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Cold war refers to the post world war 2 period till 1991 when there was a geopolitical game being played by two nations that emerged as super powers from the shambles of the world wars. This period was noted for the polarization of power and Russia and America were intensely battling out a strategic war game between them. It was a global conflict in every sense and even the continents of sub-Saharan Africa and South America which had immunity from the catastrophe of the previous two world wars were affected by it. The proxy war that was fought between these two global powers brought severe economic implications for the Middle East, Africa and other third world nations. The Truman doctrine (1947) is generally regarded as the important strategic initiative to counter the domination of communism in the European continent. Under the cushion of the United States the western European nations which bore the devastating effects of the Second World War made a rapid recovery. From 1946 till the crumbling of the Soviet republic in 1991, the cold war witnessed a struggle between economic and socialist systems that was unparalleled in the history of the world. A brief overview of the some of the important events that occurred in the cold war period would provide better insight into geopolitics that was existent during the time.
Cold War (Effect on Japan and West Germany)
Before we look at the impact of the cold war on the third world nations, which in fact bore the major burden of the proxy wars, it would be apt to discuss its effect on Japan and Germany. Ironical as it may seem, the United States which fought these two nations during the Second World War had deemed it necessary to redevelop them in order to build them as spheres of anti-communism in the European and Asian regions. The strategic idea behind this is that a resurgent Japan would stand as an effective threat to Soviet Union from the Siberian front. Japan's prosperity and economic buoyancy was vital to U.S. security interests. This change in economic policy towards Japan was also matched by political reformations. The continuous pouring of U.S. war related funds and the U.S. backed rapid reindustrialization helped Japan achieve the pre-war living standards by 1952. Japanese leaders on the other hand were more than happy with the economic boom as well as the security that the U.S. assured them.
This strategic cooperation finally culminated in the form of the Japanese peace treaty in September 1951 which granted complete sovereignty to Japan while the U.S. still maintained its control over the Ryukyu base and had access to other bases in Japan. There was a "substantial reliance on Japan ... For production of goods and services important to the security of the U.S. And the economic stability of non-communist Asia; cooperation with the U.S. In the development of raw material resources of Asia; development of Japan's appropriate military forces as a defensive shield and to permit redeployment of U.S. forces." [Martin Walker,81] Similarly the U.S. helped build up a Germany ravaged by war and with strategic interests in mind approved German rearmament. The Soviet Union had now to contend with a resurgent Japan at the Siberian front and a rearmed Germany on the western front. Thus, there was a new strategic climate in Europe and Asia and the U.S. And Soviet Union were trying to expand their spheres of influence and limit the opponents.
Effect on Third World Countries
As we know, the cold war was a globalized conflict which dragged every nation into the geopolitical game being played by USSR and the U.S. The third world nations of Africa, Middle East Asia and Latin America had severe economic repercussions under the shadow of the superpowers. Civil wars were rampant in many African countries, mainly instigated and supported by U.S. And USSR, each side trying all manipulations to gain political, economical and strategic control of these nations. The 'Guatemalan affair' for example is an instance of how the U.S. used its economic might to create instability in the Latin nation and use the opportunity to install a favorable puppet government.
The Guatemalan affair is a case of how the superpowers engaged in their ideological battle (capitalist vs. communist), created unrest and toppled elected governments in the third world nations. In 1950, the CIA funded guerillas to overthrow President Jacobo Arbenz who had won the Guatemalan elections by more than 60% of the votes. Backed by the U.S., Catillo Armas became the new president of Guatemala. The main factor that triggered this indirect U.S. intervention was that the Arbenz government was initiating anti-capitalistic reforms. These involved confiscation of private property which affected the interests of American capitalists and in particular the American "United Fruit Company'. The U.S. viewed these land reforms and other policies of the government as pro-communist and decided to halt the possibility of Guatemala developing into a communist state under the influence and support of the Soviet Union. Though there was peace for the first few years after the topple of the Arbenz government, it was not to last long. A civil war started in the late 1950's and continued till 1996 creating severe economic, political and social instability and consequent poverty, corruption in the nation. [Stephen M. Streeter] This is a perfect example of how the proxy ideological battles of the cold war between Soviet Union and U.S. turned a country into virtual ruins and turmoil for more than 4 decades.
Cold war and Africa
Africa had already witnessed a century of colonial occupation and it was the time of fervent nationalism and many of the countries got their independence. However there were more than 60 coups in the African continent and both the U.S. As well as the Soviet Union tried to exercise their control amidst this civil unrest. Both the superpowers were actively, though indirectly, engaged in supporting guerilla groups by providing arms and financial support. American interests in Africa was multi-pronged, as it depended on the continent's mineral wealth for building its own military arsenal and industrial units as well as needed control of the region from a strategic perspective. It is essential to note that the U.S. imports 88% of its bauxite, 95% of manganese ore, and 90% of nickel and 100% of tin from Africa. Russia on the other hand was equally interested in extending its influence in the continent and hindering any possible economic relationships between the U.S. And Africa. [Steven MacDougall]
The result was a period of continuous unrest and civil wars. Supported by either U.S. Or Soviet Union, guerilla groups were engaged in an arms race resulting in social and political unrest. For example, America played a major role in the political turmoil in Katanga, a Congolese province, rich in mineral wealth. Patrice Lumumba was the democratically elected leader of Katanga. However in order to quell the rising insurgency against him by the neo-liberal parties he requested soviet assistance. This propelled the U.S. into action which was bent upon resisting any Soviet influence in the region. The result was an assassination plot against Lumumba. Though this assassination was not carried out the U.S. assisted the rise to power of Mobutu, a pro-western military leader. Katanga (renamed as Zaire by Mobutu) was really struggling under the dictatorship of Mobutu. While the Soviets supplied arms to the leftists to defeat the Mobutu dictatorship the U.S. continued to support him with arms supplies to the tune of $300 million in weapons and $100 million for training purposes. These figures indicate how the proxy wars between U.S. And the Soviet Union had literally torn apart the African nations. Africa, in short became an ideological battlefield for the superpowers and the result was decades of corruption, unrest and resulting lagging in development. [Steven MacDougall]
Similarly American foreign policies in the Middle East were motivated by both its ideological and economic interests. For example Iran was a wealthy oil exporting nation and America felt that it was imperative to prevent any possible communist influence, particularly in view of Iran's proximity to the Soviet Union. Ever since the role of the United States in the ousting Muhammad Musadiq (1953) became public, there were deep cracks in the relationship between U.S. And Iran. This was further complicated during the Iranian revolution period in 1978 when the U.S. supported the Shah resulting in the famous Hostage crisis where 50 U.S. embassy officials were kept as hostages for more than 15 months. The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini regime which emerged had bad relations with the U.S. In 1984 seven more Americans were kidnapped and the U.S. formulated a strategy of 'Selling missiles' in exchange for the hostages and transferring the profits to support the coup by the contra rebels in Nicaragua against the Sandinistas government. When the scandal got finally revealed it cast a bad image on U.S. In the global scenario. So the cold war was a battle of manipulations where the…[continue]
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