The Cold War

70 years on

Published 29th September 2017

Finding a specific date for the start of the Cold War is difficult, but most historians would agree that by autumn of 1947 the division between East and West was set. Relations between the Allies had been awkward at various points throughout the Second World War, after all for many this was a relationship born out of need not friendship.

Immediately following the end of the Second World War the tensions rose to the surface as the Soviet presence became solidified in the recently liberated Eastern European countries. Opposing that new union were the Western Allies. The Greek civil war (1945-48) emphasised the new split with the Soviets supporting the communists and the Americans actively supporting the other side. In the summer of 1947 General George C. Marshall of the USA made the offer of aid to the countries of Europe. The Soviet Union refused the offer, while those countries of Western Europe responded favourably. It was now clear under whose sphere of influence all the different nations of Europe were under.

Soviet attempts to take the whole of the German capital with the Berlin Blockade in 1948 ensured that Europe now acknowledged that it was divided. Churchill’s infamous speech of March 1946 declaring that “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.” had become true in less than 18 months.

The Cold War did have hot moments as wars were fought by proxy by the two super powers in Asia, South East Asia, Africa and South America. In October 1962 the Cuban Missile Crisis seemed the closest the two sides came to fighting directly, and while the peaceful resolution of that event did not bring the two sides together it did mark a new stage in the belief that MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) was the main reason why the two sides would not attack one another and instead would continue to squabble through the conflicts of others.

The Cold War finally ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union and for a short while the world seemed a safer place.

See the resources below to find out more about the Cold War. Until the end of October we have made the Cuban Missile Crisis podcasts series free to non-members of the HA.