The United States and the Soviet Union have had deep-rooted ideological, economic and political differences since much before the second world war. The USSR and the United States were allies during World War II if only because both countries did not endorse Hitler’s Nazi ideologies. They ,however did maintain the required modicum of alignment required in fighting the megalomaniac Adolf Hitler.

Once the WW II left Germany in tatters, the Allies split it into two ; western part was apportioned to the allies and became known as the Federal Republic of Germany). The eastern part went to USSR and was named the German Democratic Republic .

America, because of its geographic isolation, had avoided permanent alliances with other countries till the second world war. However, President Truman then realized that providence lay in breaking this tradition. In 1949 ten European nations entered into a pact with the United States and Canada. This created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a military alliance for defending all members from outside attack. This represented a military coalition of all the major allied forces except USSR.

On the eastern side of Europe, USSR under Stalin took control of most eastern European countries and imposed communist rule there- these came to be named the Eastern bloc. The Warsaw Pact is the name commonly given to the treaty between eastern European countries, and the Soviet Union. In a way this was a response of the communist bloc countries to the democratic countries’ NATO alliance.

The following decades witnessed the cold war – a conflict between the Soviet Union led nations and the nations led by the United States. It was fought by all means – propaganda, economic war, diplomatic haggling, spying and occasional military clashes. It was fought by proxy in all places – in neutral states, in newly independent nations in Africa, Asia and even in outer space.

The inveterate differences between USA and USSR were intensified as a result of their mutual suspicions immediately after the Second World War.

The United States wanted to encourage free trade throughout the world. The Soviet Union wanted to shield off her own sphere from international commerce. Russia feared that trade with the West would involve the risk of Russia being opened to western influences which would have eroded the strength of their totalitarian regime. These differences led to much reciprocal ill feeling.

The Vietnam War was a distended proxy war between the United States and the Soviet Union aided by China, which had become a Communist country. The Soviet Union and China worked together to help North Vietnam fight South Vietnam. The United States directly fought in the war against North Vietnam. The war went on from 1955 to 1973, and symbolized the military equivalent of the cold war.

During the 1950s, there was a “red scare” in the United States. The American establishment was worried about Communists becoming powerful in the United States. Many Americans were accused of being Communists. Accusing someone of being a communists was like being charged with blasphemy. Many artists, writers and actors were blackballed and were not allowed to act in any movies after they were accused of being Communists. This was called McCarthyism; senator Joseph McCarthy was an emblem of the communist paranoia in USA. He stigmatized and wiped out his political opponents in the process. Ultimately the establishment became leery of his tactics; he was censured after 1953 when the United States came under the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower.

Eisenhower created a policy to reduce military defense spending while rapidly increasing the amount of nuclear weapons it had. It was a policy of nuclear deterrence which means that the United States built so many nuclear weapons, it intimidated the Soviet Union from attacking them.

Eisenhower’s Vice-President Richard Nixon engaged in several talks with Nikita Khrushchev during the 1950’s. One of these was called the “Kitchen Debate” because it happened in a kitchen at the World’s Fair. At the end of the decade, a United States plane which spied on the Soviet Union, called U2, crashed. This was very bad for U.S.-Soviet relations, and the fissure between the two countries reopened after this relatively peaceful Eisenhower presidency.

In 1959, Fidel Castro took over power in Cuba. He followed anti-american trade policies and built strong links with USSR. This was very threatening to the USA because Cuba was right next to America. This was the highest period of tension during the Cold War .While the Soviet Union tried to supply Cuba with nuclear missiles, the United States sent a large amount of ships and B-52 bombers around Cuba. Thankfully, the United States under Kennedy and Soviet Union under Khrushchev came to a climactic agreement and diffused the tension. It was the closest the world was to having a nuclear war.

After this episode, Khrushchev lost prestige while, China broke away from Russia. But American president J .F. Kennedy was lionized and acquired cult status. He was seen as the man who faced down the Russians. Both sides had a fright; they set up a telep ‘hotline’ to talk directly in any such crisis situation. In 1963, they agreed on a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Cuba was the start of the end of the Cold War.

A phase called “ détente” began after the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and ended around 1980. The word “detente” meant less tension between the two superpowers. Around this time, the United States built a good relationship with China, giving the Soviet Union a disadvantage during the Cold War. During the 1970’s, the United States and the Soviet Union both signed several treaties which reduced the amount of nuclear weapons each country had.

The policy of détente ended in 1981, when president Ronald Reagan ordered a massive military fortification to challenge the Soviet Union’s influence around the world. The United States began to support (by giving money and weapons to them) anti-communists all over the world who wanted to overthrow their communist governments.

The Soviet Union had a devolving economy during this decade and was trying to keep up with the United States in military spending, but could not. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, but had a very difficult time winning against the Afghanistan freedom fighters. The Soviet Union’s failed invasion of Afghanistan is often compared to the United States’ failure during the Vietnam War.

In the late 1980s the new Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev made an effort to make an ally of the United States and the soviets realized that communism, inspite of an 80 year long trial, is not paying the dividends besides curbing personal freedom.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and without Communist rule holding the countries that compiled the Soviet Union together, the USSR broke into many smaller countries, like Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania and Georgia. The nations of Eastern Europe became democratic governments, and the period of the Cold War was over. The Soviet Union formally folded up in December 1991.

Not all historians agree on when the Cold War ended. Some think it ended when the Berlin Wall fell. Others think it ended when the Soviet Union ended.

Cold war era conflicts were aptly exploited by novelists who wrote classic spy stories, many of these novelists were themselves ex-spies or war veterans.

A noteworthy fictional Cold War spy is the heroic, upper-class James Bond, secret agent 007 of the British Secret Service, a mixture of assassin and counter-intelligence officer introduced by Ian Fleming. Despite the commercial success of Fleming’s fantastical anti-Communist novels, other former spies, such as John le Carré and Len Deighton, created anti-heroic protagonists who were almost your guy-next-door.

Then there was also a cornucopia of cold war based politico–military thrillers from Frederick Forsyth, Ken Follett and Robert Ludlum; the last one created the legendary Jason Bourne series.

Hollywood films, too, were busy during the cold war ,exposing life behind the Iron Curtain and ferreting out spies and subversive at home. Walk East on Beacon (1952), based on an article by J. Edgar Hoover, the long time FBI director was a harbinger of this genre. Most notable ones dealing with espionage and political intrigue were Ice Station Zebra, The Package and The Hunt for Red October.

Many science fiction Hollywood movies were made in the 1950’s such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, War of the Worlds and the Day the Earth Stood Still ; a lot of these films reflected the Red Scare that took place at the time. The aliens in these films reflected communists, and the fear of them taking over all earthlings and converting them into aliens mirrored spread of communism !

The end of cold war makes USA the single superpower in the world. But this post cold war era is again full of strife of a stranger variety. There are religious, regional and racial assaults on world peace, besides the never ending economic and environmental hazards. Mankind keeps living on a prayer !

Word – Watch

  • Apportioned


Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; given out in portions to different entities

Synonyms : dealt out

  • Blackballed


Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; expelled from a community or group.

Synonyms : banished

  • Blasphemy


Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; blasphemous language (expressing disrespect for God or for something sacred); blasphemous behavior; the act of depriving something of its sacred character

Synonyms : profanation, desecration, sacrilege

  • Censured


Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; officially and strongly disapproved; officially rebuked or found blameworthy

Synonyms : condemned

  • Climactic


Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; consisting of or causing the decisive moment

Synonyms : culminating point

  • Cornucopia


Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the property of being extremely abundant;

Other Meaning(s) : a goat’s horn filled with grain and flowers and fruit symbolizing prosperity

Synonyms : profuseness, richness

  • Cult


Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; an extreme or excessive admiration for a person, philosophy of life, or activity, e.g. the cult of youth, a cult hero

Other Meaning(s) : adjective; trendy, offbeat, alternative, out of the ordinary, religious group

Synonyms : craze, idolization of somebody or some thing

  • Detente


Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the easing of tensions or strained relations (especially between nations)

Synonyms : cease fire

  • Distended


Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; abnormally expanded or increased in size; (`swollen’ is sometimes used in combination); abnormally distended especially by fluids or gas

Synonyms : bloated, turgid

  • Deterrence


Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; restrain from taking action, to discourage somebody from taking action or prevent something from happening, especially by making somebody feel afraid or anxious

Synonyms : avoidance, prevention, anticipation

  • Emblem


Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; special design or visual object representing a quality, type, group, etc.; a visible symbol representing an abstract idea

Synonyms : allegory

  • Endorse


Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; be behind; approve of; give support or one’s approval to

Synonyms : certify

  • Espionage


Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the systematic use of spies to get military or political secrets

Synonyms : spying

  • Ferreting


Contextual Meaning(s) : hounding or harrying relentlessly; searching and discovering through persistent investigation

Synonyms : hound


  • Fictional


Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; related to or involving literary fiction; formed or conceived by the imagination

Synonyms : fabricated, invented

  • Fissure


Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; break into fissures or fine cracks

Synonyms : cleft, crevice

  • Fortification


Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the addition of an ingredient for the purpose of enrichment (as the addition of alcohol to wine or the addition of vitamins to food); defensive structure consisting of walls or mounds built around a stronghold to strengthen it;

Other Meaning(s) : the art or science of strengthening defenses

Synonyms : munition

  • Haggling


Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; an instance of intense argument (as in bargaining)

Synonyms : wrangling

  • Harbinger


Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; an indication of the approach of something or someone; verb foreshadow or presage

Synonyms : announce

  • Intrigue


Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; a crafty and involved plot to achieve your (usually sinister) ends; a clandestine love affair; verb cause to be interested or curious; form intrigues (for) in an underhand manner

Synonyms : machination, scheme

  • Inveterate


Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; having a habit of long standing

Synonyms : confirmed, habitual

  • Leery


Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; openly distrustful and unwilling to confide

Synonyms : mistrustful

  • Lionized


Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; made into a hero

Synonyms : glorified

  • Megalomaniac


Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; a pathological egotist

Synonyms : pathological-egotist

  • Modicum


Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun a small or moderate or token amount

Synonyms : iota

  • Paranoia


Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; a psychological disorder characterized by delusions of persecution or grandeur

Synonyms : psychosis

  • Propaganda


Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; information that is spread for the purpose of promoting some cause

Synonyms : publicity

  • Providence


Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the prudence and care exercised by someone in the management of resources;

Other Meaning(s) : noun the guardianship and control exercised by a deity; the capital and largest city of Rhode Island; located int northeastern Rhode Island on Narragansett Bay; ite of Brown University; a manifestation of God’s foresightful care for his creatures

Synonyms : prudence

  • Protagonist


Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the leading character or one of the major characters in a play, film or novel.

Synonyms : lead, star

  • Proxy


Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; a person authorized to act for another


Other Meaning(s) : noun a power of attorney document given by shareholders of a corporation authorizing a specific vote on their behalf at a corporate meeting;

Synonyms : placeholder, procurator


Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; especially given or done in return;

Other Meaning(s) : noun something (a term or expression or concept) that has a reciprocal relation to something else; hybridization involving a pair of crosses that reverse the sexes associated with each genotype; (mathematics) one of a pair of numbers whose product is 1: the reciprocal of 2/3 is 3/2; the multiplicative inverse of 7 is 1/7

Synonyms : mutual,


Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; to accuse or condemn or openly or formally or brand as disgraceful

Other Meaning(s) : Verb; mark with a stigma or stigmata

Synonyms : branded, denounced


Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; bitter conflict; heated often violent dissension; lack of agreement or harmony

Synonyms : discord, unrest


Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; in opposition to a civil authority or government;

Other Meaning(s) : Noun; a radical supporter of political or social revolution

Synonyms : seditious

  • Tatters


Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; badly damaged or completely spoiled

Synonyms : shreds, ruined

  • Totalitarian


Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; characterized by a government in which the political authority exercises absolute and centralized control; of or relating to the principles of totalitarianism according to which the state regulates every realm of life; noun an adherent of totalitarian principles or totalitarian government

Synonyms : autocratic



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