May 1945. The WW2 was over.
The shattered financial and industrial worlds were given band-aid remedies in guise of Bretton-Woods (giving birth to IBRD, World Bank and IMF). Soon enough, few new states emerged (Israel), few split apart (India and Pakistan) and in few, liberal discontents led the way eventually winding up with democratic governments (Egypt).
One socialist regime, based on narrow-minded dogmatic doctrines, emerged from WW2 as one of the two strongest nations in the world. This nation had not only a large conventional military base, but was also in the middle of developing its own nuclear weapons (first tested in 1949).
The other victor of WW2 became a superpower not least due to the war itself. It advocated neatly idealistic doctrines, had a constitution spelling out loud the commitment to highest social and moral values, respect for human dignity and equality and adherence to human rights and law.
The first General Assembly of the United Nations met in London in January 1946, and created the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission. Part of their charge was to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction, including the atomic bomb.
America’s first effort to define a policy on the control of atomic energy was Acheson-Lilienthal report (1946). Its premise was that there should be an international “Atomic Development Authority” which would have worldwide monopoly over the control of “dangerous elements” of the entire spectrum of atomic energy. Drawing heavily on the information in the report, the US proposal (July 1, 1946) to the United Nations on international controls on nuclear material (named the Baruch Plan) was presented. It called for the establishment of an international authority to control potentially dangerous atomic activities, license all other atomic activities, and carry out inspections.
The Soviets rejected the Baruch Plan, since it would have left America with a decisive nuclear superiority until the details of the Plan could be worked out and would have stopped the Soviet nuclear program. They responded by calling for universal nuclear disarmament. In the end, the UN adopted neither proposal. Seventeen days after Baruch presented his plan to the UN, the US conducted the world’s first postwar nuclear test. Two atomic tests – code named “Operation Crossroads” – were conducted at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific. These tests explored the effects of airborne and underwater nuclear explosions on ships, equipment, and material. Almost 100 surplus and captured ships were used as targets, including the Japanese battleship Nagato (flagship of the attack on Pearl Harbor). These tests were witnessed by hundreds of politicians and international observers, and 42,000 military and scientific personnel. The two bombs used in Crossroads were identical in design and yield to the bomb used on Nagasaki. Crossroads put pressure on Soviets to pour significant amounts of money into research and development of their nuclear arsenal.
This is how the Cold War started. It had two main axes, which were usually typified by one or some of following doublets:
- Economic dimension of communism vs. capitalism
- Political dimension of communism vs. democracy
USSR took on the challenge and a nuclear arms race, which became the determinant factor during the next 50 years, ensued. Nuclear race was followed and paralleled by development of strategic triad by Americans. This race got a new spatial dimension, when Soviets launched the Sputnik into orbit on Oct. 4, 1957. John F. Kennedy, despite his short tenure as American president, made few speeches, which resulted in creation of, among others, Peace Corps, and first (American) landing on the moon. As crucial ideological battle against oppression, McCarthyism became a prominent movement, a sort of a “witch hunt” for communists and communist sympathizers inside America.
As Marx’s tenets had instructed, communism did not stay home; it had be to spread worldwide to achieve utopia. Some countries had adopted communism to help realize that goal, including Warsaw Pact nations, Yugoslavia (1945 – 1992), DPRK (1954 – present), Yemen (1969 – 1990), Somalia (1969 – 1991), Cambodia (1975 -1989). The communist governments in all of these countries (except DPRK) collapsed right around the same time as the Soviet Union. Communism also rose to power in the nations, where it is still alive today, such as China (since 1949), Cuba (since 1959), Vietnam (since 1976), and Laos (since 1975).
The tension between America and the Soviet Union wasn’t just restricted to technological and economic races. Few full-fledged crisis erupted during the Cold War, including the Korean War (1950 – 1953), Vietnam War (1959 – 1975), the Bay of Pigs (1961) Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962).
Then Gorbachev came in 1985 with his Perestroika (reconstruction). At that time, all means of production were state-controlled, a fact which discouraged the initiative and innovation. The Soviet system was not adaptable by itself and perestroika was therefore doomed from the start. Gorbachev did not have the political capacity to push the desired reforms through (one of the most significant being Law on Cooperatives). His half-hearted efforts eventually triggered the collapse of the Soviet Union, which was completely unexpected.
The political system, like the economy, rested on a foundation of lies. Political leaders from cities and regions fabricated domestic and foreign policy statistics, using propaganda, including the newspaper “Pravda.” This newspaper later became a symbol of hype about Soviet productivity. In 1991, the Soviet Union officially came to an end (under Yeltsin elected a year before) and split into republics.
When the Soviet Union dissolved, it led to a domino effect of communist nations collapsing.
Cold War was over as well.