A Brief Overview of The Cold War | AP US History | Fiveable (2024)

📓 Context

Study Guide: The Cold War 1945 - 1980

After WWII, the United States and USSR had vastly different goals and ideals, leading to a conflict over which country would become the dominant world superpower.

The term "Cold War" stems from political tension and hostility that falls short of open warfare.

While the US was focused on spreading democracy and open markets around the world, the USSR wanted to spread communism in order to have allies around them. This led the US to take a"containment"approach, as promoted by scholarGeorge Kennan. Kennan believed that the US needed to focus on containing communism, which was the dominating thought that guided American policy during this time.

⏱️ Timeline

🎥 Live Stream Replay: The Cold War Up to 1965

📷Slides: The Cold War

1947: America gives aid to Britain to help fight communist forces in Greece, leading to theTruman Doctrine, which declares America will give aid to any country fighting against oppressive communist forces.

1947:The Marshall Planis put into effect, in which America gives money to Europe to rebuild. This had a goal of creating more American allies and stopping the spread of communism in Europe.

1949:NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)is created by the US and other non-communist countries, creating an alliance of nations that would coordinate their defense against communist countries if any one of the countries were attacked.

1949:USSRexplodes its firstatomic bomb, showing military strength over the US and launching thearms race.

1950s:The Red Scarestarted whenSenator Joseph McCarthyclaimed to know of prominent Americans who were secretly communists. The culture of fear in America strengthened as politicians and other public figures were accused of being communists. This turned into a"witch hunt"(referring to the Salem Witch Trials) as individuals were wrongfully branded with the communist label by others who wanted to destroy their careers.

1952: Tension heightens in the arms race as the US drops its first hydrogen bomb.

1954:"McCarthyism"(the communist accusations and fear) began to die down in the US, and the senate censured Senator McCarthy as they recognized his actions as being an untruthful "witch hunt."

1955:Warsaw Pactcreated a communist alliance between the USSR and other European communist nations.

1957: The Cold War continues as the USSR putsSputnik 1-the first orbiting satellite- into space, launching thespace race.

1961: The USSR sends the first human into space.

1961: As the USSR continues to advance into space, President Kennedy challenges the US to get a man on the moon. As tensions continue, and the US falls behind in the space race, America puts more funding into science and math programs in order to reach the moon first.

1961: After communist leaderFidel Castrotook control in Cuba, the CIA executed theBay of Pigs Invasion. The plan to invade Cuba and overthrow Castro failed and tensions about communism continued to grow.

1961:The Berlin Wallis constructed, separating the USSR and US-controlled areas of Germany, reflecting the growing hostility between the two nations.

1962:The Cuban Missile Crisisbegins when Castro allows the USSR to secretly set up missiles in Cuba aimed for the US. Later that year, the US discovered them, and President Kennedy put a blockade around Cuba while ordering the USSR to disarm the area. Just as war seemed inevitable, the Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev took the missiles out of Cuba.

The Cuban Missile Crisis

Cuba and the Soviet Union

Communist revolutionary leader Fidel Castro allied himself with the Soviet Union after seizing power in Cuba. Castro caused Cuba to become reliant on Soviet economic and military aid, giving the Soviet Union significant leverage over Castro.

Castro was also hostile to America, as President Kennedy had attempted to overthrow his rule in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. He agreed to host Soviet missiles to deter further American intervention.

A Brief Overview of The Cold War | AP US History | Fiveable (1)

The Crisis ❗

On October 14, 1962, an American plane photographed Soviet missiles in Cuba, 90 miles from Florida.

After deliberation, President Kennedy enacted a naval blockade around the island to prevent more equipment from being delivered and issued an ultimatum for the missiles to remove the missiles, foregoing a direct escalation that could result in a nuclear war.

A Brief Overview of The Cold War | AP US History | Fiveable (2)

The Conclusion 🕊️

Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles in exchange for America agreeing to not invade Cuba and to remove American missiles in Turkey.

The following years saw the United States and the Soviet Union signing treaties regarding nuclear weapons and establishing communications to prevent nuclear warfare.

Post-Cuban Missile Crisis

1969: The AmericanApollo 11lands and America becomes the first country to send people to the moon.

1978: TheUSSR invades Afghanistan,and the US supports Afghani rebels.

1989: The Cold War begins to simmer down as the USSR withdraws from Afghanistan, militarily and financially exhausted. USSR Premier Gorbachev recognizes that continuing the pace of rapid military growth the Cold War promoted was economically unfeasible, and American President Reagan advocates for taking down the Berlin Wall.

1989-90: Riots occur in East Germany while other parts of Europe rebel against Soviet power.The Berlin Wallfinally falls in 1990.

1991: The USSR dissolves into the separate countries of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.

🌟Remember, this is just a quick snapshot of the main things you should know from the Cold War. History is all aboutdrawing your own conclusionsfrom complex situations, causes, and effects. In order to do that, you need toread your APUSH textbook!The best advice I can give you is to read, re-read, review, and draw conclusions for yourself from the material you read. While this is a great quick review, when studying history, it is important and much more interesting todive deeper, and I really encourage you to do so! Good luck this year, happy reading, and remember. . .

A Brief Overview of The Cold War | AP US History | Fiveable (3)

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A Brief Overview of The Cold War | AP US History | Fiveable (2024)


A Brief Overview of The Cold War | AP US History | Fiveable? ›

Cold War: The Cold War was a period of political and military tension between the United States and its allies (the West) and the Soviet Union and its satellite states (the East) from 1947 to 1991. It was characterized by threats, propaganda, and other measures short of open warfare.

What was the Cold War full summary? ›

Cold War, the open yet restricted rivalry that developed after World War II between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies. The Cold War was waged on political, economic, and propaganda fronts and had only limited recourse to weapons.

What best summarizes the Cold War? ›

Three key features defined the Cold War: 1) the threat of nuclear war, 2) competition over the allegiance (loyalty) of newly independent nations, and 3) the military and economic support of each other's enemies around the world.

What is a short paragraph about the Cold War? ›

After World War II, the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its satellite states began a decades-long struggle for supremacy known as the Cold War. Soldiers of the Soviet Union and the United States did not do battle directly during the Cold War.

Why was Cold War important to US history? ›

The Cold War was important to American history because it was a period of extreme cultural and political tension. While the country became involved in many countries around the world, American society was also heavily influence by the conflict and much of that influence lives on today.

What is Cold War in short answer? ›

A cold war is a state of conflict between nations that does not involve direct military action but is pursued primarily through economic and political actions, propaganda, acts of espionage or proxy wars waged by surrogates. This term is most commonly used to refer to the American-Soviet Cold War of 1947–1989.

What best explains the Cold War? ›

The Cold War was a period of geopolitical tension marked by competition and confrontation between communist nations led by the Soviet Union and Western democracies including the United States.

What ended the Cold War short summary? ›

During 1989 and 1990, the Berlin Wall came down, borders opened, and free elections ousted Communist regimes everywhere in eastern Europe. In late 1991 the Soviet Union itself dissolved into its component republics. With stunning speed, the Iron Curtain was lifted and the Cold War came to an end.

What was one major cause of the Cold War? ›

Soviet efforts to claim territory in Europe following Germany's defeat fed into the belief that the USSR intended to expand communism across Europe. By 1947, the United States adopted a policy of containment to restrict Soviet global power.

What answer best describes the Cold War? ›

Covert hostility between western democratic nations and eastern communist nations. The Cold War was a period of intense political and military tension between the United States and its allies (western democratic nations) and the Soviet Union and its allies (eastern communist nations).

What was the conclusion of the Cold War? ›

The largely peaceful collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989, the reunification of Germany in 1990, and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 traditionally signify the end of the Cold War, which had dominated international relations for more than forty-five years.

How did the Cold War change the world? ›

As a result of the Cold War, governments around the world became increasingly focused on security and defense. This led to a shift in political power away from traditional political parties and towards those that were more focused on military and defense issues.

Which is the best description of the Cold War? ›

Three key features defined the Cold War: 1) the threat of nuclear war, 2) competition over the allegiance (loyalty) of newly independent nations, and 3) the military and economic support of each other's enemies around the world.

What is the basic history of the Cold War? ›

The Cold War was a period of geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies, the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc, that started in 1947, two years after the end of World War II and lasted to 1991, the fall of the Soviet Union.

What was the US main goal in the Cold War? ›

In the Cold War, the United States would maintain its stance that the only way to halt the expansion of communism was through development of increasingly advanced weapons systems.

What is the Cold War kids summary? ›

A Cold War

This conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union is known as the Cold War because neither country ever directly attacked each other. This was because each country had nuclear weapons. Both the United States and the Soviet Union feared neither country would survive a war with nuclear weapons.

What was the Cold War and why was it considered cold? ›

The Cold War was called cold because the featured heavyweights, the Soviet Union and the United States, were nominally "at peace." But they engaged in circling each other, jabbing at each other, testing each others' supposed weaknesses in every part of the world, in the Byzantine politics of the United Nations, and in ...

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