How and Why did America 'Win' the Cold War

Essay by macca11874College, Undergraduate February 2010

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In 1991, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), one of the two pre-eminent political and military powers in the world, collapsed. Founded as a communist state in Russia in the aftermath of the First World War, its role, power and influence grew dramatically in the post-World War Two period. By the 1950s it effectively controlled most of the countries in Eastern Europe, had strong links with Communist China and was actively spreading its influence in post-colonial Africa, in South America and the Caribbean. Perhaps inevitably, the USSR came into conflict with the other world superpower, the United States of America (USA). Commencing in Berlin in the late 1940s, both countries engaged in what history has characterised as the Cold War, a War that lasted into the 1980s. During this war the two superpowers never actually engaged in direct conflict. Rather these two countries waged proxy wars, with the actual violence occurring between client factions in countries as diverse and as geographically dispersed as Angola, Nicaragua and Vietnam.

Nation states were courted and recruited by each of the super powers, and abhorrent behaviour by these states - such as Pinochet's Chile and Pol Pot's Cambodia - were overlooked and tolerated by the two superpowers intent on seeking world supremacy. Underpinning this rivalry was the threat of nuclear war. European nations served as nuclear missile sites for both powers leading to a global psyche plagued by anxiety over possible nuclear war.

The tense standoff that characterized the Cold War ended when the USSR collapsed in 1991, becoming the Russian Federation. This collapse was preceded by revolutions in Poland and Czechoslovakia, though the most dramatic example of revolution occurred in Germany with the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. The end of the Cold War came so abruptly and with such...