Activity 1: Essential Knowledge
- The Cold War set the framework for international politics from the end of
World War II (1945) to the collapse of the Soviet Union (1989).
- The United States and Soviet Union had political, economic, and social systems
that contrasted greatly with each other.
- The competition between the United States and Soviet Union had profound
consequences for international politics:
- In many cases nations were pressed to choose sides in the Cold War, some
joining or being forced to join with the United States or the Soviet Union.
Some nations did choose a Third-World neutral stance.
- The recently defeated World War II enemies of Germany and Japan became
allies to the United States, as the United States needed them to help contain
the spread of communism. They benefited considerably from U.S. aid.
- The United States and Soviet Union engaged in an arms race involving
weapons of land, sea, and air. There was even a competition in space.
- There were crises. The Cuban Missile Crisis came close to igniting a
World War III.
- A few crises did become wars (e.g., Korean and Vietnam Wars).
- The Cold War had an immense impact upon domestic policy and people's lives
in the United States.
- Some government officials and private citizens questioned the loyalty
of other American citizens, especially during the 1950s.
- Issues related to the Cold War became major topics in national elections.
- Atomic weapons were tested in the Pacific and in Nevada and became a source
of concern. People worried about radiation and nuclear fallout, civil defense
efforts were carried out to help children and adults learn how "to survive"
nuclear attacks, huge stockpiles of atomic and hydrogen bombs were built,
and ever more advanced delivery systems were developed.
- Many men were drafted into the armed services.
- Americans were divided deeply over the Vietnam War.
- The federal government became very powerful because it had special responsibilities
in the area of national defense.
- The Cold War became very much a topic in the popular culture. Many movies,
for example, dealt with the topic, sometimes with deadly seriousness, sometimes
- American citizens had their lives disrupted by the Cold War in lots of
ways and often had to make decisions related to the Cold War.
- The Cold War also had a significant impact upon other countries.
- The Cold War helped to justify the tight grip of Soviet leaders over the
people of the Soviet Union.
- The Cold War helped to strengthen the hold of communist dictatorships
in nations belonging to the Warsaw Pact.
- The Cold War affected democracies in Europe often similar to how it affected
the lives of Americans.
- d. The Cold War strengthened authoritarian rulers in a number of nations
that were supported by the United States when those countries took sides
against Soviet communism (e.g., Iran, Iraq, and South Korea).