07 The Cold War

Unit Overview

World War Two left many countries worse off than before the war. Germany was left divided between the allies and the USSR. Even with the United States and the USSR working together as allies in World War Two their relationship, however, it was a strained one. After the war ended, the relationship became even more strained. With the control of part of Germany’s territory, Americans began to fear even more of the spread of communism. This fear led to many of the events that would occur for the next 45 years.

This fear of the spread of communism allowed for there to be major shifts in foreign policy in the United States. The United States became unable to support leaders who leaned towards communism such as Ho Chi Minh, Nehru, and various leaders in South Africa. One of the first major policies that came about during the Cold War was the Truman Doctrine. This policy stated that the United States would help provide political, military, and economical help to all democratic countries that were under threat of communism, especially Turkey and Greece.

Another major event that occurred during the Cold War was the Berlin Airlift. The Soviets wanted Berlin to be destroyed or occupied by them due to the symbol of Nazi Germany aggression towards them. However, the United States strongly opposed their idea since Berlin was a strong symbol of fighting communism. The Soviets then shut down the major highway that connected west and east Germany. The United States decided to fight this by supplying their sectors in Berlin from the air. After a year, the Soviets finally lifted the ban on the connecting highways and canals to allow for the United States to discontinue the use of providing help to the west by airplanes only.

The Cuban Missile Crisis is one of the most known events during the Cold War. The events that led up to this crisis was the Bay of Pigs and the U.S. Jupiter missiles located in Turkey. Russia placed missiles within Cuba which causes the United States to declare a quarantine of Cuba. It took 13 days of political and military standoff between the U.S. and Russia to come to an agreement about the missiles. Russia agreed to remove the Cuban missiles when the United States also agreed to not invade Cuba.

One of the most notable reasons of the Cold War ending was due to Russia’s falling economic system. The Soviets were not able to maintain the colonies. Due to such a poor tax system, 30% of Russia was taking part in the “black market”. With the Berlin wall coming down, it allowed for people to participate in free elections and gain more freedom that leaned further away from communism. In 1991, the Soviet Union ended and then became the Russian Federation which freed many countries that were forced into the Soviet Union.

Key Vocabulary Terms:

Set #1

  • Iron Curtain - This was a metaphor used to describe the isolation of Russia from the western democratic countries. This term was first used by Winston Churchill and then it became a more popular term as it perfectly represented how the Russians acted. They closed themselves off from the west in an effort to keep their country safe.
  • "Peaceful Coexistence" - This was a theory that involved the communist Soviet Union coexisting alongside the capitalist west countries. This involved competition without war, meaning each economic system (communism & capitalism) would compete to show which one is better.
  • Strategic Defense Initiative - This was a program initiated by President Ronald Reagan March 23, 1983. This program was designated to defend against a Russian missile attack by using an anti-ballistic missile system. This system however was ssupposed to space-based, causing it to later get the nickname “Star Wars.” Since the technology needed for such a plan to work was too advanced for the time, this plan never worked out.
  • Cold War - The Cold War can be defined as the tension between the US and the Soviet Union after WW2 up until 1991. Each side was developing their nuclear weapon program and showing off their arsenal. Propaganda was a tool used dominantly throughout the Cold War and was used to show the dangers of the opposing economic systems. This whole thing was caused by fear, as each side was worried about what the other would do.
  • Detente - This was used to describe the 10 year span when the relationship between the Russians and the US was slightly improved. This span took place from 1960-1970. This time was also described as a “thaw.” During this time period, some treaties were signed, such as SALT.
  • Fair Deal - This was a set of proposals from President Harry S. Truman that he gave to Congress in his State of the Union address in January of 1949. This most portant aspects of this deal was that it would aid education, increase minimum wage, expand Social Security, and increase the construction of low-income housing. It was debated for and extended period of time, but was then voted down. However, afterwards some smaller aspects of the deal were passed.
  • New Deal - This involved laws passed by both congress and by presidential executive orders during President Franklin D. Rooseveltʼs first term. These laws were passed after the Great Depression, and the main points of these laws and programs can be summarized by three Rʼs. These Rʼs are Relief, Recovery, and Reform. Relief focuses on the helping the unemployed and poor. Recovery is directed at the economy and getting it back to normal standards. Reform is for the financial system. In order to prevent another depression, the system needed to be changed.
  • SALT - This was an agreement between the US and the Soviet Union that would restrict the construction of missiles capable of holding nuclear arms. There were two versions of this treaty, SALT 1 and SALT 2. The first one was signed in 1972 and the second one was in 1979. As stated previously, the main goal of these treaties was to restrict the arms race and hold off the construction of more long-range nuclear missiles.

Set #2

  • Marshall Plan: American plan in which the United States donated around 12 billion dollars to help rebuild western Europe after WW2. The goal for the United States was to make Western Europe a strong place again, and also to stop the spread of communism to western Europe. Overall 18 European countries received benefits from the plan. The plan was named after the secretary of state at the time, George Marshall.
  • Mutual Deterrence:
  • Mutual Assured Destruction, Mutual Deterrence is the idea that all out use of nuclear weapons by two sides or countries would result in the complete destruction of both of those countries. It is based on the idea that if both countries have these super strong weapons they will essentially cancel out and neither one will want or be able to use them.
  • Atomic Age: The Atomic age is the time period following the successful detonation of the first nuclear bomb, Trinity, in 1945. From this point on Nuclear weapons and technology were expanded and grown by the United States and Russia throughout the Cold War.
  • NATO: Which stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Is a governmental alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty which was signed in 1949. It is based on the idea that if one of the countries in NATO is attacked/ invaded by an outside country the other countries in NATO will provide military assistance to protect that country.
  • Warsaw Pact: A Defense Treaty signed between eastern European countries that were soviet states and the Soviet Union. Besides the Soviets, 7 other countries signed the treaty. The pact was created in retaliation to the US, France, and Great Britain adding the country of West Germany into NATO.
  • McCarthy Hearings - Hearings that happened between April and June of 1954. Hearings were between the Army and senator Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy accuses many people in the Army of being communists, feeding on the fear in the United States of communism at the time. It was all televised, and this showed everyone McCarthy was not prepared and had no evidence. Eventually, the charges were dismissed.
  • "Black market" economy - A market in which many controlled products such as firearms or drugs are traded and sold illegally. The transactions are not legal and therefore not recorded. Because of this, taxes are not paid on any of the transactions or products. Black Markets can really hurt the economy due to this fact.

Potential Essay Questions:

Essay Question #1. What were the different phases of the Cold War between the United States and the U.S.S.R. between the end of WWII and 1989? What were the critical events that occurred during each phase?

This essay response depends heavily upon your classroom lecture notes and the video clips played during class sessions. Related readings include Churchill speaking about the 'Iron Curtain", President Truman and the "Truman Doctrine", President Kennedy and his "I am a Berliner" and the "Cuban Missile Crisis", Datillo and his "Berlin Airlift", and Khrushchev's speech to the Chinese. It is not necessary to reference all of them, but some of them could provide useful information for you to create a comprehensive essay response.

Student Contribution #1

Containment Phase – Keeping communist in USSR

I. Soviet Union Actions

a. Nuclear arms program and extensive spy activities

b. Warsaw Pact 1955

II. Allied Reaction

a. The Berlin Airlift – The start of the war, USSR first attempts to attack USA.

b. Kennedy “I am Berlin”- We need to care for the suffering people in order for all of the people to stop suffering.

c. Truman Doctrine – USA protects the western hemisphere.

Confrontation Phase – confronting the issues

I. Korean Conflict (1950 - 1952)

a. USA is worried that communism is spreading.

b. Japan is targeted to spread communist. Causes the United Nations get involved, and pushes North Korea to the Chinese Border.

c. China gets involved, by join the North Koreans.

II. Arab-Israeli War

a. WWII Holocaust

b. Palestinian State Formation

III. Khrushchev’s Speech

a. Conflict was not inevitable between socialist and capitalist.

b. Nuclear holocaust destroys both nations

c. Socialist are winning the competition


I. Cuban Missile Conflict

a. Soviet placed nuclear missiles in Cuba

b. U.S. quarantine Cuba

c. Naval blockade of war materials

d. Remove missiles from Cuba and Turkey

II. Dentente (1962- 1980)

a. Relieves tension on Russia

b. Reopening of China

c. Ideology could not be compromised


I. Economic competition in the 1980s

a. Military arms buildup on both sides

b. Ronald Reagan is elected President

c. U.S. rejects Détente and calls the Soviet Union “Evil Empire”

d. Economic collapse of Soviet bloc


III. Collapse of European Communism

a. Russian empire collapse in Eastern Europe

b. Fragmentation of Russian empire due to ethnic divisions

c. Common foes for Russians and the U.S.

d. Russia is invited to join NATO

Essay Question #2. How have historians discussed the question of whether the United States or the Soviet Union bears the primary responsibility for the Cold War, and what evidence can be presented on each side of the issue?

The primary source material is your lecture notes. This essay question asks you to take a position. There are at least three options for blame/responsibility: the United States, the Soviet Union, or both countries. You choose the option and organize your essay to defend that position. Use the material from the class lectures and the outside readings to justify and support your answer. The samples provided through this study guide will be very short and only serve to provide an illustration of how to approach the answer. As with the other essay responses, five well-written and documented paragraphs are needed for the best grade.

Student Contribution #1

Student failed to submit an outline. Look back at your lecture notes. I talked about this essay question last Wednesday.