The expression cold war was coined by the American journalist Walter Lippman and wants to characterize an ideological contrast and a political clash. On the military level, it gave rise to an increasingly deadly arms race and the balance of terror. There was no direct confrontation between the two superpowers but several times the world was on the verge of a third conflict, a nuclear war.
There was no lack of local wars and interventions by superpowers to block anti-imperialist movements, especially in the countries of the global South. The opposition between the two blocs also had the consequence of radicalizing the internal conflicts of the various countries and created a psychological climate of mistrust and fear.
Already during the Second World War Roosvelt (United States), Stalin (USSR) and Churchill (Great Britain) had met to agree on the political-territorial arrangement of Europe after Hitler's defeat. The first conference was held in Tehran (Iran) in 1943, the second in Yalta (Crimea) at the beginning of 1945 when the Red Army took the offensive and was occupying part of Germany. On this occasion, the foundations of the United Nations Organization (UN) were also laid. The third conference was held in Posdam (near Berlin) in 1945 after Hitler's defeat.
When the common enemy disappeared, differences and mutual distrust emerged between the Allies which led to the division of the world into opposing blocs. In the Paris Conference (1946-47) for the peace treaties, disagreements arose between Washington and Moscow over the fate of Germany.
The German question, the Greek crisis, the birth of popular democracies in Eastern Europe consolidated the opposition between Western countries and the USSR. In 1949 the two Germanies were born and in China the People's Republic of China was proclaimed, which entered the Marxist camp, and opposed nationalist China (Taiwan) sided with the West.
The world was divided into two opposing blocs, characterized by different economic models, different social organizations and political institutions. On the one hand (USA and allies) the capitalist economy, the market, individual freedoms and multi-party politics, on the other (USSR and allies) the planned economy, social rights, the single party.
The US and the USSR were superpowers on the economic and military level, engaged in a competition that soon extended to aerospace research. In 1957, the first satellite was launched by Russia while the first man sent to the moon was an American in 1969.
Instruments of the economic hegemony of the USA were the Bretton Woods agreements (1944) which established the Gold dollar standard, that is, they decided the convertibility of the dollar into gold and made it the reference currency on which to measure the value of national currencies and the launch of the Marshall Plan, an aid program for economic reconstruction in Europe. To the economic aid of the Marshall Plan, the USSR opposed an economic integration of the countries.
The battle was very bitter in terms of propaganda. The means of communication were used by both sides to obtain consensus and to attack and denigrate the enemy. Literature and cinema received the climate of confrontation. Heavy were the influences and interference of the superpowers in the internal politics of their allied countries. In the popular democracies the opposition was dispersed and the leadership of the communist parties imposed, Tito's Yugoslavia, which defended its autonomy from Moscow, was excluded from the Cominform.
In the European allied countries, and in particular in Spain, the USA worked to prevent the Communist parties from going to government. In 1949 the Atlantic Pact was formed, a defensive alliance between the USA, Canada, Great Britain, France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Spain, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Portugal, to which Greece and Turkey were added in 1951 and in 1954 Federal Germany, but from which France left in 1966. The Atlantic Pact led to the constitution of an integrated military force under a single command which took the name of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).
The USSR responded to Western initiatives in the military field with the establishment of the Warsaw Pact in 1955. While in the post-war period there was a reduction in armaments, after the defeat of Germany and Japan in the Second World War, USA, Great Britain and the USSR maintained a powerful war industry and intensified research into the production of conventional and nuclear weapons. In 1952 the US experimented with the hydrogen bomb and during the Korean War General MacArthur asked to use the atomic bomb against China. In 1949 the USSR also developed the atomic bomb and shortly after it was able to produce the hydrogen bomb, the US no longer held a monopoly on nuclear weapons.
The fear of a nuclear conflict generated a collective atomic nightmare that marked the mentality of the time and left traces in literature and cinema and gave rise to the pacifist movements.
With the death of Stalin (1953), while the tension remained high and the ideological confrontation and the arms race continued, there was talk of peaceful coexistence. In the 60s, Democrat JF Kennedy was elected president of the United States. In his inauguration speech he expressed the guiding ideals of American democracy and at the same time proud awareness of the world role of the United States.
Kennedy's presidency raised great hopes for black civil rights. Despite the détente speeches in the early 60s, there were two serious crises between the US and the USSR: in 1961 the Soviets built a wall in Berlin to prevent the outflow of East Germans.
The wall was pulled down in 1989 when the Soviet Empire fell. In 1962 there was a confrontation between the two superpowers after the Soviet attempt to install missiles in Cuba. However, the war was averted, direct communication was established between the two presidents, the red line, and an agreement was signed (1963) for the cessation of nuclear tests. The definitive end of bipolarity came in 1991 as a result of the dissolution of the USSR.
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