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The Cold War was the American and Soviet political and technological rivalry that lasted from the end of WWII until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. With the threat of Soviet Union expansionism in Eastern Europe, the former Allies agreed to the strategy of containment, which further alienated the U.S. and the USSR.
See the fact file below for more information on the Cold War or alternatively, you can download our 26-page Cold War worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- In March, 1946, in a speech broadcast from Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, Winston Churchill stated that an ‘Iron Curtain’ had descended across the European continent. Joseph Stalin interpreted this as a war cry, but Truman countered it through U.S. policies.
- the U.S. instituted the Truman Doctrine through which the U.S. would give financial aid to countries threatened by Communist expansion. This was also in line with the potential civil war in Greece, which could be used by the Soviets to influence the country.
- In June, 1947, the Marshall Plan was implemented. It was a European Economy Program in which 13 billion USD was made available for the rehabilitation of European countries damaged by the war. U.S. President Truman believed that Communism could only be stopped if Europe became wealthier through economic reconstruction.
- In 1947, George Kennan, a famed diplomat, advocated the policy of containment. It was a policy designed against the aggressive moves of the Soviet Union.
- On January 5, 1949, Joseph Stalin forbade Soviet satellite countries from accepting U.S. aid. He initiated the creation of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON).
- As security was being strengthened, it led to the formation of military alliances. In April, 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed.
- After the Second World War, Germany was divided into four zones of occupation. As per the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences, the zones were placed under the control of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union.
- In the 1950s, the Communist government of East Germany controlled and prevented its citizens from fleeing to the West. Stalin ordered the building of fences and walls to prevent the migration of East Berliners.
- By February, 1948, the British, French, and American governments began to merge their zones economically to unify them and form a national government. In response, the Soviet Union imposed a blockade on Berlin to halt the process of unifying West Germany and to secure the Soviet-controlled territory in the eastern zone.
- Stalin underestimated the resources of the Allies and believed that an airlift was impossible. They set up three air corridors in Berlin but did not shoot any planes down in the time period, fearing that it would lead to another war.
THE COMING OF THE ATOMIC AGE AND SPACE RACE
- Following the forced surrender of Japan brought about by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the superpowers of the U.S. and Soviet Union became more concerned about the possibility of nuclear war.
- As a result, both nations engaged in an arms race where they competed for supremacy in the quantity and quality of weapons.
- The USSR and the U.S. feared the possibility of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), a military doctrine which states that there is no opportunity for a peace agreement in a nuclear war. Hence, Nuclear Arms Control Treaties were continuously signed.
- With the arms race between the U.S. and USSR, both countries began to develop Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles or ICBMs, which were designed to reach long-range targets as far away as 3,500 miles.
- The arms race also led other nations, including Great Britain, France, and the People’s Republic of China to build and stockpile their own nuclear weapons.
- By 1953, the Soviets were testing their own thermonuclear bombs and expanded their research over the coming decade. By 1961, they had developed a massive super-bomb known as the Tsar Bomba. Compared to the U.S., however, the USSR could no longer finance enormous military developments.
- In 1955, when West Germany was added as a NATO member, it allowed for remilitarization, which was viewed by the Soviets as a threat. In response, the Soviet Union along with its satellite states created the Warsaw Pact, a military alliance officially known as the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance.
- The Warsaw Pact was directly governed by Moscow, which sought to exercise tighter control over its satellite states. Its main focus was to establish a coordinated defense among its members and enhance its military capability to deter any internal and external attacks.
- On November 27, 1958, the Soviet foreign ministry issued a document accusing the three Western Allies (the U.S., Great Britain, and France) of violation of the Potsdam Agreement. According to Khrushchev and the Soviet government, the Allies had no right to stay in Berlin.
- The document became known as the Berlin Ultimatum, whereby Khrushchev gave the Allies six months to demilitarize West Berlin.
- The Soviet Union set the deadline for May, 1959. Despite having a series of meetings between foreign ministers of four countries, no negotiations reached agreement, which led to the September, 1959, visit of Khrushchev to the U.S. and a joint agreement for the general disarmament of Berlin. They also agreed that peaceful negotiations should be applied before the use of force.
- In 1959, the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista was overthrown by Fidel Castro, a left-wing revolutionary. Castro established a totalitarian government supported by the Soviets. Tensions increased as the U.S. had several investments in Cuba and was the primary consumer of the country’s sugar and tobacco.
- Castro tried to seek support from Eisenhower. However, the latter refused to meet with him. He then proceeded to the United Nations office in New York and talked with the Soviet representatives. The USSR offered their full support to Castro’s regime.
- Castro implemented communism in Cuba and nationalized all the privately-owned, primarily American companies. Cuba is located 90 miles south of Florida; the U.S. felt threatened due to the USSR’s sphere of influence so close to its shores.
- The U.S. imposed a trade embargo on Cuba, cutting off the country’s major consumer of sugar and tobacco. Furthermore, it stopped economic aid and banned Cuba from trading with the U.S.
- By 1961, the U.S. severed ties with Cuba. Castro then sought support from the USSR which obliged by supplying oil, weapons, and other goods to Cuba.
- During the late 1950s and early 1960s, the United States and the USSR participated in a series of summits addressing issues of Berlin and the possibility of nuclear war.
- Amidst the shot down of American U-2 spy plane on May 1, both leaders arrived in Paris. Khrushchev demanded that Eisenhower apologize, but the U.S. refused to do so. As a result, the Soviet leader walked out and the Paris Summit.
THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS
- In February, the Soviet Union and Cuba signed a trade agreement, which supplied the USSR with tons of sugar while Cuba was granted low-interest credit which enabled them to buy equipment, machinery, and materials for construction. By July, Khrushchev stated that the Soviets would support the artillery of the Cuban people in case of a rocket attack.
- In January, a number of Cuban students were sent to the USSR. By December, Fidel Castro announced that he was a Marxist-Leninist and that Cuba would quickly embrace Communism. As a result, the U.S. enacted an embargo on Cuba and launched the Bay of Pigs invasion.
- In April, a Soviet delegation of soldiers arrived in Cuba, which began the massive militarization of the island. By July, following the visit of Raul Castro, leader of the Cuban military delegation to the USSR, the Soviets installed missiles in Cuba.
- In October, 1962, the U.S. and the USSR were on the brink of a nuclear war. For 13 days, the world was on standby for the possibility of a direct confrontation between the two superpowers.
- In 1961, when John F. Kennedy became the President of the U.S., he approved the plan to invade Cuba and overthrew Castro. On April 17, 1961, a CIA paramilitary group made up primarily of Cuban exiles intending to remove Castro from power landed at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. The invasion failed as 20,000 soldiers of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces defeated them in three days.
- In July, 1962, Khrushchev and Castro had a secret meeting in which it was agreed that several missile launch facilities would be placed in Cuba to deter U.S. aggression. Khrushchev believed that this action would enhance the strength of the USSR and would test Kennedy as the new president.
- In 1963, at the height of the Cold War, U.S. President John F. Kennedy visited West Berlin where he delivered his speech Ich bin ein Berliner, or I am a Berliner.
- In response, Kennedy formed the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (ExComm). Its members consisted of both pro-force and pro-peace politicians.
- On August 3, 1968, Brezhnev announced a doctrine which stated that the USSR would not allow any Eastern European country to repeal or reject communism.
END OF THE COLD WAR
- Beginning in 1971, U.S. President Richard Nixon and the Soviet Union’s Secretary General Leonid I. Brezhnev began to improve relations with the two countries, which became known as the period of dѐtente.
- Nixon became the first U.S. President to visit Moscow since 1945. He signed an agreement with Brezhnev with the goal of preventing further military clashes.
- In July and August, 1975, the Helsinki Accord was discussed and signed as part of the Conference on Security and Cooperation held in Finland. Thirty-five (35) countries, including the U.S. and the USSR, signed the act in order to improve relations between the East and the West.
- The negotiations on SALT II began in 1972, while major progress occurred at Vladivostok in November, 1974. U.S. President Gerald Ford and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev agreed to the provisions of SALT II.
- When Mikhail Gorbachev rose to power as the new Soviet leader, he introduced the new thinking through glasnost (openness) and perestroika (limited market initiatives), which sought to democratize the political system in Russia.
- In 1987, the U.S. and USSR agreed on the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces, which set a precedent for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
- The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks were two conferences between the US and the USSR on issues of arms control.
- Signed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev on December 9, 1987, and enforced on June 1, 1988, the INF proposed the elimination of all intermediate and short-range ground-based missiles and launchers from Europe. It required both countries to destroy ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles that could reach 500 to 5,500 kilometers for three years.
Cold War Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Cold War across 26 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Cold War worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Cold War which was the American and Soviet political and technological rivalry that lasted from the end of WWII until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. With the threat of Soviet Union expansionism in Eastern Europe, the former Allies agreed to the strategy of containment, which further alienated the U.S. and the USSR.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Cold War Facts
- Cold War Timeline
- American-Soviet Leaders
- Building Words
- The Space Race
- Into the Cold War
- Churchill’s Iron Curtain and Truman’s Doctrine
- Cuban Missile Crisis
- Cold War Hotspots
- Orwell’s You and the Atomic Bomb
- Stalin v. Gorbachev
Frequently Asked Questions
What caused the Cold War?
Tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union at the conclusion of World War II, an ideological split between both countries, nuclear weapons, and a worry of communism in America are among the factors that historians have linked to the Cold War outbreak.
Why was it called the Cold War?
The Cold War was called as such because of the fear both sides had of fighting one another head-on. If they fought in a “hot war,” nuclear weapons could level entire cities. To avoid this, they instead supported different groups in regional conflict zones.
Why was the Cold War important in history?
The Cold War had a big impact on political ideology, the economy, and the presidency. It also affected how people lived their lives. However, by the end of the 1950s, some people started to disagree with what was happening. This disagreement grew stronger until the late 1960s when many people began protesting against it.
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