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What is the Cold War?

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โˆ™ 2015-06-03 04:41:37

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The Cold War is the term for the decades long conflict (not an all-out shooting war) between the Western Allies and the Communist Eastern Bloc Nations (Soviet Union, China, Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, North Korea, North Vietnam). "Cold" means that the conflict never grew to a full confrontational war between East and West, but there was plenty of "War" nevertheless, even if much of it was covert.

The Cold War began after WWII in Berlin when the Allies and Soviet Union (the Soviets were part of the Allied Forces against Germany and Japan) held different sectors of Berlin. The Soviets were allowed to take Berlin as their retribution against Hitler for the invasion of Russia after signing a non-aggression pact with Stalin, and had sustained significant casualties. Eventually, Josef Stalin began to create a barrier (which became the Berlin Wall) between East and West Berlin, which divided Germany into East and West for almost 50 years.

Invasions and takeovers of other nations followed - Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, Romania, etc. For many decades, once former Allies, the Western powers and the Soviet Union became locked in an ideological war, mostly fought on clandestine and diplomatic terms (with the occasional hot spot flare-ups and crises). As both sides were armed with nuclear weapons that had ballistic capability, (due to Soviet spies involved in the Manhattan Project and surrender of Nazi rocket engineers to both sides), tensions escalated to the point where both sides were on constant nuclear alert. Allied war planning was centered on a massive Soviet armored invasion of West Germany from the East, as well as a strategic nuclear response in the event of a Soviet strike on any Allied nation.

The old WWII Allied and Russian Sectors of Berlin remained until the fall of the Berlin Wall, and were often used as exchange points for spies and others held by both sides.

Also, it wasn't long after WWII that Mao Tse Tung's Communists overthrew the government of WWII Western ally Chiang Kai-Shek, leading to the Communist takeover of China. The government of Chiang fled to Taiwan, and is why Taiwan is still a political sticking point even 60 years later as the U.S. has guaranteed protection to Taiwan over the objection of the Communist Chinese Government. This, along with the Communist takeover of North Korea (and attempted takeover of the South) led to virtually all of the Eastern Asian continent being under Communist rule. Other nations that fell to Communism later (Cuba, e.g.) were considered satellite nations of the USSR. Other nations that didn't become Communist nations (e.g., Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and other Arab countries) relied heavily on Soviet weapons, technology and training to outfit their military units.

The term "Cold War" is misleading - though it never turned into a full out confrontation between East and West being "hot", there were plenty of conflicts both covert (my old domain) and public (Korea, Vietnam, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Bay of Pigs, Nicaragua, Grenada, etc.), over the years that made tensions anything but peaceful. The daily constant threat of global nuclear war was a real possibility that we lived with.

The Korean War and Vietnam War have never officially been referred to as anything other than "conflicts", maintaining the status quo that the East and West were not officially at war with each other. The difference is that both sides knew a full confrontation between East and West would lead to Nuclear War, neither side of which was willing to start. However, that didn't mean that propaganda and regional conflicts weren't used to push the ideological agendas of both sides.

One good propaganda example that many people have forgotten is how the United States got involved in the Persian Gulf to begin with - it's directly related to the Cold War and the threat of Communist influence on the area. In 1983, the Kuwaiti government, whose oil tankers had been constantly harassed by Iranian militants from several oil platforms in the Gulf, formally asked the United States government for permission to re-flag their tankers under the U.S. flag (ships often fly under different flags of nations they're not from for differing reasons). Doing so instantly guaranteed them protection under the U.S. Navy. The choice at the time was a simple one - Kuwait had made it clear that if the United States or NATO had refused, they were going to ask the Soviets for protection. I still remember Reagan's speech to the nation on the matter - "If we don't do it, the Soviets will". Giving the Communists regional control of one of our most strategic necessities (most Americans have no clue just how vulnerable the U.S. is, and dependent on strategic materials we don't have) was not an option.

The beginning of the end of the Cold War began with the Polish Solidarity Union strike against the Polish Government. The Soviets had already extended themselves militarily in their controlled countries to maintain control and limit dissent, which was a huge drain on their national budget. The Soviets began having to withdraw their forces back to Russian territories. Once that began, dictators no longer had the protection they once had, and once Communist governments began to fall. Reagan's proposed abrogation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (which was required prior to his Ballistic Missile Defense Program initiation) was the budget straw that broke that Soviet's military back.

Afghanistan had proven to be a long and costly war that resulted in nothing, and a huge debt. The U.S. and the other Western Allies had the capital to fund the BMD program, and this led to then Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev's willingness to finally do serious negotiations with Reagan on removing and reducing huge numbers of nuclear weapons which had fueled tensions for decades. In the end, as Gorbachev's policies loosened the Communist hold over Russia and its territories, the Communist Party lost power for good. It wasn't long after that the Strategic Air Command bomber crews, which had been on round-the-clock ready alert in case of a first-strike Soviet launch for decades, were ordered to stand down.

Having been in the thick of the dicier operations of the Cold War, I and others can honestly say that we never believed we'd see the end of the Cold War or the fall of the Soviet Union in our lifetime, let alone the re-unification of Germany and the fall of the Berlin Wall. It's a sad note that the recent anniversary of the Wall coming down didn't get much attention - so many people tried to cross the Wall over the decades. Most were killed or captured and imprisoned, though some made it through sheer daring. Tunnels, hang gliders, balloons, etc., were used in attempts.

The constant threat of Nuclear War was both comforting and terrifying at the same time. Terrifying for obvious reasons, but during the Cold War everyone knew who was the enemy - today it could be anyone. As an example of life when I was a kid in the 60's, I still remember "Duck & Cover" drills, and the weekly test of the Air Raid Siren at my school. DC drills, like so much other public propaganda then, were psychological of course. Hiding under a desk to protect yourself from the big bad bomb? Not likely to do much but keep you from seeing the flash.

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โˆ™ 2015-06-03 04:41:37
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