Cold War: Part I

March 18, 2018


What was Cold war?

  1. It was considered as the period of geopolitical tension, when the two superpowers that emerged after second world war instead of going for a complete war with each other went for economic sanctions, propaganda war and a general policy of non cooperation.

  2. The reason for cold war is due to distrust between the two superpowers which emerged due to the policies of US led west and Soviet led East and also largely due to the flirtation with the idea of Cold war by academic scholars.

What were the causes of Cold War?

  1. Difference of Ideologies

    1. Communism vs. Capitalism

  2. Stalin's Foreign Policy

    1. Occupation of East Europe especially Poland, Finland and Romania.

    2. Perception of Spread of Communism.

  3. Hostile attitude of West towards USSR

    1. It was agreed between West and Russia that Russia will attack Japan but to show its strength to Russia, atomic bomb was dropped on Japan even when Japan was on the brink of defeat and posed no imminent threat to the allied powers.

    2. Development of Atomic Bomb without giving information to USSR although Britain was informed.


Development of Cold War:

  1. Phase 1: 1945 - 1953: Beginning of cold war

    1. Yalta Conference, Feb 1945

      1. It was attended by Franklin Roosevelt (USA), Winston Churchill (UK) and Joseph Stalin (USSR).

      2. Important developments of the conference:

        1. It led to establishment of United Nations Organisation. (click here)

        2. It decided on division of Germany and Berlin between the two blocs.

        3. Free elections  were to be conducted in the states of Eastern Europe.

        4. Due to Stalin joining the war against Japan led to Sakhalin Islands and some territory of Manchuria to be received by Russia.

    2. Potsdam Conference, July 1945:

      1. Attended by Joseph Stalin (USSR), Harry S. Truman (USA) and Churchill (UK). Churchill was replaced by Atlee during the conference at a later stage.

      2. Important developments of the conference:

        1. No agreement was reached about long term future of Germany.

        2. Disagreement developed over Poland. Poland was run by Communist Government setup at Lublin and Stalin wanted remaining Germany to be made part of Poland. Stalin also occupied the German territory east of River Oder and River Neise.

    3. Communism established in Eastern Europe:

      1. Russia intervened in Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Albania and Romania

      2. Stalin declared in Feb 1946 - "Capitalism and Communism could never live in peace".

      3. Churchill declared, "Iron curtain has descended across the continent."

    4. Resource drain of Eastern Europe by USSR.

      1. Except Yugoslavia, USSR drained the resources of Eastern Europe for its own growth.

    5. Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan

      1. Truman’s Doctrine: “Will support free peoples who are resisting subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressure”. It was a policy for containment of Communism.

        1. Example: Communists in Greece tried overthrowing monarchy in 1944.Greece received massive amounts of arms and other supplies and by 1949 communists were defeated.

      2. Marshall Plan: Economic extension of Truman Doctrine

        1. European Economic Programme (ERP) which offered Economic and Financial help wherever needed.

        2. US and its allies justified it as, “Directed not against country or doctrine, but against, hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos”

        3. $13 billion aid given to 16 nations of western Europe in 4 years

        4. Russia called it Dollar Imperialism. Russia rejected the offer and barred its satellite states in joining it.

    6. Russian Developments:

      1. The Cominform, September 1947.

      2. Communist Information Bureau,1947.

      3. Molotov Plan,1947 : Russian aid to satellites.

      4. Comecon ( Council of Mutual Economic Assistance) set up to coordinate economic policies.

    7. Communist Takeover of Czechoslovakia, Feb 1948.


Reasons for Thaw in Relation post 1953:

  1. Death of Stalin, 1953.

    1. The next leader of USSR, Nikita Khrushchev believed in the philosophy of  “Peaceful coexistence”.

  2. JosephMcCarthy Discredited(US).

    1. He was an American politician who is popular for spreading rumours about increasing USSR infiltration in US institutions which created a fear in USA towards USSR. This fear manifested in the form of arms race and increasing mistrust between the two blocs. 

    2. He was discredited with the documentary of Journalist Edward R. Murrow which showed the groundlessness of McCarthy's allegations. McCarthy was eventually censured by the Senate.

  3. End of Korean War by Signing of Peace agreement at Panmunjom, 1953.

  4. Russian Concessions:

    1. It gave up military bases in Finland.

    2. Allowed 16 nations to enter UN by lifting veto.

    3. Cominform was abandoned, suggesting more freedom for satellites.

  5. Austrian State Treaty, May 1955: It established Austria as a sovereign nation

Factors against Thaw in Relation post 1953 which led to Thaw being only Partial:

  1. Hungarian uprising against the communist government was ruthlessly crushed by Russian tanks.

  2. Warsaw Pact, 1955 was established after west Germany entered NATO.

  3. Arm build up by Russians.

  4. Berlin wall was created.

  5. Cuban crisis of 1962: Explained below.

2. Phase 2 (1953–1962):Crisis and escalation



  1. Khrushchev, Eisenhower and de-Stalinization: In 1953, changes in political leadership on both sides shifted the dynamic of the Cold War. After the death of Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev became the Soviet leader. 
  2. Warsaw Pact and Hungarian Revolution: While Stalin's death in 1953 slightly relaxed tensions, the situation in Europe remained an uneasy armed truce. Hungarian Revolution was a nationwide revolt against the government of the Hungarian People's Republic and its Soviet-imposed policies, lasting from 23 October until 10 November 1956. Though leaderless when it first began, it was the first major threat to Soviet control since the USSR's forces drove Nazi Germany from its territory at the end of World War II.
  3. Competition in the Third World (Nationalist movements in some countries and regions, notably Guatemala, Indonesia and Indochina were often allied with communist groups, or perceived in the West to be allied with communists.)
  4. Space Race: On the nuclear weapons front, the United States and the USSR pursued nuclear rearmament and developed long-range weapons with which they could strike the territory of the other. In August 1957, the Soviets successfully launched the world's first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and in October, launched the first Earth satellite, Sputnik 1.The launch of Sputnik inaugurated the Space Race. This culminated in the Apollo Moon landings, which astronaut Frank Borman later described as "just a battle in the Cold War."
  5. Cuban Missile Crisis and Khrushchev's ouster (1962): 
    • Timeline of Crisis:
      • Fidel Castro seized power from the corrupt American backed dictator Batista. The First step of Castro was nationalisation of  American owned estates and Factories. This led to worsening of relations with USA and improvement in relations with USSR. In Jan 1961, USA broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba while Russians increased their economic aid. Kennedy attempted to ouster Castro by Batista supporter with the active support of CIA(Operation Mongoose). Castro defeated them and announced himself as Marxist and Cuba as Socialist. Seeing an opportunity, Khrushchev decided to setup nuclear missile launcher in Cuba aimed at USA. Kennedy created naval blockade and Russia emerged as Chicken hearted.
    • Outcomes:
      • Hotline established post this event between Moscow and Washington in July 1963.USSR, USA and Britain signed Nuclear Test Ban treaty.
  1. This was a time when the threat of nuclear war was imminent and thus civil society across the world raised a campaign against nuclear weapons to encourage governments for unilateral disarmament. However, the campaign failed as no government including Britain where the campaign started went for unilateral disarmament due to the risk being too high given the tense environment. All countries demanded multilateral disarmament.
3. Phase 3 (1962–1979)Confrontation through détente
Détente (a French word meaning release from tension) is the name given to a period of improved relations between the United States and the Soviet Union that began tentatively in 1971 and took decisive form when President Richard M. Nixon visited the secretary-general of the Soviet Communist party, Leonid I. Brezhnev, in Moscow, May 1972.
  1. French withdrawal from NATO
  2. Invasion of Czechoslovakia
    1. In 1968, a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia called the Prague Spring took place that included "Action Program" of liberalizations, which described:

      1. increasing freedom of the press, 

      2. freedom of speech and freedom of movement, along with

      3. an economic emphasis on consumer goods,

      4. the possibility of a multiparty government,

      5. limiting the power of the secret police and

      6. potentially withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact.

    2. In answer to the Prague Spring, on 20 August 1968, the Soviet Army, together with most of their Warsaw Pact allies, invaded Czechoslovakia.

  3. Brezhnev Doctrine: the right of the Soviet Union to violate the sovereignty of any country attempting to replace Marxism–Leninism with capitalism.


  4. Phase 4 (1979–1985): "Second Cold War"
    1. The term second Cold War refers to the period of intensive reawakening of Cold War tensions and conflicts in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Tensions greatly increased between the major powers with both sides becoming more militaristic.
    2. Soviet War in Afghanistan: In April 1978, the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) seized power in Afghanistan in the Saur Revolution.
    3. Gorbachev's economic reforms leading to disintegration of USSR:
      • Glasnost (openness) and Perestroika (restructuring)
        • Perestroika: It restructured Soviet Economic and Political policy. It led to decentralisation of economic control and encouraged enterprises to become self-sustaining. Gorbachev proposed reduction of the direct involvement of Communist party leadership in the country's governance and increasing the authority of local government. Non-communist parties were allowed to participate in elections.
        • Glasnost: Glasnost was Soviet policy of open discussion on social and political issues. It allowed criticism of the government officials and allowed the media freedom of expression.






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