International relations were very much influenced by the cold war that dominated the international scene, particularly after World War II. The two great conflicts of the second half of the twentieth century are the discord between East and West and the clash between the rich nations of the North and the developing nations of the South. The former is popularly termed as the cold war and is a subject of discussion in this article. The North-South conflict will be dealt with in one of the subsequent chapters. Here we’ll talk about the Causes of the Cold War.

A new international system emerged after the Second World War that was characterized by the domination of two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, and the rise of the newly independent states due to rapid decolonization. These two superpowers divided the world into two blocs. East consisted of the communist nations in general, especially the Soviet Union and its political and military allies in Eastern Europe.

West comprised non-communist nations led by the United States, whose principal partners are the advanced industrial societies of Western Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The term “free world” was also often employed to describe the non-communist world.

The free world included the West and various economically less developed nations linked to the United States in mutual defense arrangements. Later on, this term was discarded as a misnomer because many free world countries pursued authoritarian policies. The division of the world into two rival blocs, i.e., East and West, was referred to as Bipolar World in International relations terminology. This bi polarization had led to a situation of the cold war. The very formation of two factions has given rise to war tension, and this tension was named the cold war.

Meaning And Nature:

Relations between the United States and the USSR were no doubt strained and hostile even before World War II, yet they were characterized as a cold war around 1947. Bernard Baruch, an American statesman, first gained the term cold war. In an address in Columbia, South Carolina, on April 16, 1947, a month after the Truman Doctrine’s declaration had said, Let us not be deceived today we are in the midst of the cold war.1 The term was taken up by Walter Lippmann to describe the tension and conflict in the US and the USSR’s bilateral relationship in post World War ii period.

In international relations, a cold war indicates a state of constant conflict and strife, suspicion and mistrust, antagonism, and hostility maintained and perpetuated without a direct armed confrontation between the adversaries. The cold war is not a state of armed struggle, but such a state in which the rivals keep their peacetime diplomatic relations intact and continue their hostility. Both the antagonists adopt all means other than the war to weaken each other.

It is not an armed war but a diplomatic and ideological war. It is fought using political propaganda; that is why it is called a propaganda war. The cold war is not an actual war, but the danger of such a hot war is always imminent. In short, it can be defined as a state of intense diplomatic, political, economic, and ideological struggle short of armed belligerency and clash.

The cold war is called a diplomatic struggle between the two superpowers after the second world war for world supremacy or an expression of two incompatible ways of life: democracy and totalitarian communism. The tense atmosphere of division, distrust, and suspicion between the two power blocs in general and between the two superpowers, in particular, is the existence of the tense atmosphere of division.

In other words, the tense and hostile relations that developed between the capitalist countries led by the United States and the communist nations headed by the Soviet Union in the years after the Second World War came to be popularly known as the cold war in this tense atmosphere of division, distrust, and discord the superpowers engaged themselves in military preparedness, arms race, pacts, alliances creating a sphere of influence and polarizing the world.

The cold war was focused mainly on political controversies, particularly on the military and national security issues that divided East and West into contending factions. In the words of Kegley and Wittkopf, The East-West conflict is essentially a struggle among those at the top of the international hierarchy for per eminent status, with each side seeking to protect its own position while gaining an advantage in its relations with, and often at the expense of, the other.2

Origin Of Cold War:

Regarding the origin of the cold war, there are different opinions.

First, the Cold War seeds were sown with the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 in Soviet Russia. Second, the cold war had shown its earlier signs a little before the end of World War II. The third and widely prevalent version is that it started soon after the end of.

Second World War. It is difficult to accept anyone’s view in its entirety because each has some element of truth. All three views are being discussed below in some detail.

  1. Origin with Bolshevik Revolution

The roots of the strained relations between Soviet Russia and the West go back to the very hour of birth of the former in 1917, when the Western nations, including the USA, intervened in the civil war in Russia in aid of a counter-revolution which might nip communism in the bud.

The United States had not even extended diplomatic recognition to the Soviets until 1933. Though workable relations between them were gradually established, their mutual suspicion deterred both from coming together against their common enemy Nazi Germany at the outbreak of the Second World War. Shortly before Hitler attacked Poland, a nonaggression pact was signed between Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany.

Hitler’s sudden attack on Russia in June 1941 compelled it to come to the side of the West. Communist Russia’s heroic sacrifices, which paved the way for the Allied victory, seemed to inspire in Allies a feeling of genuine admiration and sympathy towards her and usher a new era of cooperation between East and West.

Seeing the strange alliance between the traditional enemies during the Second World War, many optimists were certain that the continuance would maintain future peace after hostilities ceased the unity that prevailed during the difficult war years. The optimism that unity and cooperation among the erstwhile warring nations would become a permanent feature after the war was belied.

The world was divided into two distinct political entities, and thus, the cold war and bi polarization became an accomplished fact. Thus, notwithstanding the cooperation between the two forced by the World War, traditional suspicion and old enmity revamped and repeated in the immediate postwar period as the two superstates’ predominant power fulled their suspicions of each other.

  1. Origin Little before the End of World War II

Another view of recent origin maintains that the cold war began on the eve of the Second World War. According to this view, the cold war was caused by atomic diplomacy during the last year of the World War. As it became clear that the Allied side would win and the Axis powers would be defeated, the common interest keeping the Allied powers together began to weaken, and old suspicion between them resurfaced. The Western powers the USA, Britain, and France had combined with the Soviet Union intending to defeat the common enemy, the Nazis and Fascists. Once it became clear to them that the enemy’s defeat was inevitable, their old enmity with the Soviet Union reappeared. However, they did not terminate the alliance with it before the final surrender of the enemy.

During the course of the war, the US was busy developing a nuclear bomb in cooperation with Britain. Even though Russia was their wartime, they kept secret from Moscow. The US’s failure to take the Soviet Union into confidence about its nuclear project made Moscow distrust the US’s ulterior motive and design and its capitalist allies. Its traditional suspicion about them was regenerated.

The dropping of atom bombs by the US on Japan in August 1945 further strengthened this old suspicion. After Germany’s defeat, the war in Europe was almost over, and the whole attention of the Allied powers was directed at Japan, which was still fighting in the East. So the Allied side prepared the war strategy against Japan, and a date was fixed when the US and the USSR would attack Japan from the South and the North, respectively. But before the reaching of Soviet forces in Japan, the US, in violation of the above-agreed strategy with Russia, dropped two atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and forced the Japanese government to surrender.

Thus the war against Japan was over before the fixed date, and Japan surrendered before the US forces and not before the USSR. The US became its sole conqueror and administered it for some years. The Russians felt that they were betrayed by the US, which did not want the German occupation experience in Japan. (Germany was occupied by four Allied powers the US, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union).

Moscow interpreted that the US action in Japan was not dictated by the need to swiftly end the war. It was perhaps a part of the conspiracy of the capitalist countries against the communist world. Thus the making of atom bombs in a clandestine manner and subsequently it’s dropping over Japan by the US not only took the world by surprise but was interpreted by the Soviet Union as a strategy of blackmail to overawe the communists and to prove the superiority of the armed power of the capitalists.

  1. Origin After World War II

Those who believe that the cold war was a post-war phenomenon trace its origin to the secret cable of George Kennan, the US Ambassador to the Soviet Union, to the Department of State in February 1946. Here Kennan pleaded for a stronger attitude toward the Soviet Union. Based on this important cable, the then Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, formulated a new policy of containment about the Soviet Union, followed by the US in the post-war period. Simultaneously, Kennan was recalled to Washington to head the Department of State’s Policy Planning Staff to provide an intellectual framework for the new American foreign policy.

Though American in form and content, the cold war was officially declared by a British statesman, Winston Churchill. He Was out of office since July 1945. He addressed the Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, on March 5, 1946. President Truman presided over this meeting. Though Churchill spoke as a private citizen, his words greatly impacted subsequent international relations. He observed A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory.

Nobody knows what Soviet Russia and its Communist international organization intend to do in the immediate future. From Stetting in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.3

As a result, the wartime alliance had come to an end. He emphasized that Russian understood nothing but force. At any rate, the Fulton speech called for an open termination of the policy of alliance with the Soviet Union and the assumption of the Anglo-American domination of the post-War World. About this speech, Trygve Lie, the first Secretary-General of the United Nations, observed.

In retrospect, it is evident that Winston Churchill’s Fulton speech was the forerunner of the Western policy that a year later produced the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. Soon after that, the North Atlantic Treaty. Professor Fleming has also remarked. If, too, there is a Third World War, Churchill’s Missouri speech will be the primary document in explaining its origins.

His was the first full-length picture of a Red Russia out to conquer the world. It Preconditioned many millions of listeners for a giant new cordon sanitarian around Russia, for a developing world crusade to smash world communism in the mm of Anglo Sam democracy. Containing growing Soviet trim and communism in the Balkans in the post-war years triggered the cold war.

It is obvious from the above discussion that it is difficult to give precise timing of the Cold War’s genesis. At best, this broad approximation is that its seed, which was sown immediately after the October Revolution 1917, germinated by the end of World War ll and blossomed in the post-Wald War II period in full view of the world.

Causes Of The Cold War:

Regarding the causes of the cold war, scholars and hm are not unanimous. These causes are broadly divided into two groups, i. e orthodox and revisionist. According to Wow’s view, the Soviet Union is squarely responsible for the Cold War’s initiation war. It forcibly established a communist regime in East European countries during the post-World War II period in violation of its agreement with the Western Allied powers. Whereas revisionists argue that the United States that emerged as a superpower among the Western nations was responsible for the cold war. Besides, these broad groups were responsible factors accounting for the cold war. All these are explained below.

Orthodox View The USSR Responsible:

Faux Pas which were committed by me the Soviet Union and which annoyed the US and Western pawns are animated asunder:

  1. Russian unwillingness to allow democratic elections in the territories liberated from the  Nazis and superimposing communist governments there, especially in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Albania, and East Germany.
  2. Russia’s refusal to withdraw her forces from Iran, whereas Britain and the USA withdrew their forces.
  3. Soviet Union’s pressure on Greece and Turkey by supporting subversive activities of communists there.
  4. The Soviet Union destroyed German industries transferred costly German machines to Russia as reparation. Adversely affecting the already ruined German economy. Britain and the USA had to Spend huge amounts for the recovery of the German economy.
  5.  Refusal by Soviet leaders to help in post-war reconstruction in regions outside Soviet control.
  6. Their maintenance of an unnecessarily large post-war armed force.
  7. Discontinuation of supplies from Soviet areas of occupation.
  8. Their selfish and often obstructive behavior in newborn international organizations.
  9. Perhaps most unacceptable for the US, their anti-American propaganda and propagating communist ideology promised to destroy the American type of economic and political system.
  10. The orthodox also accuse Stalin of being a man of suspicious nature. Because of his suspicious nature, the Americans and Britishers were not able to convince him of their good intention and the reasons for the delay in opening up a second front against Germany. Stalin abruptly rejected Allied explanations and held that the Western delays were, in brief, interpreted as a deliberate attempt by the world’s two leading capitalist powers to destroy both of their two major ideological opponents at the same time.
  11. The orthodox argued that the predecessors of the Bolsheviks were also expansionist. As a result, they were able to build a huge empire of Russia. Therefore, they believe that Russians, by nature, are warmongers. They feel that Americans just retaliated defensively to check for any further Russian expansion.

This argument was strengthened by the unwillingness of the Soviets to withdraw the Red Army from Eastern and Central Europe after the Second World War. The Soviet Union came to be perceived as a military rival ready to invade Western Europe and acquire new satellites under Russian occupation. The apprehension on the part of the Americans was that the Soviet Union was a great threat to peace and their own power and position.

Revisionist View The USA Responsible:

The revisionist school of thought accuses America more than the USSR. After 1960 a new school of thought emerged in America, which challenged and revised the orthodox view on various grounds. That is why this school came to be known as a revisionist school. To the Soviets, causes for doubting American intentions were too many. The following actions of the US displeased the Soviet Union.

  1. The American military intervention in Russia m 1918-19, which was aimed at overthrowing the Bolshevik Revolution, was still fresh in the memory of the Soviets. They were also bitter on the score that the USA did not recognize the communist regime until 1933.
  2. Moreover, the wartime experience, instead of removing the Soviet doubts, actually aggravated them. The Soviets recalled the United States dilly-dallying before joining the war against the fascists. The American refusal to inform the Soviets of the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb, the delay in sending the Soviets promised Lend-Lease supplies, the delay in opening up the second front (causing Stalin to doubt that American policy was to let the Russians and Germans destroy each other so that the United States could then pick up the pieces from among the rubble) the American failure to inform the Soviets of wartime strategy to the extent that it informed Great Britain and the use of the atomic bomb against Japan, perhaps misunderstood as a ploy to prevent Russian involvement in Pacific peace settlement. The Russians held this use of deadly weapons unnecessary because the Allied forces could have defeated Japan even with traditional weapons after the fall of Italy and Germany. They view tint Americans used atom bombs against Japan to frighten Russia and check his expansion in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
  3. The Soviet suspicion was further deepened by certain acts of America in the post-war years. For example, the United States supported previous Nazi collaborators in American occupied countries, notably Italy, and pressurized the Soviet Union to abide by its promise to permit free elections in areas vital to Soviet national security, notably Poland.
  4. During the war, the Soviet Union had been getting American aid under the Lend-Lease Act. Still, after Germany’s defeat, President Truman abruptly canceled the Lend-Lease aid when most needed by the war-ravaged economy of Russia. Western power had also been opposing the Soviet demand for reparations. This confirmed the Soviet view that the West never wanted Russia to be stronger. Whereas the United States later designed the European recovery program known as the Marshall Plan in such a way as to ensure non-participation by the Soviet Union.
  5. During talks at Yalta, President Roosevelt agreed that the Soviet Union could install friendly governments on her Western boundaries. Therefore, it is inappropriate to contend that the Soviet Union expanded in East Europe to violate any agreement. The Soviet Union, right from Napoleonic War up to the Second World War, had always been attacked by the west. Therefore, it was in her interest to have friendly regimes in Eastern Europe. Churchill and Roosevelt recognized this in Yalta by accepting Soviet supremacy over Romania and Bulgaria.
  6. The contention held by orthodox that Russia was imposing a communist government in East European countries as a part of his expansion policy can also be repudiated on certain accounts. First, East European countries never have had before democratic governments; therefore, Russia acted against democracy was baseless. It adds fun to the orthodox view, which claims America is the protector of democracy in the world. For several times the US helped the dictatorial regimes in the various parts of the world such as the Franco regime in Spain, a coup in Chile, the undemocratic government of General Lon New of Cambodia, military dictators (Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, and Zia ul Haq) in Pakistan, the monarchical government in Saudi Arabia, etc.
  7. Regarding the USSR’s activities in Greece, Turkey, and Persia, the orthodox contention that Russia wanted to impose communist governments in these countries was also baseless. Because in Persia, the Soviet Union only wanted some oil concessions. Regarding Turkey, he wanted to access the Black Sea to the Mediterranean through Bosphorus and Dardanelles. So far as the activities of communists are concerned in Greece, he never encouraged directly or indirectly communists’ subversive activities following the October 1944 agreement with Britain.
  8. The revisionists hold President Truman largely responsible for the cold war. Had Roosevelt continued to be the President in the post-war period, the cold war could not have come to such a pass. Even as a Senator, Truman was highly opposed to communism. After becoming President, he practiced his anti-communist feelings by adopting stiff policy towards the Soviet Union. He was always believed that evil ideologies like communism, fascism, and Nazism should have been nipped in the bud. Moreover, Truman was under the influence of such bureaucrats who had strong convictions against the expanding Soviet influence in East Europe and who time and again insisted that America should assert itself against the rising tide of communism. These officials included, among others, Byrnes, Geroge Kennan, James Baruch, etc.
  9. High defense officials and generals also wanted some sort of tension to persist even after the War to have their sway over the administration. Similarly, the war industry’s vested interests used its lobby to prevail upon the US administration to pursue the above policy to keep their pot boiling.

Objective View Both are Responsible :

According to the objective view, both the superpowers are responsible for the origin of the cold war. Certain objective reasons culminated in the cold war. These are as follows :

(i) Misperceptions:

The cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union was rooted in conflicting interests and mutual misunderstanding. The cold war is described in terms of each party’s propensity to consider their own actions as virtuous and those of others malicious. These mirror images, of course, resulted in conflict and distrust. The tendency of both Soviets and Americans to have the same perception of each other: ”they are the aggressors they arm for war whereas we arm for peace they intervene in others territory to expand influence, whereas we do so to preserve the prospects for an acceptable way of life Their people are good and peace-loving, but their government exploits its people the mass of their people are really not sympathetic to the regime it cannot be trusted its policy verges on madness. To the extent that such mirror images became operative, as they probably did in the final stages of World War II and shortly thereafter, cooperation was precluded and hostility inevitable.”6

(ii) Mutual Antagonism:

The cold war is also seen as a product of mutual antagonism. The history of the Cold War origins indicates that mistrust and consequent fear were the basis of the conflict. Stalin was as cautious of the Americans as they were of him. Hostile actions by one power were retaliated by the other. Threats and the suspicions they invariably bred caused further threats. The cold war cannot be regarded as simply the response of one peaceful nation to another’s aggression. Nor can the snapping of wartime alliance be attributed exclusively to one side. Rather, the cold war may be seen as an outcome of mutual fear and suspicion once set in motion; a conflict developed which fed upon itself, breeding hostile interactions between both parties. Thus, it was originated in mistrust Of the motives of the other side.

(iii) Ideological Incompatibilities:

Another reason for the Soviet-American conflict was ideological incompatibilities. Many Americans were apprehensive of Soviet Communist doctrine. There was a particular apprehension that communism was an expansionist, crusading ideology that brought the world revolution. As the vanguard of the presumed communist challenge, the Soviet Union was the ultimate symbol of the communist threat. Moreover, the threat was increased because communism was necessarily totalitarian and antidemocratic and, therefore, posed a real threat to freedom and liberty throughout the world.

The enemy was evil incarnate. The struggle between the USA and Soviet Russia was the struggle between good and evil, freedom and tyranny. The Americans felt that the Soviet system was an evil system in which people are deprived of liberty, equality, and fraternity ideals of democracy. The American initiative was extended to safeguard these cherished goals of humanity and democracy. So the struggle was inevitable.

The United States foreign policy became ideological. In turn, the counter ideology may be named anticommunism. Its policy became deadly against communism. Its actions highly competitive and confrontational toward the Soviet Union. This interpretation thus sees the cold war as fulled by historical antagonisms between opposed systems of belief. Like previous religious wars for men’s allegiance, this conflict was highly bitter, as ideological enemies recognize no virtue in conciliation or cooperation with adversaries.

(iv). Economic Interests:

While the Western bloc favored a capitalist economy promoting individual initiative and enterprise, the Eastern bloc stood for the state’s socialist planned economy. The Western nations are developed countries, but their development is nourished by exploiting developing countries of the third world. Naturally, if more and more third world nations have communist governments, the capitalist markets would shrink, and the availability of raw materials of developing countries would decline. It was, therefore, in the interest of Western powers to keep the third world free from the communist domination, and, if possible, make them an integral part of their economic network: Likewise, the Soviet Union and its allies were determined to deny as much as possible the capitalist penetration into the third world. They hoped that the increased shrinkage in the exploitation of the third world by capitalist countries would ultimately lead to capitalism’s doom.

(v) Objective law:

Many historians think that it is the law of nature that victorious powers always fought after the victory. After the Napoleonic war, the victorious fought among themselves over the distribution of spoils of wars. Similarly, after the Austin Persian war, France and Russia fought among themselves. A similar thing happened after the First World War. Therefore, it was quite natural that the Second World War’s victors also fight to uphold the law of nature.

(vi). Other Reasons:

The two countries’ leaders were also responsible for the cold war as they saw the world differently. They imposed on events different definitions of reality in sum; they became captives of their visions of reality. Other reasons were the emergence of a power vacuum which invited the clash, the pressures exerted on foreign policies by interest groups within each society, the impact of shifts in the climate of domestic opinion on international issues, the effects of innovation in weapon technology, and the shift in strategic balances they introduced, and the role played by military planners in each society in fomenting the conflict.7

In conclusion, it can be said that neither the United States nor the Soviet Union was solely blamed for the initiation of the cold war. Both were equally responsible as both were victims of their images and expectations. Each of the great powers felt threatened, and each had a solid reason to see the other with suspicion. All the above viewpoints and theories are only partially correct. They reveal some aspects of Soviet American rivalry, but not all. The origin of the cold war was due to multiple reasons, and no single viewpoint can embrace all of them. All the above interpretations are relevant, and some combination of them is needed to explain the beginning of this global post War phenomenon.

The Evolution Of The Cold War:

The preponderance of the cold war characterizes international relations in the post World War II  period. The evolution of the cold war in this period has not proceeded inconsistent manner. It has been marked by varying degrees of intensity. Phases of high conflict alternated with a mix of conflict and adjustment to be followed again by a phase of tension and hostility, which yielded to a phase of detente and detente, in turn, suffered a setback and capitulated to another phase of strained relations. In this way, the evolutionary curve of the cold war progressed discreetly up to the early nineties. It may be conceded that the Cold War’s characterization of the different phases is far from scientific. It is arbitrary in nature and is designed to make the process of evolution easily intelligible to a common man. How the two superpowers acted and reacted to each other during each phase are examined below.

Cautious Friendship and Breaking Alliance, 1945-46:

The end of World War II was characterized by suspicion on the part of each former ally about the other’s intentions. Part of this period exhibited the optimism that Soviets and Americans would cooperate to protect world peace. At the San Francisco conference in the spring of 1945, both worked in this direction by agreeing to the United Nations’ setting up. But with the coming to power by Truman in April 1945, the doubts began to develop and dominate. Truman abandoned Roosevelt’s policies to continue the wartime alliance with the Soviets in the form of post-war harmony. Truman’s statement that if the Russians did not wish to join us. They could go to hell irked not only the Soviet Union but also indicated the shift in the American mood. During this brief interlude, vacillation, ambivalence, doubts, and uncertainty marked the two powers’ behavior. They became increasingly hopeless about the prospects for avoiding confrontation, notwithstanding occasional efforts at accommodation. During this brief spell, their relations embittered greatly.

In this period, the Soviet Union imposed communist regimes in Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Yugoslavia. It adopted a policy of liquidating the democratic political parties and crushing democratic institutions. Again, the Soviet Union violated the Balkan agreement (concluded between Churchill and Stalin in 1944) regarding the joint sphere of influence of the Soviet Union and Britain over Hungary and Yugoslavia. By military intervention, the Soviet Union established communist governments throughout the Balkan region after the war. After putting Eastern Europe behind the iron curtain, the Soviet Union attempted to spread its communist tentacles in West Europe. America could not afford to be a silent spectator to the growing Soviet influence and expansion.

Mutual Hostility and Intense Conflict, 19464953:

In this phase, the cold war took its complete shape, and there was always a danger of its becoming hot. It was an era of intense hostility and conflict. During this phase, the cold war was largely based upon George F. Kennan’s thesis. He thought that the Soviet strength was on the decline. If strong external pressure could be organized, the Red regime would fall like a house of cards. Each side misinterpreted the words and deeds of the other. In February 1946, Stalin gave a speech in which he spoke of the inevitability of conflict with the capitalist powers. He urged that the Soviet people not be deluded that the end of the Var meant that the nation could relax. Rather, intensified efforts were needed to strengthen and defend the homeland.8

Immediately after this, Kennan, an American diplomat in Moscow, sent to Washington his famous long telegram assessing the motivations of the Soviet leadership. Thus Kennan made what eventually became a repeated and accepted view: In these circumstances, it is clear that the main element of any United States policy towards the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.9

In this way, the policy of containment was formulated in the US. It asserted that the Soviet Union should not be given any more opportunity for expansion. The American atomic monopoly offered military logic for this line of thought.


The containment policy was enforced by direct military and economic intervention to save threatened American allies Greece and Turkey through the Truman Doctrine of March 12, 1947, and by the economic integration and rationalization of the West European Powers by the Marshall Plan of June 5, 1947. Economically, the West European Powers were securely rehabilitated through the generous Marshall Aid. Anticommunist hysteria was deliberately fostered throughout the world. Containment policy or myth remained one of the guiding principles on which American foreign affairs were based for many years. There was an American tendency to view instability anywhere as a Soviet conspiracy. This way, various situations were defined as cold war incidents, including the Soviet refusal to withdraw troops from Iran, the Communist coup detente in Czechoslovakia, the Berlin Blockade in 1948, the formation of NATO in 1949, and most importantly, the acquisition of power by the Communist Chinese on the mainland and the Korean War and Taiwan Straits crises which followed. The United States continued its military and economic offensive measures against the Soviet Union. The Security Treaty between Australia, New Zealand, and the United States (ANZUS) (September 1, 1951), the Japanese? Each Treaty (September 8, 1951) was entered into in this period. Thus, the US intensified her ideological offensive, sponsored many military alliances, and encouraged arms race during this period.

In 1950, the cold war also reached from Europe to Asia. The Korean War (1950-53) was, in fact, a direct conflict between the superpowers. North Korea was fighting with Soviet weapons and Chinese troops, while the USA, in the name of the UN force, was fighting on behalf of South Korea. This war certainly contained the Third World War seed, but it was terminated through an armistice.

The Soviet Union interpreted all the above developments through a similar set of perceptual and biased lenses, seeing American actions as a series of attempts to encircle the Soviet Union and eventually attack. On its part, the Soviet Union reacted to these dangerous developments and strengthened the security measures and control. It successfully exploded the atom bomb and established a communist regime in China in 1949. Hence, the relationship between the two powers was not merely cold, but it was one of overt hostility and confrontation. Both the United States and the Soviet Union remained busy in power politics with a vengeance. Both pursued the same goal minimizing the other’s influence and setting at naught the opponent’s presumed efforts to win the world.

Apparent Conflict, Actual Adjustment, 1953-62:

This phase is to be studied because, by 1949, the Soviet Union had succeeded in making the atom bomb and thereby ending America’s atomic monopoly. In 1953 Stalin passed away, and with his demise, an important force aggravating the cold war was removed. Khrushchev, the new premier, adopted a policy of peaceful coexistence. Both sides, particularly the United States, talked as if the war was imminent. Still, in deeds, both acted with increasing caution and restraint and scrupulously avoided the hot war and armed clashes.
During this period, the US organized the South East Asian Treaty Organization  (SEATO) on September 8, 1954, and the Middle East Defense Organization on February 24, 1955. Through the Eisenhower Doctrine of 1954, she extended the Truman Doctrine to cover the entire Middle East. The US became a party to defense treaties with 43 states, involving over a third of the world’s population. She established a network of about 3,300 military bases to surround the Soviet territory. This period also witnessed the beginning of the Vietnam crisis (1955) involving both the powers, especially America. The crisis lasted till 1975.

During this period, the Soviet Union did not lag in strengthening its political and military might. The Soviet Union concluded the Warsaw Treaty with East European communist states on May 14, 1955. The Warsaw Pact was a befitting reply to NATO’s inclusion of West Germany. The Soviet Union entered into defense treaties with 12 states. It also frustrated the American attempt to provoke a counter-revolution in Hungary in 1956. To promote the economic integration of East Europe, it formed the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance (COMB CON or C.M.E.A) on December 14, 1959.

Obviously, under the US instructions, the Western powers established a fully sovereign Federal Republic of Germany on May 5, 1955. The Potsdam restrictions on arms were removed from West Germany. The Soviet answer was the formation of the German Democratic Republic in October 1955. In this way, Germany was partitioned into two sovereign states due to the cold war.

Calvocoressi rightly observed: In the fifties, both sides cold War exploded a thermonuclear or hydrogen bomb, the Americans in November 1952, and the Russians nine months later. Despite the Russian advances, the Americans retained their supremacy until about 1953 owing to their superior capacity to deliver, by aircraft or rockets, the atomic weapons which both sides now possessed. The Russians, however, rapidly developed their means of delivery so that a mutual deterrence ruled the mid-fifties.10

Not only this, the Soviet Sputnik opened up a new space age in October 1957. These two developments brought a new positive turn in the cold war. It was realized that the hope of victory in a nuclear war was a myth. Consequently, the concept of nuclear deterrence developed that contributed to the partial restoration of stability in international relations.

The above developments initiated co-existence and adjustments among the rival powers and brought them to a negotiating table at the Geneva Summit of 1955. Eisenhower and Bulganin exchanged assurances that nuclear warfare had no rational purpose and that neither USA nor the USSR was interested in beginning such a war. Although the first summit did not produce any effective result, it raised new hopes in creating a dialogue between the superpowers. ”Geneva spirit” was a clearing diction of a new phase in states’ relations since the beginning of the cold war in 1945.

In the Suez Crisis of 1956, there was an agreement between the USA and the USSR, and the former refused to support her close allies Britain and France. Thus, the West Asian crisis could not erupt into a major crisis owing to the behavioral accommodation of two Super Powers. Khrushchev paid a historic visit to the United States in 1959, and it was hoped that the cold war would now come to an end. Agreement for a Paris Summit to be held in May 1960 to discuss the Berlin problem showed a clear departure from the cold war spirit of 1946. The Antarctica Treaty of 1959 was another indicator of this departure. But the U-2 aircraft incident, two weeks before the Paris Summit’s commencement, once again resumed hostility. Khrushchev declined to participate in the Summit, and on his suggestion, the negotiations were suspended pending the change in administration in Washington (in 1951).

But this dangerous tendency was partly stayed by the Vienna meeting of Khrushchev and President Kennedy in l961. Though both leaders could not agree on German and other questions, this meeting proved to be a fruitful reversal of the bitter consequences of the U-2 incident.

The climax of the Berlin crisis came, when on August 13, 196La 25 miles long Berlin Partition Wall was erected to check refugees fleeing from East Berlin to West Berlin. The Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) literally brought the two superpowers on the brink of a nuclear showdown. However, the crisis was averted by an agreement between Khrushchev and Kennedy, in which the Soviet Union agreed to withdraw the missile base in exchange for the American guarantee never to invade Cuba.

President Eisenhower and his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, talked of a rollback of the iron curtain and the liberation of Eastern Europe. They denounced the allegedly soft and restrained containment doctrine of Truman. They apparently promised to launch an ambitious ”winning” strategy that would end the confrontation with godless communism for good. But actually, communism was not rolled back in Eastern Europe, and the astringent foreign policy initiative did not replace containment.

This phase is also known for Dulles’s advocacy of brinkmanship and his throat of massive retaliation, through which he hoped to compel the Soviets into submission. Although reciprocal antagonism continued, a showdown was always avoided.

Thaw in the Cold War, 1963-68:

This phase was marked by a deeper appreciation by the Super Powers of the utter futility of nuclear war strategy. Notwithstanding the misting of ideological estrangement, and the assumptions that supported them (including the idea that the struggle between East and West was irreconcilable) and the fact that this period began immediately after the Cuban missile crisis and witnessed the dangerous Vietnam conflict as well as a grim arms race, there was a definite thaw in the cold war. Along with these recurrences of cold war politics, there were signs of the origin of detente.

Some of the burning problems were resolved, for example, with tacit acceptance by the United States of a divided Germany and Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe. The precedent for communication established at Geneva and later at the 1959 Camp David meeting was followed by the installation of the hotline in 1963 linking the White House and the Kremlin with a direct communication line the Glassboro summit meeting (1967), and negotiated agreements, such as the Partial Test Ban Treaty (1963), the Outer Space Treaty (1967), and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (1968).

At the American University in 1963, President Kennedy hinted at the need for bringing down tensions :

Today, should total war ever break out again no matter how our two countries would become The primary targets. It is an ironical but accurate fact that the two strongest powers are the two in the most danger of devastation . We are both caught up in a vicious and dangerous cycle in which suspicion on one side breeds suspicion on the other and new weapons beget counter weapons.

In short, both the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race.

So let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.11

Kennedy did not initiate a major change in Soviet American relations, but this much he surely indicated a shift in America’s attitude towards its Opponent.

As against it, the Soviet Union also harped upon the policy of peaceful coexistence between capitalism and socialism. Kegley and Wittkopt rightly observe: Admittedly, those token moves were a far cry from sustained cooperation between the ideological antagonists, but they did signal a departure from the posture of confrontation that had previously typified Soviet American relations. However, cooperative behavior was evident, intermittent and fleeting, amidst a pattern of continued competition for advantage and influence.12

Detente, 1969-1978:

This phase was marked by the decline of the cold war and the rise of detente. Relations between the USA and the USSR became quite normal, and visits, cultural exchanges, trade agreements, and cooperative technological ventures replaced threats, warnings, and confrontation. This could have been possible only with coming to power of President Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry A. Kissinger. Their policy towards, Soviet American relations was officially termed as detente in 1969. The Soviets also embraced the term to describe their attitude towards the United States.
As a peace strategy and diplomatic doctrine, detente was g designed, in the words of Kissinger, to create an environment in which competitors can regulate and restraint their differences and ultimately move from competition to cooperation.13

The age of detente was characterized by a continuation of rival superpowers’ efforts to reduce tension, diminish distrust, and increase accommodation that was already underway. Factors accounting for detente and how this process proceeded will be dealt with in detail in a subsequent chapter. Major important events contributing to the improvement of relations and lessening of tensions and arms race were: signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) in 1972, holding off 35 Nation European Security Conference in Helsinki in July 1973, and organizing of Review Conference on European Security Conference in Belgrade in 1977. However, certain irritants persisted. For example, the US favored armed build-up in Iran to counteract Russia’s growing influence in the Middle East.

It also moved to convert Diego Garcia into a military base. During the Bangladesh crisis, the US sided with Pakistan and Russia with India. Similarly, in the 1973 Egypt Israel war, the USSR sided With Egypt and the USA with Israel. But both the superpowers avoided militarily involve themselves in these conflicts.

New Cold War, 1979-1987:

Despite the positive development of detente in the previous phase, it could not be continued. Certain events of 1978 and 1979 resulted in a decline in the process of detente. Once again, bitterness and antagonism raised their head. As superpower relations in 1978 again became sore, some experts began to observe that the two states were moving into a post detente era perhaps best termed as Cold War II or New Cold War. Confrontation rather than accommodation once again became the dominant mode of interaction between the two powers. Their relations were definitely strained, and they accused and threatened each other.

The difficulties in negotiating the SALT II agreement revealed that substantial differences still existed between the superpowers. However, in June 1979, President Carter and President Brezhnev signed SALT II, limiting nuclear weapons expansion till December 1985. But US Senate refused to ratify the treaty owing to Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan in late 1979.


Moreover, continued high levels of Soviet military spending, Soviet ”adventurism” in Africa and elsewhere, and Soviet military forces in Cuba were seen by the US administration with suspicion. In El Salvador (Central America), where the USA intervened, and the Soviets, Cubans, Nicaraguans were accused of involvement in the clandestine supply of arms to insurgents to impose Marxist Leninist dictatorship there. The Carter administration also spearheaded a global campaign in favor of human rights that irked and annoyed the Soviet leaders and gave them cause to question American intentions.

These happenings were interpreted in diverse ways. To some, they indicated the death of detente. To others, they

signaled the threat of a third world war. While still others, it was not a matter of serious concern and anxiety. But to all, these developments served as a telling remember that suspicion between the two superpowers is ever-present; maybe Open may be disguised.

End of Cold War and Revival of Detente, 1987 onwards:

Out of the three interpretations described in the previous paragraph, the third one proved correct as the new cold war did not last long, and the process of detente revived. In 1985 when Gorbachev came to power, he presented a ”new political thinking” to the world. Initially, America was skeptical about Gorbachev’s intentions of improving relations with the US and the West. Gradually, America realized Gorbachev’s sincerity of purpose. The summit level talks between the President of two superpowers that were discontinued in the wake of the Afghanistan crisis in 1979 were resumed in November 1985. Ever since there has been a series of such summits as an annual feature creating a conducive atmosphere favoring cordial Soviet American relations and reducing armed race Geneva Accord on Afghanistan was signed in 1987. Subsequently, Soviet troops were withdrawn from Afghanistan. The same year with the signing of the INF treaty between the two superpowers, detente was revived. With the collapse of communist regimes in East Europe in 1989, the East Bloc withered away.

In July 1991, the historic Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) was signed between President Gorbachev and President Bush to reduce their strategic nuclear arsenals by about 30 percent. It marked the end of the fifty-year long cold war. In February 1992, President Bush and Russian Federation President Yeltsin made a formal declaration regarding the Cold War.

Has the cold war ended permanently or is it likely to reemerge in the coming years is a matter of speculation. There are no immediate prospects of its re-emergence as the Soviet Union has been disintegrated, and its successor Russian Federation is badly mauled by internal problems. The West Asian conflict is the last remaining major legacy of half a century of the cold war, in whose solution lies the complete and of the cold war.

Impact Of The Cold War:

The cold war affected Soviet American relations and the whole gamut of international relations in the post-war period. There is hardly any aspect of international relations political, diplomatic, economic, cultural, ideological. And military that has not been influenced by Soviet American rivalry. Similarly, there is hardly any region, whether West or East Europe, South East, Far East or West Asia, Africa, or Latin America, that remained untouched by the cold war. The main impacts of this long drawn international phenomenon are discussed as under:

  1. Temporary Arrangements turned permanent:

Hartmann observed that the temporary political arrangements made during the Wartime conferences, particularly at Yalta and Potsdam, tended to become permanent as relations grew stiffer between the East and the West. In contrast, many of the proposed permanent dispositions failed to be realized. The temporary division of Germany, pending the formation of an all-German government, persisted more than twenty years later, just as did Korea’s temporary division at the 38th Parallel. Pending the final determination of her western frontier at the peace settlement, Poland was still temporarily administering parts of former East Germany.

It was only after great difficulty that the powers could even agree on the composition of the conference to pass on peace treaties for Italy and the Balkan states, although: such treaties were signed in 1946. Not until December 1955 did these states achieve their promised membership in the UN. The proposed permanent disposition for a free and independent Austria took many years, until mid-1955, to realize that free and independent Korea remained divided into pieces. These unfinished business pieces were due to the growing disharmony among allied great powers in the immediate post-war period. It took forty-five years for two German states to unite, and that too when the cold war was on its last legs.

  1. Bipolar Power Structure:

The most important impact of the Soviet American rivalry was on the world political system in the form of change in the power structure closely related to the distribution of economic and military power between the two superpowers. Immediately after the Second World War, the United States emerged as the world’s e pie eminent power. Still, this situation changed quickly as the Soviet Union became a force to be reckoned with. A new world power configuration developed that was termed as bipolar, with the United States and its allies constituting one pole, the Soviet Union and its allies the other. This power configuration roughly runs parallel with the phases of Soviet American rivalry known as mutual hostility and intense conflict, and apparent conflict, the actual adjustment

  1. Atmosphere of Bitterness:

Due to the cold war world atmosphere was marked by bitterness, doubt, and hostility. There was practically no peace in the world, although World War II had ended in 1945. Periodic crises and the threat of war Characterized the cold war days. The dream of one world with all people living in peace was gone. Great nations of the world started thinking in terms of the particular bloc to which they belonged. Instead of sitting at the UN to think of ways and means to help humanity, there had been going on wordy duels.

  1. Arms Race and Militarization:

Big powers initiated the race for acquiring more and more arms. Huge money was spent on arms and dangerous weapons, which should be more usefully spent on socio-economic development. Both sides developed thousands of powerful nuclear warheads that were capable enough of destroying the world several times. They also developed long-range missiles that could fly from one continent to another in no time. Owing to this competitive arms race, the war clouds hovered over the world for a long.

  1. Formation of Military Alliances:

Several military alliances came into existence, and an era of regional military organizations began. NATO, Warsaw Pact, CENTO, SEATO, ANZUS, etc., were formed due to the cold war. The principal European allies of the superpowers were grouped into the NATO and the Warsaw Pact Organization. With its Asian allies, the US organized CENTO and SEATO, and with Australia and New Zealand formed ANZUS. These alliances undermined the importance of UNO. Although these military organizations remained active for quite some time, they lost their cohesiveness and relevance with time.

  1. Bipolycentrism and Multipolarism:

Resurgent nationalism and renewed economic vigor made European NATO members and Warsaw Pact more vocal and assertive on some matters, especially economic issues. Thus, as the cold war moved through the thawing phase to detente, the world powers’ configuration changed from bipolarity to what may be described as polycentrism. This concept explains the continued dominance the United States and the Soviet Union exercised on military matters and the far greater flexibility that came to characterize interactions between and among First and Second World nations on non-military issues. The term multipolar signifies Britain, France, China, Japan, etc., as powerful countries, especially in the economic sphere.

  1. Rapid Decolonization:

Another impact of the East-West contest was the growth in the numbers of newly independent nations. These nations, later on, came to be known as Third World nations, and their huge number was the base of their political power. The decolonization process played out primarily since World War II was the speed by the socialist camp’s political attacks on Western imperialism and by the political alliance forged between the former and Third World nations, which effectively delegitimized colonialism as an acceptable form of political organization and control.

  1. Third World:

A Victim of the Cold War. The Third World was both an observer and a pawn in the cold war. The Third World found itself the object of superpowers courtship. The courtship assumed the form of competition for allies, of foreign aid flows often designed more to serve the donors’ political interests than the economic development goals of the recipients, and frequently of massive amounts of military assistance. Small countries of the Third World can help the main Cold Warriors in at least three ways.

They can provide bases to be part of their respective leaders’ economic system and can extend significant diplomatic support in international forums, especially in the United Nations. Although the Third World generally assumed an attitude of non-involvement in the East-West conflict, it often became the theater of the most violent conflicts in the post-war period. Not all of these conflicts were the direct outcome of Soviet American rivalry, but few were immune from it.

  1. Internationalization of Regional Conflicts:

Regional and local conflicts whose origin might have been purely local get meshed with big power rivalry, and big power patrons are either invited to the third world trouble spots, or they themselves make their way into those places in their perceived interests. Disputes between small states were unnecessarily prolonged to the advantage of big powers as these powers wanted to make capital of it. Korean war, Vietnam crisis, Afghanistan crisis, Arab Israel conflict, etc., are glaring examples to cite.

  1. Assertion by Third World:

Like European members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact and like Japan, the Third World has become more assertive on non-military matters otherwise on the periphery of the major political and military issues dividing East and West. That they have been able to do so is a function of the evolving nature Of the East-West conflict. The essential nuclear stalemate between the superpowers has produced greater flexibility in world politics because the superpowers, sensitive to the dangerous consequences of a confrontation between them, have allowed some political events to unfold without their direct intervention. This assertion not only ended the bipolar but also discouraged the cold war.

  1. Set back to Diplomacy:

Diplomacy suffered a lot during the cold war. International issues were not discussed and settled based on merit. Its affiliation influenced a nation’s approach to any international issue with this or that bloc. All serious problems, discussed in the UN and other important forums, polarize the participant nations on the Cold War perceptions. Disarmament talks were disrupted several times, owing to the cold war. Even negotiations between third world countries were vitiated by their relations with the two cold war camps.

  1. Propaganda Warfare:

There was intensive propaganda undertaken against each other by the superpowers during the course of the cold war. Both vehemently attacked the ideological beliefs of the other while perhaps becoming a prisoner of its own. They spared no international forum to censure each other. Electronic media was used extensively for this purpose. A wide range of literature was distributed freely by both sides, presenting their views to the world at large. In educational institutions of capitalist countries, communism was denounced and did not get fair treatment. Likewise, in communist countries, capitalism was painted as a pure devil. Theories and models were developed only to defend one system and condemn the other.


  1. Quoted in D. Rees, The Age of Containment: The Cold War 19451965 (London, 1967), p. 9.
  2. Charles W. Kegley, Ir. and Eugene R Wittkopf, World Politics Trends and Transformation (New York, 1981), p. 37. 3. Quoted in H. Peterson, ed., A Treasury of the World’s Great Speeches (New York, 1954), pp. 804-805.
  3. Trygve Lie, In The Cause of Peace (New York, 1954), p. 37.
  4. DR Fleming, The Cold War, and its Origins 1917-1960 (New York, 1961), vol. I, p. 350.
  5. Kegley and Wittkopf, n. 2, p. 42.
  6. Ibid., p. 45.
  7. john P. Lovell, Foreign Policy in Perspective (New York, 1970), quoted in ibid., p. 49.
  8. X, i.e., George F. Kennan “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” Foreign Affairs 25 Only, 1947), pp. 566-582.
  9. Peter Calvocoressi, World Politics Since 1945 (New York, 1985) 4th Edn., p. 19.
  10. New York Times, June 11, 1963.
  11. Op. C11, n. 2, p. 55.
  12. Quoted in ibid.

14.Fredrick H. Hartman, The Relations of Nations (New York, 1967) 3rd ed., p. 417.

  1. feature image source: The black vault.







SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Relations in addition to a Master's degree in International Security Studies. Alongside this, I have a passion for web development. During my studies, I acquired a strong understanding of fundamental political concepts and theories in international relations, security studies, and strategic studies.

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