The Cold War: Has It Started Again or Did It Ever Actually End?

by Lilli Behom 3 years ago in history

Why the Cold War Never Actually Ended in 1991

The Cold War: Has It Started Again or Did It Ever Actually End?
Image courtesy of Google Images

The Cold War started in 1947 between the two greatest superpowers at the time, America and the Soviet Union (USSR). Although many believe it is over, there was never a clear winner in this social, political, and economic war. However, the Cold War is still going, therefore no one won. This can be proven in; the Korean War being a stalemate and the Vietnam War and the Space Race cancelling the other’s win out. The Cuban Missile Crisis was another stalemate, plus treaties were created to not allow further conflict. Even the USSR dissolving did not mark the end of the Cold War, and political events from 1999-2017 being further proof that the Cold War has not finished.

The Past

The Cold War started in 1947 at the end of World War 2. During this time, America developed nuclear bombs, missiles, and warheads which they used to defeat Japan in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This was seen as the world's largest threat due to the fact they were the only ones who had a weapon that proved devastating enough to vaporize people, cause radiation 72 years later, killed and maimed hundreds of thousands, set fires that spread 3 km, and had enough explosive force to equal 15,000 tonnes of TNT. During World War 2, the Soviet Union fought bravely to liberate countries from Nazi Germany rule. These countries were Poland, Ukraine, Eastern Germany, and most of Eastern Europe. However, during post-WW2 times the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) or Soviet Union stayed in those countries, officially liberating them into USSR control. They found the formula for America’s nuclear bombs, missiles, and warheads and began to create their own. America saw this as a threat and began to create more and more of their nuclear weapons. In response the Soviet Union did the same. This was going to start physical war but the idea of mutually assured destruction let the war be played on political, economical, and social fronts. Thus starting the Cold War, the first ever war to not shed blood with the exception of spies' execution.

The Korean War was fought between North and South Korea during June 1950-July 1953. The war began when North Korea invaded the South to unify the nation and spread communism. The North was being advised and supplied by the Soviet Union. At this knowledge, the United Nations, lead by America, joined the South to supply them. The People’s Republic of China decided to help the North and communism. Therefore, due to the fact that Korea is still in a stalemate, there was no point awarded to either the Soviet Union or America, and no one could use this war to get one over on the other for the Cold War.

The Vietnam War was fought 1954-75, when North Vietnam invaded the South to overthrow the government, and unite the country under a communist government. South Vietnam was allied with America so the Soviet Union, with the help of China, poured weapons, supplies, and advice to the North. North Vietnam allied with a communist group within the South, called Viet Cong to take the South down. The South wanted to continue their alliance with America and their Western military/government. The American military was already heavily involved in the South since the 1950s with American representatives and small military groups in the nation, however, by 1961 America started to “stockpile” US troops. It wasn’t until 1965 that active units were introduced. This continued for years where an estimated 500,000 American military personnel were stationed in 1969. However in 1973 the war efforts proved too much for the US to bear, as their resources dwindled they were forced to withdraw their support leaving the Soviets to their first victory in the Cold War. It wasn’t until 1975 that the war was over after the South relented to a full scale invasion from the North. Despite the fact that the Soviets technically won this, no points were given to either side due to the Space Race evening and cancelling this event out.

The Space Race started in the late 1950s with the purpose to prove America or the Soviet Union superior in military firepower, political economic systems, and technology. October 4, 1957 Russia kicked off this race by launching Sputnik, a R-7 intercontinental ballistic missile. Sputnik was the world's first manmade object to be placed in earth's orbit. The power of the Sputnik was seen to be so great it could send nuclear warheads into American airspace, creating a panic in the American intelligence agencies.

It took until 1958 for America to join the race when it launched Explorer I. Explorer I was designed by the army and scientist Wernher von Braun. To further their exploration, President Eisenhower created the federal agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). That same year Eisenhower created a US Air Force and NASA task force that researched the military potential of space and a CIA, Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office (code name Corona) researching how to use satellites to gather intelligence from the Soviet Union and its allies. It was the Soviet’s turn to put the next step forward and in 1959 they launched Luna 2, the first recorded space probe to reach the moon. April 1961 cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first person to orbit the Earth in the capsule-like craft Vostok 1.

In light of this, NASA started a project called Project Mercury. Project Mercury was a smaller, lightweight, cone shaped capsule modeled after Vostok which was tested on chimpanzees first before their final test flight March 1961 before the Soviets could launch Gagarin. It took until May 5 for America to achieve a person in space, the first American being Alan Shepard. That same month Kennedy made the public claim that America would land a man on the moon before the end of the decade. In an attempt to prove Kennedy right, in 1961-1964 NASA’s budget was massively increased 500% and the famous project, named Project Apollo, had nearly 34,000 NASA employees and 375,000 industrial and university contracts. January 1967 three astronauts were killed in a spacecraft fire during a launch simulation for Apollo.

The Soviets proceeded with their lunar landing plans although slowly, due to the death of their chief engineer Sergey Korolyov in January of 1966. In 1968, Kennedy’s prediction was quickly coming true. In December of said year, the launch of Apollo 8 was the first manned space mission to orbit the moon. Later in July 16th of 1969, America had the first men to land on the moon. Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins made it to the moon in Apollo 11, bringing Kennedy’s bold statement to fruition July 20. With the landing on Apollo 11, the United States had won the space race. Unfortunately while America was successful, the Soviets made four failed attempts to launch a spacecraft, from 1969-1972 including a launch pad explosion in July 1969 resulting in 78 confirmed deaths. Even though America won the space race, the Soviets won Vietnam War therefore cancelling both of these accomplishments out and furthering the proof that there were no winners in the Cold War.

A comic published in a United States newspaper, 1962. Image courtesy of Google Images

The Cuban Missile Crisis started May 1960 when America discovered that the Soviets were sending and stockpiling Soviet missiles to defend Cuba from America. The missiles that the Soviets were stockpiling were medium to intermediate range ballistic missiles that had the potential to hit most of eastern America within a few minutes. The mistake that Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev made was assuming that America wouldn’t take steps to prevent Cuba and the Soviets. In response to the threat, America “quarantined” Cuba with their navy on October 22 thus starting a standoff due to USSR shipments not being able to get through to their target without starting a bloody battle. Kennedy and Khrushchev began negotiations shortly after and on October 28 Khrushchev and Kennedy came to the agreement that all missiles in Cuba would be returned to the Soviets if Kennedy promised to not invade Cuba. Over the time period from May to October it came out that America had missiles in Turkey that could take out much of the southern borders of the Soviet Union, so they were to also be removed in exchange for the missile sites in Cuba being halted. By late November this crisis had drawn to a close. Historians considered this to be the climax of the Cold War. Due to the fact that both sides lost an equal amount of leverage over the other's superpower and the crisis concluding in a stalemate it furthers the proof that neither side has won.

On August 5, 1963 the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed in Moscow as a treaty between America, United Kingdom, and Russia. The treaty entailed that no nuclear weapons would be tested unless the tests occur underground. The treaty was first introduced in 1959 and it was due to this that for most of that year America and the Soviet Union had suspended their testing temporarily. However, the peace didn’t last long when the Cuban Missile Crisis renewed the Cold War efforts. From 1960-1962 tensions ran high between the three nations and negotiations were put on a back burner. Because of the Cuban Missile Crisis negotiations were renewed and placed in high regard after both America and the USSR caught a glimpse of what nuclear conflict might bring. It was late 1962 when American and Soviet draft treaties came to resemble each other and within ten days the treaty was signed.

Another treaty called the SALT talks came about in 1972 and another in 1979. The aim of the talks were to limit the amount of arms that America and the Soviet Union could stockpile. SALT-I was first considered in 1972 and the second, called SALT-II occurred in 1979. SALT-II was never ratified by the American senate due to an increase in Cold War activity. Even though SALT-II was never signed, SALT-I still stands in place. Because of these two treaties being signed it made it impossible to allow America and the Soviet Union to create more deadly nuclear weapons and accumulating more weapons than the other country. Because of this no one could possibly win the Cold War on a stockpile or nuclear weapons basis.

The Cold War Ended?

The Cold War supposedly ended in 1991 with the dissolving of the USSR and Soviet Russia. However, the term used to describe the fall of this nation was incorrect. The USSR didn’t “dissolve” so much as broke up. At this time the USSR was comprised of individual nations including; Moldova, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Ukraine. 1991 these countries once again became independent leaving Russia to take up the fight of the Cold War alone. Russia kept all of the political ideals and nuclear weapons thus allowing them to continue the Cold War efforts. Also the Cold war often held a pattern of heating up, slowing down due to a treaty or political shift, then heating up again. Because of this the Cold War never ended but remained with Russia as the rest became independent.

The Soviet Union and America had some very different ideals in the way of politics and how countries should be run. The USSR is run off of communism, first started by the philosopher Karl Marx. They made political alliances with other communist countries, backing them in wars and other economic situations. These countries where Cuba, China, North Vietnam, and North Korea. America has a democratic style government making alliances with other democratic style governments such as South Vietnam, Turkey, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.

Under Russia’s president Boris Yeltsin, whose term was from 1991-1999, the Cold War was seen to be ended. Yeltsin smoothed over relations with America in a series of talks. However, in 1999 NATO bombed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, causing strain on the relationship. Vladimir Putin has continued to strain the relationship between the two nations, furthering the political deterioration, since he took office in 1999. The most considerable times of stress where in 2002 when America withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to put missile defense system plans into motion. In response to this Putin told the press the decision was a mistake.

Politics That Furthered the Cold War

2003 was a tough time for US-Russia relations. During this time Russia blamed American leaders for spreading anti-Russian propaganda and spurring revolts during the Rose Revolution in Georgia. Russia very strongly opposed the invasion of Iraq which America was the spurring reason behind during the United Nations Security Council.

The Orange Revolution in Ukraine 2004-2005 was seen by Russian officials as an intrusion into Russia’s geographic sphere of interest. The Orange Revolution started November 22, 2004 when people dressed in orange congregated into Ukraine’s capital city of Kiev chanting "Together, we are many! We cannot be defeated!" This was in light to the alleged voting fraud electing Russia’s favoured Viktor Yanukovich as Ukraine’s new president. According to poling there were well over one million extra votes. Viktor Yushchenko, Yanukovich opponent, was favoured by the America and Europe, was largely supported by West Ukraine. The news almost split the country in half and caused a political uproar when America called and supported a recount. A sea of 500,000 orange Yushchenko supporters flooding the streets of the capital was the final push for the Supreme Court to make the decision of redoing the entire election.

2007 was another politically trying time for the two nations. In March, America announced a plan to build an anti-ballistic missile defense system in Poland and a radar station in Czech Republic. America claimed to be building the defense systems to protect America and Europe from a nuclear threat in Iran or North Korea. Russia viewed the system as a threat and created RS-24 long range missiles, specifically designed to destroy defense systems. Putin warned of the increasing tension possibly turning Europe into a “powder keg.” In June Russia threatened to bomb Poland and Czech Republic if America went through with their plans to build the defense system. In October Putin sat down with Iran officials to insist that the use of force was unacceptable and the offer aid in their nuclear power programs. Bush saw this act as unacceptable and released the statement "if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," to the press, which the world viewed as a message to Putin. In response Putin compared Bush’s new defense system to the inciting events of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

These events continued into 2008 when Putin threatened to retarget some missiles towards the defense system and Ukraine after hearing of NATO’s plans to build a base in the nation. In July Putin threatened to use military strategic posture against America’s anti-missile shield. America ignored these warnings, however, and in August made a treaty with Poland in which Poland would have ten two-stage missile interceptors in Poland and a battery of MIM-104 Patriot missiles staffed temporarily by US military. With this treaty America pledged to defend Poland faster then NATO would if war was to break out. They also announced that they would go forward with the radar tracking station in Czech Republic, despite only 18% of Czechs supporting it. With this announcement the Putin administration announced they would increase defense and military presence on the Russian borders. This situation deteriorated relations between the countries the most.

Image of Russia's invasion of Crimea, Ukraine. Image courtesy of Google Images

In 2014 America came to Ukraine's aid when Russia attempted to take over Crimea putting the two countries at odds again. Russia sees Ukraine's government as weak and claimed that it was their duty to stabilize the country. Putin also claimed that Crimea rightfully belonged to Russia and in 1954 the transfer of Crimean authority to Ukraine was against Soviet Law. For these reasons Putin attempted to take back Crimea. America, however, played a larger role in this then just sending in troops to push the Russian forces back. America backed the new political power in Kiev, Ukraine's capital, which allegedly illegally took power in February of 2014 in a coupe. These events seemed to mirror those of the Korean and Vietnam war furthering the proof that the Cold War never ended.

In 2015 already heated tensions broke down even further at the differences in opinion during Russia’s military intervention in Syria’s civil war. The expansion of NATO into Eastern Bloc (countries in the Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union) and American efforts in gaining Central Asian oil and natural gas as a hostile intrusion into Russia’s territory of influence, thus straining political relations even further.

The Present

The current events between American President Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, beginning in 2016, further prove that the Cold War has not yet ended. Trumps involvement in the Syrian civil war strained an already stressful situation from 2015 to the breaking point. On April 27, 2017 Trump bombed Syria with 59 Tomahawk missiles after learning of a possible impending chemical attack. Putin claimed that these events reminded him of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. This put tremendous further strain on US-Russian relations again as Russia is currently backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the conflict. As American envoy Rex Tillerson left the G-7 summit he made the comment that America didn’t see a political future for Assad, a clear Cold War era stance on political policy. Tillerson went further to verbally attack Russia’s decision saying; "I hope that ... the Russian government concludes they have aligned themselves with an unreliable partner in Bashar al-Assad." Putin, however, claims that Russian intelligence uncovered information that the chemical weapons in Syria that caused America to bomb the nation were planted in order to discredit Assad. Due to this Putin called for a separate UN investigation into the gas and chemical attacks. As a seeming attempt to smooth over relations between Washington and Moscow Trump sent Tillerson to Moscow to discuss foreign policy. This trip only came after Washington released a statement on Russian naval activity to the press. All that was brought from this trip was that Russia hoped to learn Trump’s strategy on foreign policy problems.

US Navy Admiral Michelle Howard. Image courtesy of Google Images

The Cold War era seems to be repeating the events of the past, starting with US Navy Admiral Michelle Howard compared the growing amount of Russian naval activity in the Mediterranean to that of the Soviet Union era. Russia, and the rest of the world, has made clear their concern of Trump’s suggestion that they would single handedly “contain” North Korea. Due to the political fallout and threats from 1999-2017 it is clear that the Cold War hasn’t ended. Also because of the recurring events happening, it would be safe to assume that the war is reaching a secondary climatic period.

To conclude, no one won the Cold War due to the fact it is still going on today. This fact can be concluded from the events of; the Korean War being a stalemate, and the Vietnam War and the Space Race cancelling the other’s win out. The Cuban Missile Crisis was another stalemate, plus Treaties were created to not allow further conflict. Even the USSR dissolving did not mark the end of the Cold War, and political events from 1999-2017.


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Lilli  Behom
Lilli Behom
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