The Cold War began after World War Two. The main enemies were the United States and the Soviet Union. The Cold War got its name because both sides were afraid of fighting each other directly.
In such a hot war, nuclear weapons might destroy everything. So, instead, they fought each other indirectly. They supported conflicts in different parts of the world. They also used words as weapons.
They threatened and denounced each other. Or they tried to make each other look foolish. Over the years, leaders on both sides changed. Yet the Cold War continued.
It was the major force in world politics for most of the second half of the twentieth century. Historians disagree about how long the Cold War lasted.
Some believe it ended when the United States and the Soviet Union improved relations during the nineteen sixties and early nineteen seventies. Others believe it ended when the Berlin Wall was torn down in nineteen eighty-nine.
The Cold War world was separated into three groups. The United States led the West. This group included countries with democratic political systems.
The Soviet Union led the East. This group included countries with communist political systems. The Non-Aligned group included countries that did not want to be tied to either the West or the East.
Harry Truman was the first American president to fight the Cold War. He used several policies. One was the Truman Doctrine. This was a plan to give money and military aid to countries threatened by communism.
The Truman Doctrine effectively stopped communists from taking control of Greece and Turkey. Another policy was the Marshall Plan. This strengthened the economies and governments of countries in Western Europe.
His death gave the new American president, Dwight Eisenhower, a chance to deal with new Soviet leaders. In July, nineteen fifty-five, Eisenhower and Nikolai Bulganin met in Geneva, Switzerland. The leaders of Britain and France also attended.
Eisenhower proposed that the Americans and Soviets agree to let their military bases be inspected by air by the other side. The Soviets later rejected the proposal. Yet the meeting in Geneva was not considered a failure.
After all, the leaders of the world's most powerful nations had shaken hands. Cold War tensions increased, then eased, then increased again over the years.
The changes came as both sides actively tried to influence political and economic developments around the world. For example, the Soviet Union provided military, economic, and technical aid to communist governments in Asia.
The United States then helped eight Asian nations fight communism by establishing the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. In the middle nineteen fifties, the United States began sending military advisers to help south Vietnam defend itself against communist North Vietnam.
That aid would later expand into a long and bloody period of American involvement in Vietnam. The Cold War also affected the Middle East.
In the nineteen fifties, both East and West offered aid to Egypt to build the Aswan High Dam on the Nile River. The West cancelled its offer, however, after Egypt bought weapons from the communist government of Czechoslovakia.
The exiles had been trained by America's Central Intelligence Agency. The United States failed to send military planes to protect them during the invasion.
As a result, almost all were killed or taken prisoner. In Europe, tens of thousands of East Germans had fled to the West. East Germany's communist government decided to stop them.
It built a wall separating the eastern and western parts of the city of Berlin. Guards shot at anyone who tried to flee by climbing over. During Kennedy's second year in office, American intelligence reports discovered Soviet missiles in Cuba.
The Soviet Union denied they were there. American photographs proved they were. The Cuban missile crisis easily could have resulted in a nuclear war. But it ended after a week.
Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles if the United States agreed not to interfere in Cuba. Some progress was made in easing Cold War tensions when Kennedy was president.
In nineteen sixty-three, the two sides reached a major arms control agreement. They agreed to ban tests of nuclear weapons above ground, under water, and in space.
They also established a direct telephone line between the White House and the Kremlin. Relations between East and West also improved when Richard Nixon was president. He and Leonid Brezhnev met several times.
They reached several arms control agreements. One reduced the number of missiles used to shoot down enemy nuclear weapons. It also banned the testing and deployment of long-distance missiles for five years.