Cold War - Meaning, Historical Timeline

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Mar 31, 2022, 10:27

Cold War is the period from the mid-1940s to the early 1990s characterized by a relative easing of tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States. The era was marked by the conclusion of the Cold War and the emergence of a multipolar world dominated by unipolar powers.

What is the Cold War?

The Cold War was a period during which the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a global power struggle for dominance. During this time, the two countries avoided direct military conflict with one another, but they engaged in indirect fights through economic, political and propaganda means.

This "war" was "cold" because neither side's military actually came into direct conflict with each other both wanted to avoid a mutually assured destruction situation where there would be no winners.

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Historical Timeline of the Cold War

The United States increased diplomatic, military, and economic pressures on the Soviet Union when the communist state was already suffering from economic stagnation.

In the second half of the 1980s, the new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the liberalizing reforms of perestroika ("reconstruction", "reorganization") and glasnost ("openness") in an attempt to end the period of economic stagnation and democratize Soviet society. This opened up political space for national movements in Eastern Europe, which, in turn, increased pressure for reform in the USSR.

The weakening of Soviet control over Eastern Europe in 1989 led to a cascade of revolutions that peacefully ended communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe. In 1991, Gorbachev resigned as General Secretary of the Communist Party.

Historians do not fully agree on the dates. Still, a standard timeframe is a period between 1947, the year the Truman Doctrine, a US foreign policy pledging to aid nations threatened by Soviet expansionism, was announced, and 1991, the year the Soviet Union collapsed.

Which turn of events did the Cold War lead to?

The post-World War II world was marked by a significant ideological divide between two world powers: the Soviet Union and its satellites in one camp; and the United States, its NATO allies and others in the other.

This created what US President Harry Truman called a "polarization" of power, as each side sought to promote its political ideology. This helped to fuel proxy wars, such as the Korean War (1950–1953), Vietnam War (1955–1975), the Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979–1989) and the Angolan Civil War (1975–2002).

In his first major speech on foreign policy, delivered in April 1947 at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, Harry Truman announced that the United States would provide political, military and economic aid to all democratic nations under siege from internal or external authoritarian forces. This doctrine, known as the Truman Doctrine, was designed to contain Soviet expansion by offering assistance to countries struggling against communist subversion or invasion.

The tension between the United States and the USSR during the Cold War never seemed more significant, and those with the political power to do something about it were not sure if their efforts would be enough.

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FAQs on Cold War

Q.1) How did the Truman Doctrine help during the Cold War?

During the Cold War, The Truman Doctrine was intended to assist Greece and Turkey economically and militarily. It also helped create the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a mutual defence pact among Western nations that would become a cornerstone of US foreign policy for the next half-century.

Q.2) What was the Marshall Plan introduced after the Cold War?

After the Cold War, In March 1947, George Marshall, who had served as secretary of state under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and became secretary of state again under President Truman, announced a new aid program for Europe that would later become known as the Marshall Plan. The plan's goal was to stabilize Europe politically by halting the spread of communism and rebuild European economies devastated by World War II.

Q.3) Why is the Cold War called so?

Cold War called by the term "cold" is used because there was no large-scale fighting directly between the two sides, but they each supported major regional conflicts known as proxy wars.

Q.4) Which were the two superpowers left after the Cold War?

US and USSR were the two superpowers left after the Cold War.