The Cold War was a battle of words, ideology, public perception and power rather than an overt military conflict. It was a period of time and condition of suspicion between the Soviet Union, along with its satellite nations, and the United States and its allies leading to a series of military maneuvers and blockades that occurred with underlying predominant distrust among the two primary super powers. It began in 1946 after World War II and lasted until 1991. In addition, several proxy wars were fought in regional conflicts, with either the United States or the Soviet Union perceived as supporting the separate sides in conflict.
At the conclusion of World War II, the United States offered to fund the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe, significantly destroyed in the War, and the Soviet Union refused to let its "territories" participate in the rebuilding. The Soviet Union maintained its regional control and added a few more territorial claims as Western Europe was put on the fast track to recovery. The Cold War was the result. The contentious time period arose primarily from a fear of destruction of each other's culture and way of life, along with the component of distrust.
The distrust harbored led to programs of espionage and other attempts to acquire information that did not make the situation better. In 1946 the Soviet Union established The Iron Curtain, including a blockade on the city of Berlin, which was controlled by Western allies. The city was actually located in what would become East Germany. The Berlin Airlift project, carried out through cooperation of the Western allies, proved a more efficient manner of providing necessities to the city than rail or truck.
The result was a halting of the blockade in 1949 and an east/west division of Germany, including the city of Berlin. As Berlin proper was located in East Germany, more tension and distrust arose. This gave the Western allies a base behind the Iron Curtain. The city was divided into four regions; the USSR controlled the eastern region and the west was controlled by the French, British and American forces. The two sides also disagreed on what would be accepted as money in the occupied territories, as Germany's Reichsmark had been declared worthless.
The USSR and the US had actually fought together to defeat the Germans during World War II. The Russians merely had to retreat toward Moscow and cut off the German supply routes from the rear, stranding the German army in Soviet territory. The unbearable weather proved to be a great advantage for the USSR. Nazi Germany eventually fell because it was fighting a war on too many fronts. Although the Soviets and the Western Allies worked together to defeat the Nazis, they nonetheless did not trust each other. Their common goal was merely self-protection. This was a factor in the Cold War.
The Cold War fostered the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Though the two superpowers never engaged each other directly militarily, the known existence of individual nuclear capability created a condition that prompted each power to intensify and upgrade its military operations like at no previous time in history. The United States actively engaged in both Korea and Vietnam, assuming that the USSR and China were possibly supporting the communist opposition in both conflicts. War was very narrowly averted at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the US was certain that the USSR was attempting to set nuclear missiles in Castro's recently revolutionized Cuba.
The beginning of the end of the Cold War came about in 1989 with the physical dismantling of the Berlin Wall and the eventual complete erosion of the Soviet bloc, which had been established by the Warsaw Pact of 1955. Elements of the Cold War still exist today, but most distrust between the former enemies is more one of finance and economics than that of fear of military engagement between the two former principalities of the United States and the USSR, which no longer exists. But history has shown that national differences in finance and economics are often the basis for re-escalation and return to a culture of distrust.
With the USSR and its associated communist "threat" no longer the identified enemy, Americans became less likely to unquestioningly accept unbridled military spending and inattention to worsening domestic issues. A new boogeyman was needed.
From the mid-1980s through the '90s US intel and law enforcement agencies, amplified by mainstream media, refocused their fear-mongering mainly on the Patriot movement as newly identified, fearsome "domestic" enemies – for instance, Ruby Ridge, the Montana Freemen, the Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building bombing and the Waco massacre.
As this meme waned it was followed with the identification of yet another "newly-identified" threat to Americans' comfort and safety – "Islamofascists." The events of 9/11, seared by corporate media into the minds of viewers with an endless loop of trauma replays – the three tower collapses, the building jumpers, devastated family members searching for loved ones, fireballs at the Pentagon and emotionally devastated first responders – became the rallying cry for an unprecedented shift of power into the hands of those who strive for a new world order. As this meme loses power, a new Cold War – no matter who we may be told is "the enemy" – will doubtless begin.
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