The cold war period between the late 1940s and early 1990s was characterized by intense rivalry and tension between the United States and the Soviet Union. This rivalry emanated from the competition that existed between the two powers as mirrored in the military fields, technological advertisements, arms race and ideological differences. Although in this period there was no confrontation between the powers, this rivalry was exhibited in the proxy wars that existed during that time.
The importance of cold war in history cannot be underscored. It resulted to a rumbling effects whose ripples are still being felt to date. It shaped the lives of people and countries, economically, socially and politically.
The cold war period is characterized by the effort of the super powers to improve their weaponry. The two nations were involved in a race to build up and strengthen their armed forces and their arsenals. Both the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a tight race, with each country seeking to stockpile its arsenal in an effort to outdo its competitors. Although the United States had created its first nuclear weapon by the end of the Second World War, these efforts were to be doubled after the war. This had been happening behind the soviets knowledge and when they got light of the weapons they furiously initiated their own program (Kevin Reilly, 2003).
This kicked off a race to create the state of the art weaponry with needlepoint precision. They both developed “second strike capability” such that each had the ability to destroy the other even after it had been attacked. The development of nuclear weapons by both the United States and the Soviet Union led to a flurry of arms race from the rest of the European powers and china. India and Pakistan were to acquire later these weapons by the early 1990s. Military expansion and arsenal build up took the largest chunk of spending in the budget. United States had more resources than Russia whose economy had been crumbling under the military expenditures pressure (Jentleson, B W and Thomas G. P).
By the end of the cold war Russia had to reduce it’s spending. Militarily the cold war, despite leading to proxy wars also resulted in a military build up especially in the third world. Cuba for example was receiving military aid from Russia while other countries from Africa were being assisted by the United States. The relations between countries during the cold war era were defined along a country’s affiliation. The two super powers had exerted much influence on the system of governance to a point that the specific countries were either aligned to the west or to the east.
This had an impact on the political and economic ideologies and orientations of many countries. The United States was seeking to further capitalism while Soviet Union was for communism. The CIA and the KGB spy agents were working day and night to undermine each other’s efforts to expand the sphere of influence. Leaders in the third world countries were dethroned or installed in accordance one’s ideological leaning. Some countries however stood their grounds and refused to take sides. Donor aid by then was being pegged ones ideology.
The United States would even go to an extent of removing from power democratically elected governments like it did in the case of the Iran in 1953. It is hence prudent to say that as a result of the cold war, democracy took a back seat.
Social interactions by then globally, were being shaped by the influence exerted by the two nations. It is not unusual for people to recount stories of how wary they were of the people they interacted with in public. Government agents and spies were all over and one had to be cautious not to interact with an “enemy” depending on your country’s orientation. The cold war had a great impact on the social, political, and economic organizations of the various people in the world. The military build up and tension only slackened towards the end of communism but not without bloodsheds in the proxy wars.
Jentleson, Bruce W and Thomas G. Paterson, 1997. Foreign Relations, New York: Oxford University Press.
Kevin Reilly, May 2003. The west and the world. A history of civilization from 1500 to modern times, Vol.2. Marks Wiener Pub