how did the cold war begin essay

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The Cold War rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union lasted for decades and resulted in anti-communist suspicions and international incidents that led two superpowers to the brink of nuclear disaster.

Operation Ivy Hydrogen Bomb Test in Marshall Islands A billowing white mushroom cloud, mottled with orange, pushes through a layer of clouds during Operation Ivy, the first test of a hydrogen bomb, at Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands. (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Cold War History

The Cold War rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union lasted for decades and resulted in anti-communist suspicions and international incidents that led the two superpowers to the brink of nuclear disaster.

Senator McCarthy Attending US Army Hearings (Original Caption) Senator Joseph R. McCarthy chairman of the Senate Investigations Subcommittee, is shown as he took center stage again to comment on the latest developments in his dispute with the White House and Army Secretary Robert T. Stevens.

Joseph McCarthy

The Cold War In the years after World War II ended, events at home and abroad seemed to many Americans to prove that the “Red menace” was real. In August 1949, for instance, the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb. Later that year, Communist forces declared victory in the Chinese Civil War and established […]

A group of protesters demonstrate holding placards against Communist sympathizers outside the Fox Wilshire Theatre in occasion of the premiere of film 'Exodus', which marked the end of the 'Hollywood Blacklist' when screen player Dalton Trumbo, a Communist Party member from 1943 to 1948 and member of the Hollywood Ten, was credited as the screenwriter of the film, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, US, December 1960. (Photo by American Stock Archive/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

The Red Scare was hysteria over the perceived threat posed by Communists in the U.S. during the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, which intensified in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer

Palmer Raids

Red Scare Following the Russian Revolution in 1917, America was on high alert, fearing Communist revolutionaries on their own shores. The Sedition Act of 1918, which was an expansion of the 1917 Espionage Act, was a direct result of the paranoia. Targeting those who criticized the government, the Sedition Act set into motion an effort […]

how did the cold war begin essay

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how did the cold war begin essay

Formation of NATO

Tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union resulted in the formation of key alliances that would endure throughout the Cold War.

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how did the cold war begin essay

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Take a crash course on the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), a group that investigated the ‘loyalty’ of those suspected of having Communist ties after World War II.

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how did the cold war begin essay

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how did the cold war begin essay


What was the Cold War—and are we headed to another one?

The 45-year standoff between the West and the U.S.S.R. ended when the Soviet Union dissolved. Some say another could be starting as tensions with Russia rise.

As World War II dragged to an end in 1945, the leaders of the “Big Three” allied powers—the United States, Soviet Union, and Great Britain—met in Potsdam, Germany, to hash out   terms to conclude the bloodiest conflict the world had ever seen. The great powers split Germany into occupation zones, recognized a Soviet-backed government in Poland, and partitioned Vietnam, monumental decisions that shaped the postwar global order. The talks were meant to forge a lasting peace, but within 18 months, a Cold War began that lasted more than four decades.

One of the most important moments at Potsdam was not captured in a memo or proclaimed at a press conference. Late in the conference, U.S. President Harry Truman took aside Soviet premier Joseph Stalin to share some explosive news: The U.S. had just successfully tested a weapon of “unusual destructive force.” It was a nuclear weapon capable of destroying entire cities, the most dangerous and powerful armament the world had ever seen.

( Subscriber exclusive: For Hiroshima's survivors, memories of the bomb are impossible to forget .)

Within weeks, the U.S. used the atomic bomb to force Japan’s surrender. With a devastating and proven weapon in its armory, the U.S. suddenly had the upper hand among the powers who were allies in the war. What followed was a dangerous struggle for supremacy between two superpowers, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., that lasted until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

how did the cold war begin essay

Though the two nations were technically at peace, the period was characterized by an aggressive and costly arms race; bloody proxy wars fought across Latin America, Africa, and Asia; and competing bids for world dominance between U.S.-led capitalist governments and the Soviet-led communist bloc.

The Cold War lasted nearly half a century. Here’s a look at why it began, how it escalated, its legacy today—and why some analysts think another Cold War is already underway.


Why’s it called the cold war.

The term “cold war” had existed since the 1930s, when guerre froide was used in France to describe increasingly fraught relationships between European countries. In 1945, shortly after the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, British writer George Orwell used the term in an essay that explored what the atom bomb meant for international relations.

The atom bombs killed more than 100,000 Japanese citizens, unveiling a destructive power so terrifying that Orwell predicted it would discourage open warfare among great powers, creating instead “a state which was at once unconquerable and in a permanent state of ‘cold war’ with its neighbours.”

Orwell’s prediction of a “peace that is no peace” came true as seeds of distrust between the former allies grew.

Okay, so how did the Cold War begin?

The U.S.S.R. had borne the highest number of military and civilian casualties in the war— an estimated 24 million —while liberating huge swaths of Eastern Europe from Nazi control. Soviet leader Josef Stalin was dissatisfied with the postwar division of Europe, which he felt didn’t fairly reflect his nation’s contribution.

In the U.S., diplomat George Kennan outlined the Soviet Union’s growing distrust in the 1946 “Long Telegram,” as it is now known. Kennan warned that the U.S.S.R. was illogical and insecure and would not cooperate with the West in the long-term. In response, Washington began to pursue a policy of “containment” to prevent the spread of Soviet ideology and influence.

how did the cold war begin essay

The U.S. soon got an opportunity to flex its new policy. In 1947, Britain announced it would withdraw aid from Greece and Turkey, which were both battling communist uprisings. President Harry Truman seized the occasion to ask Congress for funds to assist both countries, establishing what became known as the Truman Doctrine —the principle that the U.S. should support countries or people threatened by Soviet forces or communist insurrection. Stalin saw the move as the opening shot of a shadow war.

The term “Cold War” became a shorthand to describe the ideological struggle between capitalism in the West and communism in the East.   American journalist Walter Lippmann popularized the term in a series of articles in 1947 as nations chose sides in the standoff.

Why was NATO created?

The U.S. wasn’t alone in worrying about Stalin’s push to extend Soviet influence westward and bring other states under communist rule. In 1948, the U.S.S.R. backed a communist coup in Czechoslovakia and launched a blockade of west Berlin, which had been divided into occupation zones controlled by communists in the east and capitalists in the west.

To demonstrate a united front, the U.S. and its allies formed a transatlantic mutual defense alliance known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO. On April 4, 1949, the U.S., Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the U.K. signed a treaty agreeing that “an armed attack against one or more…shall be considered an attack against them all.”  

how did the cold war begin essay

The U.S.S.R. responded by creating a defensive alliance of its own. Signed in 1955, the Warsaw Pact included the Soviet Union and seven satellite states, including Poland and East Germany, reinforcing the ideological and military barrier between Eastern and Western Europe that Winston Churchill had dubbed the “ Iron Curtain ” in a 1946 speech.

How close did the world come to nuclear war?

As the two sides faced off across that Iron Curtain, the U.S. and U.S.S.R. engaged in an arms race, pouring trillions of dollars into accumulating nuclear arsenals .

The U.S. had an advantage at the start of the arms race. But once the U.S.S.R. built its own nuclear arsenal, the two sides were at a standoff over “mutually assured destruction” —the idea that if either side attacked, the other would retaliate, unleashing apocalyptic consequences for both parties.

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Both countries had missile defenses pointed at one another, and in 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the countries closer to the brink than any other event in the Cold War. The U.S. detected Soviet missile bases and arms in communist Cuba, just 90 miles south of Florida. Demanding they be removed, President John F. Kennedy declared that a strike on U.S. territory would trigger an immediate nuclear strike on the U.S.S.R.

people watching JFK on a television

The threat of imminent nuclear war hung over nearly two weeks of tense negotiations. Finally, the U.S.S.R. agreed to dismantle its weapons facilities if the U.S. pledged not to invade Cuba. Behind the scenes, the U.S. agreed to remove nuclear weapons from Turkey; that agreement did not become public until 1987.  

Nevertheless, both sides’ nuclear arsenals continued to grow exponentially. By the late 1980s, the United States had an estimated 23,000 nuclear weapons to the Soviet Union’s 39,000.

How else was the Cold War fought?

Over more than four decades of Cold War, the U.S. and Soviet Union waged multiple proxy wars across the globe. In the Korean War , the Vietnam War , and other armed conflicts, the superpowers funded opposing sides or fought directly against communist or capitalist militias. Both sides funded revolutions, insurgencies, and political assassinations in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

The U.S. and Soviet Union also jockeyed to prove technological dominance in a 20-year Space Race . The Soviet Union scored first with the 1957 launch of Sputnik-1, the first artificial satellite, while the U.S. was first to send a man to the moon in 1969. Only in the mid 1970s did the two nations begin to cooperate on joint missions.

( 50 years after Apollo 11, a new moon race is on .)

Sputnik satellite

How did the Cold War end?

By the mid 1980s, life behind the Iron Curtain had changed. Democratic uprisings were percolating in Soviet bloc nations, and the U.S.S.R. itself struggled with economic and political chaos. The U.S. and U.S.S.R. forged a more open relationship, even brokering a nuclear treaty in 1987 that eliminated a class of particularly dangerous ground-launched missiles from the nations’ arsenals.

By 1991, the Soviet Union had lost most of its bloc to democratic revolutions, and the Warsaw Pact was formally dissolved. Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the U.S.S.R., opened his country to the West and instituted economic reforms that undercut institutions that relied on nationalized goods. In December 1991, the U.S.S.R. was dissolved into separate nations.

What does all this mean now?

The U.S.S.R. is gone, and nuclear arsenals have dramatically decreased thanks to nonproliferation treaties between Washington and Moscow in the 1980s and 1990s. In recent decades, the U.S. and Russia have cooperated on a number of global issues, including Afghanistan and the war on terror.

But the Cold War still affects modern geopolitics. Both nations still have divergent geopolitical interests, large defense budgets, and international military bases. NATO still wields political power and has grown to include 30 member states. The alliance now stretches to Russia’s borders and includes former Soviet states and Warsaw Pact members, such as Poland and the Baltic States. Since the 1990s, Russia has seen the eastward expansion of NATO as a threat to its security .

Tensions between Russia and the West reached a new high point following the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, which had applied to take the first steps toward NATO membership in 2008, before a new president shelved the plan two years later. Some commentators have likened the current crisis to the beginnings of a new Cold War.

( Follow Ukraine's 30-year struggle for independence with this visual timeline .)

Is a 21st-century Cold War already being waged? It remains to be seen. Though historians say the decisions at Potsdam set the stage for a long post-World War II rivalry, we may not recognize the beginnings of a new Cold War until it’s visible in history’s rear-view mirror.

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The Origins of the Cold War - A Review Essay

Profile image of Andras Schweitzer

Following the logic of earlier scholarly debates on which side is to be blamed for the Cold War it appears that in fact both or neither: it was the inevitable consequence of the fact that two superpowers emerged after the conflagration of WWII. The ideology confrontation mattered much less vis-a-vis this immense global power shift.

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Jonathan Morales

how did the cold war begin essay

Bibliography of New Cold War History

Aigul Kazhenova , Tsotne Tchanturia , Marijn Mulder , Ahmet Ömer Yüce , Sergei Zakharov , Mirkamran Huseynli , Pınar Eldemir , Angela Aiello , Rastko Lompar

This bibliography attempts to present the publications on the history of the Cold War published after 1989, the beginning of the „archival revolution” in the former Soviet bloc countries. While this first edition is still far from complete, it collects a huge number of books, articles and book chapters on the topic and it is the most extensive such bibliography so far, almost 600 pages in length. An enlarged and updated edition will be completed in 2018.

Tsotne Tchanturia , Vajda Barnabás , Gökay Çınar , Barnabás Vajda , Lenka Thérová , Simon Szilvási , Irem Osmanoglu , Rastko Lompar , Aigul Kazhenova , Pınar Eldemir , Natalija Dimić Lompar , Sára Büki

This bibliography attemts to present the publications on the history of the Cold War published after 1989, the beginning of the „archival revolution” in the former Soviet bloc countries. While this first edition is still far from complete, it collects a huge number of books, articles and book chapters on the topic and it is the most extensive such bibliography so far, almost 600 pages in length. An enlarged and updated edition will be completed in 2018. So, if you are a Cold War history scholar in any country and would like us to incude all of your publications on the Cold War (published after 1989) in the second edition, we will gladly do that. Please, send us a list of your works in which books and articles/book chapters are separated and follow the format of our bibliography. The titles of non-English language entries should be translated into English in square brackets. Please, send the list to: [email protected] The Cold War History Research Center owes special thanks to the Parallel History Project on Cooperative Security (formerly: on NATO and the Warsaw Pact) in Zurich–Washington D.C. for their permission to use the Selective Bibliography on the Cold War Alliances, compiled by Anna Locher and Cristian Nünlist, available at:

The Bibliography of New Cold War History (second enlarged edition)

Tsotne Tchanturia , Aigul Kazhenova , Khatia Kardava

This bibliography attempts to present the publications on the history of the Cold War published after 1989, the beginning of the „archival revolution” in the former Soviet bloc countries.

Soshum: Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities

Adewunmi J Falode , Moses Yakubu

The Cold War that occurred between 1945 and 1991 was both an international political and historical event. As a political event, the Cold War laid bare the fissures, animosities, mistrusts, misconceptions and the high-stake brinksmanship that has been part of the international political system since the birth of the modern nation-state in 1648. As a historical event, the Cold War and its end marked an important epoch in human social, economic and political development. The beginning of the Cold War marked the introduction of a new form of social and political experiment in human relations with the international arena as its laboratory. Its end signaled the end of a potent social and political force that is still shaping the course of political relationship among states in the 21 st century. The historiography of the Cold War has been shrouded in controversy. Different factors have been given for the origins of the conflict. This work is a historical and structural analysis of the historiography of the Cold War. The work analyzes the competing views of the historiography of the Cold War and create an all-encompassing and holistic historiography called the Structuralist School.

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fabio capano

In Rosella Mamoli Zorzi e Simone Francescato (eds.), American Phantasmagoria. Modes of representation in US culture

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The first section shows that the presence of ghosts in the foreign policy decision making processes of both the United States and the Soviet Union has been detected mainly in relatively recent works. The second, third and fourth sections are dedicated to distinguishing between three different kinds of apparitions—ghosts of the past, specters of the future, and phantasmagorias, respectively. The concluding section attempts some reflections on the possible meanings of such interest of Cold War historiography for spectral figures, particularly in connection with the ongoing debates about the “very notion of Cold War.”

Eliza Gheorghe

Geoffrey Roberts

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[w:] Disintegration and Integration in East-Central Europe 1919 – post-1989, red. W. Loth, N. Păun, Cluj-Napoca 2014, s. 134-146

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Cold War International History Project (CWIHP) Working Paper Series

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President Kennedy and Chairman Khrushchev meet in Vienna, 03 June 1961.

The Cold War

After World War II, the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its satellite states began a decades-long struggle for supremacy known as the Cold War. Soldiers of the Soviet Union and the United States did not do battle directly during the Cold War. But the two superpowers continually antagonized each other through political maneuvering, military coalitions, espionage, propaganda, arms buildups, economic aid, and proxy wars between other nations.

From Allies to Adversaries

The Soviet Union and the United States had fought as allies against Nazi Germany during World War II. But the alliance began to crumble as soon as the war in Europe ended in May 1945. Tensions were apparent in July during the Potsdam Conference, where the victorious Allies negotiated the joint occupation of Germany.

The Soviet Union was determined to have a buffer zone between its borders and Western Europe. It set up pro-communist regimes in Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Albania, and eventually in East Germany.

As the Soviets tightened their grip on Eastern Europe, the United States embarked on a policy of containment to prevent the spread of Soviet and communist influence in Western European nations such as France, Italy, and Greece.

During the 1940s, the United States reversed its traditional reluctance to become involved in European affairs. The Truman Doctrine (1947) pledged aid to governments threatened by communist subversion. The Marshall Plan (1947) provided billions of dollars in economic assistance to eliminate the political instability that could open the way for communist takeovers of democratically elected governments.

France, England, and the United States administered sectors of the city of Berlin, deep inside communist East Germany. When the Soviets cut off all road and rail traffic to the city in 1948, the United States and Great Britain responded with a massive airlift that supplied the besieged city for 231 days until the blockade was lifted. In 1949, the United States joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the first mutual security and military alliance in American history. The establishment of NATO also spurred the Soviet Union to create an alliance with the communist governments of Eastern Europe that was formalized in 1955 by the Warsaw Pact.

The Worldwide Cold War

map of East and West Germany

In Europe, the dividing line between East and West remained essentially frozen during the next decades. But conflict spread to Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The struggle to overthrow colonial regimes frequently became entangled in Cold War tensions, and the superpowers competed to influence anti-colonial movements.

In 1949, the communists triumphed in the Chinese civil war, and the world's most populous nation joined the Soviet Union as a Cold War adversary. In 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea, and the United Nations and the United States sent troops and military aid. Communist China intervened to support North Korea, and bloody campaigns stretched on for three years until a truce was signed in 1953.

In 1954, the colonial French regime fell in Vietnam.

The United States supported a military government in South Vietnam and worked to prevent free elections that might have unified the country under the control of communist North Vietnam. In response to the threat, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) was formed in 1955 to prevent communist expansion, and President Eisenhower sent some 700 military personnel as well as military and economic aid to the government of South Vietnam. The effort was foundering when John F. Kennedy took office.

Closer to home, the Cuban resistance movement led by Fidel Castro deposed the pro-American military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959. Castro's Cuba quickly became militarily and economically dependent on the Soviet Union. The United States' main rival in the Cold War had established a foothold just ninety miles off the coast of Florida.

Kennedy and the Cold War

Cold War rhetoric dominated the 1960 presidential campaign. Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon both pledged to strengthen American military forces and promised a tough stance against the Soviet Union and international communism. Kennedy warned of the Soviet's growing arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles and pledged to revitalize American nuclear forces. He also criticized the Eisenhower administration for permitting the establishment of a pro-Soviet government in Cuba.

John F. Kennedy was the first American president born in the 20th century. The Cold War and the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union were vital international issues throughout his political career. His inaugural address stressed the contest between the free world and the communist world, and he pledged that the American people would "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty."

The Bay of Pigs

Before his inauguration, JFK was briefed on a plan drafted during the Eisenhower administration to train Cuban exiles for an invasion of their homeland. The plan anticipated that support from the Cuban people and perhaps even elements of the Cuban military would lead to the overthrow of Castro and the establishment of a non-communist government friendly to the United States.

Kennedy approved the operation and some 1,400 exiles landed at Cuba's Bay of Pigs on April 17. The entire force was either killed or captured, and Kennedy took full responsibility for the failure of the operation.

The Arms Race

In June 1961, Kennedy met with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna, Austria. (See a memorandum below outlining the main points of conversation between President Kennedy and Khrushchev at their first lunch meeting.) Kennedy was surprised by Khrushchev's combative tone during the summit. At one point, Khrushchev threatened to cut off Allied access to Berlin. The Soviet leader pointed out the Lenin Peace Medals he was wearing, and Kennedy answered, "I hope you keep them." Just two months later, Khrushchev ordered the construction of the Berlin Wall to stop the flood of East Germans into West Germany.

As a result of these threatening developments, Kennedy ordered substantial increases in American intercontinental ballistic missile forces. He also added five new army divisions and increased the nation's air power and military reserves. The Soviets meanwhile resumed nuclear testing and President Kennedy responded by reluctantly reactivating American tests in early 1962.

JFKPOF-126-009-p0024. Memorandum relaying the main points of the conversation between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev during their first lunch meeting in Vienna, on June 3, 1961.

During this meeting, President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev discussed Soviet agriculture, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's space flight, the possibility of putting a man on the moon, and their hopes that their two nations would have good relations in the future.

More information

JFKPOF-126-009-p0025. Memorandum relaying the main points of the conversation between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev during their first lunch meeting in Vienna, on June 3, 1961. 

JFKPOF-126-009-p0026. Memorandum relaying the main points of the conversation between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev during their first lunch meeting in Vienna, on June 3, 1961. 

JFKPOF-126-009-p0027. Memorandum relaying the main points of the conversation between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev during their first lunch meeting in Vienna, on June 3, 1961. 

The Cuban Missile Crisis

In the summer of 1962, Khrushchev reached a secret agreement with the Cuban government to supply nuclear missiles capable of protecting the island against another US-sponsored invasion. In mid-October, American spy planes photographed the missile sites under construction. Kennedy responded by placing a naval blockade, which he referred to as a "quarantine," around Cuba. He also demanded the removal of the missiles and the destruction of the sites. Recognizing that the crisis could easily escalate into nuclear war, Khrushchev finally agreed to remove the missiles in return for an American pledge not to reinvade Cuba. But the end of Cuban Missile Crisis did little to ease the tensions of the Cold War. The Soviet leader decided to commit whatever resources were required for upgrading the Soviet nuclear strike force. His decision led to a major escalation of the nuclear arms race.

In June 1963, President Kennedy spoke at the American University commencement in Washington, DC. He urged Americans to critically reexamine Cold War stereotypes and myths and called for a strategy of peace that would make the world safe for diversity. In the final months of the Kennedy presidency Cold War tensions seemed to soften as the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was negotiated and signed. In addition, Washington and Moscow established a direct line of communication known as the "Hotline" to help reduce the possibility of war by miscalculation.

In May 1961, JFK had authorized sending 500 Special Forces troops and military advisers to assist the government of South Vietnam. They joined 700 Americans already sent by the Eisenhower administration. In February 1962, the president sent an additional 12,000 military advisers to support the South Vietnamese army. By early November 1963, the number of US military advisers had reached 16,000.

Even as the military commitment in Vietnam grew, JFK told an interviewer, "In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it—the people of Vietnam against the Communists. . . . But I don't agree with those who say we should withdraw. That would be a great mistake. . . . [The United States] made this effort to defend Europe. Now Europe is quite secure. We also have to participate—we may not like it—in the defense of Asia." In the final weeks of his life, JFK wrestled with the need to decide the future of the United States commitment in Vietnam—and very likely had not made a final decision before his death.

how did the cold war begin essay

The Cold War (1945-1989) essay

The Cold War is considered to be a significant event in Modern World History. The Cold War dominated a rather long time period: between 1945, or the end of the World War II, and 1990, the collapse of the USSR. This period involved the relationships between two superpowers: the United States and the USSR. The Cold War began in Eastern Europe and Germany, according to the researchers of the Institute of Contemporary British History (Warner 15).  Researchers state that “the USSR and the United States of America held the trump cards, nuclear bombs and missiles” (Daniel 489). In other words, during the Cold War, two nations took the fate of the world under their control. The progression of the Cold War influenced the development of society, which became aware of the threat of nuclear war. After the World War II, the world experienced technological progress, which provided “the Space Race, computer development, superhighway construction, jet airliner development, the creation of international phone system, the advent of television, enormous progress in medicine, and the creation of mass consumerism, and many other achievements” (Daniel 489). Although the larger part of the world lived in poverty and lacked technological progress, the United States and other countries of Western world succeeded in economic development. The Cold War, which began in 1945, reflected the increased role of technological progress in the establishment of economic relationships between two superpowers.   The Cold War involved internal and external conflicts between two superpowers, the United States and the USSR, leading to eventual breakdown of the USSR.

  • The Cold War: background information

The Cold War consisted of several confrontations between the United States and the USSR, supported by their allies. According to researchers, the Cold War was marked by a number of events, including “the escalating arms race, a competition to conquer space, a dangerously belligerent for of diplomacy known as brinkmanship, and a series of small wars, sometimes called “police actions” by the United States and sometimes excused as defense measures by the Soviets” (Gottfried 9). The Cold War had different influences on the United States and the USSR. For the USSR, the Cold War provided massive opportunities for the spread of communism across the world, Moscow’s control over the development of other nations and the increased role of the Soviet Communist party.

In fact, the Cold War could split the wartime alliance formed to oppose the plans of Nazi Germany, leaving the USSR and the United States as two superpowers with considerable economic and political differences. The USSR was based on a single-party Marxist–Leninist system, while the United States was a capitalist state with democratic governance based on free elections.

The key figure in the Cold War was the Soviet leader Gorbachev, who was elected in 1985. He managed to change the direction of the USSR, making the economies of communist ruled states independent. The major reasons for changing in the course were poor technological development of the USSR (Gottfried 115). Gorbachev believed that radical changes in political power could improve the Communist system. At the same time, he wanted to stop the Cold War and tensions with the United States. The cost of nuclear arms race had negative impact on the economy of the USSR. The leaders of the United States accepted the proposed relationships, based on cooperation and mutual trust. The end of the Cold War was marked by signing the INF treaty in 1987 (Gottfried 115).

  • The origins of the Cold War

Many American historians state that the Cold War began in 1945. However, according to Russian researchers, historians and analysts “the Cold War began with the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, for this was when the capitalist world began its systematic opposition to and effort to undermine the world’s first socialist state and society” (Warner13). For Russians, the Cold War was hot in 1918-1922, when the Allied Intervention policy implemented in Russia during the Russian Civil War. According to John W. Long, “the U.S. intervention in North Russia was a policy formulated by President Wilson during the first half of 1918 at the urgent insistence of Britain, France and Italy, the chief World War I allies” (380).

Nevertheless, there are some other opinions regarding the origins of the Cold War. For example, Geoffrey Barraclough, an outstanding English historian, states that the events in the Far East at the end of the century contributed to the origins of the Cold War. He argues that “during the previous hundred years, Russia and the United States has tended to support each other against England; but now, as England’s power passed its zenith, they came face to face across the Pacific” (Warner 13). According to Barraclough, the Cold War is associated with the conflict of interests, which involved European countries, the Middle East and South East Asia. Finally, this conflict divided the world into two camps. Thus, the Cold War origins are connected with the spread of ideological conflict caused by the emergence of the new power in the early 20-th century (Warner 14). The Cold War outbreak was associated with the spread of propaganda on the United States by the USSR. The propagandistic attacks involved the criticism of the U.S. leaders and their policies. These attacked were harmful to the interests of American nation (Whitton 151).

  • The major causes of the Cold War

The United States and the USSR were regarded as two superpowers during the Cold War, each having its own sphere of influence, its power and forces. The Cold War had been the continuing conflict, caused by tensions, misunderstandings and competitions that existed between the United States and the USSR, as well as their allies from 1945 to the early 1990s (Gottfried 10). Throughout this long period, there was the so-called rivalry between the United States and the USSR, which was expressed through various transformations, including military buildup, the spread of propaganda, the growth of espionage, weapons development, considerable industrial advances, and competitive technological developments in different spheres of human activity, such as medicine, education, space exploration, etc.

There four major causes of the Cold War, which include:

  • Ideological differences (communism v. capitalism);
  • Mutual distrust and misperception;
  • The fear of the United State regarding the spread of communism;
  • The nuclear arms race (Gottfried 10).

The major causes of the Cold War point out to the fact that the USSR was focused on the spread of communist ideas worldwide. The United States followed democratic ideas and opposed the spread of communism. At the same time, the acquisition of atomic weapons by the United States caused fear in the USSR. The use of atomic weapons could become the major reason of fear of both the United States and the USSR. In other words, both countries were anxious about possible attacks from each other; therefore, they were following the production of mass destruction weapons. In addition, the USSR was focused on taking control over Eastern Europe and Central Asia. According to researchers, the USSR used various strategies to gain control over Eastern Europe and Central Asia in the years 1945-1980. Some of these strategies included “encouraging the communist takeover of governments in Eastern Europe, the setting up of Comecon, the Warsaw Pact, the presence of the Red Army in Eastern Europe, and the Brezhnev Doctrine” (Phillips 118). These actions were the major factors for the suspicions and concerns of the United States. In addition, the U.S. President had a personal dislike of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and his policies. In general, the United States was concerned by the Soviet Union’s actions regarding the occupied territory of Germany, while the USSR feared that the United States would use Western Europe as the major tool for attack.

  • The consequences of the Cold War

The consequences of the Cold War include both positive and negative effects for both the United States and the USSR.

  • Both the United States and the USSR managed to build up huge arsenals of atomic weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles.
  • The Cold War provided opportunities for the establishment of the military blocs, NATO and the Warsaw Pact.
  • The Cold War led to the emergence of the destructive military conflicts, like the Vietnam War and the Korean War, which took the lives of millions of people (Gottfried13).
  • The USSR collapsed because of considerable economic, political and social challenges.
  • The Cold War led to the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the unification of the two German nations.
  • The Cold War led to the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact (Gottfried 136).
  • The Cold war provided the opportunities for achieving independence of the Baltic States and some former Soviet Republics.
  • The Cold War made the United States the sole superpower of the world because of the collapse of the USSR in 1990.
  • The Cold War led to the collapse of Communism and the rise of globalization worldwide (Phillips 119).

The impact of the Cold War on the development of many countries was enormous. The consequences of the Cold War were derived from numerous internal problems of the countries, which were connected with the USSR, especially developing countries (India, Africa, etc.). This fact means that foreign policies of many states were transformed (Gottfried 115).

The Cold War (1945-1989) essay part 2

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Essay on the Cold War: it’s Origin, Causes and Phases

how did the cold war begin essay

After the Second World War, the USA and USSR became two Super Powers. One nation tried to reduce the power of other. Indirectly the competition between the Super Powers led to the Cold War.

Then America took the leadership of all the Capitalist Countries.

Soviet Russia took the leadership of all the Communist Countries. As a result of which both stood as rivals to each other.

Definition of the Cold War:


In the graphic language of Hartman, “Cold War is a state of tension between countries in which each side adopts policies designed to strengthen it and weaken the other by falling short by actual war”.

USA vs USSR Fight! The Cold War: Crash Course World History #39 ...

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Infact, Cold War is a kind of verbal war which is fought through newspapers, magazines, radio and other propaganda methods. It is a propaganda to which a great power resorts against the other power. It is a sort of diplomatic war.

Origin of Cold War:

There is no unanimity amongst scholars regarding the origin of the Cold War In 1941 when Hitler invaded Russia, Roosevelt the President of USA sent armaments to Russia. It is only because the relationship between Roosevelt and Stalin was very good. But after the defeat of Germany, when Stalin wanted to implement Communist ideology in Poland, Hungery, Bulgaria and Rumania, at that time England and America suspected Stalin.

Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of England in his ‘Fulton Speech’ on 5 March 1946 said that Soviet Russia was covered by an Iron Curtain. It led Stalin to think deeply. As a result of which suspicion became wider between Soviet Russia and western countries and thus the Cold War took birth.

Causes of the Cold War:

Various causes are responsible for the outbreak of the Cold War. At first, the difference between Soviet Russia and USA led to the Cold War. The United States of America could not tolerate the Communist ideology of Soviet Russia. On the other hand, Russia could not accept the dominance of United States of America upon the other European Countries.

Secondly, the Race of Armament between the two super powers served another cause for the Cold War. After the Second World War, Soviet Russia had increased its military strength which was a threat to the Western Countries. So America started to manufacture the Atom bomb, Hydrogen bomb and other deadly weapons. The other European Countries also participated in this race. So, the whole world was divided into two power blocs and paved the way for the Cold War.

Thirdly, the Ideological Difference was another cause for the Cold War. When Soviet Russia spread Communism, at that time America propagated Capitalism. This propaganda ultimately accelerated the Cold War.

Fourthly, Russian Declaration made another cause for the Cold War. Soviet Russia highlighted Communism in mass-media and encouraged the labour revolution. On the other hand, America helped the Capitalists against the Communism. So it helped to the growth of Cold War.

Fifthly, the Nuclear Programme of America was responsible for another cause for the Cold War. After the bombardment of America on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Soviet Russia got afraid for her existence. So, it also followed the same path to combat America. This led to the growth of Cold War.

Lastly, the Enforcement of Veto by Soviet Russia against the western countries made them to hate Russia. When the western countries put forth any view in the Security Council of the UNO, Soviet Russia immediately opposed it through veto. So western countries became annoyed in Soviet Russia which gave birth to the Cold War.

Various Phases of the Cold War:

The Cold War did not occur in a day. It passed through several phases.

First Phase (1946-1949 ):

In this phase America and Soviet Russia disbelieved each other. America always tried to control the Red Regime in Russia. Without any hesitation Soviet Russia established Communism by destroying democracy in the Poland, Bulgaria, Rumania, Hungery, Yugoslavia and other Eastern European Countries.

In order to reduce Russia’s hegemony, America helped Greece and Turkey by following Truman Doctrine which came into force on 12 March 1947. According to Marshall Plan which was declared on 5 June, 1947 America gave financial assistance to Western European Countries.

In this phase, non withdrawal of army from Iran by Soviet Russia, Berlin blaockade etc. made the cold was more furious. After the formation of NATO in 1949, the Cold War took a halt.

Second Phase (1949-1953 ):

In this phase a treaty was signed between Australia, New Zeland and America in September, 1957 which was known as ANZUS. America also signed a treaty with Japan on 8 September, 1951. At that time by taking armaments from Russia and army from China, North Korea declared war against South Korea.

Then with the help of UNO, America sent military aid to South Korea. However, both North Korea and South Korea signed peace treaty in 1953 and ended the war. In order to reduce the impact of Soviet Communism, America spent a huge amount of dollar in propaganda against Communism. On the other hand, Soviet Russia tried to be equal with America by testing atom bomb.

Third Phase (1953-1957):

Now United States of America formed SEATO in 1954 in order to reduce Soviet Russia’s influence. In 1955 America formed MEDO in Middle East. Within a short span of time, America gave military assistance to 43 countries and formed 3300 military bases around Soviet Russia. At that time, the Vietnamese War started on 1955.

To reduce the American Power, Russia signed WARSAW PACT in 1955. Russia also signed a defence pact with 12 Countries. Germany was divided into Federal Republic of Germany which was under the American control where as German Democratic Republic was under Soviet Russia. In 1957 Soviet Russia included Sphutnick in her defence programme.

In 1953 Stalin died and Khrushchev became the President of Russia. In 1956 an agreement was signed between America and Russia regarding the Suez Crisis. America agreed not to help her allies like England and France. In fact West Asia was saved from a great danger.

Fourth Phase (1957-1962):

In 1959 the Russian President Khrushchev went on a historical tour to America. Both the countries were annoyed for U-2 accident and for Berlin Crisis. In 13 August 1961, Soviet Russia made a Berlin Wall of 25 Kilometres in order to check the immigration from eastern Berlin to Western Berlin. In 1962, Cuba’s Missile Crisis contributed a lot to the cold war.

This incident created an atmosphere of conversation between American President Kenedy and Russian President Khrushchev. America assured Russia that she would not attack Cuba and Russia also withdrew missile station from Cuba.

Fifth Phase (1962-1969 ):

The Fifth Phase which began from 1962 also marked a mutual suspicion between USA and USSR. There was a worldwide concern demanding ban on nuclear weapons. In this period Hot Line was established between the White House and Kremlin. This compelled both the parties to refrain from nuclear war. Inspite of that the Vietnam problem and the Problem in Germany kept Cold War between USA and USSR in fact.

Sixth Phase (1969-1978 ):

This phase commencing from 1969 was marked by DETENTE between USA and USSR- the American President Nixon and Russian President Brezhnev played a vital role for putting an end to the Cold War. The SALT of 1972, the summit Conference on Security’ of 1975 in Helsinki and Belgrade Conference of 1978 brought America and Russia closer.

In 1971, American Foreign Secretary Henry Kissinger paid a secret visit to China to explore the possibilities of reapproachment with China. The American move to convert Diego Garcia into a military base was primarily designed to check the Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean. During the Bangladesh crisis of 1971 and the Egypt-Israel War of 1973 the two super powers extended support to the opposite sides.

Last Phase (1979-1987 ):

In this phase certain changes were noticed in the Cold War. That is why historians call this phase as New Cold War. In 1979, the American President Carter and Russian President Brezhnev signed SALT II. But in 1979 the prospects of mitigating Cold War were marred by sudden development in Afghanistan.

Vietnam (1975), Angola (1976), Ethiopia (1972) and Afghanistan (1979) issues brought success to Russia which was unbearable for America. American President Carter’s Human Rights and Open Diplomacy were criticised by Russia. The SALT II was not ratified by the US Senate. In 1980 America boycotted the Olympic held at Moscow.

In 1983, Russia withdrew from a talk on missile with America. In 1984 Russia boycotted the Olympic game held at Los-Angeles. The Star War of the American President Ronald Regan annoyed Russia. In this way the ‘New Cold War’ between America and Russia continued till 1987.

Result of the Cold War:

The Cold War had far-reaching implications in the international affairs. At first, it gave rise to a fear psychosis which resulted in a mad race for the manufacture of more sophisticated armaments. Various alliances like NATO, SEATO, WARSAW PACT, CENTO, ANZUS etc. were formed only to increase world tension.

Secondly, Cold War rendered the UNO ineffective because both super powers tried to oppose the actions proposed by the opponent. The Korean Crisis, Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam War etc. were the bright examples in this direction.

Thirdly, due to the Cold War, a Third World was created. A large number of nations of Africa, Asia and Latin America decided to keep away from the military alliances of the two super powers. They liked to remain neutral. So, Non-Alignments Movement became the direct outcome of the Cold War.

Fourthly, Cold War was designed against mankind. The unnecessary expenditure in the armament production created a barrier against the progress of the world and adversely affected a country and prevented improvement in the living standards of the people.

Fifthly, the principle ‘Whole World as a Family’, was shattered on the rock of frustration due to the Cold War. It divided the world into two groups which was not a healthy sign for mankind.

Sixthly, The Cold War created an atmosphere of disbelief among the countries. They questioned among themselves how unsafe were they under Russia or America.

Finally, The Cold War disturbed the World Peace. The alliances and counter-alliances created a disturbing atmosphere. It was a curse for the world. Though Russia and America, being super powers, came forward to solve the international crisis, yet they could not be able to establish a perpetual peace in the world.

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Why Did the Cold War Begin? Essay

Introduction, the origins of mistrust, the uneasy alliance, the iron curtain, works cited.

The Cold War was the defining conflict after the end of World War Two. Although it rarely resulted in traditional warfare, it had a tremendous effect on almost every part of western and eastern societies, from culture to technology. To fully understand it, research into its origins is required.

One of the defining aspects of the Cold War is the feeling paranoia experienced by all sides of the conflict. These feelings were not always without merit, and have origins in events preceding the Second World War. The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 led by Vladimir Lenin and his political ideology based on the works of Karl Marx presented a strictly anti-capitalist perspective that was seen as a threat to the countries of Europe and other capitalist countries (Smith 11).

Bolsheviks were not unanimously accepted in the country either as their methods did not agree with other leftist organizations as well as the people who still supported the monarchy. These opposing forces would unite into the “White Army” which would plunge the country into a civil war (Foglesong 294). This war lasted from 1917-1922 and had taken the lives of millions. After the Revolution, Bolsheviks withdrew from the First World War leaving the allied nations worried about Germany taking over key locations that were previously protected by Russia (Foglesong 232). This has led to an Allied intervention into the Russian civil war that continued even after the First World War ended.

The Allies have supported the White Army with supplies, armaments, and troops, but due to a variety of issues, had to withdraw in 1920, with Japanese troops staying in some Russian provinces until 1925. The Red Army emerged victorious in the civil war with new knowledge that the Western leaders have no interest in cooperation.

This mindset would later fuel Stalin’s propaganda machine creating a perception of a massive international conspiracy to undermine the advances of the newly formed Soviet Union. His policies of collectivization and five-year plans would lead to millions of civilian deaths, unjust punishments without trials, and the creation of a complete police state where no one could oppose him. By creating a sense of constant opposition from the West, Stalin was able to instill a very strong “Us vs. Them” mentality among the people who made his words seem like absolute truth and the words of his critics as the words of traitors (Barghoorn 13).

Those who did not agree would disappear with the use of secret police. His authority was great enough to be able to get rid of even the members of his government and closest colleagues. Their names and actions would later be erased from documents, and their photos would be altered to discredit their previous achievements and associations (Duprat-Kushtanina 23). Paranoia and blind belief in Stalin’s authority would become the driving forces behind the next decades of the Soviet regime.

A similar paranoia grew in the United States. A fear of leftist organizations was present in the United States even before the Bolshevik Revolution, but it would reach its highest peak to date after the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia. To ensure an unopposed entry into the First World War President Woodrow Wilson with the help of the Bureau of Investigation chose to spread anti-German propaganda and organized a variety of actions against leftist groups of the United States (Goldstein 168).

A lot of these groups had a strong opposition towards the war which led to raids on their offices, arrests and legal prosecution against their members. Mass strikes were organized across America with varying results over the next several years, as well as more radical actions (Goldstein 189). Some of which include the anarchist bombings of 1919 that inspired fear of socialism in many members of the public (Goldstein 157). Books and films quickly capitalized on the newfound fear with films dramatizing the events of revolution and creating negative associations with the ideas of Bolshevism and Socialism (Goldstein 323).

This period would culminate in a false prediction of an organized overthrow of the United States government that was predicted to happen in May 1920. The event later titled “May Day Scare” involved mobilizations of thousands of policemen across the country, but did not produce any results as the opponent proved to be imaginary (Goldstein 152). This incident would end the first period of the Red Scare, but its messages would be echoed in the future.

Despite the relative advances of Stalin’s push for industrialization. The Soviet Union was not ready for a new war with Hitler. Stalin negotiated with Hitler to delay military action against the Soviet Union through the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed on August 23, 1939, in Moscow (Havers 25). Besides the neutrality, this pact divided the lands of Poland, Finland, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania between the Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. With the support of this pact, Stalin annexed the territories of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and parts of Finland and Romania (Havers 33).

The pact was terminated on June 22, 1941, when Nazi Germany started Operation Barbarossa with an attack on Soviet positions in Poland. This act of aggression was seen as a declaration of war uniting the Soviet Union with other Allied Nations (Havers 9). Despite the denouncement of the Soviet regime in previous years, the countries were forced to work together to defeat a common enemy. This war, however, would not see the return of the lands that were annexed through the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Stalin made sure to negotiate for these territories to remain with the Soviet Union. To facilitate his influence, Stalin made an effort to control the media of the annexed countries and established a strong presence of the communist party, as well as the secret police (Risch 69).

Some place the beginning of the Cold War at the Yalta Conference in Crimea. It was held from February 7 to 11 with a goal of deciding the future of Europe after World War Two. The three heads of the allied forces represented by the President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Premier Joseph Stalin, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill, gathered together to outline the plan for peace in Europe, and how the people of Europe would be able to govern their countries after the Nazi regime.

Each leader had their agenda making the negotiations difficult. Roosevelt pledged for Soviet support in the Pacific War, and Soviet representation in the newly formed United Nations. Churchill was focused on the free democratic elections in Eastern and Central Europe. Lastly, Stalin pressed for a Soviet sphere of influence in Eastern and Central Europe under the guise of it being crucial for the establishment of national security of the Soviet Union (Bell and Gilbert 15).

One of the important factors which could be seen as a beginning of Cold War is the change of the Polish borders. A part of its territory would be given to the Soviet Union while being compensated with a part of Germany. The spheres of influence were established during this conference, and Stalin managed to secure the Soviet regime in the previously annexed countries of Romania and Bulgaria (Bell and Gilbert 27).

Stalin’s desire for influence over the countries on the Soviet border would represent one of the first active steps toward the Cold War. With the power and numbers of the Red Army being unmatched by other nations, Stalin had major leverage during this conference, and his promises that would later be broken served as a way to prevent hostile attitudes toward his agenda.

The Potsdam Conference would prove to be another turning point at the beginning of the Cold War. The conference was held to create further plans for the future of Germany and Poland. However, it differed from the Yalta conference due to a few crucial events. Before the conference, President Roosevelt passed away and was replaced by Harry S. Truman who was not a supporter of Stalin’s regime. In fact, this conference would mark the only instance of Truman and Stalin meeting in person. Truman had strong suspicions of the Soviet Union and would prove to be less willing to agree than Roosevelt was (Bell and Gilbert 46).

The second difference came from the British elections of the Prime Minister that were held at the time of the conference (Bell and Gilbert 27). While Churchill was not a supporter of Stalin, he saw their alliance as necessary at the time. On the other hand, his political opponent Clement Attlee was much less critical of Stalin’s regime and sought to negotiate and create a functioning relationship between the countries.

He would later change his potion and become a strong anti-Soviet politician when the Cold War became inevitable. The final but perhaps the most important event before the conference was the successful test of a nuclear bomb by the United States. While the project was still secret, Stalin knew of its existence thanks to the activity of Soviet spies. Therefore, he was not surprised when Truman informed him that the United States had developed a weapon that would be able to bring a quick end to the Pacific War (Bell and Gilbert 28). This event became the start of the Nuclear Age and would serve as an example of how dangerous the next war might be.

It also removed the advantage of the Red Army, as the massive numbers of people that were involved in attacks during World War Two would easily be destroyed by a single bomb. It forever changed the concept of war and became the main reason for tension during many of the Cold War disagreements. Some of the results of this conference that became important for the Cold War included the division of Germany and Austria into four zones of occupation which would be restructured after the Truman plan, the change of the German border, and the recognition of the Soviet-controlled government of Poland (Bell and Gilbert 51).

After the conference, many of the countries bordering the Soviet Union would become Soviet satellite states. This change was not a result of the free democratic elections promised by Stalin, but a carefully orchestrated change in government by the members of the Soviet Parties of these countries. Their members worked to give themselves the majority of the power while still appearing to be democratic. These countries included Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Albania. East Germany also became a puppet state of the Soviet Union under the name the German Democratic Republic. Together these countries became known as the Eastern Block. The western side became represented by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Bell and Gilbert 61).

The growing concerns over the Soviet presence in Europe grew stronger, and in February 1946 one of the initial documents of the Cold War was created. George F. Kennan, an American diplomat, working in the US Embassy in Moscow sent a telegram outlining the US opposition to the actions of the Soviet Union. This document would later be known as the “Long Telegram.” It touched upon such topics as Soviet Union’s perceived war with capitalism, the disparity between the Soviet aggression and the views of the Russian people, and a variety of other issues (Goldgeier 404).

In turn, the Soviet government produced the Novikov telegram that declared that the United States is controlled by monopoly capitalists who are preparing for a war that would bring world domination. These telegrams would be followed by one of the most famous speeches of this period given by Winston Churchill. In this speech, Churchill calls for an Anglo-American alliance against the Soviets. He accuses the Soviets of creating an “Iron Curtain” around their territory.

The Iron Curtain represented the closed nature of the Soviet states that were blocked from contact with the western world (Levering 340). Stalin gave a strong response to this speech, comparing Churchill to Hitler and seeing his speech as a “call for war” against the Soviet Union (Levering 341). These speeches could be seen as the official proclamation of the Cold War, with two opposing blocks seeing each other as powers that have to be stopped at all costs.

The Cold War is one of the most complex periods of recent history. Its origins lie almost 30 years before its start, with a long line of events that eventually led to a possible nuclear war. Its origins are filled with subversion and paranoia effects of which are still felt today.

Barghoorn, Frederick Charles. Soviet Foreign Propaganda . Princeton University Press, 2016.

Bell, Philip, and Mark Gilbert. The World Since 1945: An International History . Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016.

Duprat-Kushtanina, Veronika. “Remembering the Repression of the Stalin Era in Russia: on the Non-Transmission of Family Memory.” Nationalities Papers , vol. 41, no. 2, 2013, pp. 225-239.

Foglesong, David. America’s Secret War Against Bolshevism: U.S. Intervention In The Russian Civil War, 1917-1920 . UNC Press Books, 2014.

Goldgeier, James. “The State of the Transatlantic Alliance.” European Foreign Affairs Review , vol. 21, no. 3, 2016, pp. 403-413.

Goldstein, Robert. Little ‘Red Scares’: Anti-Communism and Political Repression in the United States, 1921-1946 . Routledge, 2016.

Havers, Robin. The Second World War . Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014.

Levering, Ralph B. “Toward Cold War Thinking: Editorial Reactions to Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech in North Carolina Newspapers.” Journal of Transatlantic Studies , vol. 14, no. 4, 2016, pp. 340-349.

Risch, William. “A Soviet West: Nationhood, Regionalism, and Empire in the Annexed Western Borderlands.” Nationalities Papers , vol. 43, no. 1, 2015, pp. 63-81.

Smith, Keith. “Lenin and the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, Part 1: The Importance of Lenin’s Ideas on Revolution.” Teaching History , vol. 48, no. 2, 2014, pp. 11-13.

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Home — Essay Samples — War — Cold War

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Essays on Cold War

Hook examples for cold war essays, the tension-building anecdote hook.

Start your essay with a gripping anecdote from the Cold War era, such as a close encounter between opposing forces, a spy's daring mission, or a pivotal diplomatic negotiation.

The Iron Curtain Metaphor Hook

Draw parallels between the Iron Curtain that divided Europe during the Cold War and modern-day geopolitical divisions. Explore how historical lessons can inform contemporary politics.

The Cuban Missile Crisis Revelation Hook

Begin with a revelation about the Cuban Missile Crisis, a pivotal event during the Cold War. Discuss the world's reaction to this crisis and its implications for global peace.

The Space Race Innovation Hook

Highlight the innovative aspects of the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Discuss the technological advancements and the impact on science and society.

The Proxy Wars Connection Hook

Start by exploring the concept of proxy wars during the Cold War. Discuss how these conflicts shaped the global political landscape and their relevance in today's world.

The Nuclear Arms Race Factoid Hook

Begin with startling facts about the nuclear arms race between superpowers. Discuss the fear of nuclear annihilation and its lasting effects on international relations.

The Espionage and Spy Games Hook

Introduce your essay by delving into the world of espionage during the Cold War. Discuss famous spies, intelligence agencies, and the intrigue of espionage operations.

The Cultural Cold War Reference Hook

Start with references to the cultural aspects of the Cold War, including the influence of literature, music, and art. Discuss how cultural diplomacy played a role in the conflict.

The End of the Cold War Paradox Hook

Begin with the paradox of the peaceful end of the Cold War. Explore the factors that contributed to its conclusion and the subsequent geopolitical shifts.

The Lessons from History Hook

Start by reflecting on the lessons that can be learned from the Cold War. Discuss how understanding this historical period can inform contemporary foreign policy and global relations.

Alas, Babylon: Analysis

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The Rise of Communism During The Cold War

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Understanding The Effects of The Cold War

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Beginning of The Cuban Missile Crisis

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12 March 1947 – 26 December 1991 (44 years and 9 months)

North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Soviet Union, United States, Warsaw Treaty Organization.

Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Nikita Khrushchev, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan

Cuban missile crisis, Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, Berlin crisis of 1961, collapse of the Soviet Union

The Cold War was a period of political tension and military rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, lasting roughly from the late 1940s to the early 1990s. It emerged in the aftermath of World War II when ideological differences and geopolitical interests between the two superpowers intensified. The historical context of the Cold War can be traced back to the division of Europe after World War II, with the United States championing democratic principles and capitalism, while the Soviet Union sought to spread communism and establish spheres of influence. This ideological divide led to a series of confrontations and proxy wars fought between the two powers and their respective allies. The development of nuclear weapons added a dangerous dimension to the conflict, as both sides engaged in an arms race to gain a strategic advantage. The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, a standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union over the placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba, brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

The division of the world into two ideological blocs: The capitalist bloc led by the United States and the communist bloc led by the Soviet Union. The arms race and nuclear proliferation, leading to the stockpiling of nuclear weapons by both superpowers and the development of advanced military technology. The establishment of military alliances such as NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the Warsaw Pact, which solidified the division between the Western and Eastern blocs. Proxy wars and conflicts fought between the United States and the Soviet Union or their respective allies, such as the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and various conflicts in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The spread of communism to several countries, including Eastern European nations that became part of the Soviet-dominated Eastern Bloc. The Cuban Missile Crisis, a tense standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1962, which brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, marking the end of the Cold War and the transition to a unipolar world with the United States as the dominant superpower.

One of the major effects of the Cold War was the division of the world into two competing blocs, the United States-led capitalist bloc and the Soviet Union-led communist bloc. This ideological divide created a bipolar world order and fueled numerous proxy wars and conflicts around the world, such as the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union was another significant consequence of the Cold War. Both superpowers invested heavily in the development and stockpiling of nuclear weapons, leading to an unprecedented level of global military buildup. The fear of nuclear annihilation and the doctrine of mutually assured destruction shaped military strategies and had a lasting impact on international security policies. The Cold War also had economic ramifications. The United States and the Soviet Union competed for influence and sought to spread their respective economic systems, capitalism and communism, across the globe. This led to the creation of economic alliances and aid programs, such as the Marshall Plan, as well as the establishment of the Soviet-dominated Eastern Bloc and the NATO alliance. Furthermore, the Cold War influenced the course of decolonization and independence movements in many countries. The superpowers often supported or opposed regimes based on their alignment with capitalist or communist ideologies, leading to political instability and conflicts in various regions. In addition, the Cold War had cultural and social effects. It fostered a climate of suspicion and fear, which manifested in widespread political repression, surveillance, and the suppression of civil liberties. The ideological struggle between capitalism and communism influenced cultural productions, including literature, art, and film.

Studying and writing essays on the topic of the Cold War is essential for students due to its multidimensional significance. Firstly, exploring the Cold War provides students with a deeper understanding of the complexities of international relations, diplomacy, and ideological conflicts. It offers insights into the strategies, policies, and motivations of the superpowers involved, such as the United States and the Soviet Union. Secondly, writing essays on the Cold War promotes critical thinking and analytical skills. Students are encouraged to examine primary and secondary sources, analyze different perspectives, and evaluate the long-term consequences of historical events. This process enhances their ability to form well-reasoned arguments and develop a nuanced understanding of complex historical phenomena. Additionally, the Cold War has left a lasting impact on society, culture, and global dynamics. By exploring this topic, students can gain insights into the origins of the arms race, the nuclear age, the space race, and the proliferation of proxy wars. They can also examine the impact of the Cold War on civil rights, technological advancements, popular culture, and the formation of alliances.

1. The term "Cold War" was coined by the American financier and presidential adviser Bernard Baruch in a speech in 1947. It referred to the absence of direct military confrontation between the superpowers, but the ongoing ideological and political struggle between them. 2. The Cold War was characterized by a state of non-military confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. 3. The space race played a significant role during the Cold War, prompting the establishment of NASA and fueling competition between the superpowers. 4. The proxy wars fought between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War resulted in the loss of numerous lives, with casualties reaching millions. 5. Notable "hot" conflicts of the Cold War period included the Korean War, the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, and the Vietnam War. These conflicts involved direct military engagement or support from the superpowers, leading to significant human suffering and loss.

1. Gaddis, J. L. (2005). The Cold War: A new history. Penguin Books. 2. Westad, O. A. (2012). The Cold War: A world history. Basic Books. 3. Leffler, M. P. (2008). For the soul of mankind: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War. Hill and Wang. 4. Beschloss, M. R. (1997). Mayday: Eisenhower, Khrushchev, and the U-2 affair. HarperCollins. 5. Zubok, V. M., & Pleshakov, C. (2007). Inside the Kremlin's cold war: From Stalin to Khrushchev. Harvard University Press. 6. Hogan, M. J. (Ed.). (2015). The Cold War in retrospect: The formative years. Oxford University Press. 7. LaFeber, W. (2002). America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-2000. McGraw-Hill. 8. Lynch, T. (2010). The Cold War: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press. 9. Matlock, J. F. (1995). Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War ended. Random House. 10. McMahon, R. J. (2003). The Cold War: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press.

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Reflecting on Sudan’s Civil War One Year Later

Amel Marhoum works for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Before the war transformed Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, into a battlefield she lived there with her family. Starting on April 15, 2023, during the last days of Ramadan, heavy gunfire and shelling trapped countless families, including her own, in their homes with dwindling supplies of food and water. A year later, every segment of Sudan’s population, from pastoralists in rural areas to the country’s once thriving urban middle-class have been impacted. This is Amel’s reflection on how the war has changed her, her country, and her work.

Before the fighting truly began, there were indications in Sudan that a minor conflict was brewing, but not a full-fledged war.   I still feel like it is a dream—or more-so a nightmare. I keep thinking tomorrow I’ll wake up and things will be fine. But things are not fine. 

April 14, 2023  felt like a normal Ramadan night. We had our  suhoor   (early morning meal before sunrise)   and hours later the war erupted. That Saturday morning, April 15,  I was sleeping, which tells you just how peaceful and calm the day started out.

I was not prepared for what happened next. The sudden sounds of heavy artillery, airstrikes, and shelling were unimaginable. I had never heard sounds like this in my life.

As a Liaison Officer at UNHCR, I’m the kind of person who’s quick to react and take action. I could make only a few phone calls to relatives, friends, and colleagues before there was no connection. This was one of the big challenges at the time—not knowing what was happening to people. Equally challenging was helping colleagues find cash, fuel, and buses so they could leave Khartoum. I even remember thinking how much of a miracle it was when the UN convoy arrived at the city of Port Sudan on April 24. People were scrambling to leave any way they could.

A week later, as the most senior national staff member, I was put in charge of UNHCR’s office in Sudan. The phone didn’t stop ringing. We were a team of six, and our role was to help our staff and refugees move out of hotspots to safer zones—a difficult task because, in our area, the shelling was very heavy. My colleagues were terrified. Some needed money to movetheir children to safety, and some were stuck in areas where we couldn’t reach them. Every day, we would wake up and find that our neighbors’ houses were gone, and people were dead. 

I thought the fighting would last for a week or two, a month maximum, if it even dragged on in the first place. But then there was no food or water, and we were seeing more soldiers in the streets. We reached a point during the fourth week when we really had to leave—and fast.

Read More: Sudan’s Dangerous Descent Into Warlordism

More from TIME

On the road to Madani, 85 miles southeast of Khartoum, I saw only destruction and death. I can never forget this—it’s like a horror film, but it’s one you can’t switch off. At one point, where we were held at gunpoint, saying our last prayers. But then the soldiers let us go.

On our journey, we reached the house of a family. We didn’t know them, and they didn’t know us. They insisted we stay with them—they brought us food and made the beds for us. In their house was the first time I felt at peace enough to sleep properly.

I set up the UNHCR office in Madani in early May, and then moved to Port Sudan a month later to establish [another]. Later I moved to Ethiopia to support UNHCR teams on the border with Sudan to receive arriving refugees. 

The lives of Sudanese refugees in the countries they’ve fled to are very tough now. Some of us have left without documents. We are without a home, and some have been left with nothing. But as long as there are people who, despite their own worries, are willing to accept us, there is hope. I saw this generosity with the Ethiopian people – their willingness to accommodate Sudanese refugees, despite their own challenges. They opened their borders and accepted us. But it also requires the support of the whole international community and us humanitarian workers. 

I feel I have aged so much this past year. This experience has changed all of us in Sudan. But I still have hope and confidence—in myself, in my family, in my team, in my work, and above all, in my country. 

Sudan is a country that has tremendous resources. I believe this generation and future generations can perform miracles with the right support. 

We can rise again and become better than when we started. This is what keeps me going. — As told to Sara Bedri

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