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Cold War

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COLD WAR

During 1945 and early in 1946, the Soviet Union cut off nearly all contacts between the West and the occupied territories of Eastern Europe. In March 1946, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill warned that "an iron curtain has descended across the Continent" of Europe. He made popular the phrase Iron Curtain to refer to Soviet barriers against the West (Kennedy 1034). Behind these barriers, the U.S.S.R. steadily expanded its power. In 1946, the U.S.S.R. organized Communist governments in Bulgaria and Romania. In 1947, Communists took control of Hungary and Poland. Communists seized full power in Czechoslovakia early in 1948. These countries became Soviet satellite nations controlled by the U.S.S.R. Albania already had turned to Communism. Yugoslavia also joined the Communist bloc. The Communist Party of Yugoslavia had helped drive out the Germans near the end of the war. Communists led by Josip Broz Tito then took over the government (Cold War). East and West opposed each other in the United Nations. In 1946, the U.S.S.R. rejected a U.S. proposal for an international agency to control nuclear energy production and research. The Soviet Union believed the United States had a lead in nuclear weapons and would have a monopoly if controls were approved. The Soviet Union pictured itself as a defender of peace and accused the United States of planning a third world war.

During the late 1940's and the 1950's, the Cold War became increasingly tense. Each side accused the other of wanting to rule the world (Walker 388). Each side believed its political and economic systems were better than the other's. Each strengthened its armed forces. Both sides viewed the Cold War as a dispute between right and wrong. They saw every revolt and every international incident as part of the Cold War. This situation made it difficult to settle any dispute peacefully through compromise, with each side giving up something. Fear grew among all peoples that a local conflict would touch off a third world war that might destroy humanity. The nature of the Cold War began to change in the 1960's. Neither the East nor the West remained a monolith (united bloc). Communist China challenged Soviet leadership. China accused the Soviet Union of betraying Communism and being secretly allied with the United States. Some Communist countries followed China's leadership, and others remained loyal to the U.S.S.R. Among the nations of the Western bloc, France harshly criticized many U.S. policies and demanded independent leadership in Europe. West Germany also acted independently of U.S. policies. It searched for new economic and political relationships with other European countries, including East Germany. On October 22, 1962 the world would be the closest to nuclear war it had ever been, after reviewing newly acquired intelligence; President John F. Kennedy informed the world that the Soviet Union was building secret missile bases in Cuba, just 90 miles off the shores of Florida. After weighing such options as an armed invasion of Cuba and air strikes against the missiles, Kennedy decided on a less dangerous response. In addition to demanding that Russian Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev remove all the missile bases and their deadly contents, Kennedy ordered a naval quarantine or blockade of Cuba in order to prevent Russian ships from bringing additional missiles and construction materials to the island. In response to the American naval blockade, Premier Khrushchev authorized his Soviet field commanders in Cuba to launch their tactical nuclear weapons if invaded by U.S. forces. Deadlocked in this manner, the two leaders of the world's greatest nuclear superpowers waited for seven days with their fingers on the triggers. But on October 28, thinking better of his challenge to the United States, the Russian Premier agreed to President Kennedy's demands by ordering all Soviet supply ships away from Cuban waters and agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba's mainland (Walker 388). After several days of teetering on the brink of nuclear holocaust, the world breathed a sigh of relief. Unknown to most president Kennedy made a secret agreement with Khrushchev authorizing the decommission of U.S missiles in Turkey near the Soviet Union (Walker 388).

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