The Cold War came to define international relations and, at times, even domestic politics. Social change produced upheavals in Western societies. Soviet repression relaxed somewhat after Stalin while still containing the pressures for change.
Section 1 Development of the Cold War
The rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States was the focus of the Cold War. The American Marshall Plan tried to make communism less attractive by providing billions of dollars to help rebuild Western Europe. Germany became divided into two states, with a divided city of Berlin inside East Germany. In 1949 Communists took control in China, and the Soviet detonation of an atomic bomb launched a U.S.-Soviet arms race. Soviet and Western alliance systems spanned the globe. The Cuban missile crisis presented the frightening prospect of nuclear war. American policymakers perceived non-Communist South Vietnam as a domino that must not be permitted to fall to communism. Despite the eventual communist victory, the domino theory proved to be unfounded.
Section 2 The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe
After World War II, Stalinist economic policies brought dramatic economic growth, but at a high cost. Most of the growth was in heavy industry. Consumer goods remained hard to find. Stalin's successor, Nikita Krushchev, condemned Stalinist terror, increased the production of consumer goods, and loosened controls on writers, such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Krushchev's rash decisions, such as the plan to place missiles in Cuba, convinced colleagues to remove him from office in 1964. After World War II, Soviet forces had occupied all of Eastern Europe and part of the Balkans. The occupied states now became Soviet satellites. Yugoslavia was the exception and developed into an independent Communist state. In Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, attempts for reform threatened Soviet domination. In each case, the Soviet Union crushed these reforms by using threats or military force.
Section 3 Western Europe and North America
The 1950s and 1960s were periods of dramatic economic growth in Western Europe. France and Germany both experienced rapid economic recoveries. In Great Britain, dire economic conditions forced Winston Churchill from power. The new Labor government set out to create a modern welfare state and began to dismantle the British empire. The formation of the European Economic Community created a powerful new trading bloc. Canada emerged as an industrial economy. In the United States, the New Deal had brought a long-term increase in the power of the federal government. Prosperity and Cold War suspicions defined the United States in the 1950s. Civil rights and the expansion of the New Deal were defining issues of the 1960s. Students protested U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Simultaneously, a variety of issues sparked student revolts in Europe. Women began to fight against inequalities between the sexes.