Why is Finland represented as a Soviet satellite in this 1947 cartoon?

Why is Finland represented as a Soviet satellite in this 1947 cartoon?

The cartoon is a British one. I found it at http://lenta.ru/articles/2013/05/28/secretwar/ but without any specific attribution.


See the description of the hashing applied to Finland "countries in the Soviet political economic and strategic block".
While nominally independent, Finland was economically subservient to the USSR because of their losing out in the wars between the countries which happened in parallel to WW2 (the Soviet invasion of Finland led to Finland aligning with Germany during WW2 without joining the Axis powers, they were to pay for that for a long time after).
At the time, and for a long time yet, Finland would be highly influenced by the USSR on many fronts. While never technically in the Soviet block, they were a Soviet leaning unaligned country similar to India and (for a time) Indonesia. Their military had almost exclusively Soviet equipment, trade was mostly with the USSR, Soviet equipment filled Finish factories, Soviet cars their roads, etc. etc.
Over the decades those ties loosened, and now they're more focused on the EU, but just after WW2 they were firmly under the Soviet economic and military umbrella.


Finland was kind of a special case. They weren't a Warsaw Pact country, but geography put them in a position where if their Russian neighbor wanted to invade, no power on earth would really be capable of stopping them.

Due to this reality, the country adopted a policy of not doing anything whatsoever that might prod the USSR in that direction. They signed a self-defense pact with the USSR, separate from the Warsaw Pact, and on occasion felt it advisable to carry out the same policies that the Warsaw Pact did (including not participating in the Marshall Plan). Their foriegn policy was made essentially the same as the rest of the Soviet Bloc, and they kept their government structured in ways that didn't offend Soviet sensibilities. They would even censor their local media according to Soviet complaints, ultimately banning thousands of books and many American movies.

In the West a special term was coined for this kind of process: Finlandization. Fear of that process spreading to other countries had a large hand in the expansion of the USA's military in the Cold War period. It was thought that if the USA couldn't provide a credible military counterbalance, other Soviet Block neighbors in Asia and Western Europe might adopt the same polices.


An important point not mentioned in the other two excellent answers is that Finland extradited political refugees, i.e., people who crossed the border over to Finland and asked for a political asylum were immediately arrested and escorted to the Soviet Embassy.


Because that was the reality of the time. Note that even Sweden and France both have question marks.

One year earlier, in 1946, Churchill had spoken of an Iron Curtain "from Stettin on the Baltic to Trieste on the Adriatic." He didn't extend it north through the Gulf of Bothnia (between Sweden and Finland), but he could have.

In the case of Finland, this was grounded in several historical realities:

  1. Finland had been a part of Russia until 1917. Finnish independence, like that of the (south) Baltic states, was a new concept.

  2. Finland had lost two wars to Russia, the Winter War of 1940, and the so-called "Continuation" War of 1941-1944. Finland had done just well enough not to be occupied and was barely independent.

  3. Finland is adjacent to Russia to a greater degree than many other east European countries, and has a long, fairly invadable border with Russia.

  4. Finland was economically dependent on Russia for industrial raw materials and also machinery.

As a result, Finland also aligned its foreign policy with Russia's for some decades thereafter.


Warsaw Pact: Definition, History, and Significance

The Warsaw Pact was a mutual defense treaty between the Soviet Union (USSR) and seven Soviet satellite nations of Eastern Europe signed in Warsaw, Poland, on May 14, 1955, and disbanded in 1991. Officially known as the “Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance,” the alliance was proposed by the Soviet Union to counter the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a similar security alliance between the United States, Canada, and Western European nations established in 1949. The communist nations of the Warsaw Pact were referred to as the Eastern Bloc, while the democratic nations of NATO made up the Western Bloc during the Cold War.

Key Takeaways

  • The Warsaw Pact was a Cold War-era mutual defense treaty signed on May 14, 1955, by the Eastern European nations of the Soviet Union and seven communist Soviet satellite nations of Albania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and the German Democratic Republic.
  • The Soviet Union orchestrated the Warsaw Pact (the Eastern Bloc) to counter the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance between the United States, Canada and Western European nations (the Western Bloc).
  • The Warsaw Pact was terminated on July 1, 1991, at the end of the Cold War.

Vishay suchi

During World War II, George Orwell used the term Cold War in the essay “You and the Atomic Bomb” published October 19, 1945, in the British newspaper Tribune. Contemplating a world living in the shadow of the threat of nuclear war, he warned of a “peace that is no peace”, which he called a permanent “cold war”, [1] Orwell directly referred to that war as the ideological confrontation between the Soviet Union and the Western powers. [2] Moreover, in The Observer of March 10, 1946, Orwell wrote that “[a]fter the Moscow conference last December, Russia began to make a ‘cold war’ on Britain and the British Empire.” [3]

The first use of the term to describe the post–World War II geopolitical tensions between the USSR and its satellites and the United States and its western European allies is attributed to Bernard Baruch, an American financier and presidential advisor. [4] In South Carolina, on April 16, 1947, he delivered a speech (by journalist Herbert Bayard Swope) [5] saying, “Let us not be deceived: we are today in the midst of a cold war.” [6] Newspaper reporter-columnist Walter Lippmann gave the term wide currency, with the book Cold War (1947). [7]

There is disagreement among historians regarding the starting point of the Cold War. While most historians trace its origins to the period immediately following World War II, others argue that it began towards the end of World War I, although tensions between the Russian Empire, other European countries and the United States date back to the middle of the 19th century. [8]

As a result of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia (followed by its withdrawal from World War I), Soviet Russia found itself isolated in international diplomacy. [9] Leader Vladimir Lenin stated that the Soviet Union was surrounded by a "hostile capitalist encirclement", and he viewed diplomacy as a weapon to keep Soviet enemies divided, beginning with the establishment of the Soviet Comintern, which called for revolutionary upheavals abroad. [10]

Subsequent leader Joseph Stalin, who viewed the Soviet Union as a "socialist island", stated that the Soviet Union must see that "the present capitalist encirclement is replaced by a socialist encirclement." [11] As early as 1925, Stalin stated that he viewed international politics as a bipolar world in which the Soviet Union would attract countries gravitating to socialism and capitalist countries would attract states gravitating toward capitalism, while the world was in a period of "temporary stabilization of capitalism" preceding its eventual collapse. [12]

Several events fueled suspicion and distrust between the western powers and the Soviet Union: the Bolsheviks' challenge to capitalism [13] the 1926 Soviet funding of a British general workers strike causing Britain to break relations with the Soviet Union [14] Stalin's 1927 declaration that peaceful coexistence with "the capitalist countries . is receding into the past" [15] conspiratorial allegations in the Shakhty show trial of a planned French and British-led coup d'etat [16] the Great Purge involving a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in which over half a million Soviets were executed [17] the Moscow show trials including allegations of British, French, Japanese and German espionage [18] the controversial death of 6-8 million people in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in the 1932-3 Ukrainian famine western support of the White Army in the Russian Civil War the US refusal to recognize the Soviet Union until 1933 [19] and the Soviet entry into the Treaty of Rapallo. [20] This outcome rendered Soviet–American relations a matter of major long-term concern for leaders in both countries. [8]

Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (1939-41) Edit

Soviet relations with the West further deteriorated when, one week prior to the start of the World War II, the Soviet Union and Germany signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which included a secret agreement to split Poland and Eastern Europe between the two states. [21] Beginning one week later, in September 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union divided Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe through invasions of the countries ceded to each under the Pact. [22] [23]

For the next year and a half, they engaged in an extensive economic relationship, trading vital war materials [24] [25] until Germany broke the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union through the territories that the two countries had previously divided. [26]

Allies against the Axis (1941-45) Edit

During their joint war effort, which began thereafter in 1941, the Soviets suspected that the British and the Americans had conspired to allow the Soviets to bear the brunt of the fighting against Nazi Germany. According to this view, the Western Allies had deliberately delayed opening a second anti-German front in order to step in at the last moment and shape the peace settlement. [27] Thus, Soviet perceptions of the West left a strong undercurrent of tension and hostility between the Allied powers. [28]

In turn, in 1944, the Soviets appeared to the Allies to have deliberately delayed the relief of the Polish underground's Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis. [29] On at least one occasion, a Soviet fighter shot down an RAF plane supplying the Polish insurgents. [30] A 'secret war' also took place between the SOE-backed AK and NKVD-backed partisans. [31]

Wartime conferences regarding post-war Europe Edit

The Allies disagreed about how the European map should look, and how borders would be drawn, following the war. [32] Each side held dissimilar ideas regarding the establishment and maintenance of post-war security. [32] The western Allies desired a security system in which democratic governments were established as widely as possible, permitting countries to peacefully resolve differences through international organizations. [33]

Following Russian historical experiences with frequent invasions [34] and the immense death toll (estimated at 27 million) and destruction the Soviet Union sustained during World War II, [35] the Soviet Union sought to increase security by controlling the internal affairs of countries that bordered it. [32] [36] In April 1945, both Churchill and new American President Harry S. Truman opposed, among other things, the Soviets' decision to prop up the Lublin government, the Soviet-controlled rival to the Polish government-in-exile, whose relations with the Soviets were severed. [37]

At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the Allies failed to reach a firm consensus on the framework for post-war settlement in Europe. [38] Following the Allied victory in May, the Soviets effectively occupied Eastern Europe, [38] while strong US and Western allied forces remained in Western Europe.

The Soviet Union, United States, Britain and France established zones of occupation and a loose framework for four-power control of occupied Germany. [39] The Allies set up the United Nations for the maintenance of world peace, but the enforcement capacity of its Security Council was effectively paralyzed by individual members' ability to use veto power. [40] Accordingly, the UN was essentially converted into an inactive forum for exchanging polemical rhetoric, and the Soviets regarded it almost exclusively as a propaganda tribune. [41]

Beginnings of the Eastern Bloc Edit

During the final stages of the war, the Soviet Union laid the foundation for the Eastern Bloc by directly annexing several countries as Soviet Socialist Republics that were initially (and effectively) ceded to it by Nazi Germany in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. These included eastern Poland (incorporated into two different SSRs), [42] Latvia (which became the Latvian SSR) [43] , [43] [44] Estonia (which became the Estonian SSR), [43] [44] Lithuania (which became the Lithuanian SSR), [43] [44] part of eastern Finland (which became the Karelo-Finnish SSR) [23] and eastern Romania (which became the Moldavian SSR). [45] [46]

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was concerned that, given the enormous size of Soviet forces deployed in Europe at the end of the war, and the perception that Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was unreliable, there existed a Soviet threat to Western Europe. [47] In April-May 1945, the British War Cabinet's Joint Planning Staff Committee developed Operation Unthinkable, a plan "to impose upon Russia the will of the United States and the British Empire". [48] The plan, however, was rejected by the British Chiefs of Staff Committee as militarily unfeasible. [47]

Potsdam Conference and defeat of Japan Edit

At the Potsdam Conference, which started in late July after Germany's surrender, serious differences emerged over the future development of Germany and eastern Europe. [49] Moreover, the participants' mounting antipathy and bellicose language served to confirm their suspicions about each others' hostile intentions and entrench their positions. [50] At this conference Truman informed Stalin that the United States possessed a powerful new weapon. [51]

Stalin was aware that the Americans were working on the atomic bomb and, given that the Soviets' own rival program was in place, he reacted to the news calmly. The Soviet leader said he was pleased by the news and expressed the hope that the weapon would be used against Japan. [51] One week after the end of the Potsdam Conference, the US bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Shortly after the attacks, Stalin protested to US officials when Truman offered the Soviets little real influence in occupied Japan. [52]

Tensions build Edit

In February 1946, George F. Kennan's "Long Telegram" from Moscow helped to articulate the US government's increasingly hard line against the Soviets, and became the basis for US strategy toward the Soviet Union for the duration of the Cold War. [53] That September, the Soviet side produced the Novikov telegram, sent by the Soviet ambassador to the US but commissioned and "co-authored" by Vyacheslav Molotov it portrayed the US as being in the grip of monopoly capitalists who were building up military capability "to prepare the conditions for winning world supremacy in a new war". [54]

On September 6, 1946, James F. Byrnes delivered a speech in Germany repudiating the Morgenthau Plan (a proposal to partition and de-industrialize post-war Germany) and warning the Soviets that the US intended to maintain a military presence in Europe indefinitely. [55] As Byrnes admitted a month later, "The nub of our program was to win the German people [. ] it was a battle between us and Russia over minds [. ]" [56]

A few weeks after the release of this "Long Telegram", former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivered his famous "Iron Curtain" speech in Fulton, Missouri. [57] The speech called for an Anglo-American alliance against the Soviets, whom he accused of establishing an "iron curtain" from "Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic". [58] [59]

Soviet satellite states Edit

After annexing several occupied countries as Soviet Socialist Republics at the end of World War II, other occupied states were added to the Eastern Bloc by converting them into puppet Soviet Satellite states, [59] such as East Germany, [60] the People's Republic of Poland, the People's Republic of Hungary, [61] the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, [62] the People's Republic of Romania and the People's Republic of Albania. [63]

The Soviet-style regimes that arose in the Bloc not only reproduced Soviet command economies, but also adopted the brutal methods employed by Joseph Stalin and Soviet secret police to suppress real and potential opposition. [64] In Asia, the Red Army had overrun Manchuria in the last month of the war, and went on to occupy the large swath of Korean territory located north of the 38th parallel. [65]

In September 1947, the Soviets created Cominform, the purpose of which was to enforce orthodoxy within the international communist movement and tighten political control over Soviet satellites through coordination of communist parties in the Eastern Bloc. [66] Cominform faced an embarrassing setback the following June, when the Tito–Stalin split obliged its members to expel Yugoslavia, which remained Communist but adopted a non-aligned position. [67]

As part of the Soviet domination of the Eastern Bloc, the NKVD, led by Lavrentiy Beria, supervised the establishment of Soviet-style secret police systems in the Bloc that were supposed to crush anti-communist resistance. [68] When the slightest stirrings of independence emerged in the Bloc, Stalin's strategy matched that of dealing with domestic pre-war rivals: they were removed from power, put on trial, imprisoned, and in several instances, executed. [69]

Containment and the Truman Doctrine Edit

By 1947, US president Harry S. Truman's advisers urged him to take immediate steps to counter the Soviet Union's influence, citing Stalin's efforts (amid post-war confusion and collapse) to undermine the US by encouraging rivalries among capitalists that could precipitate another war. [70] In February 1947, the British government announced that it could no longer afford to finance the Greek monarchical military regime in its civil war against communist-led insurgents.

The American government's response to this announcement was the adoption of containment, [71] the goal of which was to stop the spread of communism. Truman delivered a speech that called for the allocation of $400 million to intervene in the war and unveiled the Truman Doctrine, which framed the conflict as a contest between free peoples and totalitarian regimes. [71] Even though the insurgents were helped by Josip Broz Tito's Yugoslavia, [19] US policymakers accused the Soviet Union of conspiring against the Greek royalists in an effort to expand Soviet influence. [72]

Enunciation of the Truman Doctrine marked the beginning of a US bipartisan defense and foreign policy consensus between Republicans and Democrats focused on containment and deterrence that weakened during and after the Vietnam War, but ultimately held steady. [73] [74] Moderate and conservative parties in Europe, as well as social democrats, gave virtually unconditional support to the Western alliance, [75] while European and American Communists, paid by the KGB and involved in its intelligence operations, [76] adhered to Moscow's line, although dissent began to appear after 1956. Other critiques of consensus politics came from anti-Vietnam War activists, the CND and the nuclear freeze movement. [77]

Marshall Plan and Czechoslovak coup d'état Edit

In early 1947, Britain, France and the United States unsuccessfully attempted to reach an agreement with the Soviet Union for a plan envisioning an economically self-sufficient Germany, including a detailed accounting of the industrial plants, goods and infrastructure already removed by the Soviets. [78] In June 1947, in accordance with the Truman Doctrine, the United States enacted the Marshall Plan, a pledge of economic assistance for all European countries willing to participate, including the Soviet Union. [78]

The plan's aim was to rebuild the democratic and economic systems of Europe and to counter perceived threats to Europe's balance of power, such as communist parties seizing control through revolutions or elections. [79] The plan also stated that European prosperity was contingent upon German economic recovery. [80] One month later, Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947, creating a unified Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the National Security Council. These would become the main bureaucracies for US policy in the Cold War. [81]

Stalin believed that economic integration with the West would allow Eastern Bloc countries to escape Soviet control, and that the US was trying to buy a pro-US re-alignment of Europe. [66] Stalin therefore prevented Eastern Bloc nations from receiving Marshall Plan aid. [66] The Soviet Union's alternative to the Marshall plan, which was purported to involve Soviet subsidies and trade with eastern Europe, became known as the Molotov Plan (later institutionalized in January 1949 as the Comecon). [19] Stalin was also fearful of a reconstituted Germany his vision of a post-war Germany did not include the ability to rearm or pose any kind of threat to the Soviet Union. [82]

In early 1948, following reports of strengthening "reactionary elements", Soviet operatives executed a coup d'état of 1948 in Czechoslovakia, the only Eastern Bloc state that the Soviets had permitted to retain democratic structures. [83] [84] The public brutality of the coup shocked Western powers more than any event up to that point, set in a motion a brief scare that war would occur and swept away the last vestiges of opposition to the Marshall Plan in the United States Congress. [85]

The twin policies of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan led to billions in economic and military aid for Western Europe, and Greece and Turkey. With US assistance, the Greek military won its civil war, [81] The Italian Christian Democrats defeated the powerful Communist-Socialist alliance in the elections of 1948. [86] Increases occurred in intelligence and espionage activities, Eastern Bloc defections and diplomatic expulsions. [87]

Berlin Blockade and airlift Edit

The United States and Britain merged their western German occupation zones into "Bizonia" (later "trizonia" with the addition of France's zone). [88] As part of the economic rebuilding of Germany, in early 1948, representatives of a number of Western European governments and the United States announced an agreement for a merger of western German areas into a federal governmental system. [89] In addition, in accordance with the Marshall Plan, they began to re-industrialize and rebuild the German economy, including the introduction of a new Deutsche Mark currency to replace the old Reichsmark currency that the Soviets had debased. [90]

Shortly thereafter, Stalin instituted the Berlin Blockade, one of the first major crises of the Cold War, preventing food, materials and supplies from arriving in West Berlin. [91] The United States, Britain, France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and several other countries began the massive "Berlin airlift", supplying West Berlin with food and other provisions. [92]

The Soviets mounted a public relations campaign against the policy change, communists attempted to disrupt the elections of 1948 preceding large losses therein, [93] 300,000 Berliners demonstrated and urged the international airlift to continue, [94] and the US accidentally created "Operation Vittles", which supplied candy to German children. [95] In May 1949, Stalin backed down and lifted the blockade. [68] [96]

NATO beginnings and Radio Free Europe Edit

Britain, France, the United States, Canada and eight other western European countries signed the North Atlantic Treaty of April 1949, establishing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). [68] That August, Stalin ordered the detonation of the first Soviet atomic device. [19] Following Soviet refusals to participate in a German rebuilding effort set forth by western European countries in 1948, [89] [97] the US, Britain and France spearheaded the establishment of West Germany from the three Western zones of occupation in May 1949. [49] The Soviet Union proclaimed its zone of occupation in Germany the German Democratic Republic that October. [49]

Media in the Eastern Bloc was an organ of the state, completely reliant on and subservient to the communist party, with radio and television organizations being state-owned, while print media was usually owned by political organizations, mostly by the local communist party. [98] Soviet propaganda used Marxist philosophy to attack capitalism, claiming labor exploitation and war-mongering imperialism were inherent in the system. [99]

Along with the broadcasts of the British Broadcasting Company and the Voice of America to Eastern Europe, [100] a major propaganda effort begun in 1949 was Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, dedicated to bringing about the peaceful demise of the Communist system in the Eastern Bloc. [101] Radio Free Europe attempted to achieve these goals by serving as a surrogate home radio station, an alternative to the controlled and party-dominated domestic press. [101] Radio Free Europe was a product of some of the most prominent architects of America's early Cold War strategy, especially those who believed that the Cold War would eventually be fought by political rather than military means, such as George F. Kennan. [102]

American policymakers, including Kennan and John Foster Dulles, acknowledged that the Cold War was in its essence a war of ideas. [102] The United States, acting through the CIA, funded a long list of projects to counter the Communist appeal among intellectuals in Europe and the developing world. [103]

In the early 1950s, the US worked for the rearmament of West Germany and, in 1955, secured its full membership of NATO. [49] In May 1953, Beria, by then in a government post, had made an unsuccessful proposal to allow the reunification of a neutral Germany to prevent West Germany's incorporation into NATO. [104]

Chinese Civil War and SEATO Edit

In 1949, Mao's People's Liberation Army defeated Chiang's US-backed Kuomintang (KMT) Nationalist Government in China, and the Soviet Union promptly created an alliance with the newly formed People's Republic of China. [105] The Nationalist Government retreated to the island of Taiwan. Confronted with the Communist takeover of mainland China and the end of the US atomic monopoly in 1949, the Truman administration quickly moved to escalate and expand the containment policy. [19] In NSC-68, a secret 1950 document, [106] the National Security Council proposed to reinforce pro-Western alliance systems and quadruple spending on defense. [19]

US officials moved thereafter to expand containment into Asia, Africa, and Latin America, in order to counter revolutionary nationalist movements, often led by Communist parties financed by the USSR, fighting against the restoration of Europe's colonial empires in South-East Asia and elsewhere. [107] In the early 1950s (a period sometimes known as the "Pactomania"), the US formalized a series of alliances with Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and the Philippines (notably ANZUS and SEATO), thereby guaranteeing the United States a number of long-term military bases. [49]

Korean War Edit

One of the more significant impacts of containment was the outbreak of the Korean War. In June 1950, Kim Il-Sung's North Korean People's Army invaded South Korea. [108] To Stalin's surprise, [19] the UN Security Council backed the defense of South Korea, though the Soviets were then boycotting meetings to protest that Taiwan and not Communist China held a permanent seat on the Council. [109] A UN force of personnel from South Korea, the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Canada, Australia, France, the Philippines, the Netherlands, Belgium, New Zealand and other countries joined to stop the invasion. [110]

Among other effects, the Korean War galvanised NATO to develop a military structure. [111] Public opinion in countries involved, such as Great Britain, was divided for and against the war. British Attorney General Sir Hartley Shawcross repudiated the sentiment of those opposed when he said: [112]

I know there are some who think that the horror and devastation of a world war now would be so frightful, whoever won, and the damage to civilization so lasting, that it would be better to submit to Communist domination. I understand that view–but I reject it.

Even though the Chinese and North Koreans were exhausted by the war and were prepared to end it by late 1952, Stalin insisted that they continue fighting, and a cease-fire was approved only in July 1953, after Stalin's death. [49] In North Korea, Kim Il Sung created a highly centralized and brutal dictatorship, according himself unlimited power and generating a formidable cult of personality. [113] [114]

Khrushchev, Eisenhower and De-Stalinization Edit

In 1953, changes in political leadership on both sides shifted the dynamic of the Cold War. [81] Dwight D. Eisenhower was inaugurated president that January. During the last 18 months of the Truman administration, the US defense budget had quadrupled, and Eisenhower moved to reduce military spending by a third while continuing to fight the Cold War effectively. [19]

After the death of Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev became the Soviet leader following the deposition and execution of Lavrentiy Beria and the pushing aside of rivals Georgy Malenkov and Vyacheslav Molotov. On February 25, 1956, Khrushchev shocked delegates to the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party by cataloguing and denouncing Stalin's crimes. [115] As part of a campaign of de-Stalinization, he declared that the only way to reform and move away from Stalin's policies would be to acknowledge errors made in the past. [81]

On November 18, 1956, while addressing Western ambassadors at a reception at the Polish embassy in Moscow, Khrushchev used his famous "Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you" expression, shocking everyone present. [116] However, he had not been talking about nuclear war, he later claimed, but rather about the historically determined victory of communism over capitalism. [117] He then declared in 1961 that even if the USSR might indeed be behind the West, within a decade its housing shortage would disappear, consumer goods would be abundant, its population would be "materially provided for", and within two decades, the Soviet Union "would rise to such a great height that, by comparison, the main capitalist countries will remain far below and well behind". [118]

Eisenhower's secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, initiated a "New Look" for the containment strategy, calling for a greater reliance on nuclear weapons against US enemies in wartime. [81] Dulles also enunciated the doctrine of "massive retaliation", threatening a severe US response to any Soviet aggression. Possessing nuclear superiority, for example, allowed Eisenhower to face down Soviet threats to intervene in the Middle East during the 1956 Suez Crisis. [19]

Warsaw Pact and Hungarian Revolution Edit

While Stalin's death in 1953 slightly relaxed tensions, the situation in Europe remained an uneasy armed truce. [119] The Soviets, who had already created a network of mutual assistance treaties in the Eastern Bloc by 1949, [120] established a formal alliance therein, the Warsaw Pact, in 1955. [49]

The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 occurred shortly after Khrushchev arranged the removal of Hungary's Stalinist leader Mátyás Rákosi. [121] In response to a popular uprising, [122] the new regime formally disbanded the secret police, declared its intention to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact and pledged to re-establish free elections. The Soviet Red Army invaded. [123] Thousands of Hungarians were arrested, imprisoned and deported to the Soviet Union, [124] and approximately 200,000 Hungarians fled Hungary in the chaos. [125] Hungarian leader Imre Nagy and others were executed following secret trials. [126]

From 1957 through 1961, Khrushchev openly and repeatedly threatened the West with nuclear annihilation. He claimed that Soviet missile capabilities were far superior to those of the United States, capable of wiping out any American or European city. However, Khrushchev rejected Stalin's belief in the inevitability of war, and declared his new goal was to be "peaceful coexistence". [127] This formulation modified the Stalin-era Soviet stance, where international class struggle meant the two opposing camps were on an inevitable collision course where Communism would triumph through global war now, peace would allow capitalism to collapse on its own, [128] as well as giving the Soviets time to boost their military capabilities, [129] which remained for decades until Gorbachev's later "new thinking" envisioning peaceful coexistence as an end in itself rather than a form of class struggle. [130]

US pronouncements concentrated on American strength abroad and the success of liberal capitalism. [131] However, by the late 1960s, the "battle for men's minds" between two systems of social organization that Kennedy spoke of in 1961 was largely over, with tensions henceforth based primarily on clashing geopolitical objectives rather than ideology. [132]

Berlin ultimatum and European integration Edit

During November 1958, Khrushchev made an unsuccessful attempt to turn all of Berlin into an independent, demilitarized "free city", giving the United States, Great Britain, and France a six-month ultimatum to withdraw their troops from the sectors they still occupied in West Berlin, or he would transfer control of Western access rights to the East Germans. Khrushchev earlier explained to Mao Tse-tung that "Berlin is the testicles of the West. Every time I want to make the West scream, I squeeze on Berlin." [133] NATO formally rejected the ultimatum in mid-December and Khrushchev withdrew it in return for a Geneva conference on the German question. [134]

More broadly, one hallmark of the 1950s was the beginning of European integration—a fundamental by-product of the Cold War that Truman and Eisenhower promoted politically, economically, and militarily, but which later administrations viewed ambivalently, fearful that an independent Europe would forge a separate détente with the Soviet Union, which would use this to exacerbate Western disunity. [135]

Worldwide competition Edit

Nationalist movements in some countries and regions, notably Guatemala, Iran, the Philippines, and Indochina were often allied with communist groups—or at least were perceived in the West to be allied with communists. [81] In this context, the US and the Soviet Union increasingly competed for influence by proxy in the Third World as decolonization gained momentum in the 1950s and early 1960s [136] additionally, the Soviets saw continuing losses by imperial powers as presaging the eventual victory of their ideology. [137]

The US government utilized the CIA in order to remove a string of unfriendly Third World governments and to support allied ones. [81] The US used the CIA to overthrow governments suspected by Washington of turning pro-Soviet, including Iran's first democratically elected government under Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq in 1953 (see 1953 Iranian coup d'état) and Guatemala's democratically elected president Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán in 1954 (see 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état). [106] Between 1954 and 1961, the US sent economic aid and military advisors to stem the collapse of South Vietnam's pro-Western regime. [19]

Many emerging nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America rejected the pressure to choose sides in the East-West competition. In 1955, at the Bandung Conference in Indonesia, dozens of Third World governments resolved to stay out of the Cold War. [138] The consensus reached at Bandung culminated with the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961. [81] Meanwhile, Khrushchev broadened Moscow's policy to establish ties with India and other key neutral states. Independence movements in the Third World transformed the post-war order into a more pluralistic world of decolonized African and Middle Eastern nations and of rising nationalism in Asia and Latin America. [19]

Sino-Soviet split, space race, ICBMs Edit

The period after 1956 was marked by serious setbacks for the Soviet Union, most notably the breakdown of the Sino-Soviet alliance, beginning the Sino-Soviet split. Mao had defended Stalin when Khrushchev attacked him after his death in 1956, and treated the new Soviet leader as a superficial upstart, accusing him of having lost his revolutionary edge. [139]

After this, Khrushchev made many desperate attempts to reconstitute the Sino-Soviet alliance, but Mao considered it useless and denied any proposal. [139] The Chinese and the Soviets waged an intra-Communist propaganda war. [140] Further on, the Soviets focused on a bitter rivalry with Mao's China for leadership of the global communist movement, [141] and the two clashed militarily in 1969. [142]

On the nuclear weapons front, the US and the USSR pursued nuclear rearmament and developed long-range weapons with which they could strike the territory of the other. [49] In August 1957, the Soviets successfully launched the world's first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) [143] and in October, launched the first Earth satellite, Sputnik. [144] 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" [145] with superior spaceflight rockets indicating superior ICBMs.

Berlin Crisis of 1961 Edit

The Berlin Crisis of 1961 was the last major incident in the Cold War regarding the status of Berlin and post-World War II Germany. By the early 1950s, the Soviet approach to restricting emigration movement was emulated by most of the rest of the Eastern Bloc. [146] However, hundreds of thousands of East Germans annually emigrated to West Germany through a "loophole" in the system that existed between East and West Berlin, where the four occupying World War II powers governed movement. [147]

The emigration resulted in a massive "brain drain" from East Germany to West Germany of younger educated professionals, such that nearly 20% of East Germany's population had migrated to West Germany by 1961. [148] That June, the Soviet Union issued a new ultimatum demanding the withdrawal of Allied forces from West Berlin. [149] The request was rebuffed, and in August, East Germany erected a barbed-wire barrier that would eventually be expanded through construction into the Berlin Wall, effectively closing the loophole. [150]

Cuban Missile Crisis and Khrushchev ouster Edit

The Soviet Union formed an alliance with Fidel Castro-led Cuba after the Cuban Revolution in 1959. [151] In 1962, President John F. Kennedy responded to the installation of nuclear missiles in Cuba with a naval blockade. The Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world closer to nuclear war than ever before. [152] It further demonstrated the concept of mutually assured destruction, that neither nuclear power was prepared to use nuclear weapons fearing total destruction via nuclear retaliation. [153] The aftermath of the crisis led to the first efforts in the nuclear arms race at nuclear disarmament and improving relations, [119] although the Cold War's first arms control agreement, the Antarctic Treaty, had come into force in 1961. [154]

In 1964, Khrushchev's Kremlin colleagues managed to oust him, but allowed him a peaceful retirement. [155] Accused of rudeness and incompetence, he was also credited with ruining Soviet agriculture and bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war. [155] Khrushchev had become an international embarrassment when he authorised construction of the Berlin Wall, a public humiliation for Marxism-Leninism. [155]

In the course of the 1960s and '70s, Cold War participants struggled to adjust to a new, more complicated pattern of international relations in which the world was no longer divided into two clearly opposed blocs. [81] From the beginning of the post-war period, Western Europe and Japan rapidly recovered from the destruction of World War II and sustained strong economic growth through the 1950s and '60s, with per capita GDPs approaching those of the United States, while Eastern Bloc economies stagnated. [81] [156]

As a result of the 1973 oil crisis, combined with the growing influence of Third World alignments such as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the Non-Aligned Movement, less-powerful countries had more room to assert their independence and often showed themselves resistant to pressure from either superpower. [107] Moscow, meanwhile, was forced to turn its attention inward to deal with the Soviet Union's deep-seated domestic economic problems. [81] During this period, Soviet leaders such as Alexey Kosygin and Leonid Brezhnev embraced the notion of détente. [81]

Dominican Republic and French NATO withdrawal Edit

President Lyndon B. Johnson landed 22,000 troops in the Dominican Republic in Operation Power Pack, citing the threat of the emergence of a Cuban-style revolution in Latin America. [19] NATO countries remained primarily dependent on the US military for its defense against any potential Soviet invasion, a status most vociferously contested by France's Charles de Gaulle, who in 1966 withdrew from NATO's military structures and expelled NATO troops from French soil. [157]

Czechoslovakia invasion Edit

In 1968, a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia called the Prague Spring took place that included "Action Program" of liberalizations, which described increasing freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of movement, along with an economic emphasis on consumer goods, the possibility of a multiparty government, limiting the power of the secret police [158] [159] and potentially withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact. [160]

The Soviet Red Army, together with most of their Warsaw Pact allies, invaded Czechoslovakia. [161] The invasion was followed by a wave of emigration, including an estimated 70,000 Czechs initially fleeing, with the total eventually reaching 300,000. [162] The invasion sparked intense protests from Yugoslavia, Romania and China, and from Western European communist parties. [163]

Brezhnev Doctrine Edit

In September 1968, during a speech at the Fifth Congress of the Polish United Workers' Party one month after the invasion of Czechoslovakia, Brezhnev outlined the Brezhnev Doctrine, in which he claimed the right to violate the sovereignty of any country attempting to replace Marxism-Leninism with capitalism. During the speech, Brezhnev stated: [160]

When forces that are hostile to socialism try to turn the development of some socialist country towards capitalism, it becomes not only a problem of the country concerned, but a common problem and concern of all socialist countries.

The doctrine found its origins in the failures of Marxism-Leninism in states like Poland, Hungary and East Germany, which were facing a declining standard of living contrasting with the prosperity of West Germany and the rest of Western Europe. [164]

Third World escalations Edit

The US continued to spend heavily on supporting friendly Third World regimes in Asia. Conflicts in peripheral regions and client states—most prominently in Vietnam—continued. [165] Johnson stationed 575,000 troops in Southeast Asia to defeat the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF) and their North Vietnamese allies in the Vietnam War, but his costly policy weakened the US economy and, by 1975, ultimately culminated in what most of the world saw as a humiliating defeat of the world's most powerful superpower at the hands of one of the world's poorest nations. [19]

Additionally, Operation Condor, employed by South American dictators to suppress leftist dissent, was backed by the US, which (sometimes accurately) perceived Soviet or Cuban support behind these opposition movements. [166] Brezhnev, meanwhile, attempted to revive the Soviet economy, which was declining in part because of heavy military expenditures. [19]

Moreover, the Middle East continued to be a source of contention. Egypt, which received the bulk of its arms and economic assistance from the USSR, was a troublesome client, with a reluctant Soviet Union feeling obliged to assist in both the 1967 Six-Day War (with advisers and technicians) and the War of Attrition (with pilots and aircraft) against US ally Israel [167] Syria and Iraq later received increased assistance as well as (indirectly) the PLO. [168]

During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, rumors of imminent Soviet intervention on the Egyptians' behalf brought about a massive US mobilization that threatened to wreck détente [169] this escalation, the USSR's first in a regional conflict central to US interests, inaugurated a new and more turbulent stage of Third World military activism in which the Soviets made use of their new strategic parity. [170]

Sino-American relations Edit

As a result of the Sino-Soviet split, tensions along the Chinese-Soviet border reached their peak in 1969, and US President Richard Nixon decided to use the conflict to shift the balance of power towards the West in the Cold War. [171] The Chinese had sought improved relations with the US in order to gain advantage over the Soviets as well.

In February 1972, Nixon announced a stunning rapprochement with Mao's China [172] by traveling to Beijing and meeting with Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. At this time, the USSR achieved rough nuclear parity with the US while the Vietnam War weakened US influence in the Third World and cooled relations with Western Europe. [173] Although indirect conflict between Cold War powers continued through the late 1960s and early 1970s, tensions were beginning to ease. [119]

Nixon, Brezhnev, and détente Edit

Following his China visit, Nixon met with Soviet leaders, including Brezhnev in Moscow. [174] These Strategic Arms Limitation Talks resulted in two landmark arms control treaties: SALT I, the first comprehensive limitation pact signed by the two superpowers, [175] and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which banned the development of systems designed to intercept incoming missiles. These aimed to limit the development of costly anti-ballistic missiles and nuclear missiles. [81]

Nixon and Brezhnev proclaimed a new era of "peaceful coexistence" and established the groundbreaking new policy of détente (or cooperation) between the two superpowers. Between 1972 and 1974, the two sides also agreed to strengthen their economic ties, [19] including agreements for increased trade. As a result of their meetings, détente would replace the hostility of the Cold War and the two countries would live mutually. [174]

Meanwhile, these developments coincided with the "Ostpolitik" of West German Chancellor Willy Brandt. [163] Other agreements were concluded to stabilize the situation in Europe, culminating in the Helsinki Accords signed at the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe in 1975. [176]

Late 1970s deterioration of relations Edit

In the 1970s, the KGB, led by Yuri Andropov, continued to persecute distinguished Soviet personalities such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov, who were criticising the Soviet leadership in harsh terms. [177] Indirect conflict between the superpowers continued through this period of détente in the Third World, particularly during political crises in the Middle East, Chile, Ethiopia and Angola. [178]

Although President Jimmy Carter tried to place another limit on the arms race with a SALT II agreement in 1979, [179] his efforts were undermined by the other events that year, including the Iranian Revolution and the Nicaraguan Revolution, which both ousted pro-US regimes, and his retaliation against Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in December. [19]

The term second Cold War has been used by some historians to refer 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. [13]

Afghanistan war Edit

During December 1979, approximately 75,000 Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in order to support the Marxist government formed by ex-Prime-minister Nur Muhammad Taraki, assassinated that September by one of his party rivals. [180] As a result, US President Jimmy Carter withdrew the SALT II treaty from the Senate, imposed embargoes on grain and technology shipments to the USSR, demanded a significant increase in military spending, and further announced that the United States would boycott the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics. He described the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan as "the most serious threat to the peace since the Second World War". [181]

Reagan and Thatcher Edit

In 1980, Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in the US presidential election, vowing to increase military spending and confront the Soviets everywhere. [182] Both Reagan and new British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher denounced the Soviet Union and its ideology. Reagan labeled the Soviet Union an "evil empire" and predicted that Communism would be left on the "ash heap of history". [183]

Polish Solidarity movement Edit

Pope John Paul II provided a moral focus for anti-communism a visit to his native Poland in 1979 stimulated a religious and nationalist resurgence centered on the Solidarity movement that galvanized opposition and may have led to his attempted assassination two years later. [184] Reagan also imposed economic sanctions on Poland to protest the suppression of Solidarity. [185] In response, Mikhail Suslov, the Kremlin's top ideologist, advised Soviet leaders not to intervene if Poland fell under the control of Solidarity, for fear it might lead to heavy economic sanctions, representing a catastrophe for the Soviet economy. [185]

Soviet and US military and economic issues Edit

Moscow had built up a military that consumed as much as 25 percent of the Soviet Union's gross national product at the expense of consumer goods and investment in civilian sectors. [186] Soviet spending on the arms race and other Cold War commitments both caused and exacerbated deep-seated structural problems in the Soviet system, which saw at least a decade of economic stagnation during the late Brezhnev years.

Soviet investment in the defense sector was not driven by military necessity, but in large part by the interests of massive party and state bureaucracies dependent on the sector for their own power and privileges. [187] The Soviet Armed Forces became the largest in the world in terms of the numbers and types of weapons they possessed, in the number of troops in their ranks, and in the sheer size of their military–industrial base. [188] However, the quantitative advantages held by the Soviet military often concealed areas where the Eastern Bloc dramatically lagged behind the West. [189]

By the early 1980s, the USSR had built up a military arsenal and army surpassing that of the United States. Previously, the US had relied on the qualitative superiority of its weapons, but the gap had been narrowed. [190] Ronald Reagan began massively building up the United States military not long after taking office. This led to the largest peacetime defense buildup in United States history. [191]

Tensions continued intensifying in the early 1980s when Reagan revived the B-1 Lancer program that was canceled by the Carter administration, produced LGM-118 Peacekeepers, [192] installed US cruise missiles in Europe, and announced his experimental Strategic Defense Initiative, dubbed "Star Wars" by the media, a defense program to shoot down missiles in mid-flight. [193]

With the background of a buildup in tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States, and the deployment of Soviet RSD-10 Pioneer ballistic missiles targeting Western Europe, NATO decided, under the impetus of the Carter presidency, to deploy MGM-31 Pershing and cruise missiles in Europe, primarily West Germany. [194] This deployment would have placed missiles just 10 minutes' striking distance from Moscow. [195]

After Reagan's military buildup, the Soviet Union did not respond by further building its military [196] because the enormous military expenses, along with inefficient planned manufacturing and collectivized agriculture, were already a heavy burden for the Soviet economy. [197] At the same time, Reagan persuaded Saudi Arabia to increase oil production, [198] even as other non-OPEC nations were increasing production. [199] These developments contributed to the 1980s oil glut, which affected the Soviet Union, as oil was the main source of Soviet export revenues. [186] [197] Issues with command economics, [200] oil prices decreases and large military expenditures gradually brought the Soviet economy to stagnation. [197]

On September 1, 1983, the Soviet Union shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007, a Boeing 747 with 269 people aboard, including sitting Congressman Larry McDonald, when it violated Soviet airspace just past the west coast of Sakhalin Island near Moneron Island —an act which Reagan characterized as a "massacre". This act increased support for military deployment, overseen by Reagan, which stood in place until the later accords between Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. [201] The Able Archer 83 exercise in November 1983, a realistic simulation of a coordinated NATO nuclear release, has been called most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis, as the Soviet leadership keeping a close watch on it considered a nuclear attack to be imminent. [202]

US domestic public concerns about intervening in foreign conflicts persisted from the end of the Vietnam War. [203] The Reagan administration emphasized the use of quick, low-cost counter-insurgency tactics to intervene in foreign conflicts. [203] In 1983, the Reagan administration intervened in the multisided Lebanese Civil War, invaded Grenada, bombed Libya and backed the Central American Contras, anti-communist paramilitaries seeking to overthrow the Soviet-aligned Sandinista government in Nicaragua. [107] While Reagan's interventions against Grenada and Libya were popular in the US, his backing of the Contra rebels was mired in controversy. [204]

Meanwhile, the Soviets incurred high costs for their own foreign interventions. Although Brezhnev was convinced in 1979 that the Soviet war in Afghanistan would be brief, Muslim guerrillas, aided by the US and other countries, waged a fierce resistance against the invasion. [205] The Kremlin sent nearly 100,000 troops to support its puppet regime in Afghanistan, leading many outside observers to dub the war "the Soviets' Vietnam". [205] However, Moscow's quagmire in Afghanistan was far more disastrous for the Soviets than Vietnam had been for the Americans because the conflict coincided with a period of internal decay and domestic crisis in the Soviet system.

A senior US State Department official predicted such an outcome as early as 1980, positing that the invasion resulted in part from a "domestic crisis within the Soviet system. . It may be that the thermodynamic law of entropy has . caught up with the Soviet system, which now seems to expend more energy on simply maintaining its equilibrium than on improving itself. We could be seeing a period of foreign movement at a time of internal decay". [206] [207] The Soviets were not helped by their aged and sclerotic leadership either: Brezhnev, virtually incapacitated in his last years, was succeeded by Andropov and Chernenko, neither of whom lasted long. After Chernenko's death, Reagan was asked why he had not negotiated with Soviet leaders. Reagan quipped, "They keep dying on me". [208]

Gorbachev reforms Edit

By the time the comparatively youthful Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary in 1985, [183] the Soviet economy was stagnant and faced a sharp fall in foreign currency earnings as a result of the downward slide in oil prices in the 1980s. [209] These issues prompted Gorbachev to investigate measures to revive the ailing state. [209]

An ineffectual start led to the conclusion that deeper structural changes were necessary and in June 1987 Gorbachev announced an agenda of economic reform called perestroika, or restructuring. [210] Perestroika relaxed the production quota system, allowed private ownership of businesses and paved the way for foreign investment. These measures were intended to redirect the country's resources from costly Cold War military commitments to more profitable areas in the civilian sector. [210]

Despite initial scepticism in the West, the new Soviet leader proved to be committed to reversing the Soviet Union's deteriorating economic condition instead of continuing the arms race with the West. [119] [211] Partly as a way to fight off internal opposition from party cliques to his reforms, Gorbachev simultaneously introduced glasnost, or openness, which increased freedom of the press and the transparency of state institutions. [212] Glasnost was intended to reduce the corruption at the top of the Communist Party and moderate the abuse of power in the Central Committee. [213] Glasnost also enabled increased contact between Soviet citizens and the western world, particularly with the United States, contributing to the accelerating détente between the two nations. [214]

Thaw in relations Edit

In response to the Kremlin's military and political concessions, Reagan agreed to renew talks on economic issues and the scaling-back of the arms race. [215] The first was held in November 1985 in Geneva, Switzerland. [215] At one stage the two men, accompanied only by a translator, agreed in principle to reduce each country's nuclear arsenal by 50 percent. [216]

A second Reykjavík Summit was held in Iceland. Talks went well until the focus shifted to Reagan's proposed Strategic Defense Initiative, which Gorbachev wanted eliminated: Reagan refused. [217] The negotiations failed, but the third summit in 1987 led to a breakthrough with the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). The INF treaty eliminated all nuclear-armed, ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (300 to 3,400 miles) and their infrastructure. [218]

East–West tensions rapidly subsided through the mid-to-late 1980s, culminating with the final summit in Moscow in 1989, when Gorbachev and George H. W. Bush signed the START I arms control treaty. [219] During the following year it became apparent to the Soviets that oil and gas subsidies, along with the cost of maintaining massive troops levels, represented a substantial economic drain. [220] In addition, the security advantage of a buffer zone was recognised as irrelevant and the Soviets officially declared that they would no longer intervene in the affairs of allied states in Eastern Europe. [221]

In 1989, Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan [222] and by 1990 Gorbachev consented to German reunification, [220] the only alternative being a Tiananmen scenario. [223] When the Berlin Wall came down, Gorbachev's "Common European Home" concept began to take shape. [224]

On December 3, 1989, Gorbachev and Reagan's successor, George H. W. Bush, declared the Cold War over at the Malta Summit [225] a year later, the two former rivals were partners in the Gulf War against longtime Soviet ally Iraq. [226]

Faltering Soviet system Edit

By 1989, the Soviet alliance system was on the brink of collapse, and, deprived of Soviet military support, the Communist leaders of the Warsaw Pact states were losing power. [222] In the USSR itself, glasnost weakened the bonds that held the Soviet Union together [221] and by February 1990, with the dissolution of the USSR looming, the Communist Party was forced to surrender its 73-year-old monopoly on state power. [227]

At the same time freedom of press and dissent allowed by glasnost and the festering "nationalities question" increasingly led the Union's component republics to declare their autonomy from Moscow, with the Baltic states withdrawing from the Union entirely. [228] The 1989 revolutionary wave that swept across Central and Eastern Europe overthrew the Soviet-style communist states, such as Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria, [229] Romania being the only Eastern-bloc country to topple its communist regime violently and execute its head of state. [230]

Soviet dissolution Edit

Gorbachev's permissive attitude toward Eastern Europe did not initially extend to Soviet territory even Bush, who strove to maintain friendly relations, condemned the January 1991 killings in Latvia and Lithuania, privately warning that economic ties would be frozen if the violence continued. [231] The USSR was fatally weakened by a failed coup and a growing number of Soviet republics, particularly Russia, who threatened to secede from the USSR. The Commonwealth of Independent States, created on December 21, 1991, is viewed as a successor entity to the Soviet Union but, according to Russia's leaders, its purpose was to "allow a civilized divorce" between the Soviet Republics and is comparable to a loose confederation. [232] The USSR was declared officially dissolved on December 25, 1991. [233]

Following the Cold War, Russia cut military spending dramatically, creating a wrenching adjustment as the military-industrial sector had previously employed one of every five Soviet adults [234] , meaning its dismantling left millions throughout the former Soviet Union unemployed. [234] After Russia embarked on capitalist economic reforms in the 1990s, it suffered a financial crisis and a recession more severe than the US and Germany had experienced during the Great Depression. [235] Russian living standards have worsened overall in the post-Cold War years, although the economy has resumed growth since 1999. [235]

The legacy of the Cold War continues to influence world affairs. [13] After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the post-Cold War world is widely considered as unipolar, with the United States the sole remaining superpower. [236] [237] [238] The Cold War defined the political role of the United States in the post-World War II world: by 1989 the US held military alliances with 50 countries, and had 1.5 million troops posted abroad in 117 countries. [239] The Cold War also institutionalized a global commitment to huge, permanent peacetime military-industrial complexes and large-scale military funding of science. [239]

Military expenditures by the US during the Cold War years were estimated to have been $8 trillion, while nearly 100,000 Americans lost their lives in the Korean War and Vietnam War. [240] Although the loss of life among Soviet soldiers is difficult to estimate, as a share of their gross national product the financial cost for the Soviet Union was far higher than that of the US. [241]

In addition to the loss of life by uniformed soldiers, millions died in the superpowers' proxy wars around the globe, most notably in Southeast Asia. [242] Most of the proxy wars and subsidies for local conflicts ended along with the Cold War the incidence of interstate wars, ethnic wars, revolutionary wars, as well as refugee and displaced persons crises has declined sharply in the post-Cold War years. [243]

No separate campaign medal has been authorized for the Cold War however, in 1998, the United State Congress authorized Cold War Recognition Certificates "to all members of the armed forces and qualified federal government civilian personnel who faithfully and honorably served the United States anytime during the Cold War era, which is defined as Sept. 2, 1945 to Dec. 26, 1991." [244]

The legacy of Cold War conflict, however, is not always easily erased, as many of the economic and social tensions that were exploited to fuel Cold War competition in parts of the Third World remain acute. [13] The breakdown of state control in a number of areas formerly ruled by Communist governments has produced new civil and ethnic conflicts, particularly in the former Yugoslavia. [13] In Eastern Europe, the end of the Cold War has ushered in an era of economic growth and a large increase in the number of liberal democracies, while in other parts of the world, such as Afghanistan, independence was accompanied by state failure. [13]

As soon as the term "Cold War" was popularized to refer to post-war tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, interpreting the course and origins of the conflict has been a source of heated controversy among historians, political scientists, and journalists. [245] In particular, historians have sharply disagreed as to who was responsible for the breakdown of Soviet–US relations after the Second World War and whether the conflict between the two superpowers was inevitable, or could have been avoided. [246] Historians have also disagreed on what exactly the Cold War was, what the sources of the conflict were, and how to disentangle patterns of action and reaction between the two sides. [13]

Although explanations of the origins of the conflict in academic discussions are complex and diverse, several general schools of thought on the subject can be identified. Historians commonly speak of three differing approaches to the study of the Cold War: "orthodox" accounts, "revisionism", and "post-revisionism". [239]

"Orthodox" accounts place responsibility for the Cold War on the Soviet Union and its expansion into Eastern Europe. [239] "Revisionist" writers place more responsibility for the breakdown of post-war peace on the United States, citing a range of US efforts to isolate and confront the Soviet Union well before the end of World War II. [239] "Post-revisionists" see the events of the Cold War as more nuanced, and attempt to be more balanced in determining what occurred during the Cold War. [239] Much of the historiography on the Cold War weaves together two or even all three of these broad categories. [49]

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The Cold War Begins

The Cold War began with the formation of the Eastern Bloc, the implementation of the Marshall Plan, and the Berlin Blockade.

Learning Objectives

Contrast competing U.S. and Soviet strategies in postwar Europe

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Tensions between world powers grew as the Soviet Union began to form the Eastern bloc, turning Central and Eastern European countries such as Poland, Lithuania, and Romania into satellite states.
  • Western powers viewed Soviet control over the Eastern bloc with suspicion, believing it demonstrated aggression on the part of the Soviet Union.
  • Announced in 1947, the Marshall Plan was the United States’ comprehensive assistance program for Europe. The Soviet Union viewed this plan with suspicion and forbade Eastern bloc states from accepting aid.
  • In June 1948, the Soviet Union initiated the Berlin Blockade, which cut off all supply routes to the German city. In response to the Blockade, Western powers initiated the Berlin Airlift, the success of which eventually ended the blockade.

Key Terms

  • Eastern Bloc: The largely Communist countries of the eastern world, especially Eastern Europe, especially in the Cold War era.
  • satellite states: A country that is formally independent, but under heavy political and economic influence of or control by another country. The term is used mainly to refer to Central and Eastern European countries during the Cold War, who were “satellites” under the hegemony of the Soviet Union.
  • Marshall Plan: The large-scale American program to aid Europe in which the United States gave monetary support to help rebuild economies after the end of World War II in order to prevent the spread of Soviet communism.

Superpower Conflict

The United States and Soviet Union eventually emerged as the two major superpowers after World War II. The 1956 Suez Crisis suggested that Britain, financially weakened by two world wars, could no longer pursue its foreign policy objectives on an equal footing with the new superpowers without sacrificing convertibility of its reserve currency as a central goal of policy.

Despite attempts to create multinational coalitions or legislative bodies (such as the United Nations), it became increasingly clear that the U.S. and Soviet superpowers had very different visions about what the postwar world ought to look like. The two countries opposed each other ideologically, politically, militarily, and economically. The Soviet Union promoted the ideology of communism, characterized by a planned economy and a one-party state. In contrast, the U.S. promoted the ideologies of liberal democracy and the free market.

The division of the world along U.S.-Soviet lines was reflected in the NATO and Warsaw Pact military alliances, respectively. Most of Europe became aligned with either the United States or the Soviet Union. These alliances implied that these two nations were part of a world organized into a bipolar balance of power, in contrast with a previously multi-polar world.

Forming the Eastern Bloc

During the opening stages of World War II, the Soviet Union laid the foundation for the Eastern Bloc by directly annexing several countries as Soviet Socialist Republics that were initially ceded to it by Nazi Germany in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. These included eastern Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, part of eastern Finland, and eastern Romania. In Asia, the Red Army overran Manchuria in the last month of the war and went on to occupy the large swath of Korean territory north of the 38 th parallel.

The Eastern European territories liberated from the Nazis and occupied by the Soviet armed forces were added to the Eastern Bloc by converting them into satellite states. The Soviet-style regimes that arose in the satellite states not only reproduced Soviet command economies, but also adopted the brutal methods employed by Joseph Stalin and Soviet secret police to suppress real and potential opposition.

Following the Allies’ May 1945 victory, the Soviets effectively occupied Eastern Europe, while strong U.S. and Western allied forces remained in Western Europe. In Allied-occupied Germany, the Soviet Union, United States, Britain, and France established zones of occupation and a loose framework for four-power control. Soviet occupation of Eastern bloc states was viewed with suspicion by Western powers, as they saw this occupation as a sign of Soviet willingness to use aggression to spread the ideology of communism.

Post-War Allied Occupation Zones in Germany: Occupation zone borders in Germany, 1947. The main Allied powers established zones of occupation in Germany after World War II.

The Marshall Plan

In early 1947, Britain, France and the United States unsuccessfully attempted to reach an agreement with the Soviet Union for a plan envisioning an economically self-sufficient Germany, including a detailed accounting of the industrial plants, goods, and infrastructure already removed by the Soviets. In June 1947, in accordance with the Truman Doctrine, the United States enacted the Marshall Plan, a pledge of economic assistance for all European countries willing to participate, including the Soviet Union. The plan’s aim was to rebuild the democratic and economic systems of Europe and counter perceived threats to Europe’s balance of power, such as communist parties seizing control through revolutions or elections. The plan also stated that European prosperity was contingent upon German economic recovery. One month later, Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947, creating a unified Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the National Security Council (NSC). These would become the main bureaucracies for U.S. policy in the Cold War.

Stalin opposed the Marshall Plan. He had built up the Eastern Bloc protective belt of Soviet controlled nations on his Western border and wanted to maintain this buffer zone of states and a weakened Germany under Soviet control. Fearing American political, cultural, and economic penetration, Stalin eventually forbade Soviet Eastern bloc countries from accepting Marshall Plan aid. Stalin believed that economic integration with the West would allow Eastern Bloc countries to escape Soviet control, and that the U.S. was trying to buy a pro-U.S. realignment of Europe. The Soviet Union’s alternative to the Marshall plan, purported to involve Soviet subsidies and trade with eastern Europe, became known as the Molotov Plan.

The Berlin Blockade

As part of the economic rebuilding of Germany in early 1948, representatives of a number of Western European governments and the United States announced an agreement for a merger of western German areas into a federal governmental system. In addition, in accordance with the Marshall Plan, they began to re-industrialize and rebuild the German economy, including the introduction of a new Deutsche Mark currency to replace the old Reichsmark currency that the Soviets had debased.

Shortly thereafter, Stalin instituted the Berlin Blockade (June 24, 1948 – May 12, 1949), one of the first major crises of the Cold War, preventing food, materials, and supplies from arriving in West Berlin. The Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies’ railway, road, and canal access to the sectors of Berlin under Western control. The Soviets offered to drop the blockade if the Western Allies withdrew the newly introduced Deutsche mark from West Berlin.

In response, the Western Allies organized the Berlin airlift to carry supplies to the people of West Berlin, a difficult feat given the city’s population. Aircrews from the United States Air Force, the British Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and the South African Air Force flew more than 200,000 flights in one year, providing the West Berliners up to 8,893 tons of necessities such as food and fuel each day. The Soviets did not disrupt the airlift for fear this might lead to open conflict.

By the spring of 1949, the airlift was clearly succeeding, and by April it was delivering more cargo than had previously been transported into the city by rail. On May 12, 1949, the USSR lifted the blockade of West Berlin. The Berlin Blockade served to highlight the competing ideological and economic visions for postwar Europe.

Berlin Airlift: Berliners watch an aircraft take part in the Berlin Airlift, which was a successful attempt to circumvent the Soviet blockade of non-Soviet Berlin. The Berlin Blockade and the tensions surrounding it marked the beginning of the Cold War.


Strategic Arms Limitations Talks/Treaty (SALT) I and II

During the late 1960s, the United States learned that the Soviet Union had embarked upon a massive Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) buildup designed to reach parity with the United States. In January 1967, President Lyndon Johnson announced that the Soviet Union had begun to construct a limited Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) defense system around Moscow. The development of an ABM system could allow one side to launch a first strike and then prevent the other from retaliating by shooting down incoming missiles.

Johnson therefore called for strategic arms limitations talks (SALT), and in 1967, he and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin met at Glassboro State College in New Jersey. Johnson said they must gain “control of the ABM race,” and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara argued that the more each reacted to the other’s escalation, the more they had chosen “an insane road to follow.” While abolition of nuclear weapons would be impossible, limiting the development of both offensive and defensive strategic systems would stabilize U.S.-Soviet relations.

Johnson’s successor, Richard Nixon , also believed in SALT, and on November 17, 1969, the formal SALT talks began in Helsinki, Finland. Over the next two and a half years, the two sides haggled over whether or not each nation should complete their plans for ABMs verification of a treaty and U.S. concern that the Soviets continued to build more Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs). Nixon and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev signed the ABM Treaty and interim SALT agreement on May 26, 1972, in Moscow.

For the first time during the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union had agreed to limit the number of nuclear missiles in their arsenals. SALT I is considered the crowning achievement of the Nixon-Kissinger strategy of détente. The ABM Treaty limited strategic missile defenses to 200 interceptors each and allowed each side to construct two missile defense sites, one to protect the national capital, the other to protect one ICBM field. (For financial and strategic reasons, the United States stopped construction of each by the end of the decade.)

Negotiations for a second round of SALT began in late 1972. Since SALT I did not prevent each side from enlarging their forces through the deployment of Multiple Independently Targeted Re-Entry Vehicles (MIRVs) onto their ICBMs and SLBMs, SALT II initially focused on limiting, and then ultimately reducing, the number of MIRVs. Negotiations also sought to prevent both sides from making qualitative breakthroughs that would again destabilize the strategic relationship. The negotiations spanned the Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter administrations.

At the November 1974 Vladivostok Summit, Ford and Brezhnev agreed on the basic framework of a SALT II agreement. This included a 2,400 limit on strategic nuclear delivery vehicles (ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers) for each side a 1,320 limit on MIRV systems a ban on new land-based ICBM launchers and limits on deployment of new types of strategic offensive arms.

Even after the Vladivostok agreements, the two nations could not resolve the two other outstanding issues from SALT I: the number of strategic bombers and the total number of warheads in each nation’s arsenal. The first was complicated by the Soviet Backfire bomber, which U.S. negotiators believed could reach the United States but which the Soviets refused to include in the SALT negotiations. Meanwhile, the Soviets attempted unsuccessfully to limit American deployment of Air-Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCMs). Verification also divided the two nations, but eventually they agreed on using National Technical Means (NTM), including the collection of electronic signals known as telemetry and the use of photo-reconnaissance satellites. On June 17, 1979, Carter and Brezhnev signed the SALT II Treaty in Vienna. SALT II limited the total of both nations’ nuclear forces to 2,250 delivery vehicles and placed a variety of other restrictions on deployed strategic nuclear forces, including MIRVs.

However, a broad coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats grew increasingly skeptical of the Soviet Union’s crackdown on internal dissent, its increasingly interventionist foreign policies, and the verification process delineated in the Treaty. On December 17, 1979, 19 Senators wrote Carter that “Ratification of a SALT II Treaty will not reverse trends in the military balance adverse to the United States.” On December 25, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, and on January 3, 1980, Carter asked the Senate not to consider SALT II for its advice and consent, and it was never ratified. Both Washington and Moscow subsequently pledged to adhere to the agreement’s terms despite its failure to enter into force. Carter’s successor Ronald Reagan, a vehement critic of SALT II during the 1980 presidential campaign, agreed to abide by SALT II until its expiration on December 31, 1985, while he pursued the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and argued that research into the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) adhered to the 1972 ABM Treaty.


The Cold War Home Front: McCarthyism

But other forces also contributed to McCarthyism. The right-wing had long been wary of liberal, progressive policies like child labor laws and women's suffrage, which they viewed as socialism or communism. This was especially true of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. As far as the right was concerned, "New Dealism,&rdquo was heavily influenced by communism, and by the end of WWII it had ruled American society for a dozen years. During the McCarthyism era, much of the danger they saw was about vaguely defined "communist influence" rather than direct accusations of being Soviet spies. In fact, throughout the entire history of post-war McCarthyism, not a single government official was convicted of spying. But that didn&rsquot really matter to many Republicans. During the Roosevelt Era they had been completely shut out of power. Not only did Democrats rule the White House, they had controlled both houses of congress since 1933. During the 1944 elections the Republican candidate Thomas Dewey had tried to link Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal with communism. Democrats fired back by associating Republicans with Fascism. By the 1946 midterm elections, however, fascism had largely been defeated in Europe, but communism loomed as an even larger threat. Republicans found a winning issue. By &ldquoRed-baiting" their Democratic opponents—labeling them as "soft on communism," they gained traction with voters.

To bolster his claim that Hiss was a communist, Chambers produced sixty-five pages of retyped State Department documents and four pages in Hiss's own handwriting of copied State Department cables which he claimed to have obtained from Hiss in the 1930s the typed papers having been retyped from originals on the Hiss family's Woodstock typewriter. Both Chambers and Hiss had previously denied committing espionage. By introducing these documents, Chambers admitted that he had lied to the committee. Chambers then produced five rolls of 35 mm film, two of which contained State Department documents. Chambers had hidden the film in a hollowed-out pumpkin on his Maryland farm, and they became known as the “pumpkin papers".

From Lee case no. 40:
The employee is with the Office of Information and Educational Exchange in New York City. His application is very sketchy. There has been no investigation. (C-8) is a reference. Though he is 43 years of age, his file reflects no history prior to June 1941.

McCarthy's speech was a lie, but Republicans went along for political gain. Democrats tried to pin him down on his list, and McCarthy first agreed, and then refused to name names. He couldn't have named any names if he had wanted to. The Lee List used only case numbers. He did not get a copy of the key to the list, matching names with the case numbers, until several weeks later. Democrats had little choice but to agree to the creation of a committee to investigate McCarthy's charges. They also acceded to Republican demands that the Congress be given the authority to subpoena the loyalty records of all government employees against whom charges would be heard. Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon insisted that the hearings be conducted in public, but even so, the investigators were able to take preliminary evidence and testimony in executive session (in private). The final Senate resolution authorized "a full and complete study and investigation as to whether persons who are disloyal to the United States are, or have been employed by the Department of the State."

June 14, 1954: In a gesture against the "godless communism" of the Soviet Union, the phrase "under God" was incorporated into the Pledge of Allegiance by a Joint Resolution of Congress amending §7 of the Flag Code enacted in 1942.

August 24, 1954: The Communist Control Act was signed by President Eisenhower. It outlawed the Communist Party of the United States and criminalized membership in, or support for, the Party.


Why is Finland represented as a Soviet satellite in this 1947 cartoon? - History

The Cold War was a long period of tension between the democracies of the Western World and the communist countries of Eastern Europe. The west was led by the United States and Eastern Europe was led by the Soviet Union. These two countries became known as superpowers. Although the two superpowers never officially declared war on each other, they fought indirectly in proxy wars, the arms race, and the space race.

Time Period (1945 - 1991)

The Cold War began not too long after World War II ended in 1945. Although, the Soviet Union was an important member of the Allied Powers, there was great distrust between the Soviet Union and the rest of the Allies. The Allies were concerned with the brutal leadership of Joseph Stalin as well as the spread of communism.

The Cold War came to an end with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The Cold War was often fought between the superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union in something called a proxy war. These were wars fought between other countries, but with each side getting support from a different superpower. Examples of proxy wars include the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Yom Kippur War, and the Soviet Afghanistan War.

Arms Race and Space Race

The United States and the Soviet Union also tried to fight the Cold War by demonstrating their power and technology. One example of this was the Arms Race where each side tried to have the best weapons and the most nuclear bombs. The idea was that a large stockpile of weapons would deter the other side from ever attacking. Another example was the Space Race, where each side tried to show that it had the better scientists and technology by accomplishing certain space missions first.


10 Symbols of the Cold War

On June 22, 1990, Checkpoint Charlie, the best known crossing point between Soviet-occupied East Germany to Western-occupied West Germany was torn down, a sign that the Cold War that had threatened the world with nuclear annihilation since 1947 was drawing to an end. H ere we list 10 prominent symbols or icons that are closely associated with this time period. (Honorable mentionto the AK-47 and the M-16 assault rifles.)

Digging Deeper

10. MiG-15 and F-86.

These are the best of the early jets from both sides that faced off during the Korean War the fierce debate over which was the better fighter plane is still being fought.

The Intercontinental Ballistic Missile that carried a nuclear warhead was first fielded by the Soviets in 1959, but the U.S. was quick to follow with its own similar weapons. Because they were capable of striking anywhere on Earth and impossible to stop (at the time) once launched, these rockets terrified anyone smart enough to realize the danger they posed. Eventually engineered to carry multiple warheads of increasing power and accuracy, these testaments to the animosity felt during the Cold War remain in use to this day and are now also in service in places such as China and India. With even more third world countries threatening to develop such missiles and the nuclear warheads to go with them, the relief felt at end of Cold War was certainly fleeting.

D esigned by Lockheed’s Clarence “Kelly” Johnson (the guy who designed the P-38, the F-80, the F-104 and the SR-71), the super long and delicate-looking wings of this spy plane gave it a distinctive silhouette, making it an unmistakable and a prominent symbol of the Cold War. When U.S. pilot Francis Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960, tensions between the U.S. and the USSR reached a high level, and the U.S. was left humiliated when President Eisenhower looked like a liar after denying the flight had even taken been over the USSR. On an interesting side note, this is one of only a few military planes to have an operational life of over 50 years, and it is still in service.

The world watched as the Soviets beat the Americans into space with their launch of the world’s first satellite in 1957, and disappointed Americans were irate that Communists could have beaten “free” people into space. The successful launch of Sputnik was soon followed by the ICBM whose saving grace is of a legacy of satellites enjoyed today for television, radio, telephone and other communications as well as monitoring and taking nifty pictures of space and the Earth.

6. The B-52 Stratofortress.

Since being introduced in 1955, 744 of these massive bombers have been built. Incredibly, the U.S. Air Force still relies on them as one of their primary weapons systems. Probably the most iconic weapon of the Cold War, unlike its Soviet counterparts, the B-52 has dropped thousands of (non-nuclear) bombs in combat. This Cold War relic may well be the greatest military bomber of all time.

5. Checkpoint Charlie.

Once a tense location where suspicious soldiers carefully checked the papers of people and the contents of vehicles crossing the Berlin Wall to and from East and West Germany, this classic symbol was retained after the Berlin Wall was torn down during the reunification process of Germany. Though it was only 1 of 9 Berlin border crossings, it is the one that is most remembered. Its building is now a tourist attraction and museum. For all intents and purposes, Checkpoint Charlie was the front line of the Cold War.

4. Cheyenne Mountain.

Completed in 1966, this tunneled complex located deep in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado had the purpose of serving as a protected headquarters in the event of nuclear war. Consisting of 15 three-story buildings mounted on enormous shock-absorbing springs, it was over 5 acres large and stood under the protection of 2,000 feet of granite and giant steel blast doors that had been designed to be capable of withstanding a 30-megaton blast. This “underground city” has a 1.5 million-gallon reservoir of water and its own power plant. It is now mainly used as a space program monitoring station.

3. The Moscow-Washington “Hotline.”

A direct link between the principle adversaries of the Cold War, this telephone connection was established in 1963 to provide sure and direct communication between the President of the U.S. and the leader of the Soviet Union during times of crisis. The need for such a link had become apparent during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and it remains intact even today.

2. The Hydrogen Bomb (thermonuclear).

Developed first by the U.S. in 1952 and then by the USSR in 1953, this horrific weapon had the potential of being more than 1,000 times more powerful than the bombs that had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The threat of nuclear devastation hung over the world for nearly 40 years and nearly came to pass during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. The only good part to come of this were some entertaining movies such as Dr. Strangelove (1964, comedy), Failsafe (1964, serious) and television’s The Day After (1983) which was watched by over 100 million people at the time of its original broadcast.

1. The Berlin Wall.

Constructed by East Germany in 1961 to keep East Germans from defecting to the West, the concrete wall was over 150 kilometers long, nearly 12 feet high in places, topped with barbed wire and manned by soldiers with machine guns in 302 watch towers and 20 bunkers. The tearing down of this wall has become synonymous with the end of the Cold War. It is now estimated that as many as 200 defectors were shot as they attempted to climb over it.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see:

Downing, Taylor and Jeremy Issacs. Cold War: An Illustrated History, 1945-1991. Little Brown & Co, 1998.


Stalin’s victory? The Soviet Union and World War II

When World War II ended in 1945 few doubted that the victor’s laurels belonged mainly to Joseph Stalin. Under his leadership the Soviet Union had just won the war of the century, and that victory was closely identified with his role as the country’s supreme commander.
World War II was a global conflict of immense proportions in which 50 million people died, but at its heart was the epic struggle between Stalin and Hitler on the Eastern Front. The war began with Hitler’s attack on Poland in September 1939 and was followed by the stunning German defeat of France in summer 1940. Not until June 1941 did Hitler launch his invasion of the Soviet Union—a state that posed a strategic threat to German domination of Europe as well as being an ideological rival and racial enemy.
At first all went well for Operation Barbarossa—the codename for the German invasion—as Hitler’s armies penetrated deep into Russia, reaching the outskirts of Leningrad and Moscow by the end of 1941. In 1942, however, the Soviets turned the tables on the Germans and won a great victory at Stalingrad that spelled doom for the Wehrmacht. In 1943 and 1944 the Red Army expelled the Germans from the rest of Russia and then began an invasion of Germany that culminated in the capture of Berlin in May 1945.

Eighty per cent of combat on the Eastern Front

Eighty per cent of all the combat of World War II took place on the Eastern Front. During the four years of the Soviet–German struggle the Red Army destroyed 600 enemy divisions (Italian, Hungarian, Romanian, Finnish, Croat, Slovak and Spanish as well as German). The Germans suffered ten million casualties (75% of their total wartime losses), including three million dead, while Hitler’s Axis allies lost another million. The Red Army destroyed 48,000 enemy tanks, 167,000 guns and 77,000 aircraft. In comparison, the contribution of Stalin’s western allies to the defeat of Germany was of secondary importance. Even after the Anglo-American invasion of France in June 1944 there were still twice as many German soldiers serving on the Eastern Front as in the West. On the other hand, Britain and the United States did supply a huge quantity of material aid to the USSR that greatly facilitated the Soviet victory over Germany.
Even so, victory did not come cheap. Red Army casualties totalled sixteen million, including eight million dead (three million in German POW camps). Adding to the attrition was the death of sixteen million Soviet civilians. Among these were a million Soviet Jews, executed by the Germans in 1941–2 at the beginning of the Holocaust. Material damage to the Soviet Union was equally staggering: six million houses, 98,000 farms, 32,000 factories, 82,000 schools, 43,000 libraries, 6,000 hospitals, and thousands of miles of roads and railways were destroyed. In total, the Soviet Union lost 25% of its national wealth and 14% of its population as a direct result of the war.
When the Red Army captured Berlin, the full extent of Soviet war damage was far from clear, but there was no doubt that the Soviets had fought a brutal war against a barbaric enemy and that the cost had been astronomical. Some saw the Soviet victory as pyrrhic—a victory won at too great a cost. Others worried that German domination of Europe had been replaced by a Soviet and communist threat to the continent. But for most people in the allied world, Stalin’s victory—whatever the costs and problems it brought—was preferable to Hitler’s dream of a global racist empire. Stalin was widely seen as Europe’s saviour from this fate, and when in June 1945 he was proclaimed ‘generalissimus’—the superlative general—it seemed only appropriate.

The structure of Soviet military and political decision-making during the Great Patriotic War.

Stalin shared the military glory with his generals—above all with his deputy supreme commander, Marshal Georgi Zhukov—but Stalin’s role was political and economic as well as military. As supreme commander Stalin decided on military strategy and supervised all the big battles and operations. As People’s Commissar for Defence and chairman of the State Defence Council he was responsible for the country’s mobilisation for total war. As head of government Stalin represented the USSR at summit meetings with its British and American allies and corresponded on a regular basis with Winston Churchill and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As leader of the Communist Party it fell to him to rally the Soviet people for a patriotic war of national defence. (See diagram, p. 43.)
Stalin’s public image was that of a benign dictator, and hopes were high that his regime would evolve into a more liberal and democratic state. But it was no secret that he was a ruthless dictator who presided over an authoritarian communist state that terrorised its own people. During the war the harshest discipline was imposed, and Stalin brooked no wavering in the face of the enemy: some 170,000 Soviet military personnel were executed for treason, cowardice or ill discipline. Whole communities and ethnic groups, accused of collective collaboration with the enemy, were uprooted and deported. At the end of the war millions of returning Soviet POWS were screened for disloyalty, and a quarter of a million of them were executed or re-imprisoned. Needless to say, there was no mercy for the million Soviet citizens who had fought on the German side.

The Nazi–Soviet non-aggression pact, August–September 1939.

At the time much of this repression remained hidden, and public attention focused on Stalin’s image as a highly successful and very effective war leader. The contemporary impression was summed up by one of his earliest biographers, Isaac Deutscher, writing in 1948:

‘Many allied visitors who called at the Kremlin during the war were astonished to see on how many issues, great and small, military, political or diplomatic, Stalin took the final decision. He was in effect his own commander-in-chief, his own minister of defence, his own quartermaster, his own minister of supply, his own foreign minister, and even his own chef de protocol . . . Thus he went on, day after day, throughout four years of hostilities—a prodigy of patience, tenacity, and vigilance, almost omnipresent, almost omniscient.’

The Nazi–Soviet pact

But Stalin’s reputation soon began to take a battering. When the wartime grand alliance with Britain and the United States gave way to the Cold War in 1947 the Soviet role in the Second World War was criticised by western propagandists. A particular target was the Nazi–Soviet non-aggression pact of 1939–41. This was a deal between Stalin and Hitler that gave the German dictator a free hand to attack Poland and to fight the British and French. In return for a promise of Soviet neutrality Stalin was given a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, including territory in Poland. In accordance with this agreement the Soviets invaded Eastern Poland on 17 September 1939 and occupied the territory allocated to them by the pact. (See map, p. 43.)
From the Soviet point of view, the invasion was justified by the fact that this territory had been forcibly occupied by the Poles in the wake of the Russo-Polish war of 1919–20. The territory’s inhabitants were mainly Ukrainian and Belorussian, and its reincorporation into the USSR meant the reunification of Eastern and Western Ukraine and Belorussia. But the Red Army’s invasion was clearly an act of aggression and the process of integrating Western Belorussia and Western Ukraine into the USSR was very violent, including the deportation of 400,000 ethnic Poles to the Soviet interior. Among their number were 20,000 Polish army officers and police officials, executed on Stalin’s orders in March–April 1940.
Britain went to war with Germany in defence of Poland, but the Soviet occupation of Eastern Poland was actually welcomed by Winston Churchill in a radio broadcast on 1 October 1939:

‘Russia has pursued a cold policy of self-interest. We could have wished that the Russian armies should be standing on their present line as the friends and allies of Poland instead of as invaders. But that the Russian armies should stand on this line was clearly necessary for the safety of Russia against the Nazi menace. I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest. It cannot be in accordance with the interests or the safety of Russia that Germany should plant itself upon the shores of the Black Sea, or that it should overrun the Balkan states and subjugate the Slavonic peoples of south-eastern Europe. That would be contrary to the historic life-interests of Russia.’

Operation Barbarossa, June–December 1941.

Consistency was never Churchill’s strong point, and a few weeks later he was urging Anglo-French intervention in the Soviet war with Finland. This conflict had broken out at the end of November 1939 when the Finns resisted Stalin’s demands to join a Soviet-led bloc in the Baltic. Churchill was willing to risk war with Russia because the real purpose of the Anglo-French expedition to Finland was to cut off Germany’s supplies of iron ore from Norway and Sweden. Faced with the escalation of their local war into a major conflict in Scandinavia, Stalin and the Finns agreed a peace treaty in March 1940. Finland was forced to make various territorial concessions to the Soviets but the country retained its independence.
Eventually Churchill was proved right: Stalin’s resistance to German domination of Europe prompted Hitler to invade the Soviet Union in 1941. But in 1939–40 Stalin was intent on cooperating as much as he could with Hitler, and the Nazi–Soviet pact was followed by a period of close political, economic and military cooperation between the two states. Stalin hoped that this collaboration would last a long time—long enough for him to prepare the country’s defences against a possible German attack. Stalin saw war with Hitler as possible, even likely, but not inevitable.
Stalin’s hopes for a durable deal with Hitler were not dented until the convening of a Soviet–German conference in Berlin in November 1940. Stalin was represented by his foreign minister, Vyacheslav Molotov, who was instructed to secure a new Nazi–Soviet pact that would guarantee the Soviet Union against German attack and extend Soviet–German spheres of influence arrangements to the Balkans. Hitler’s counter-offer of a subordinate role in a German-led coalition of Germany, Italy, Japan and the Soviet Union was unacceptable to Stalin, who responded by reiterating the need for a new Nazi–Soviet pact. Hitler ignored this proposal and on 18 December 1940 issued the order for Operation Barbarossa.
From January 1941 it was clear that a German–Soviet war was coming. Diplomatic relations between the two countries continued to deteriorate there was a massive build-up of German military might along Soviet borders, and multiple sources of intelligence information indicated that the Germans were preparing an invasion. Stalin believed that to avoid a two-front war Hitler would not invade before he had defeated Britain. He was also persuaded that the German military–political élite was split on the question of attacking the Soviet Union and that some adroit diplomacy could still avert war. Above all, Stalin was confident that Soviet defences would hold when the Germans did attack and that there would be time to counter-mobilise his forces. For this reason he resisted pressure from his generals for full-scale mobilisation prior to a German attack—an action that he thought might provoke an invasion by Hitler.
Stalin was disastrously wrong. Hitler invaded Russia while still at war with Britain and the invasion came a lot sooner than the Soviet dictator expected. The Germans launched the full force of their military power—a 3.5 million invasion force of 180 divisions—from day one of their attack. Soviet defences were smashed to smithereens and there was no time for the Red Army to mobilise for counteraction.

Operation Barbarossa

Stalin’s decision to remain in Moscow helped to steady a panic that was developing in the city, and he gave some stirring patriotic speeches to troops on their way to the front, such as here in Red Square, 7 November 1941. (David King Collection)

The German invasion plan envisaged a quick and easy war in Russia that would see the Red Army destroyed within a few weeks and the country occupied along a line running from Archangel in the north to Astrakhan in the south. Thanks in part to Stalin’s miscalculations about the timing and immediate consequences of a German attack, Hitler almost achieved these goals. (See map, p. 44.) Only when the Red Army repelled a German attack on Moscow in November–December 1941 did the tide of war begin to turn in the Soviets’ favour. Even so, Hitler was strong enough to attempt victory again in 1942, this time in a southern campaign that took his armies to Stalingrad.
After his death Stalin came under attack in the Soviet Union for allowing himself to be so surprised by Hitler. Leading the assault was Nikita Khrushchev, his successor as Soviet leader. In a secret speech to the twentieth congress of the Soviet Communist Party in 1956 Khrushchev denounced many aspects of Stalin’s leadership, including his warlordship. According to Khrushchev, it was clear that the Germans were going to invade and that the invasion would have disastrous consequences for the Soviet Union if the country was not adequately prepared and mobilised. When war broke out, claimed Khrushchev, Stalin went into a state of shock and did not come to his senses until other party leaders went to him and insisted that he continue to lead the country. Stalin recovered his nerve but his amateurish military leadership proved to be disastrous, argued Khrushchev. Only the sacrifices of the Soviet people saved the country from defeat, and it was Stalin’s generals and his comrades in the party leadership who deserved the credit for victory.
Khrushchev’s somewhat self-serving critique of Stalin’s war leadership was part of a more general effort by him to puncture the mythology generated by the cult of personality that surrounded the dictator until his death in 1953. According to the personality cult, Stalin was a military genius who could do no wrong. Soviet defeats in the early years of the war were explained as part of the great Stalin’s plan to draw the Germans deep into Russia in order to annihilate them, while Soviet victories were all designed and directed by the dictator himself.

The German advance in the south, summer 1942.

But when Khrushchev fell from power in 1964 a different view of Stalin as warlord began to emerge. Those Soviet generals who had worked closely with Stalin testified to the dictator’s military talents, particularly after he had learned the painful lessons of defeat. According to Zhukov,

‘Stalin made a big personal contribution to the victory over Nazi Germany and its allies. His prestige was exceedingly high, and his appointment as supreme commander was wholeheartedly acclaimed by the people and the troops. To err is human, and, of course, the supreme commander did make mistakes early in the war. But he took them close to heart, gave them deep thought, and sought to draw due lessons from them so as never to repeat them again.’

This more positive view of Stalin’s role as supreme commander has been confirmed by the new evidence from the Russian archives that emerged after the collapse of Soviet communism in 1991. It is clear from Stalin’s appointments diary, for example, that he did not suffer a nervous collapse when the Germans invaded. Stalin was certainly shocked by the extent of the early German successes, but he remained in control and maintained the coherence of his military and political command structure in the face of devastating defeats. Even when the Germans were approaching Moscow Stalin did not waver and took some key decisions that helped to save the city. Zhukov was given command of Soviet defences and Stalin resisted the temptation to throw all his reserves into the defensive battle, saving some for a planned counter-offensive. His decision to remain in Moscow helped to steady a panic that was developing in the city, and he gave some stirring patriotic speeches to troops on their way to the front.
Khrushchev’s criticism that Stalin always preferred offensive action and had little time for defence was more valid. When the Germans attacked in June 1941 he ordered a series of massive counter-offensives that made little headway but further disorganised Soviet defences. Against the advice of his generals, he refused to withdraw his forces from Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. The result was that four Soviet armies—more than 40 divisions—were encircled by the Germans and 600,000 Soviet soldiers were killed, captured or went missing in action. After Zhukov’s repulse of the Germans in front of Moscow in December 1941, Stalin ordered a general counter-offensive with the aim of executing an Operation Barbarossa in reverse—of driving the Wehrmacht out of Russia within months, if not weeks. This first great winter offensive of the Red Army secured some initial gains but ran out of steam by early 1942 and the scene was set for a German comeback later that summer.

Ruins of the factory district in besieged Stalingrad. One of the keys to success was maintaining a Red Army bridgehead in Stalingrad itself that would keep the Germans locked into a gruelling war of attrition for the city. (Interfoto)

But it wasn’t just Stalin who was gung-ho for offensive action. The offensivist orientation was integral to the Red Army’s military culture, and it was a doctrine to which all Stalin’s generals fully subscribed. Most of Stalin’s mistakes during the early years of the Eastern Front war were made on the advice of his generals. They, like him, were on a steep learning curve, and it took time and experience for them to develop better judgement—and the better they got at their job the more willing was Stalin to take their advice.

Victory at Stalingrad

The great turning-point for Stalin and his generals came during the battle of Stalingrad. In summer 1942 the Germans re-launched their invasion of the USSR with a campaign in southern Russia designed to reach Baku and capture the oilfields that supplied 80% of the Soviet war economy’s fuel. As in summer 1941, the Germans advanced very rapidly and Hitler was encouraged to think that his armies could simultaneously reach Baku and occupy Stalingrad. ‘Stalin’s city’ was a psychological as well as an industrial and strategic target for Hitler, and its capture would have been a devastating blow to Soviet morale. (See map, p. 46.)
Stalin was slow to respond to the German threat in the south because he thought that Hitler’s main target was Moscow. Another problem was that some ill-conceived and badly prepared offensive operations in April–May 1942 had resulted in such severe losses that Soviet defences were in a badly weakened state when the Germans launched their southern campaign. But when Hitler’s intentions became clear, Soviet defences in the Stalingrad area were strengthened and plans laid for a concentrated counter-offensive that would turn back the German advance. One of the keys to success was maintaining a Red Army bridgehead in Stalingrad itself that would keep the Germans locked into a gruelling war of attrition for the city. This was the importance of the prolonged defensive battle of Stalingrad that the Soviets waged from August to November 1942.

Victorious Soviet soldiers marching through the ruins of Stalingrad. Stalin and his generals had orchestrated a heroic defence of the city that was admired throughout the allied world. (Interfoto)

The turning-point at Stalingrad came in November 1942, when the Soviets launched a multi-pronged offensive that surrounded Hitler’s armies in the city and threatened to cut off German forces advancing toward Baku. In the event the Germans were able to execute a retreat that saved some of their southern armies, but their troops in Stalingrad remained trapped in the city and by early 1943 had either been wiped out or captured by the Red Army. When the dust had settled, the Germans and their allies had lost nearly 50 divisions and suffered casualties of one and a half million, including 150,000 dead in Stalingrad alone. Hitler’s southern campaign was a complete failure, and the last real chance for the Germans to win the war on the Eastern Front had been lost. (See map, p. 47.)
Stalingrad was a triumph for Stalin and his generals. They had orchestrated a heroic defence of the city that was admired throughout the allied world, and demonstrated consummate operational art in the skilful execution of a complex strategic encirclement operation. During the course of these operations the Soviet high command developed a coherence and dynamism that it maintained until the end of the war. Central to this cohesion and creativity was Stalin’s leadership. It was his authority and his handling of relations with and between his generals that united and energised the group. Stalin continued to make mistakes—as did his generals—but these became fewer and less costly as the war progressed. After Stalingrad, German defeat on the Eastern Front was inevitable—as long as the Soviet people continued to make colossal sacrifices and providing that Stalin and his generals kept on winning the big battles.

The verdict on Stalin

In an interview published in 1981 Averell Harriman, US ambassador in Moscow during the war, who had more direct dealings with Stalin than almost any other foreigner, summed up the dictator’s qualities as a warlord:

‘Stalin the war leader was popular, and there can be no doubt that he was the one who held the Soviet Union together. I do not think anyone else could have done it. I’d like to emphasise my great admiration for Stalin the national leader in an emergency—one of those historic occasions when one man made such a difference. He had an enormous ability to absorb detail and to act on detail. He was very much alert to the needs of the whole war machine. These were not the characteristics of a bureaucrat, but rather those of an extremely able and vigorous war leader.’

Richard Overy’s verdict in his classic book Why the Allies won (1975) was that

‘Stalin brought a powerful will to bear on the Soviet war effort that motivated those around him and directed their energies. In the process he expected and got exceptional sacrifices from his besieged people . . . revelations of the brutality of the wartime regime should not blind us to the fact that Stalin’s grip on the Soviet Union may have helped more than it hindered the pursuit of victory.’

In my book Stalin’s wars I take this argument a step further and argue that Stalin’s war leadership was indispensable to the Soviet victory and that without his personal contribution the war against Hitler may well have been lost. This is a controversial view and the debate about the merits and demerits of Stalin as a warlord continues, but the new evidence from Russian archives means that this discussion is now much better informed. The fall of communism and the end of the Cold War have also facilitated the development of a more detached view of Stalin’s war record—one that recognises that a terrible dictator can also be a great warlord and one who, ironically perhaps, helped save the world for democracy.

Geoffrey Roberts is Professor of History and International Relations at University College Cork.

C. Bellamy, Absolute war: Soviet Russia in the Second World War (Basingstoke, 2007).

D. Glantz and J. House, When titans clashed: how the Red Army stopped Hitler (Kansas, 1995).

E. Mawdsley, Thunder in the east: the Nazi–Soviet war, 1941–1945 (London, 2005).

G. Roberts, Stalin’s wars: from World War to Cold War, 1939–1953 (Yale, 2006).


What Will Russia Do After the War?

Top Image: Soviet and U.S. soldiers meet on the Elbe River. Courtesy of Sputnik.

On November 16, 1933, the United States established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. Although it was a strained relationship from the beginning, the relationship between the two countries was marked by a great deal of cooperation between the two countries during World War II (1941-1945) and it was essential in defeating Nazi Germany. Without the sacrifice of nearly 20 million Soviets on the Eastern Front, the United States and Great Britain would not have been able to defeat Germany.

When the Soviets signed a non-aggression pact with Germany in 1939, it appeared there was no hope for any kind of alliance. The Soviet occupation of eastern Poland in September and the “Winter War” against Finland in December made a potential alliance even more difficult. Despite the mounting tension between the two countries, President Roosevelt always understood Nazi Germany, not the Soviet Union, was the greatest threat to peace. Roosevelt was responsible for including the Soviet Union in the Lend-Lease bill passed in 1941. When Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June of 1941, the alliance between the Soviets and the U.S. was sealed. The first Lend-Lease aid began to arrive in the Soviet Union by October. In December of 1941 when the U.S. entered the war, the collaboration between the three major powers (Soviet Union, United States, and Great Britain) intensified. Their one goal was the unconditional surrender of Germany. The most important disagreement, which arose between the big three, was the opening of the second front. The Soviets were bleeding out on the eastern front and advocated for an invasion of France as soon as possible. Finally, the Normandy Invasion took place on June 6, 1944.

The next tensions between the Allies were the questions of post-war boundaries. The German defeat was obvious by early 1945. Confident of an Allied victory in February 1945 Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin met in Yalta to discuss the reorganization of Europe at the conclusion of the war. Churchill wanted free and fair elections which would lead to democratic governments in Central and Eastern Europe, especially Poland. Stalin wanted governments who were loyal and friendly to the Soviet Union, to act as a buffer zone against potential future German aggression. It was agreed Poland would be reorganized under a communist provisional government and free elections would be held at a later date. It was also agreed Germany and Berlin would be divided into four zones of occupation between the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. From July 17-August 2, 1945, a second conference was held in Potsdam, Germany. Roosevelt died in April of that year and the new President Harry Truman represented the United States. Truman was very suspicious of Soviet actions. He did not trust Stalin and questioned his true intentions.

How do you think Americans responded to this poll?

The Results:

The Soviet Union Occupies Eastern Europe

At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union occupied Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Poland and eastern Germany. Great Britain, the United States, France, and the Soviet Union divided Germany and Berlin into four occupation zones to be administered by the four countries. The Soviet Union was determined to establish governments in Eastern Europe who were friendly to the Soviet Union. While the war was still taking place, Soviet occupation troops assisted local communists in putting Communist dictatorships in Romania and Bulgaria in power. Yugoslavia and Albania supported the rise of communist dictatorships in their countries however, both of these countries remained outside of the Soviet sphere of influence. In 1949 the Communist German Democratic Republic was established in the Soviet, German occupation zone. The East European satellite regimes depended on Soviet military power to maintain control of their communist governments. Over one million Red Army soldiers remained stationed in Eastern Europe. On March 5, 1946, Winston Churchill, speaking at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri with President Harry S. Truman on the stage with him, summed up the situation in Europe with what is known as the “Iron Curtain” speech: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.” Churchill’s speech may have been the first shot fired in the Cold War which would last until 1989.

On 16 June 1947, British cartoonist Leslie Gilbert Illingworth illustrates the threat represented by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, who is methodically trying to extend his area of influence in Central Europe to include the countries of Western Europe. Published in the Daily Mail, June 16, 1947, London.

WWII Polls

Public opinion polls give us unique insight into America in the WWII era. Each week, historians from the Institute for the Study of War and Democracy work with the archives of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at Cornell University to explore what Americans believed and how they felt about events and people related to the WWII years.


Watch the video: The Sputnik 1 Launch: The First Artificial Satellite To Enter Earths Orbit. Mach. NBC News