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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

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cold war history

Cold War History

An Overview of Major Events

the post war period two streams
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.)
  • 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).
superpower confrontation
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.
confrontation 1945 1962
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
policy of containment
Policy of Containment
  • George Kennan
  • Emphasized economic recovery in W. Europe
    • Marshall Plan, 1947
    • NATO, 1949
revising containment
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”
  • 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
  • U.S. and Soviet forces face off across the 38th parallel
  • June 1950, North Korean Army attacks South Korea
cuban missile crisis
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
from coexistence to d tente vietnam
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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
confrontation to rapprochement
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.
  • 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
  • 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.
ronald reagan inaugurated
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”).
the soviet leadership
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
glasnost and perestroika
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.