Cold War in Europe
|1945||United Nations founded|
|1946||Winston Churchill gives “Iron Curtain” speech; Allies divide Korea into two zones|
|1948||Marshall Plan goes into effect|
|1949||North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) founded|
|1950||Korean War begins|
|1955||Warsaw Pact signed|
|1960||Vietnam War begins|
|1961||East Germans put up Berlin Wall|
|1962||Cuban Missile Crisis|
The Cold War
World War II was over, but it did not bring peace to the world. It ushered in a new era of conflict, known as the Cold War, that would last for forty-five years. The conflict was called a “cold” war because the opponents—the United States and the Soviet Union—did not actually fire shots at one another. Instead, they maintained a hostile standoff.
The Soviet Union was the only European nation to emerge from the destruction of World War II as a superpower. By 1949, it had begun to manufacture and stockpile nuclear weapons in order to keep pace with the world’s only other superpower, the United States. With their antithetical political systems and economic policies, the United States and the Soviet Union were natural enemies; throughout the Cold War, each tried to contain the other’s sphere of influence. However, the development of nuclear weapons in the 1940s meant that both sides had to move very carefully; neither was willing to risk a nuclear holocaust that would literally destroy the world.
The former Great Powers of Europe played only secondary roles during the Cold War. The two devastating world wars had ended their era of supremacy. While the Western nations concentrated on restabilizing their societies and economies, the Eastern nations—those behind what Winston Churchill described as the “Iron Curtain” of communism—learned to survive under regulated economies and governments that were imposed on them from above.
From the Asian point of view, the term cold war is a misnomer. When civil wars erupted in Korea and Vietnam, the Soviets backed one side and the United States the other. Hundreds of thousands of civilians and soldiers died during the Korean and Vietnam wars, and neither outcome made much difference to the overall Cold War.
Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:
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