies of Algeria, Kenya, and Southern Rhodesia took on a violent nature. By 1963, Kenya was independent; in 1962 a revolt in Algeria also had ended colonial rule in that country. Southern Rhodesia became the independent state of Zimbabwe in 1980, and in 1990, Namibia (German Southwest Africa, which had been made a mandate of South Africa in 1920) became the last African colony to achieve independence.
In South Africa, the white settler population was divided almost equally between Afrikaners and English settlers. Although the white settlers were a minority, by 1948 the Afrikaners had imposed upon South Africa a highly restrictive form of racial segregation known as apartheid. Apartheid prohibited people of color from voting and from having many contacts with whites. The best jobs were reserved for whites only. Apartheid continued after South Africa gained its independence from Great Britain in 1961.
Egypt won its independence in the 1930s; meanwhile, the British continued to maintain a presence in the Suez Canal zone. After Egypt's defeat in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, the Egyptian military revolted. In 1952, King Farouk was overthrown; in 1954, Gamal Abdul Nasser was installed as ruler of an independent Egypt. In 1956, Nasser, backed by the United States and the Soviet Union, ended the influence of the British and their French allies in the Suez Canal zone.
In 1967, Nasser faced a decisive defeat once again in the Six-Day War with Israel. His successor, Anwar Sadat, strove to end hostilities with Israel after a nondecisive war with Israel in 1973. Sadat's policy of accepting aid from the United States and Western Europe has been continued by his successor, Hosni Mubarak, who came to power after the assassination of Sadat by a Muslim fundamentalist.
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