Wednesday, May 26, 2010
The Cold War developed after World War II and lasted until 1992 when Russian President Boris Yeltsin and United States President George H. W. Bush declared that their countries did not regard each other as potential enemies. The Cold War was an intense rivalry between groups of Communist and non-Communist nations. The Communist group consisted of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) and its Communist allies. This group was often referred to as the Eastern bloc. The other group consisted of the United States and its democratic allies, usually referred to as the Western bloc. It was called the Cold War because there was no actual fighting on a wide scale. The Cold War was characterized by mutual distrust, suspicion and misunderstandings by both sides. There were numerous times that people thought World War III was likely to start. The United States accused the U.S.S.R. of trying to expand Communism worldwide. The Soviets accused the United States of practicing imperialism and with attempting to stop revolutions in other countries. When John F. Kennedy became President in January 1961, Cold War tensions were high - in Europe and Asia as well as in Cuba. The Fidel Castro government of Cuba became openly Communist in 1960. Castro condemned the United States and began to receive military aid from Communist countries. Millions of dollars' worth of American property was seized by Castro's government. Diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba ended in January 1961. Anti-Castro Cubans, sponsored by the United States, tried to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961. The invasion was not successful. It strengthened Castro's control of Cuba and embarrassed the United States. Kennedy met Nikita S. Khrushchev, the Soviet Party chief, in Vienna, Austria, in June 1961. The two leaders failed to reach an agreement about ending military occupation in Berlin. In July 1961 the U.S.S.R. increased military spending and cancelled cuts in its armed forces. Increasing numbers of East Germans were fleeing to West Germany. The East German Communists began building a wall of cement and barbed wire between East and West Berlin on August 13, 1964. The United States sent troops to West Berlin by highway. United States tanks were used to enter East Berlin without showing papers to Communist border guards to enforce Western rights to the city. Some East Germans escaped to West Berlin after the wall was built, but many died in the attempt. The Berlin Wall remained until the time of Ronald Reagan. The U.S.S.R. secretly installed missiles and missile bases in Cuba, about 90 miles from Florida, and the United States learned about it in October 1962. President Kennedy demanded that the U.S.S.R. remove them. He ordered a naval "quarantine" of Cuba. The U.S.S.R. offered to remove the missiles if the United States would dismantle its military bases in Turkey. The United States refused, and after a week of extreme tension Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles. Some how the world managed to avoid World War III through a period of about 40 years of the Cold War. I remember the tension of this period of time. We were always wondering if we were going to have a nuclear bomb dropped on our nation. Facts for this post came from an article by Burton I. Kaufman in Burton I. Kaufman, World Book EncyclopediaVol. 4, pp 762-771.