The Cold War and Decolonization, 1945–1975
I0. The Cold War
A0. The United Nations
10. After World War II Western leaders perceived the Soviet Union as the center of a world
revolutionary movement, while Soviet leaders felt themselves surrounded by the western
countries and their North Atlantic Treaty Organization (founded 1949). The United
Nations provided a venue for face-to-face debate between the two sides in the Cold War.
20. The United Nations was established in 1945 with a General Assembly, Security Council,
a full-time bureaucracy headed by the Secretary-General, and various specialized
agencies. All signatories of the United Nations Charter renounced war and territorial
conquest, but in practice, the United Nations was seldom able to forestall or quell
30. The decolonization of Africa and Asia greatly swelled the size of the General Assembly,
which became an arena for expressing opinions and whose resolutions carried great
weight in the early years of the United Nations. The influx of new members made the
General Assembly more concerned with poverty, racial discrimination, and the struggle
against imperialism than with the Cold War, and so the Western powers increasingly
ignored the General Assembly.
B0. Capitalism and Communism
10. Between 1944 and 1946 the western capitalist countries created a new international
monetary system in which supply and demand determined prices and that included a
system of exchange rates, an International Monetary Fund, and a World Bank. The
Soviet Union, suspicious of Western intentions, established a closed monetary system in
which the state allocated goods and set prices for itself and for the communist states of
20. The United States economy recovered and prospered during and after World War II. The
economy of Western Europe, heavily damaged during World War II, recovered in the
post-war period with the help of the American Marshall Plan.
30. Western European governments generally increased their role in economic management
during this period. In 1948 Europeans launched a process of economic cooperation and
integration with the creation of the Organization of European Economic Cooperation,
which expanded its membership as it developed into the European Economic Community
or Common Market (1957) and then into the European Community (1970).
40. The Soviet Union and eastern European states relied on the government to determine the
production, distribution, and price of goods. In the communist states the recovery from
World War II was rapid at first, but in the long run the Soviet and eastern European
economies were unable to match those of the west in the production of consumer goods,
housing, and food.
C0. West Versus East in Europe and Korea
10. The rapid establishment of communist regimes in eastern Europe led the United States to
perceive the Soviet Union as a worldwide enemy. American perceptions led to the Truman Doctrine (1947) and to the establishment of NATO (1949), to which the Soviet
Union responded by organizing the Warsaw Pact (1955).
20. A third great war did not break out in Europe, but the Soviet Union and the West did test
each other’s resolve in incidents such as the Soviet blockade of West Berlin (1948–
1949), the construction of the Berlin Wall (1961), and the West’s encouragement of the
rift between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. Soviet power was used to ensure the
obedience of eastern European nations such as Hungary and Czechoslovakia.
30. In Korea, Soviet and American occupation of zones north and south of the thirty-eighth
parallel led to the establishment, in 1948, of a communist North Korea and a
noncommunist South Korea. North Korea’s invasion of South Korea in 1950 marked the
beginning of the Korean War, in which the United States came to the aid of South Korea
while China sent troops to assist the north. A truce in 1953 fixed the border again at the
thirty-eighth parallel, but no peace treaty was concluded.
D0. U.S. Defeat in Vietnam
10. After winning independence from France, communist North Vietnam supported a
communist guerilla movement—the Viet Cong—against the noncommunist government
of South Vietnam. John F. Kennedy decided to send American military advisers to assist
South Vietnam, and President Lyndon Johnson gained Congressional support for
unlimited expansion of U.S. military deployment.
20. Unable to stop the Viet Cong and their North Vietnamese allies, the United States ended
its involvement in Vietnam in 1973, and Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops took
over South Vietnam in 1975.
30. The Vietnam War brought significant casualties to both sides and gave rise to serious
economic problems and to an anti-war movement in the United States. Members of the
American military and their civilian supporters argued that government restrictions on
American military operations had deprived the Americans of their chance for victory;
such restrictions were designed to prevent China from entering the war and possibly
starting a nuclear confrontation.
E0. The Race for Nuclear Supremacy
10. The existence of weapons of mass destruction affected all aspects of the Cold War
confrontation, causing paranoia in the United States and spreading fear of nuclear
destruction throughout the world. Fear of nuclear war seemed about to be realized when
the Soviet Union deployed nuclear missiles in Cuba in response to American deployment
of such missiles in Turkey, but Kruschev backed down and withdrew the missiles from
20. The number, means of delivery, and destructive force of nuclear weapons increased
enormously, but at the same time, the Soviet Union, the United States, and other
countries made some progress on arms limitations. After 1972 the superpowers began the
slow, arduous process of negotiating weapons limits.
30. Rather than attempting to keep up with the expensive Soviet-American arms race, the
European nations sought to relax tensions between east and west through such
organizations as the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which led to the
signing of the Helsinki Accords.
40. Space exploration was another offshoot of the nuclear arms race, as the ability to launch
satellites and to send manned rockets into space was understood to signify equivalent
achievements in the military sphere.
II0. Decolonization and Nation Building
A0. New Nations in South and Southeast Asia
10. After partition in 1947, the independent states of India and Pakistan were strikingly
dissimilar. 20. Pakistan defined itself in terms of religion, fell under the control of military leaders, and
saw its Bengali-speaking eastern section secede to become the independent nation of
Bangladesh in 1971. India, a secular republic with a 90 percent Hindu population,
inherited a larger share of industrial and educational resources and was able to maintain
unity despite its linguistic heterogeneity.
30. In Southeast Asia, the defeats that the Japanese inflicted on the British, French, and
Dutch forces in World War II set an example of an Asian people standing up to European
colonizers. In the post-war period nationalist movements led to the independence of
Indonesia (1949), Burma and the Malay Federation (1948), and the Philippines (1946.)
B0. The Struggle for Independence in Africa
10. The postwar French government was determined to hold on to Algeria, which had a
substantial French settler population, vineyards, and oil and gas fields. An Algerian
revolt that broke out in 1954 was pursued with great brutality by bo