The Cold War: An International History

By David S. Painter | Go to book overview

3

Competition and coexistence, 1950-62

The Korean War (1950-53) transformed the nature of the Cold War and world politics. Its initial impact was to solidify the division of the world into political, military, and economic spheres. Europe remained tense and divided, and the arms race and competition in the Third World emerged as active and fluid aspects of the Cold War. Although the Soviets matched the United States in the development of nuclear weapons and made impressive advances in missile technology, the United States maintained its lead in the arms race. The struggle of the Third World for political independence, economic justice, racial equality, and cultural respect became an increasingly important source of international tension and conflict during the 1950s. Fighting against Western control, Third World countries and movements challenged Western hegemony and provided an opportunity for the expansion of Soviet influence. Soviet-American competition in the Third World intersected with the arms race in 1962 to bring about the Cuban Missile Crisis, the single most dangerous crisis of the Cold War era.

The increased focus on the arms race and the Third World did not mean that Western Europe and Japan were no longer important. One of the greatest challenges the United States faced during the 1950s was how to foster economic growth in Germany and Japan, help them restructure their politics along more or less democratic lines, and integrate them into the Western alliance. The three tasks were interrelated: economic growth and prosperity made democratization and international integration possible. 1 Achievement of economic growth, political stability, and reintegration of these former “rogue” states into the Western alliance was a huge victory for the United States, the West and the capitalist system.

-31-

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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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