Cold War

Between 1947 and 1991 the world was in the icy grip of the Cold War. This 20th century battle of ideologies that was fought between the Western Bloc comprised of the United States and its NATO allies and the USSR’s Eastern Bloc who were united by the Warsaw Pact.

The Cold War is known as such because there was never any direct fighting between the two main hegemons. Instead wars were fought in proxy countries all over the globe- Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan being some of the most infamous. Despite being allies against the Nazis diverging opinions and policies between the two sides would manifest globally as trouble and violence for decades to come.

Tensions between the two sides were based on economic and political differences. The USA and NATO were economically liberal, pushing a market based ideology onto the world while the USSR favoured communism and socialist policies. Mistrust between these two nuclear states has brought the world closer to the brink of destruction that ever before.

Incidents such as Able Archer NATO military exercises, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the tank stand off at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin were times when the world faced being plunged into another world war.

While the hard power displays of military might are common reminders of the Cold War other avenues of competition were used to demonstrate which system was ‘best’. The Space Race, putting the first man on the moon, was a decisive victory for the US. The Olympics was used as a proxy for showing off the virtues of each system.

As well as trying to reach for the highest heights each side took great pleasure in highlighting the short comings of the other. The civil rights movement and institutional racism was widely broadcast in the USSR, whilst the famines and gulags of Soviet Russia were common knowledge the US.

The Cold War ended in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, Balkanisation and the liberalisation of economic policy in the USSR. It was thought that the US had won the Cold War, many scholars in the West touted it as the end of history. Meaning that ideologically nothing could surpass the capitalist system that had vanquished the Nazis and the USSR.

As we have seen over the last 30 years this claim was nothing but hubris. War continues, ideologies resurface and tensions have been reignited- especially between Russia and the US.