The Cold War

May Day Parade
Preparations for the annual May Day parade that took place on Red Square
in Moscow during the Cold War. These parades always featured a massive display of Soviet weaponry.


From the very beginning, the relationship between the Bolsheviks/communists in Russia and the west democracies was rocky.  The Bolshevik nationalization of all foreign assets in Russia, the withdrawal of Bolshevik Russia from World War I and the insistent talk of spreading the communist revolution worldwide all contributed to tensions between Russia and the west. Those tensions never quite eased and were, in fact, reinforced by the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression pact of 23 August 1939.  Nevertheless, World War II found both Russia and the west facing a common foe in Nazi Germany, and any previous tensions were overshadowed by the task of defeating Germany.  But soon after the war in Europe ended, the old tensions between east and west began to resurface.

The postwar settlement in 1945 was not going to come easy given the length and bitterness of the struggle, not to mention the enormous loss of life and physical destruction. The prevailing hope was not to replay the alleged mistakes of Versailles that failed to bring a lasting peace to Europe. (I argue elsewhere that the Treaty of Versailles was really not the problem that started Europe on another path to war.)  But history did not repeat itself in 1945. There never was a great postwar peace conference, and there was no all-encompassing peace treaty drawn up. Instead, there quickly arose a new conflict between democracy and communism in Europe and around the world.

Finally, we spend so much time on the Cold War because it dominated the world history for almost fifty years and, in the end and in hindsight, it proved to be an enormous waste of human, material and monetary resources.  Though said to be an era of peace, it was, in fact, an era of superpower competition and war, when the great powers fought out their conflicts in other areas and using proxies and associated proxy allies.

Phases of the Cold War

Remarks on the Cold War by David Johnstone

Some Suggested Online Resources


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