Chapter 22. The Cold War and Beyond, 1945—Present
IN THIS CHAPTER
Summary: The Cold War waged between the United States and the Soviet Union (1945-1989) was followed by the abrupt disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain.
• At the close of World War II, a division of East and West that was both strategic and ideological hardened into a Cold War between the two superpowers: the Soviet Union and the United States.
• In response to the Cold War, the Western European nations plotted and maintained a course of economic integration that culminated in the creation of the European Union.
• Between 1985 and 1989, systemic economic problems and a bold attempt at reform led to the rapid disintegration of the Soviet Union, the destruction of the Iron Curtain, and the reunification of Germany.
• Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, two major trends affected life in Europe: the revival of nationalism and the emergence of globalization.
Council for Mutual Economic Assistance
Treaty of Rome
perestroika and glasnost
Following the Second World War, a Cold War developed between the two “super powers”: the Soviet Union and the United States. In response, the Western European nations plotted and followed a course of economic integration that culminated in the creation of the European Union. In the decades that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, Europe experienced both a revival of nationalism and the emergence of globalization.
The Cold War
The Settlement following WWII
There was no formal treaty at the conclusion of World War II. The postwar shape of Europe was determined by agreements reached at two wartime conferences at Tehran, Iran (in December 1943) and Yalta, Crimea, which is now part of the Ukraine (in February 1945) and, where agreement could not be reached, by the realities of occupation at the war’s end.
These were the primary results of the eventual settlement:
• Germany was disarmed and divided into sectors, with the Western powers controlling the western sectors and the Soviet Union controlling the eastern sectors.
• Berlin, which lay in the eastern sector, was itself divided into West Berlin (controlled by the Allies) and East Berlin (controlled by the Soviet Union).
• Poland’s border with Germany was pushed westward.
• The United Nations was created with 51 members to promote international peace and cooperation.
• Although the United States and Britain called for free elections in the eastern European nations that were physically under the control of the Soviet Army, pro-Soviet governments were quickly installed by Stalin.
• By 1946, the world was speaking of an Iron Curtain that had descended over eastern Europe (the phrase was first uttered by Winston Churchill in a speech given in the United States), stretching from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Adriatic Sea in the south and dividing Europe between a communist East and a capitalist West.
The Cold War in Europe
The phrase “the Cold War” refers to efforts of the ideologically opposed regimes of the United States and the Soviet Union to extend their influence and control of events around the globe, without breaking into direct military conflict with one another. The first showdown between the superpowers occurred from June 1948 to May 1949, when Soviet troops cut off all land traffic from the West into Berlin in an attempt to take control of the whole city. In response, the Western Powers, led by the United States mounted what has come to be known as the Berlin Airlift, supplying West Berlin and keeping it out of Soviet control. In 1949, the Western-controlled zones of Germany were formally merged to create the independent German Federal Republic. One month later, the Soviets established the German Democratic Republic in the eastern zone.
In 1947, the United States established the Truman Doctrine, offering military and economic aid to countries threatened by communist takeover. That same year, Truman’s Secretary of State, George Marshall, launched what has come to be known as the Marshall Plan, pouring billions of dollars of aid into helping the Western European powers to rebuild their infrastructures and economies. The Soviet Union soon countered with the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, an economic aid package for eastern European countries.
In 1949, the United States organized the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), uniting the Western powers in a military alliance against the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union countered with the Warsaw Pact, a military alliance of the communist countries of Eastern Europe. The one great military imbalance of the postwar period, the United States’ possession of the atomic bomb, was countered by the development of a Soviet atomic bomb in 1949. From then on, the two superpowers engaged in a nuclear arms race that saw each develop an arsenal of hydrogen bombs by 1953, followed by huge caches of nuclear warheads mounted on intercontinental ballistic missiles. The overarching strategy of nuclear weapons became appropriately known by its acronym MAD, or mutual assured destruction, which “reasoned” that neither side would use its nuclear weapons if its own destruction by a retaliatory blast was assured.
The Global Cold War
Once the two superpowers had done what they could to shore up their positions in Europe, their competition spread across the globe. Major events in world history that are directly connected to the Cold War include:
• the civil war in China, where the Soviet-backed communist forces of Mao Zedong defeated, in 1949, the nationalist forces of Jiang Jieshi supported by the United States
• the Korean War (1950—1953) between Soviet and Chinese-supported North Korean communists and UN and U.S.-backed South Koreans, which produced a stalemate at the 38th parallel (the original post-World-War-II dividing line between North and South Korea) at the cost of some 1.5 million lives
• the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1963, in which Soviet attempts to install nuclear missiles in Cuba were met with a U.S. blockade of the island, bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war until the Soviets backed down and removed the missiles
• the Vietnam War, in which communist forces led by Ho Chi Minh battled an authoritarian, anticommunist government, increasingly reliant on U.S. military aid for its existence, throughout the 1960s until U.S. withdrawal in 1973
Although it was less in the headlines of world news, the Cold War also had devastating effects in Latin America and Africa where, for the better part of three decades, local and regional disputes were deformed by the intervention of Soviet and U.S. money, arms, and covert operations. Many of the difficulties faced by those regions today can be traced back to the Cold War.
Détente with the West, Crackdown in the East
In the late 1960s and lasting into the 1980s, U.S.-Soviet relations entered into a new era that has come to be known as the era of Détente. In this period, both sides backed away from the notion of a struggle only one side could win. The era of Détente was characterized by a number of nuclear test-ban treaties and arms-limitation talks between the two superpowers.
However, while Soviet-U.S. relations were thawing during this period, the Soviet Union demonstrated on several occasions that it still intended to rule the Eastern Block with a firm hand. The most dramatic occurred in 1968 in an episode that has come to be known as the Prague Spring. Czechoslovakian communists, led by Alexander Dubcek, embarked on a process of liberalization, stimulated by public demand for greater freedom, economic progress, and equality. Under Dubcek’s leadership, the reformers declared that they intended to create “socialism with a human face.” Dubcek tried to proceed by balancing reforms with reassurances to the Soviet Union, but on 21 August Soviet and Warsaw Pact troops invaded and occupied the major cities of Czechoslovakia; it was the largest military operation in Europe since World War II.
The Soviet regime also continued to demand conformity from its citizens and to punish dissent. A good example was the case of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the acclaimed author who wrote novels which attempted to tell the truth about life in the Soviet Union. For writing novels like The Cancer Ward (1966) and The First Circle (1968), Solzhenitsyn was expelled, in November 1969, from the Russian Writers’ Union. Much to the irritation of the Soviet government, his work was highly acclaimed in the West and he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1970. Following the 1973 publication of his novel The Gulag Archipelago, he was arrested. But in a sign that some concessions were being made to Western opinion, he was deported to West Germany rather than exiled to Siberia.
The European Union
The leaders of Western Europe realized almost immediately they were going to need to function as a whole in order to rival the economic and military power of the two superpowers. Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, Europe embarked on a plan of economic integration that proceeded through several careful stages:
• In 1950, France and West Germany created the French-German Coal and Steel Authority, removing tariff barriers and jointly managing production in that industry.
• In 1952, the Authority expanded to create the six-country European Coal and Steel Community, adding Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.
• In 1957, those six countries signed the Treaty of Rome, establishing the European Economic Community (EEC), sometimes referred to as the Common Market, to begin the process of eliminating tariff barriers and cutting restrictions of the flow of capital and labor.
• In 1967, the EEC merged with other European cooperative bodies to form the European Community (EC), moving towards a broader integration of public institutions.
• Between 1967 and 1986, the EC expanded to 12 countries, adding Denmark, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland (all in 1973), Greece (1981), and Portugal and Spain (both in 1986).
• In 1992, the 12 countries of the EC signed the Maastricht Treaty, changing the name from the EC to European Union (EU), creating the world’s largest trading bloc, and moving to adopt a common currency (the Euro).
• In 1995, Austria, Finland, and Sweden joined the EU.
• Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, the EU underwent a massive expansion, welcoming countries either newly freed or newly constituted after the break-up of the Soviet Union. The addition of Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia in 2004, and Bulgaria and Romania in 2007, brought the total membership to 27 countries.
The Disintegration of the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Union
Between 1985 and 1989, the world was stunned as it witnessed the rapid disintegration of the Soviet Union, the destruction of the Iron Curtain, and the reunification of Germany. The causes of these dramatic events were rooted in the nature of the Soviet system, which had for decades put domestic and foreign politics ahead of the needs of its own economy and of its people. The result was an economic system that could no longer function. The trigger for its disintegration was the ascension of a new generation of Soviet leaders.
Gorbachev and the "New Man": 1985
While Western Europe was creating the EC and dreaming of economic and political power that could match the superpowers, the big lie of the Soviet economy was coming home to roost. In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev succeeded a long line of aging Stalinist leaders. At the age of 54, Gorbachev represented a younger and more sophisticated generation that had spent significant time in the West. Gorbachev believed that the Soviet Union’s survival required a restructuring (perestroika) of the both its economy and its society, and an openness (glasnost) to new ideas. Accordingly, Gorbachev challenged the people of the Soviet Union and its satellite countries to take on a new level of responsibility. However, such an invitation quickly fanned the fires of autonomy in satellite states.
Poland and "Solidarity": 1980-1990
There had been growing agitation in Poland since 1980, when workers under the leadership of an electrician named Lech Walesa succeeded in forming a labor union known as Solidarity. Pressured by numerous strikes, the Polish government recognized the union despite threats of Soviet intervention. By 1981, the movement had become more political, as some of Solidarity’s more radical members began calling for free elections. As tensions grew, the Polish military, led by General Wojciech Jaruzelski, responded to the crisis by imposing martial law and a military dictatorship. However, with Gorbachev calling for reform, Jaruzelski tried, in November of 1987, to gain legitimacy for his rule through a national referendum. The majority of voters either voted against or abstained and in August of 1988, Jaruzelski ended his military dictatorship and set up a civilian government.
The new government attempted to retain the political monopoly of the Communist Party while simultaneously opening Poland up for Western business. It proved to be impossible, and Walesa and Solidarity took advantage of the new openness to push for political freedom. In January of 1989, Solidarity was legalized and, in April, the Communist Party gave up its monopoly on political power. In the first free election in Poland since before World War II, Solidarity triumphed and a noncommunist government was set up in September. In December of 1990, Walesa was elected president, and Poland began to face the hard task of learning how to live in an unruly democratic society and to deal with the economic ups and downs of capitalism.
Czechoslovakia and the Velvet Revolution: 1989
Seeing Poland, and then Hungary (which held free elections in the summer and fall of 1989), shed their communist governments without Soviet intervention energized Czech resistance to communist rule. Student-led demonstrations in the fall of 1989 were met with tear gas and clubs by the Czech police, but the students were soon joined by workers and people from all walks of life. Leading dissidents, like the playwright Vaclav Havel, began a movement known as the Civic Forum which sought to rebuild notions of citizenship and civic life that had been destroyed by the Soviet system. Soon Havel and other dissidents were jailed, but they became symbols of defiance and moral superiority.
What followed has come to be known as the Velvet Revolution. Faced with massive demonstrations in Prague (shown around the world on television) and urged by Gorbachev himself to institute democratic reform, Czechoslovakia’s communist leaders resigned on 24 November. After negotiations and maneuvers by both the Communist Party and the Civic Forum, Havel was chosen as president on 25 December. Alexander Dubcek, who had led the original revolt of 1968, was brought home from exile and named chairman of the Czechoslovakian Parliament.
German Reunification: 1989-1990
West Germans had never accepted the division of Germany. The constitution of the German Federal Republic provided legal formalities for reunification. How the East Germans felt about the society of their Western relatives was hard to know. When reunification came, it came suddenly. East German dissidents organized themselves along the lines of the Civic Forum model pioneered in Czechoslovakia. In response to the pressure for reform, the communist regime rescinded its traditional order to shoot anyone trying to escape to West Berlin, and shortly thereafter issued “vacation visas” to those wishing to see their families in the West. There was little expectation of their return.
On 9 November 1989 protesters moved toward the Berlin Wall and, meeting almost no resistance from the soldiers, started to hammer it down. East Germans streamed into West Berlin where they were embraced by tearful West Germans who gleefully gave them handfuls of cash. The West German Chancellor, the Conservative Helmut Kohl, moved quickly towards reunification. It was a reunification that amounted to East Germany being annexed by the West. Completely swept away in the pace of change were the original Civic Forum leaders who were not at all sure that they wished to be reunified with West Germany and its capitalist economy.
• In March 1990, elections were held in East Germany, creating a new government ready to negotiate with West Germany.
• By 3 August, the official treaty of reunification had been drafted.
• The East German government approved it at the beginning of October and, on 3 October, 1990, the Germans celebrated Reunification Day.
• On 2 December, the first unified national elections resulted in sweeping wins for Kohl, “the Reunification Chancellor,” and his party.
Yugoslavia had been a fragile state of six ethnically self-conscious member republics. As the communist regime began to collapse, the ethnic rivalries of Yugoslavia quickly reasserted themselves.
• Albanians in the autonomous province of Kosovo revolted against Serbian rule.
• The Slovenes and Croatians (or Croats), both western Slavs, agitated for independence from Serbia.
• In 1989, the communist regime began to collapse and the stronger republics were moving towards independence. A fragile multiparty system was put into place.
The Soviet Union Comes Apart: 1991
Caught between the hardliners who wished to slow down reform and a population that wanted it to come faster, Gorbachev’s popularity began to slip. Determined to go forward, Gorbachev persuaded the Communist Party to give up its monopoly on political power and called for free elections. Sensing collapse, Party members resigned in large numbers.
The various “republics” that made up the Soviet Union now emulated the satellite states and began to agitate for independence. The Russian Republic led the way, when its President and former Gorbachev ally, Boris Yeltsin, declared its independence from the Soviet Union. The Ukraine followed suit and Gorbachev was faced with a crisis. In the spring of 1991, Gorbachev proposed a compromise. He suggested that all the republics sign a “Treaty of the Union,” declaring them all to be independent but also members of a loose confederation. In August of 1991, just as the Treaty was about to take effect, hardliners tried to oust Gorbachev. For three days, there was confusion about who was in charge and what the military would do.
Yeltsin seized the moment, positioning himself between the parliament building and military tanks. The military backed off and the coup attempt failed, but it was Yeltsin who was now the favorite. Gorbachev resigned late in 1991 and the Soviet Union, as the world had known it, disintegrated. Most of the republics chose to join a loose confederation known as the Commonwealth of Independent States, a few, especially the Baltic States, opted for independence.
Nationalism and Globalization
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, nationalism which had been driven underground came to the surface in Eastern Europe.
• In Czechoslovakia, Slavic nationalism split the country into halves, as the Slavic regions split off to form the republic of Slovakia, leaving the Czechs to form the Czech Republic.
• In Azerbaijan, Azerbaijanis and Armenians fought for dominance.
• In the Russian Republic, Chechnyans began a guerrilla war against Russian troops when their demands for independence were refused.
• In Yugoslavia, the fragile, multiparty system fell apart. Serbians and Slovenians fought over land and power; ethnic groups in Croatia, Bosnia—Herzegovina, and Macedonia followed suit as the situation degenerated into a vicious, multisided war with acts of genocide committed on both sides.
While politics in the post-Cold-War era often seemed to regress, the unity of the world’s economies, societies, and cultures continued to move forward. Near the end of the twentieth century, the term globalization became prominent to describe the increasing integration and interdependence of the economic, social, cultural, and even ecological aspects of life. The term not only refers to way in which the economies of the world affect one another, but also to the way in which the experience of everyday life is increasingly standardized by the spread of technologies which carry with them social and cultural norms.
• Rapid Review
Following World War II, the Soviet Union solidified its control of Eastern Europe, creating an Iron Curtain that divided East from West. The two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, engaged in a Cold War that had global implications. Meanwhile, the Western European nations plotted and followed a course of economic integration that culminated in the creation of the European Union. Between 1985 and 1989, systemic economic problems and a bold attempt at reform led to the rapid disintegration of the Soviet Union, the destruction of the Iron Curtain, and the reunification of Germany. In the decades that followed, two major trends affected life in Europe: the revival of nationalism and the emergence of globalization.
• Chapter Review Questions
1. The settlement that followed World War II is best understood as
(A) an implementation of Woodrow Wilson’s 14-point plan
(B) a solidifying of the realities that existed at the end of the war
(C) a reconstruction of the settlement created by the Versailles Treaty
(D) an outgrowth of globalization
(E) a revival of nationalism
2. The significance of the Berlin Airlift was
(A) its demonstration of the commitment of the United States to defend Western Europe from Soviet expansion
(B) its effect on Hitler, causing him to abandon the invasion of Britain
(C) that it signaled the end of the war in Germany
(D) that it led to the division of Berlin into a western and eastern sector
(E) that it demonstrated the resurgence of the German Airforce
3. The plan for financial assistance to rebuild Western Europe after World War II was known as
(A) the Warsaw Pact
(B) the Truman Doctrine
(C) the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance
(D) the Marshall Plan
4. The softening of U.S.-Soviet relations from the late 1960s to the 1980s which led to a series of disarmament talks and missile-limitation treaties is known as
(A) the Prague Spring
(B) the Treaty of Rome
(D) Socialism with a Human Face
5. The Maastricht Treaty, signed in 1992,
(A) coordinated coal and steel production in six European nations
(B) established the European Economic Community (EEC)
(C) created the European Community (EC)
(D) established the reunification of Germany
(E) brought the European Union (EU) into being
6. Glasnost refers to
(A) a social and economic restructuring
(B) the attempt by Czechoslovakians to humanize socialism
(C) the rise of nationalism in the former Soviet republics
(D) an openness to new ideas
(E) the Polish labor union which led a political revolt in the 1980s and 1990s
7. The movement that began in 1989 in Czechoslovakia and which sought to rebuild notions of citizenship and civic life that had been destroyed by the Soviet system was
(A) the Velvet Revolution
(B) the Prague Spring
(C) the Civic Forum
8. Which of the following is an example of the revival of nationalism in Eastern Europe after the disintegration of the Soviet Union?
(A) the war between Chechnyans and Russia
(B) the multisided war in Yugoslavia
(C) the splitting up of Czechoslovakia
(D) the war in Bosnia—Herzegovina
(E) all of the above
• Answers and Explanations
1. B. The post-World-War-II settlement, with Germany divided into zones and the Eastern European countries under the domination of the Soviet Union, was a solidifying of the reality that the Soviets occupied half of Germany and militarily controlled Eastern Europe. Choice A in incorrect because Wilson’s 14-point plan, proposed at the conclusion of World War I, called for the growth of liberal democracy all over Europe; that did not happen behind the Iron Curtain. Choice C is incorrect because there are many differences between the settlement constructed by the Versailles Treaty and the settlement at the end of World War II, chief among them being the fate of Germany, which was shrunk and saddled with war reparations by the Versailles Treaty and divided between East and West and rapidly rebuilt by the superpowers after World War II.
2. A. The Berlin Airlift, in which the United States flew supplies into a Soviet-blockaded West Berlin from June 1948 to May 1949, demonstrated the commitment of the United States to defend West Berlin and all of Western Europe from Soviet expansion. Choice B is incorrect because it was the Battle of Britain (not the Berlin Airlift) that caused Hitler to abandon his plan for the invasion of Britain. Choice C is incorrect because the chronology is wrong: the war had been over for nearly three years when the Berlin Airlift occurred. Choice D is incorrect because Berlin was already divided into eastern and western sectors prior to the Berlin Airlift. Choice E is incorrect because the Berlin Airlift was carried out by the United States Airforce, in aid of West Berlin (not the German Airforce, which had nothing to do with this).
3. D. The Marshall Plan, named after U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall, was the plan which called for pouring billions of dollars of aid into Western Europe to rebuild its infrastructure and economy. Choice A is incorrect because the Warsaw Pact was a military alliance of the communist countries of Eastern Europe. Choice B is incorrect because the Truman Doctrine offered military and economic aid to countries directly threatened by communist takeover (not countries in Western Europe). Choice C is incorrect because the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance was set up by the Soviet Union to counter the Marshall Plan by offering economic aid to Eastern European countries (i.e., not Western European countries). Choice E is incorrect because NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, united the Western powers in a military alliance against the Soviet Union; it had nothing to do with financial assistance to Western Europe.
4. C. The French term Détente was given to the softening of U.S.-Soviet relations that led to a series of disarmament talks and missile-limitation treaties from the late 1960s to the 1980s. Choices A and D are incorrect because the “the Prague Spring” refers to attempts by Czechoslovakian communists to resist Soviet domination and bring about a relaxation of state intervention in the lives of its citizens, a goal that came to be known as “socialism with a human face.” Choice B is incorrect because the Treaty of Rome, signed in 1957, established the European Economic Community (EEC). Choice E is incorrect because globalization was a term coined in the late 1980s to describe the way in which the experience of everyday life is increasingly standardized by the spread of technologies which carry with them social and cultural norms.
5. E. The Maastricht Treaty, signed by the 12 countries of the European Community in 1992, created the European Union, the world’s largest trading bloc. Choice A is incorrect because it was the European Coal and Steel Community, created in 1952, that coordinated coal and steel production in the six member nations. Choice B is incorrect because it was the Treaty of Rome, signed in 1957, that established European Economic Community (EEC), sometimes referred to as the Common Market. Choice C is incorrect because it was the merger of the EEC and other cooperative bodies in 1967 that created the European Community (EC). Choice D is incorrect because German Reunification was accomplished by a treaty approved in October of 1990.
6. D. The term glasnost (or openness) refers to the call by Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s for an openness to new ideas in Soviet society and government. Choice A is incorrect because the term for Gorbachev’s call for social and economic restructuring was perestroika. Choice B is incorrect because the attempt by Czechoslovakians, in 1968, to humanize socialism was known as “socialism with a human face.” Choice C is incorrect because the rise of nationalism in the former Soviet republics occurred as a reaction to glasnost. Choice E is incorrect because the Polish labor union which led a political revolt in the 1980s and 1990s was Solidarity.
7. C. The movement known as the Civic Forum sought to rebuild notions of citizenship and civic life that had been destroyed by the Soviet system. Choice A is incorrect because the phrase “the Velvet Revolution” refers to the entire process, of which the Civic Forum was only a part, by which civic opposition eroded the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. Choice B is incorrect because “the Prague Spring” refers to the uprisings of Czechoslovakians against Soviet domination in 1968. Choice D is incorrect because Solidarity is the name of the Polish labor union which led a revolt against Soviet oppression in Poland. Choice E is incorrect because glasnost refers to the openness to new ideas called for by Mikhail Gorbachev.
8. E. All of the choices are correct. The Chechnyan conflict arose because of Russia’s refusal to accede to Chechnyan nationalist demands for independence. The multisided conflicts in Yugoslavia and in Bosnia—Herzegovina involved both ethnic tensions between and nationalist aspirations of the Serbs, Slovenes, Croats, Bosnians and several other groups. The splitting up of Czechoslovakia was the result of nationalist aspirations of the Slovaks.