The Cold War: An International History

By David S. Painter | Go to book overview

2

The Cold War begins, 1945-50

Following World War II, the foreign policies of the United States and the Soviet Union interacted with the chaotic and fluid state of international relations to produce the Cold War. Understanding the impact of World War II on the international system and its members is crucial to understanding the origins of the Cold War. World War II accelerated fundamental changes in the global distribution of power, in weapons technology, in the balance of political forces among and within nations, in the international economy, and in relations between the industrial nations and the Third World. In addition, the diplomatic and military decisions made during the war had a profound impact on the shape of the postwar world.

THE WORLD IN 1945

World War II was the culmination of a series of events that profoundly changed the global distribution of power. As National Security Council Paper No. 68, the seminal statement of US Cold War policies, pointed out in April 1950, “within the past thirty-five years the world has experienced two global wars of tremendous violence…two revolutions—the Russian and the Chinese—of extreme scope and intensity …the collapse of five empires—the Ottoman, the Austro-Hungarian, German, Italian, and Japanese—and the drastic decline of two major imperial systems, the British and the French.” The result was the end of the European era and the rise to dominance of two continental-size superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. 1

Before World War II there were six great powers: Great Britain, France, Germany, the Soviet Union, Japan, and the United States. The United States entered the postwar era in a uniquely powerful position, its relative standing greatly increased by its mobilization and war effort,

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The Cold War: An International History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Abbreviations vi
  • Maps vii
  • Acknowledgements x
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Cold War Begins, 1945-50 4
  • 3 - Competition and Coexistence, 1950-62 31
  • 4 - From Cold War to Détente, 1963-73 56
  • 5 - From Détente to Confrontation, 1973-80 77
  • 6 - The Rise and Fall of the Second Cold War, 1981-91 95
  • 7 - Understanding the Cold War 112
  • Notes 119
  • Suggested Further Reading 124
  • Index 126
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