The Cold War has been called the twentieth century's 'longest-running international morality play.' It was a play that lasted decades and produced thousands of players, both major and small, as well as two critical scenes set in Cuba and Berlin. The full weight of the drama settled on one person, an American pilot named Francis Gary Powers. When Powers 'fell from the sky' outside the Soviet city of Sverdlovsk, the cold war truce between the United States and the Soviet Union fractured. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev declared, "The honeymoon was over."
The term Cold War refers to the years of struggle between the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union and its allies following World War II. The Cold War lasted over forty years, from the mid-1940's to the late 1980's. During this period, international politics were molded heavily by the rivalry between these two countries and their political ideologies.
The United States and its allies, namely Britain, France, West Germany, Japan, and Canada represented democracy and capitalism. The Soviet Union's allies included many of Eastern Europe, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, East Germany, and Romania, and at times Cuba and China.
The term Cold War was first popularized by American journalist Walter Lippmann in his 1947 book by the same name.
Lippmann used the term to describe the deterioration between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic, USSR, and its World War II allies, Britain, France and the United States. The relationship had deteriorated to the point of war without actual warfare.
The rivalry between the two superpowers dominated both sides' foreign policy agendas. This resulted in the formation of the two military alliances, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, established in 1949 by the Western powers and the Soviet Warsaw Pact in 1955.
Although in the beginning the Cold War centered primarily in Europe, over the years, the United States and the U.S.S.R. were drawn into conflicts all around the globe. Moreover, this intense competition led to a military arms race between the two sides.
The hostility between the United States and the U.S.S.R. began in the last moments of World War I. After the Bolsheviks, who later became Communists, overthrew the Russian government in October 1917, leader Vladimir Lenin withdrew Russia from the war.
In 1918, in an effort to restore the collapsed Eastern Front against Germany, the United States, Britain, France and Japan intervened militarily in Russia.
Lenin, however, interpreted this as an assault on the new Russian regime. And the truth is that the United States and its allies did "resent Russia's new leadership, with its appeals against capitalism and its efforts to weld local Communist parties into an international revolutionary movement."
Although, the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, USSR, a federal union of Russia and neighboring areas under Communist control in December 1922, the United States did not recognize it until 1933. The differences between the U.S.S.R. And the United States deepened under the leadership of Joseph Stalin, who ruled from 1929 to 1953.
On the eve of World War II in August 1939, Stalin and German dictator Adolf Hitler signed a non-aggression pact, pledging not to attack one another and agreeing to divide the territory that laid between them "into German and Soviet spheres of influence." However, when Hitler betrayed the agreement and attacked the U.S.S.R. In June 1941, Britain and the United States came to its defense, producing the coalition that over the next four years would defeat Germany. This American-British-Soviet coalition was known as the Grand Alliance and was marked by mistrust and charges by the U.S.S.R. that the Soviet side suffered more than the other nations in the war. By 1944, there were obvious conflicting visions of a postwar world within the alliance.
The United States and the U.S.S.R. were divided over Poland's political future even before Nazi Germany's defeat in May 1845. Stalin had driven the Germans out of Poland in 1944 and 1945 and had established a pro-Communist provisional government. Therefore, he felt that Soviet control of Poland was important and necessary for Russia's security.
The Allies opposed and soon the argument "extended to the political future of other Eastern European nations." Although, this struggle over the political fate of Eastern Europe, which lasted from 1944 to 1946, became the first crucial phase of the Cold War, both sides hoped that differences could be surmounted and the cooperating spirit of the early wartime years could be preserved.
The United States accused the U.S.S.R. Of trying to expand Communism in Europe and Asia. However, the U.S.S.R. saw itself as the leader of "history's progressive forces and accused the United States of trying to stop revolutionary activity whenever and wherever it arose.
During 1946 and 1947, the U.S.S.R. aided Communist governments to power in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Poland. Albania and Yugoslavia had already fallen to Communist governments in 1944 and 1945.
President Harry S. Truman issued the Truman Doctrine in 1947 authorizing U.S. aid to anti-Communist forces in Greece and Turkey. This policy eventually expanded to justify support to any country the United States considered threatened by Communist expansion and became known as the containment doctrine.
By 1948, it was obvious that no level of partnership between the United States and the U.S.S.R. could be preserved and issues surrounding postwar Germany became the core conflict. After World War II, Germany was divided into four separate occupation zones, British, French, American and Soviet, with Berlin, located in the Soviet zone, divided into four administrative sectors.
No agreement could be reached regarding postwar Germany's political and economic structures and by mid-1947 the United States and Britain merged their separate administrative zones. The Western governments were concerned that "to keep Germany fragmented indefinitely, particularly when the Soviet and Western occupation regimes were growing so far apart ideologically, could have negative economic consequences for the Western sphere of responsibility." greater fear was that as a result of the war's devastation, the economic problems of Western Europe left it vulnerable to Soviet control.
Out of this fear the United States in 1947 designed the Marshall Plan, named after U.S. secretary of state George C. Marshall, to provide economic aid to rebuild Western European economies.
By June 1948, France had merged its zone with the British-American zone. This formed the foundation for a West German republic, causing Stalin to fear an American military alliance. The Soviets responded by trying to keep those governments from their sectors in Berlin through a land blockade. This was the first direct military confrontation between the U.S.S.R. And the Western powers. The Western governments "organized a massive airlift of supplies to West Berlin, circumventing the Soviet blockade...and after 11 months and thousands of flights, the Western powers succeeded in breaking the blockade."
The same year the Soviets succeeded in forming a Communist-dominated government in Czechoslovakia. Now all of Eastern Europe was under Communist control and the Soviet bloc was complete. These events of 1948 instilled in the United States and the U.S.S.R. that each posed a serious threat to the other. The Berlin crisis led to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, in April 1949 and established the state of West Germany in May. In October 1949, the Communist republic of East Germany was established. The Berlin crisis also led the Western powers to seriously consider rearming their half of Germany.
At Stalin's death in 1953 Nikita Khrushchev became the Soviet leader. Although he and his successors tried to soften some of rigid Soviet policies toward the West, Germany remained divided. By the mid-1950's both the United States and the U.S.S.R. recognized "that nuclear weapons had produced a revolution in military affair, making war among the great powers, while still a possibility, no longer a sane policy recourse."
This all led to the spectacular brainchild of the Central Intelligence Agency, the U-2 spy plane. It took flight in 1955 and afforded the United States breathtaking details of its adversaries in action. The U-2 was developed beginning in December 1954 by Clarence 'Kelly' Johnson at the Lockheed 'Skunk Works' in Burbank, California. "Project Staff was budgeted at $35 million to develop 30 planes and sophisticated cameras developed by Edwin Land."
Jimmy Doolittle of the Shell Oil Company provided special fuel, called 'Kelly's Lighter Fluid No. 1,' that would not boil off at high altitudes. The first U-2 was build in eighty-eight days and the first test flight took place on August 6, 1955. By May 1956, the CIA had established the U-2 air wing of four planes and six civilian pilots. With Turkey providing an air base at Adana, "the first U-2 flight over Russia from Adana to Bodo, Norway, a distance of 3,788 miles at 80,000 feet, took place in June 1956 and was detected by Russian radar."
Selmer Nielsen, the Russian spy at the Bodo air base had given the Russians the time and routes of the U-2 flights. The U-2 provided daily intelligence to the White House during the early Cold War…