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What Was The Cold War?

Russian Defection Korean Soldiers

It started at the end of WWII when Russia pushed the Nazi’s back across eastern Europe to Berlin and then never left the countries they occupied – parking around 60 armored tank divisions in Eastern Europe along the border with Western Europe in 1945, near the close of WWII. This left the other allied countries like the United States, Great Britain and France worried that the Russian Red Army might keep going and take the rest of Europe. And if they did, who would stop them? Joseph Stalin’s communist reign in the Soviet Union set up left wing, communist puppet governments in the Eastern European countries they continued to occupy. With a Marxist-Leninist ideology, they vowed to overthrow and bring an end to all capitalism. It’s no wonder the U.S. and its allies feared the spread of communist revolution beyond the USSR’s border. 


President Harry Truman’s promised U.S. support to any country threatened by the Soviet Union. This promise continued in following administrations and evolved into a policy of containment. The theory was, if any more countries fell under communist control that surrounding countries were likely to fall as well. This led the United States to enter into wars in Korea, Vietnam, and other Cold War conflicts in an effort to contain communism. These wars became known as proxy wars because they were waged by both the U.S. and USSR through their support of other factions that fought the war. This support was in the form of weapons, money and supplies and, sometimes troops, but USSR and U.S. troops never officially fought each other directly in combat. 


The arms race of the Cold War was the result of the Soviet Union spending more on its military than any other country. They were spending twice that of the U.S., and they were far outnumbering the U.S. with mechanized infantry, tanks, artillery, fighter aircraft and strategic bombers. Both sides were in a race to develop nuclear weapons after WWII, using spies and espionage to steal secrets from one another. Both sides ended up with nuclear weapons and the long range ICBM missiles to deliver those weapons to one another’s country. As tensions rose between the U.S. and USSR, so did the threat of nuclear war. Neither the Soviet Union nor the United States officially declared war on the other as the arms race continued. 


Then in 1991 the corrupt communist system of the Soviet Union collapsed under its own weight of government bureaucracy. Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had implemented a series of reforms over the previous years, in an attempt to clean up the system, to make it more efficient with less corruption and less centralized control from Moscow. This led to outlying Soviet states in the southern Caucasus region, along with the Soviet states on the Baltic Sea, to secede from the union and caused a domino effect with the rest of the Soviet states following suit. The mighty Soviet empire collapsed almost overnight.

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