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Cold War History. An Overview of Major Events. The post-war period: two streams. The end of European imperialism combined with the growing sense that self-determination should be a guiding principle in international politics led to a tremendous wave of decolonization between 1945-1980.

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Cold War History

An Overview of Major Events


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The post-war period: two streams

  • The end of European imperialism combined with the growing sense that self-determination should be a guiding principle in international politics led to a tremendous wave of decolonization between 1945-1980.

  • The end of hostilities in 1945 also lead quickly to a period of intense hostility between the U.S. and Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.)


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Decolonization

  • The process of decolonization was relatively peaceful in many cases; it led to revolutionary wars in others (e.g., Algeria).

  • The struggle for independence/national liberation became embroiled in Cold War conflicts when the superpowers and/or their allies became involved (e.g. Vietnam).


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Superpower confrontation

  • There are disagreements about when the Cold War started, why, and who was responsible.

    • Misperceptions?

    • Inevitable?

  • The Cold War started in Europe with the failure to implement agreements reached at Potsdam and Yalta.

    • Conferences focused on issues like free elections and democratic institutions in Eastern Europe (especially Poland) and the future of a divided Germany.



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Yalta Conference, 1945

Soviet troops stationed throughout East Europe

Stalin, Roosevelt, Chuchill

How should the victorious powers manage Europe?

Can the U.S.S.R. be stopped from overrunning Europe?

Confrontation, 1945-1962


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Policy of Containment

  • George Kennan

  • Emphasized economic recovery in W. Europe

    • Marshall Plan, 1947

    • NATO, 1949


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Revising Containment

  • Public military displays by U.S.S.R. make Europe nervous; press U.S. for more security

  • NSC-68

    • Most important revision of strategy of Containment

    • “Any substantial further extension of the area under the domination of the Kremilin would raise the possibility that no coalition adequate to confront the Kremlin could be established”


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Korea

  • First application of the new policy of containment

    • Domino theory

    • Resulted in U.S. military build-up in Europe

  • End of WWI:

    • South occupied by U.S.

    • North occupied by Soviets

    • UN unable to hold elections in 1948


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Korea

  • U.S. and Soviet forces face off across the 38th parallel

  • June 1950, North Korean Army attacks South Korea


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Cuban Missile Crisis

  • 1962: American spy planes spot rocket sites on Cuba

  • Kennedy demands removal of missiles

    • Russian ships approach Cuba

    • U.S. orders naval “quarantine” of Cuba

    • Crisis ends when Soviets agree to remove missiles

    • Closest the superpowers came to nuclear war


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From Coexistence to Détente:Vietnam

  • French imperial expansion into Indo-China

    • Includes Laos and Cambodia

  • After WWII

    • Ho Chi Minh dominates north, including Hanoi

    • French intended to recognize Ho Chi Minh’s republic north of the 18th parallel

      • Set up puppet regime South of Saigon


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Vietnam

  • 8 May 1953: France defeated at Bien Dien Phu

    • Vietnam partitioned into North and South at the 17th parallel

  • Vietcong (North Vietnamese forces) attack south

    • By 1963, ¼ of population of South Vietnam under control of Northern forces

  • U.S. increases military support for South

    • 1965, U.S. engaged in bombing North

    • 1967, U.S. has 400,000 troops fighting


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Nixon

  • Failure of U.S. to gain victory in Vietnam forces President Lyndon B. Johnson from office

  • Richard Nixon, who promised to bring the troops back, takes office in 1968

  • New political reality:

    • Soviets achieve nuclear parity


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Detente

  • Less confrontational policy

  • Aimed at managing U.S.-Soviet relations through negotiation

    • “Carrots” and “Sticks”

  • Check Soviet expansion by forming alliances with states that neighbored the U.S.S.R.

    • 1972: U.S. establishes diplomatic relations with Communist China


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Confrontation to Rapprochement

  • The period of U.S.-Soviet détente is followed by a period of renewed confrontation.

    • “Second” Cold War

  • NATO agreed to deploy land-based Cruise and Pershing II missiles in Europe if arms negotiations with Soviets did not reduce serious what was seen as a serious force imbalance.


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Afghanistan

  • December 1979, Soviet forces intervened in Afghanistan to support its revolutionary allies.

    • Western powers denounced U.S.S.R.’s actions, leading U.S. President Jimmy Carter to change his view of the Soviets.

    • 1980 U.S. Olympic boycott


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Iran

  • 1978, a series of protests erupts in Iran after an inflammatory story about the exiled Ayatollah Khoemeini is run in the official press.

  • American Embassy in Tehran captured. U.S. Hostages held for 444 days (~14 months).

  • Iranian leader, Shah (King) Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a staunch U.S. ally against the Soviets, was eventually forced from power in January 1979. Islamists take control.


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Ronald Reagan Inaugurated

  • In the midst of the Iran Hostage Crisis, President Jimmy Carter loses his bid for re-election to Ronald Reagan.

  • Reagan committed to a more confrontational approach with the Soviets.

  • Initiates research on space-based missile defense system (“Star Wars”).


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The Soviet Leadership

  • The early years of Reagan’s presidency involved few high level contacts with Soviet leaders.

  • One problem: three Soviet leaders (Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko) die in fairly rapid succession


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Glasnost and Perestroika

  • Mikhail Gorbachev succeeded Chernenko and instituted a program of limited reforms known as Glasnost and Perestroika.

    • Glasnost=openness

    • Perestroika=restructuring

  • Gorbachev lost control of the reforms.

  • Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.


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