The Cold War


“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an “iron curtain” has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.”

Winston Churchill (1874-1965), former United Kingdom Prime Minister.

“Sinews of Peace” address March 5, 1946 at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri

Eastern Bloc

Eastern Bloc – the communist side of the Cold War conflict, including the Soviet Union and its satellite states in Eastern Europe. Organizations that the Soviet Union created in order to solidify its control over Eastern Europe, and which tied the Eastern Bloc together, included:

  • Comecon – the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance was founded in accordance with Stalin’s desire to enforce Soviet domination of the lesser states of Central Europe. Initially, the Comecon served as cover for the Soviet taking of materials and equipment from the rest of the Eastern Bloc. Its members were:
    • Soviet Union
    • People’s Republic of Bulgaria
    • Czechoslovak Republic (Czechoslovak Socialist Republic since 1960)
    • Hungarian People’s Republic
    • Polish People’s Republic
    • People’s Republic of Romania (after 1965 the Socialist Republic of Romania)
  • Warsaw Pact – defensive pact led by the Soviet Union for defence in Eastern Europe. It was the military complement to Comecon. Its members were:
    • Soviet Union
    • People’s Republic of Albania (withheld support in 1961 because of the Sino–Soviet split, formally withdrew in 1968)
    • People’s Republic of Bulgaria
    • Czechoslovak Republic (Czechoslovak Socialist Republic since 1960)
    • German Democratic Republic (withdrew in September 1990, before German reunification)
    • Hungarian People’s Republic
    • Polish People’s Republic (withdrew on January 1, 1990)
    • People’s Republic of Romania (after 1965 the Socialist Republic of Romania)

Additionally, the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (Byelorussia) and the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (Ukraine) were represented separately in the United Nations in addition to the Soviet Union.

Western Bloc

Western Bloc – the United States and countries allied with it against the Soviet Union and the rest of the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. As part of its Containment policy, the United States backed a series of regional alliances:

  • NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) – In the North Atlantic and Europe, NATO was formed in 1949, and its members during the Cold War were:
    • Belgium
    • Canada
    • Denmark
    • France
    • Iceland
    • Italy
    • Luxembourg
    • Netherlands
    • Norway
    • Portugal
    • United Kingdom
    • United States
    • Greece – Joined 1952
    • Turkey – Joined 1952
    • West Germany – Joined 1955
    • Spain – Joined 1982
  • Southeast Asia Treaty Organization – formed in 1954 for the collective defence of Southeast Asia, though disbanded in 1977. Its members were:
    • Australia
    • France
    • New Zealand
    • Pakistan – including modern Bangladesh
    • Philippines
    • Thailand
    • United Kingdom
    • United States
  • ANZUS – formed in 1952 as a form of defensive cooperation in the Pacific. Its members are:
    • Australia
    • New Zealand
    • United States
  • Central Treaty Organization – formed in 1955. Although the United States did not formally join, the country did support the alliance, aimed at containing Soviet ambitions in the Middle East. The organization was disbanded in 1979.
    • Iran
    • Iraq – Withdrew 1959
    • Pakistan
    • Turkey
    • United Kingdom

Proxy wars

Proxy wars of the Cold War – while the superpowers never engaged each other directly, they fought a series proxy wars throughout the period of Cold War, with one, or both sides arming or otherwise supporting one side against another.

  • Korean War (1950–1953) – started when North Korea invaded South Korea. The United States and their allies came to the aid of the South, while China and the Soviet Union came to the aid of the North.
  • Vietnam War (1955–1975) – fought primarily between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. The United States and their allies came to the aid of the South, while China, the Soviet Union and others came to the aid of the North. Fighting occurred in Vietnam, along with neighboring Laos and Cambodia.
  • South African Border War (1966–1989) – fought between South Africa and its allies on one side, with the Angolan government and its allies, including Cuba, on the other. During the conflict, the United States supplied South Africa and their allies.
  • Yom Kippur War (1973) – started when an Arab coalition led by Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel. Throughout the conflict the United States and the Soviet Union heavily supplied Israel and the Arab coalition, respectively.
  • Soviet–Afghan War (1979–1989) – fought between the Soviet Union and allied Afghan forces on one side, against the insurgent groups known as the Mujahideen. The insurgent groups received aid, and training in Pakistan and China, paid for by the United States and Arab monarchies in the Persian Gulf.