From 1946 to 1991 the United States, the Soviet Union, and their allies were locked into a long, tense conflict known as the Cold War. Historians disagree on a date, but it is widely believed that the 1947 Truman Doctrine war lasted until the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. Although the parties were nominally at peace, the war was marked by an aggressive arms race, proxy wars, and an ideological quest for world domination.
The US and the USSR, eager to remain in power after World War II, viewed each other with suspicion and rushed to create and consolidate allies. The ideology of military power became an important one when President Harry Truman asked Congress in 1947 for funds to prop up the troubled economies of Turkey and Greece to contain Soviet influence. The ensuing race for military superiority ushered in an era of espionage wars, the spread of communism, and the accumulation of nuclear weapons that threatened global destruction.
Soldiers from the Soviet Union and the United States did not only fight during the Cold War. After World War II began the US and its allies, as well as the USSR and its satellite states, a decades-long battle for supremacy known as the Cold War. Although President Roosevelt hoped that a sense of lasting peace would emerge from the post-war world order, relations with the USSR were complicated.
Relations between the Soviet Union and the United States have been driven by a complex interplay of ideological, political, and economic factors which have led to a shift from cautious cooperation to the bitter rivalry between the superpowers over the years. The two countries became enemies through political maneuvers, military coalitions, espionage, propaganda, armament, economic aid, and proxy wars against other nations.
The marked differences in the political systems of the Soviet Union and the United States often prevented them from reaching an agreement on key political issues, as was the case during the Cuban Missile Crisis that brought both countries to the brink of war. The United States Government was hostile to Soviet leaders who led Russia out of World War I and opposed state-supported communism. Americans were suspicious of Soviet communism particularly and concerned about the tyrannical rule of the Russian leader Joseph Stalin of his own country. The Soviets, for their part, resented the Americans’ decades-long refusal to treat the USSR as a legitimate part of the international community and their delayed entry into World War II, which led to the deaths of tens of millions of Russians.
Western and Allied leaders have not forgotten the original non-aggression pact that Soviet Prime Minister Josef Stalin signed with Adolf Hitler in 1939. The United States did not commit itself to reverse its long tradition of distancing itself from European affairs and Roosevelt assured Stalin in Tehran that American troops would return home within two years of the end of the war. Given the depressing record of the 1930s, there was no guarantee that the war-time economic boom would continue or that democracy would take root in the few countries where it existed. The stark fact that the Americans and British did not defeat Hitler with Stalin’s help meant that World War II was a victory for fascism, not authoritarianism and its future prospects.
The Cold War was based on an ideological and geopolitical battle for global influence between the Soviet Union and the United States after their temporary alliance after the 1945 victory over Nazi Germany. The Cold War fought in the four decades between the end of World War II and the fall of the Berlin Wall divided countries into divided maps, with many nations falling under communist rule and others falling under US military intervention. Soviet Union troops were sent to preserve communism in East Germany (1953), Hungary (1956), Czechoslovakia (1968), and Afghanistan (1979).
Europe divided into two blocs became one of the largest theaters of the Cold War. The struggle to topple colonial regimes became mired in Cold War tensions as the superpowers vied for influence over anti-colonial movements. The United States defeated Guatemala’s left-wing government in 1954, supported the failed invasion of Cuba in 1961, invaded the Dominican Republic in 1965 and Grenada in 1982, and launched the failed decades-long war in Vietnam, which divided American society.
A major part of the so-called Cold War was a 40-year conflict between East and West that ended in 1991 with the fall of the Berlin Wall. The first phase of the Cold War began at the end of World War II in 1945. The first Cold War military action started in June 1950 when the Soviet-backed North Korean People’s Army invaded its pro-Western neighbor to the south.
Many American officials feared that the invasion was the first step in a communist effort to take over the world, and viewed non-interference as not an option. Its pro-western neighbor to the south sent the American military against the Soviet-backed North Korean People’s Army and the Korean War continued until the end of 1953. In response to NATO-action in the West, including the rearmament of West Germany and expansion of the Organization Treaty, the Soviet Union entered into a military alliance known as the Warsaw Pact, on May 1, 1955, with Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania.
The Truman administration pursued a broad containment strategy, which, put simply, was a great effort to build a wall around the communist world defended by the United States and its allies’ armed power. The US Navy, its warships, planes, and sailors guarded the walls of this wall against the beginning of the so-called Cold War until its victorious end.
To avoid global war, the United States began for the first time to use economic aid as a strategic element of its foreign policy, offering significant assistance to countries in Europe and Asia struggling to rebuild their broken economies. The United States government initiated hunger-relief programs in the Soviet Union in the early 1920s, and American businessmen established trade relations there during the New Economic Policy period (1921-1929), but the two countries did not establish diplomatic relations until 1933.