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Cold War

nonaligned nations, World War II allies, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, political ideologies, Soviet bloc

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Cold War, term used to describe the post-World War II struggle between the United States and its allies and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and its allies. During the Cold War period, which lasted from the mid-1940s until the end of the 1980s, international politics were heavily shaped by the intense rivalry between these two great blocs of power and the political ideologies they represented: democracy and capitalism in the case of the United States and its allies, and Communism in the case of the Soviet bloc. The principal allies of the United States during the Cold War included Britain, France, West Germany, Japan, and Canada. On the Soviet side were many of the countries of Eastern Europe—including Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, East Germany, and Romania—and, during parts of the Cold War, Cuba and China. Countries that had no formal commitment to either bloc were known as neutrals or, within the Third World, as nonaligned nations.

American journalist Walter Lippmann first popularized the term cold war in a 1947 book by that name. By using the term, Lippmann meant to suggest that relations between the USSR and its World War II allies (primarily the United States, Britain, and France) had deteriorated to the point of war without the occurrence of actual warfare. Over the next few years, the emerging rivalry between these two camps hardened into a mutual and permanent preoccupation. It dominated the foreign policy agendas of both sides and led to the formation of two vast military alliances: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), created by the Western powers in 1949; and the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact, established in 1955. Although centered originally in Europe, the Cold War enmity eventually drew the United States and the USSR into local conflicts in almost every quarter of the globe. It also produced what became known as the Cold War arms race, an intense competition between the two superpowers to accumulate advanced military weapons.


For younger readers

Bjornlund, Britta. The Cold War. Lucent, 2002. Strong coverage of the origins and development of the Cold War; for readers in grades 5 to 9.

Rice, Earle. The Cold War: Collapse of Communism. Lucent, 2000. For readers in grades 8 to 12.

Sherman, Josepha. The Cold War. Lerner, 2003. For readers in grades 6 to 12.

Cold war

Frankel, Benjamin, ed. The Cold War, 1945-1991. 3 vols. Gale Research, 1992. Reference work on events and participants.

Gaddis, John Lewis. We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History. Oxford University Press, 1998. A leading Cold War historian summarizes events from the end of World War II to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Hixson, Walter L. Parting the Curtain: Propaganda, Culture and the Cold War, 1945-1961. St. Martin's, 1997. On the effectiveness of U.S. propaganda in molding public opinion against Communism.

Judge, Edward H., and John W. Langdon, eds. The Cold War: A History Through Documents. Prentice Hall, 1998. Collection of 130 key documents spanning the history of the conflict.

Matlock, Jack F., Jr. Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended. Random House, 2004. A former ambassador to the Soviet Union discusses the role each leader played in bringing the Cold War to an end.

Toropov, Brandon. Encyclopedia of Cold War Politics. Facts on File, 2000. Focuses on the American experience.

Walker, Martin. The Cold War: A History. Holt, 1994. History of the Cold Way by a veteran British journalist; makes use of documents from Kremlin archives.


Legvold, Robert, A.B., M.A., M.A.L.D., Ph.D. Professor of Political Science, Columbia University.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

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