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Cold War (1962-1991)

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Cold War
1947-1953
1953-1962
1962-1991
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The Third World and nonalignment in the 1960s and 1970s

Decolonization

As colonial empires disappeared, newly independent states that gained nationhood after World War II still found themselves economically dependent on the industrialized, wealthier Western states and caught between the tensions of great-power rivalry. The conclusion of the Second World War in 1945 brought neither peace nor actual war but almost continuous international crises as East and West struggled for advantage in the Cold War.

The economic needs of the Third World states made them vulnerable to foreign influences and pressures. Much needed resources for economic development came through economic ties and trade with United States and the Soviet Union, which vied with each other to capture the political support of the newly independent countries. To support developmental projects, governments sought loans and technical assistance from the great powers, many of which were their former colonial overlords. While seeking such ties, the emerging nations have sought to loosen the dominance by the leading industrialized nations.

Yet, some emerging states in Africa and Asia were especially sensitive to the dangers of neocolonialism, made possible by the necessary importation of business managers and technicians, dependence upon imported military supplies, and reliance upon set patterns of trade and outside sources of investment. Closely tied with the fear of neocolonialism was the determination of Third World nations to avoid becoming pawns in the East-West competition.

The rise of the Nonaligned Movement, OPEC, the OAU, and the Arab League

Thus, some underdeveloped states devised a strategy that turned the Cold War into what they called "creative confrontation"—playing off the superpowers to their own advantage while maintaining nonaligned status. The diplomatic policy of nonalignment regarded the Cold War as a tragic and frustrating facet of international affairs, obstructing the overriding task of consolidating fledgling regimes and their all-out attack of economic backwardness, poverty, and disease. Nonalignment held that peaceful coexistence with the great powers was both preferable and possible. India's Jawaharlal Nehru saw neutralism as a means of forging a "third force" among nonaligned nations, much as France's Charles de Gaulle would attempt to do in Europe in the 1960s. The Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser maneuvered skillfully between the superpowers³Ǎ in pursuit of his goals.

The first such effort, the Asian Relations Conference, held in New Delhi in 1947, pledged support for all national movements against colonial rule and explored the basic problems of Asian peoples. Perhaps the most famous Third World conclave was the Bandung Conference of African and Asian nations in 1955 to discuss mutual interests and strategy, which ultimately led to the establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961. The conference was attended by twenty-nine countries representing more than half the population of the world. As at New Delhi, anti-imperialism, economic development, and cultural cooperation were the principal topics.

There was a strong push in the Third World to secure a voice in the councils of nations, especially the United Nations, and to receive recognition of their new sovereign status. Representatives of these new states were also extremely sensitive to slights and discriminations, particularly if they were based on race. In all the nations of the Third World living standards were wretchedly low. And while some, such as India, Nigeria, and Indonesia, were potentially great powers by virtue of size and population, others are so small and poor as to promise little hope for potential economic viability.

Initially a roster of 51 members, the UN General Assembly had increased to 126 by 1970. The dominance of Western members dropped to 40 percent of the membership, with Afro-Asian states holding the balance of power. The ranks of the General Assembly swelled rapidly as former colonies won independence, thus forming a substantial voting bloc with members from Latin America. Anti-imperialist sentiment, reinforced by the Soviets, often translated into anti-Western positions, but the primary agenda among nonaligned countries was to secure passage of social and economic assistance measures. Superpower refusal to fund such programs has often undermined the effectiveness of the nonaligned coalition, however.

The Bandung Conference symbolized continuing efforts to establish regional organizations designed to forge unity of policy and economic cooperation among Third World nations. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) was created in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1963 because African leaders believed that disunity played into the hands of the superpowers. The OAU was designed

to promote the unity and solidarity of the African states; to coordinate and intensify the cooperation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa; to defend their sovereignty; to eradicate all forms of colonialism in Africa and to promote international cooperation...

The OAU required a policy of nonalignment from each of its 30 member states and spawned a number of subregional economic groups similar in concept to the European Common Market. The OAU has also pursued a policy of political cooperation with other Third World regional coalitions, especially with Arab countries.

Much of the frustration expressed by nonaligned nations stemmed from the vastly unequal relationship separating rich and poor states. The resentment, strongest where key resources and local economies have been exploited by multinational Western corporations, has had a major impact on world events. The formation of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1960 reflects these concerns. OPEC devised a strategy of counter-penetration, whereby it hoped to make industrial economies that relied heavily on oil imports vulnerable to Third World pressures. Initially, the strategy had resounding success. Dwindling foreign aid from the United States and its allies, coupled with the West's pro-Israel policies in the Middle East, angered the Arab nations in OPEC. In 1973 the group quadrupled the price in crude oil. The sudden rise in the fuel costs intensified inflation and recession in the West and underscored the interdependence of world societies. The next year the nonaligned bloc in the United Nations passed a resolution demanding the creation of a new international economic order in which resources, trade, and markets would be distributed fairly.

Nonaligned states forged still other forms of economic cooperation as leverage against the superpowers. OPEC, the OAU, and the Arab League had overlapping members, and in the 1970s the Arabs began extending huge financial assistance to African nations in an effort to reduce African economic dependence on the United States and the Soviet Union.

However, the Arab League has been torn by dissention between progressives-republican states, such as Nasser's Egypt, and the aristocratic-monarchial (and generally pro-Western) regimes, such as Saudi Arabia. And while the OAU has witnessed some gains in African cooperation, its members were generally primarily interested in pursuing their own national interests rather than those of continental dimensions.

At a 1977 Afro-Arab summit conference in Cairo, oil producers pledged $1.5 billion in aid to Africa. Recent divisions within OPEC have made concerted action more difficult. Nevertheless, the 1973 world oil shock provided dramatic evidence of the potential power of resource suppliers in dealing with the developed world.

Threats in both blocs in the mid- to late-1960s

The years between the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and the arms control treaties of the 1970s marked growing efforts for both the Soviet Union and the United States to keep control over their spheres of influence. U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson landed 22,000 troops in the Dominican Republic in 1965, claiming to prevent the emergence of another Cuban Revolution. The period from 1962 until Détente saw no incidents as dangerous as the Cuban Missile Crisis, but saw an increasing loss of legitimacy and good will worldwide for both the Soviet Union and United States.

The Soviet Union crushed the "Prague Spring" in 1968. Troops from the Warsaw Pact Allies—the Soviet Union, East Germany, Poland, and Hungary—intervened in Czechoslovakia in accordance with the Brezhnev Doctrine, a new Soviet doctrine on the "international duty" of socialist countries to protect the gains of socialism, wherever they may be threatened. The international image of the Soviet Union suffered considerably, especially among Western student movements inspired by the "New Left" and non-Aligned Movement states. Mao's China, for example, condemned both the Soviets and the Americans as imperialists.

The Vietnam War

Main article: Vietnam War

U.S. killing of civilians at My Lai
Enlarge
U.S. killing of civilians at My Lai

U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson landed 22,000 troops in the Dominican Republic in 1965 to prevent the emergence of "another Fidel Castro." More notable in 1965, however, was U.S. intervention in Southeast Asia. In 1965 Johnson stationed 22,000 troops in South Vietnam to prop up the faltering anticommunist regime. The South Vietnamese government had long been allied with the United States. The North Vietnamese under Ho Chi Minh were backed by the Soviet Union and China. North Vietnam, in turn, supported the National Liberation Front, which drew its ranks from the South Vietnamese working class and peasantry. Seeking to contain "Communist expansion," Johnson increased the number of troops to 575,000 in 1967.

Neither the Soviet Union or China intervened directly in the conflict, they did supply large amounts of aid and materiel to the North and supported them diplomatically.

While the early years of the war saw significant U.S. casualties the administration assured the public that the war was winnable, and would in the near future result in a U.S. victory. American public's faith in the "light at the end of the tunnel" was shattered, on January 30, 1968, when the enemy, supposedly on the verge of collapse, mounted the Tet Offensive (named after Tet Nguyen Dan, the lunar new year festival which is the most important Vietnamese holiday) in South Vietnam. Although neither of these offensives accomplished any military objectives, the surprising capacity of an enemy that was supposedly on the verge of collapse to even launch such an offensive convinced many in the U.S. that victory was impossible.

A vocal and growing peace movement centered on college campuses became a prominent feature as the counter culture of the 1960s adopted a vocal anti-war position. Especially unpopular was the draft that threatened to send any young man to fight in the jungles of Southeast Asia.

Elected in 1968, U.S. President Richard M. Nixon began a policy of slow disengagement from the war. The goal was to gradually build up the South Vietnamese Army so that it could fight the war on its own. This policy became the cornerstone of the so-called "Nixon Doctrine." As applied to Vietnam, the doctrine was called "Vietnamization." The goal of Vietnamization was to enable the South Vietnamese army to increasingly hold its own against the NLF and the North Vietnamese Army.

The morality of U.S. conduct of the war continued to be an issue under the Nixon presidency. In 1969, it came to light that Lt. William Calley, a platoon leader in Vietnam, had led a massacre of Vietnamese civilians (including small children) during the My Lai massacre a year earlier. In 1970, Nixon ordered illegal military incursions into Cambodia in order to destroy NLF sanctuaries bordering on South Vietnam.

The U.S. pulled out in 1973 and the conflict finally ended in 1975 when the North Vietnamese took Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City. Millions of Vietnamese died as a consequence of the Vietnam War. The lowest casualty estimates, based on the now-renounced North Vietnamese statements, are around 1.5 million Vietnamese killed. Vietnam released figures on April 3, 1995 that a total of one million Vietnamese combatants and four million civilians were killed in the war. The accuracy of these figures has generally not been challenged. The official estimate for U.S. death toll is about 58,000 and with thousands more missing and presumed dead.

The Nixon Doctrine

See also: Nixon Doctrine

By the last years of the Nixon administration, it had become clear that it was the Third World that remained the most volatile and dangerous source of world instability. Central to the Nixon-Kissinger policy toward the Third World was the effort to maintain a stable status quo without involving the United States too deeply in local disputes. In 1969 and 1970, in response to the height of the Vietnam War, the president laid out the elements of what became known as the Nixon Doctrine, by which the United States would "participate in the defense and development of allies and friends" but would leave the "basic responsibility" for the future of those "friends" to the nations themselves. The Nixon Doctrine signified a growing contempt for the United Nations, where underdeveloped nations were gaining influence through their sheer numbers, and increasing support to authoritarian regimes attempting to withstand popular challenges from within.

In the 1970s, for example, the CIA poured substantial funds into Chile to help support the established government against a socialist challenge. When the socialist candidate for president, Salvador Allende, came to power through the ballot box, the United States began funneling more money to opposition forces to help "destabilize" the new government. In 1973, a U.S.-backed military junta seized power from Allende. The new, repressive regime of General Augusto Pinochet received warm approval and increased military and economic assistance from the United States as an anti-Communist ally.

Sino-Soviet Split

Main article: Sino-Soviet Split

The People's Republic of China's Great Leap Forward and other policies based on agriculture instead of heavy industry challenged the Soviet-style socialism and the signs of the USSR's influence over the socialist countries. As "de-Stalinization" went forward in the Soviet Union, China's revolutionary founder, Mao Zedong, condemned the Soviets for "revisionism." The Chinese also were growing increasingly annoyed at being constantly in the number two role in the communist world. The 1960s saw an open split develop between the two powers; the tension lead to a series of border skirmishes along the Chinese-Soviet border.

The Sino-Soviet split had important ramifications in Southeast Asia. Despite having received substantial aid from China during their long wars the Vietnamese communists aligned themselves with the Soviet Union against China. The Khmer Rouge had taken control of Cambodia in 1975 and became one of the most brutal regimes in world history. The newly unified Vietnam and the Khmer regime had poor relations from the outset as the Khmer Rouge began massacring ethnic Vietnamese, and then launched raiding parties into Vietnam itself. The Khmer Rouge allied itself with China, but this was not enough to prevent the Vietnamese from invading them and destroying the regime in 1979. While unable to save their Cambodian allies the Chinese did respond to the Vietnamese invading the north of Vietnam on a punitive expedition later in that year. After a few months of heavy fighting and casualties on both sides the Chinese announced the operation was complete and ended the fighting.

The United States played only a minor role in these events, unwilling to get involved in the region after the debacle in Vietnam. The extremely visible disintegration of the communist block played an important role in the easing of Sino-American tensions and in the progress towards East-West Détente.

Détente and changing alliance

See also: Détente

Missing image
Nixon-Brezhnev.jpg
Brezhnev and Nixon talk while standing on the White House balcony during Brezhnev's 1973 visit to Washington-- a high-water mark in détente between the United States and the Soviet Union.

As the Soviet Union achieved rough nuclear parity with the United States, the old assumptions of a "bipolar" world in which only the U.S. and the Soviet Union were the truly "great powers" were now obsolete. Less powerful countries were gaining more room to assert their independence. The rise of China, Japan, and Western Europe, the increasing nationalism of the Third World, and the growing disunity within the communist alliance all augured a new multipolar international structure. Moreover, the 1973 world oil shock saw dramatic shift in the economic fortunes of the superpowers. The rapid increase in the price of oil devastated the U.S. economy leading to "stagflation" and slow growth.

For superpowers to deal with this changing world, the Cold War gave way to a more complicated pattern of international relations in which the world was no longer clearly split into two clearly opposed blocs in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1972-1973 the superpowers sought each other's help. Détente had both strategic and economic benefits for both superpowers, and the two superpowers were partially able to recognize their common interest in trying to check the further spread and proliferation of nuclear weapons (see SALT I, SALT II, Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty).

President Richard Nixon signed the SALT I treaty with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to limit the development of strategic weapons. Arms control enabled both superpowers to slow the spiraling increases in their bloated defense budgets. At the same time divided Europe began to pursue closer relations. The Ostpolitik of German chancellor Willy Brandt lead to the recognition of East Germany.

This new spirit was made manifest by the important Helsinki Conference that lead to a number of agreements on politics, economics and human rights. A series of arms control agreements such as SALT I and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty were created limit the development of strategic weapons and slow the arms race. The period also saw a rapprochement between China and the United States. The People's Republic of China joined the United Nations and trade and cultural ties were initiated, most notably Nixon's groundbreaking trip to China in 1972.

Meanwhile, the Soviet Union concluded friendship and cooperation treaties with a number of states in the noncommunist world, especially among Third World and Non-Aligned Movement states.

Missing image
Nixon_Mao_1972-02-29.png
Mao Zedong meets Richard Nixon, 1972

During Détente competition continued, especially in the Middle East and Southern and Eastern Africa. The two nations continued to compete with each other for influence in the resource-rich Third World. The 1970s also saw increasing criticism of U.S. support for the Suharto regime in Indonesia, Augusto Pinochet's regime in Chile, and Mobuto Sese Seko's regime in Zaire.

The 1970s inflicted damaging blows to the American confidence characteristic of the 1950s and early 1960s. The War in Vietnam and the Watergate crisis shattered confidence in the presidency. International frustrations, including the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, the hostage crisis in Iran in 1979, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, the growth of international terrorism, and the acceleration of the arms race raised fears over the country's ability to control international affairs. The energy crisis, unemployment, and inflation, derided as "stagflation," raised fundamental questions over the future of American prosperity.

At the same time, the oil-rich USSR benefited immensely and the influx of oil wealth helped disguise the many systemic flaws in the Soviet economy. During the same period of time, the Soviet Union improved living standards by doubling urban wages and raising rural wages by around 75%, building millions of one-family apartments, and manufacturing large quantities of consumer goods and home appliances. Soviet industrial output increased by 75%, and the Soviet Union became the world's largest producer of oil and steel.

The end of Détente and the Reagan administration

U.S. President Jimmy Carter, however, tried to move beyond these setbacks for peace and place another cap on the arms race with a SALT II agreement in 1979, but his efforts were undercut by three surprising developments: the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Nicaraguan Revolution, and Soviet intervention in Afghanistan.

The Iranian Revolution was an embarrassment for the United States and Carter's inability to get American hostages freed cost him the 1980 election. While the United States was mired in recession and the Vietnam quagmire, pro-Soviet governments were making great strides abroad, especially in the Third World. Socialist Vietnam had defeated the United States, becoming a united, independent state under a Communist government. Other socialist insurgencies were spreading rapidly across Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.

And the Soviet Union seemed committed to the Brezhnev Doctrine, sending troops to Afghanistan at the request of its Communist government. The Afghan invasion in 1979 marked the first time that the Soviet Union sent troops outside the Warsaw Pact since the inception of the Eastern counterpart of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). This prompted a swift reaction from the west, the boycotting of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, and the heavy funding for the Afghani resistance fighters.

Worried by Soviet deployment of nuclear SS-20 missiles (commenced in 1977), the NATO allies had in 1979 agreed to continued Strategic Arms Limitation Talks to constrain the number of nuclear missiles for battle field targets, threatening to deploy some 500 cruise missiles and Pershing II missiles in West Germany and the Netherlands in case the negotiations were unsuccessful. The negotiations, taken up in Geneva, November 30 1981, were bound to fail. In the countries in question, the planned deployment of Pershing II met intense opposition from the public opinion in a divisive debate. Pershing II missiles were deployed in Europe from January 1984. They were, however, soon withdrawn beginning in October 1988. The shooting down by Soviet fighters of civilian airliner Korean Air Flight 7 also increased tensions.

The "new conservatives" or "neoconservatives" rebelled against the Democratic Party's leftward drift on defense issues in the 1970s, especially after the nomination of George McGovern in 1972, blaming "liberal Democrats" for U.S. international setbacks. Many clustered around Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, a Democrat, but then they aligned themselves with Ronald Reagan and the Republicans, who promised to confront charges of "Soviet expansionism."

The end of the Cold War

Gorbachev has accused Boris Yeltsin, his old rival and Russia's first post-Soviet president, of tearing the country apart out of a desire to advance his own personal interests.
Enlarge
Gorbachev has accused Boris Yeltsin, his old rival and Russia's first post-Soviet president, of tearing the country apart out of a desire to advance his own personal interests.

While the Soviets had enjoyed great achievements on the international stage before Reagan entered office in 1981, such as the unification of their socialist ally, Vietnam (1976), and a string of socialist revolutions in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Africa, the country's strengthening ties with Third World nations in the 1960s and 1970s only masked utter weakness next to the United States. In 1981, the Warsaw Pact ran the military exercise Zapad, a massive show of numerical strength, but masking political weakness in Poland.

The Soviet economy suffered severe structural problems. Reform stalled between 1964-1982 and supply shortages of consumer goods became increasingly widespread. The 1980s saw weak leadership in the Soviet Union. In 1982 Leonid Brezhnev died to be replaced by the short-lived Yuri Andropov and then Konstantin Chernenko who also quickly died.

East-West tensions eased rapidly after the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev. After the deaths of three elderly Soviet leaders in a row since 1982, the Politburo elected Gorbachev Soviet Communist Party chief in 1985, marking the rise of a new generation of leadership. Under Gorbachev, relatively young reform-oriented technocrats, who had begun their careers in the heyday of "de-Stalinization" under reformist leader Nikita Khrushchev (1953-1964), rapidly consolidated power, providing new momentum for political and economic liberalization, and the impetus for cultivating warmer relations and trade with the West. In 1983 a war game by the United States, Able Archer scared the Soviet Union and helped pave the way to meeting at Reykjavik.

On October 11, 1986 Reagan and Gorbachev met in Reykjavík, Iceland, in an effort to continue discussions about scaling back their intermediate missile arsenals in Europe. The talks broke down in failure. Afterwards, Soviet policymakers increasingly accepted Reagan administration warnings that the U.S. would make the arms race a huge burden for them. The twin burdens of the Cold War arms race on one hand, and the provision of large sums of foreign and military aid, which their socialist allies had grown to expect, on the other possibly left Gorbachev's efforts to boost production of consumer goods and reform the stagnating economy all but impossible.

The result in was a dual approach of cooperation with the west and economic restructuring (perestroika) and democratization (glasnost) domestically, which eventually made it impossible for Gorbachev to reassert central control and influence over Warsaw Pact member states. Reaganite hawks have since argued that pressures stemming from increased U.S. defense spending was an additional impetus for reform.

The regimes of the Eastern bloc were slowly collapsing. Grassroots organization in both the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe began to challenge the status quo. The "Solidarity" movement formed in the Gdańsk shipyards in 1980 rapidly gained ground; the Communists were ousted in Poland in 1989. The "fall of the Berlin Wall" was a symbol of the fall of Eastern European Communist governments in 1989. Agitation in the Baltic States for independence lead to first Lithuania and then the other two states declaring independence. Disaffection in the other republics were met by promises of greater decentralization. More open elections lead to the election of candidates opposed to Communist rule.

In August 1991 in an attempt to halt the rapid changes to the system a group of Soviet hard-liners represented by Vice-President Gennadi Yanayev launched a coup overthrowing Gorbachev. Russian President Boris Yeltsin rallied the people and much of the army against the coup and the effort collapsed. In September the Baltic states were granted independence. On December 1, Ukraine pulled out of the USSR. On December 26, 1991 the USSR was officially disbanded, breaking up into fifteen constituent parts. The Cold War was over.

Legacy

Russia's transition from a command economy to free-market capitalism has not been smooth thus far. 75% of the population currently lives in poverty, which was largely nonexistent in the last decades of the Soviet Union. GDP growth also declined, and life expectancy dropped sharply.

In the West the reaction to the collapse of the Soviet Union led some to speak of a "short twentieth century" framed by the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the collapse of the Soviet Union, marking the "end of history."

Some have argued that as the "world's policeman," the United States is left to fill the imperial role of nineteenth century colonial powers, quelling instability or threats to its geopolitical interests wherever they arise much like Britain when it was building up its formal and informal empire in the Victorian era.

Prominent sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein expresses a less triumphalist view, arguing that the end of the Cold War is a prelude to the breakdown of Pax Americana. In his recent essay "Pax Americana is Over," Wallerstein argued, "The collapse of communism in effect signified the collapse of liberalism, removing the only ideological justification behind U.S. hegemony, a justification tacitly supported by liberalism's ostensible ideological opponent." [1] (http://www.uni-muenster.de/PeaCon/global-texte/g-m/n/wallerstein-eagle.htm)

The collapse of the Eastern European Communist regimes has led to a number of wars around the globe, especially ethnic and religious conflict, such as in the former Yugoslavia. The post-Cold War era saw a period of unprecedented prosperity in the West, especially in the United States, and a wave of democratization throughout Latin America, Africa, and Eastern Europe.

In addition, the poverty and desperation of the Russians and Ukranians post-Cold War have lead to the sale of many advanced Cold War-developed weapons systems, especially very capable modern upgraded versions, around the globe. World-class tanks (T-80/T-84), jet fighters (MiG-29 and Su-27/30/33), surface-to-air missile systems (S-300P, S-300V, 9K332 and Igla) and others have been placed on the market in order to obtain some much-needed cash. This could pose a headache for western powers in coming decades as they increasingly find hostile countries equipped with weapons which were designed by the Soviets to defeat them.

Cold War institutions such as NATO have found new roles, while other products of the Cold War-era such as the European Union have gone on to great success. The space exploration has petered out in both the United States and Russia without the competitive pressure of the space race.

Another legacy of the Cold War was a large number of military decorations which were created and bestowed by the major powers during the near 50 years of undeclared hostilities.


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