Subsequent to the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima & Nagasaki in August of 1945, WWII finally came to an end. Along with the death of “The war to end all wars,” came an ideological battle that started a stagnant nuclear war which had the potential to eliminate mankind.
Following the over-glorified allied victory of WWII, two new world superpowers emerged from the tattered economy of the Post WWII world: The United States of America and The U.S.S.R. From the 1950s to the late 1980s, America and the Soviet Union came face to face in a series of international conflicts which came to be known as the “Cold War”.
The tension began with the Allied division of Berlin. The Allies divided Germany into 4 sections, one each for the Allied victors: America, France, Great Britain, and the U.S.S.R. Although the splitting of Germany was supposed to only be a temporary matter, it evolved into a symbolic division that separated Communist East Germany from the Democratic West. The fragile relationship between the two political and sociological sides of Germany carried great tension from the beginning of the separation until its demise in the late 1980s.
The United States, Britain, and France all agreed to create a state of economic co-operation in order to start the rebuilding of Germany’s disintegrated economy by reevaluating the currency and making vast changes.
The Soviet Union, irritated at being left out of this agreement, responded by creating a blockade to all rail, canal, and road passages out of West Berlin. They also cut off all electrical power to East & West Berlin. The Allied solution to the blockade was to expensively airlift all necessary goods into West Berlin, and after 11 grueling months, Stalin reopened access to West Berlin.
The Marshall Plan was an American-funded stimulus package that was created in order to aid industrial growth in Western Europe. This exchange of goods was beneficial for both America and Western Europe as it leads to an enhanced period of economic growth. Stalin responded to the flourishing economy of Western Europe by abandoning coalition governments as well as removing all non-communist parties. Stalin’s reaction had given the communist governments of Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary complete, concrete control.
Following the death of Stalin in March of 1953, many of his totalitarian beliefs also died with him. The preceding leader, Nikita Khrushchev, called for ‘greater individual liberty’. This newfound self-determination proved to be a major flaw in the Soviets’ control over Eastern Europe. When Khrushchev gave the Polish leader more ‘elbow room’ to develop his own national brand of communism he set a national example; one which Hungary was soon to follow.
Possibly the closest the world has ever come to a devastating nuclear war was the Cuban missile crisis. The Cuban missile crisis begun when Fidel Castro succeeded in overthrowing the corrupt dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. The friction began when Castro confiscated 1 billion dollars worth of US-owned property. This act outraged most Americans and caused Dwight Eisenhower to impose a trade embargo on Cuba. Since Cuban goods were denied entry into the United States, Castro was forced to find a new trade partner: namely the U.S.S.R.
The Soviet Union saw an opportunity to gain access to a strategic area within the firing range of the United States. The conflict began to escalate when the USSR began to ship military weapons and personnel to the small island of Cuba. This movement terrified the Americans, and they began to take tentative arms.
The CIA trained a small group of armed Cuban exiles to invade Cuba. This mission has turned into a famous failure of epic proportions, as the Cubans simply rounded them all up and exiled them, further humiliating the Americans. This incident pushed Castro closer to the Russians.