The End of WWII and the Beginning of the Cold War (1945-1949) “The Cold War was a period of tension and hostility between the United States of America and the Soviet Union from the mid-40s to the late 80s. It began with the end of the Second World War. It was called the Cold War because there was no active war between the two nations, which was probably due to the fear of nuclear escalation.” Near the end of WWII, Roosevelt from the US, Churchill from Great Britain, and Stalin from the USSR met at the Yalta Conference to decide what to do after WWII. They made many important decisions. One reason that WWII started was that everyone ignored the League of Nations. This was because it didn’t have an army and because the U.S. didn’t join. In February 1945, at Yalta they decided to form the United Nations to help keep future peace. This international organization was intended to protect its members against aggression. Unlike the League of Nations, the US joined and the United Nations (UN) could raise an army from its members to enforce its decisions.
At Yalta, they also decided to divide up Germany into four zones. The U.S., the USSR, France, and Great Britain would each control one zone. The goal was to fix up the country and then unite the 4 zones into one new country. Other places were also divided, such as some of Japan’s colonies. For example, Korea was divided on the 38th parallel. The USSR controlled the North and the U.S. controlled the South. After President Roosevelt’s death, his successor Harry S. Truman, Stalin and Churchill met again at Postdam in Germany. During this conference Truman pressed Stalin to hold free elections in Eastern Europe but Stalin refused.
After WWII, the U.S. and the USSR were the 2 most powerful countries by far. In fact they were nicknamed superpowers. Even though they were allies during World War II, the United States and Soviet Union had little in common. The USSR was communist. (They became this way after Lenin led a revolution during WWI that put Czar Nicholas II in jail. Their ideas were based on Karl Marx who wrote The Communist Manifesto.) The USA had a democracy (where people vote) and followed capitalism (the economic theory created by Adam Smith.)
The US and USSR became enemies. Roughly 1/2 the world was on the side of the US and 1/2 was on the side of the USSR. In a speech, Winston Churchill called the imaginary boundary which divided a mostly democratic Western Europe from a Communist Eastern Europe the Iron Curtain. The countries on the US’s side formed an alliance called North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the countries on the USSR’s side formed an alliance called the Warsaw Pact. The countries on the USSR’s side were referred to as Soviet satellites. In order to help make sure countries joined the US’s side, the US gave billions of dollars to Western Europe in what was called the Marshall Planand was named after George Marshall. The aim of the U.S. was to fight communism by sending money and weapons to countries threatened by communism to stop the spread of it. This policy was called containment. President Truman’s support for countries that rejected communism was called the Truman Doctrine.
Although the US and USSR were enemies, they never fought each other. Instead they had what is called a cold war. This lasted from 1945- 1989. The 2 countries did everything possible to stop each other but never had a “hot” war. They were both afraid of each other because both had nuclear weapons. Neither wanted to fight because they could have both destroyed the other. This is called the fear of mutual destruction or deterrence theory. So instead of having a hot war, the problems between the US and USSR from 1945- 1989 were known as the COLD WAR.