Standards 10.9.2, 10.9.3, 10.9.5 World Political Groups –
1) First World Nations – Industrialized capitalist nations, including the United States and its allies
2) Second World Nations –Communist nations, including the Soviet Union and its allies
3) Third World Nations – Developing Nations, often newly independent, not aligned with either of the 2 superpowers. These were economically poor and politically unstable and became a battle ground during the Cold War as the superpowers struggled for postwar influence. These nations were typically located in Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia and Pacific Islands.
Brinkmanship – The policy of going to the brink of war without actually going to war. The key to brinkmanship was to make big threats to scare the enemy. Brinkmanship was accompanied by the policy of massive retaliation, or the knowledge that a nuclear strike would be responded with a nuclear strike from the enemy. Brinkmanship was used by U.S. Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson.
The Cuban Revolution – Cuba was ruled by a repressive dictator, Fulgencio Batista. In 1959, revolution broke out and Batista was overthrown by Fidel Castro. Castro set up a communist system of government in Cuba and brought immediate social reforms that improved Cuba’s economy. He nationalized the economy by seizing control of American owned businesses that had privileges since the Spanish American War. The U.S. placed an embargo on all trade with Cuba, as a response, which is still in place today.
Congo – In 1960, the Cold War moved to battle over the African nation of the Congo. The Soviet Union was sending money to aid the government of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba as revolution and turmoil swept the country. The U.S. sent aid to opposing forces and the crisis ended under the leadership of Joseph Mobutu who was aided by Western powers.
The Bay of Pigs Incident –In 1960, the U.S. CIA began to train Cuban exiles to lead a revolution against Castro’s government. They planned an air raid over the country and a sea landing at the Bay of Pigs. The citizens of Cuba did not back this revolution and the Bay of Pigs was a massive failure for U.S. President John Kennedy.
The Berlin Wall – After the failure at the Bay of Pigs, Khrushchev pushed Kennedy in Berlin. He pressured the U.S. to give up control of Berlin yet again. The U.S. mobilized troops in West Germany and the Soviets mobilized in East Germany. On August 13, 1961, East Germany built a temporary fence around West Berlin. Soon they would erect a wall that covered nearly the entire 100 mile border, that was heavily guarded with ditches and troops that separated the 2 sides from each other.
Cuban Missile Crisis – In July 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev began installing nuclear missiles in Cuba. When U.S. planes found evidence, President Kennedy demanded their removal and placed a naval blockade to prevent more missiles and supplies from landing in Cuba. The Soviet ships did not cross the blockade and the Soviets agreed to remove missiles in Cuba in exchange for a U.S. promise to never invade Cuba. Secretly, the U.S. also agreed to remove missiles in Turkey that were scheduled for dismantling anyway. The Cuban Missile Crisis is the closest the world has ever come to nuclear war.
Nicaragua – In 1979, communist rebels called the Sandinistas overthrew the U.S. backed government. The Soviet Union funded the Sandinistas and the Sandinistas also funneled that money to Marxist revolutionaries in El Salvador. The U.S. then funneled money to help support the anti-revolutionaries called the Contras. The Sandinistas finally lost power in 1990.
Iran – The U.S. influenced Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in oil rich Iran. The Shah westernized the nation to the dislike of Muslim leaders. The leader of the opposition, Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini, inspired Iranian Muslims to riot. The Shah fled the country and the U.S. took him into the country to treat cancer despite Khomeini’s insistence to for his return. The revolutionaries invaded the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran and held hostages for 444 days.
Iran vs. Iraq – The 2 neighbors squared off in warfare as Khomeini urged other Muslim leaders in the Middle East to overthrow their secular governments. Iraqi secular leader, Saddam Hussein, opposed this call and millions of Iranians and Iraqis died in the process.
Afghanistan – Afghanistan had an independent communist regime. A Muslim revolt in 1979 forced the Soviet Union to send troops to aid the communists. The Soviets faced a similar situation to that of the U.S. in Vietnam as the rebels used guerrilla tactics to fight off the Soviets. The U.S. was on the other side supplying the Islamic rebels with money and weapons. The Soviets had to pull out troops for good in 1989. The rebel groups that the U.S. funded eventually became the Taliban government.
Discussion Questions – Talk and Write About All Answers 1. Why is the Berlin Wall seen as the ultimate symbol of the Cold War/Iron Curtain? Explain. What do you believe the fall of the Berlin Wall will symbolize? Explain.
2. Why were the Third World Nations so important for the superpowers to control? Explain.
3. Why did the United States constantly support repressive governments and leaders against the will of citizens of various countries? Explain.