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THE COLD WAR
The Cold War between the superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union was a clash of distant ideologies in a changing world. Friction developed between the two on many occasions as either side tried to expand their spheres of influence in politics, geographical surroundings, and even space. Continued clashes between the US and Soviet Union began to tense their relations during this era as it became evident to all that the cord of discontent could snap at any given moment. Western countries wanted the liberated states of Eastern Europe to be ruled with a democratic government and a capitalist economy. Joseph Stalin felt entitled to rule the Eastern European countries it occupied in World War II. Stalin wanted these countries to be used as a buffer to protect USSR boarders. Communist governments in these Eastern European countries would be under the control of the USSR, thereby protecting it. The Russian army, ready to attack Berlin, was halted to that the Yalta Conference between the “Big Three” (Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, and Franklin D. Roosevelt) could determine the war’s end. The purpose of the Yalta Conference was to re-establish the countries destroyed and conquered by Germany. Poland and Yugoslavia were given their own governments; Germany was to be divided into zones to be controlled by each of the four countries (US, Great Britain, France, and USSR). Berlin was promised to the USSR as part of the eastern half of Germany upon its surrender, and Russia agreed to join the war against Japan when the war in Europe was over. Communist governments were established and democratic supporters were suppressed. The US, still fighting Japan, did nothing to stop Stalin. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki not only ended the war, but also demonstrated the superiority of the United States over Russia. This demonstration of superiority established fear in the Russian government and pushed the Soviet government towards nuclear technology and militarization. The stage was set for the Cold War. For the next fifty years, America’s policy would be one of containment while the Russian objective was to expand their sphere of influence. Russia wanted to spread communism to other countries while the United States fought to prevent its spread. Each country believed they were right.
The first real conflict of the Cold War started in the divided Berlin. The country was divided into four zones, where each superpower controlled a zone. In 1946, the west wanted to merge the British, French, and American zones. The west wanted to stimulate the German economy and united all of West Germany as one. The Soviet Union opposed this since it would give one combined zone more power than its own. When the western powers introduced a new currency into their zones, the Soviet Union responded by ordering the blockade of West Berlin’s roads and railways, cutting off all travel by land into the sea. The United States did not want to relinquish West Berlin, as part of the Marshall Plan. West Germany had an economic boom and East Germany gradually rebuilt its economy under the Soviets, however, a shortage of skilled workers in West Germany lured many East Germans to flea to the west. East Germans were able to use public transportation to West Berlin and automatically receive West German citizenship.
The Soviet Union erected the Berlin Wall on August 13, 1961; therefore, separating both Berlin and Germany. Khrushchev built the wall in order to remove the Western Powers from Berlin in East Germany. He also intended to stop the emigration of East Germans to the West through West Berlin. Some Russians saw Khrushchev’s solution as being weak and unsatisfactory for expelling Americans from the East. The US had intended to strengthen their positions in East Germany before the wall was built. Kennedy’s reaction was that of minor protest. As a result, he was accused of being soft on communism because he didn’t send any troops in to tear down the wall.
The Arms Race epitomized the Cold War. Both the United States and the Soviet Union spent huge amounts of money in militarization. The idea that the United States and the Soviet Union had the power to destroy each other in the event of an attack was known as mutually
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