“From behind the Iron Curtain, there are signs that tyranny is in trouble and reminders that its structure is as brittle as its surface is hard.”
- General Dwight D. Eisenhower
The Cold War generally refers to the period of tension between the U.S., its allies and the Soviet bloc from the end of World War II in 1945 until the collapse of the Soviet Union (USSR) in the 1990s. A major fear of the Cold War was nuclear war with associated health concerns about exposure to ionizing radiation.
While the United States and the USSR were allies during WWII, the alliance broke up after the Axis Powers were defeated. The main disagreement concerned the differences in opinion regarding how the post-war world ought to look. The United States and other democratic Western nations believed that previously occupied countries ought to be given the opportunity to hold free elections to form their new governments. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, wanted to install communism in its zones of occupation. The differences in political ideology created mutual mistrust between the two superpowers. The Soviet Union resented the intrusion of the United States into European affairs, and the United States felt threatened by the expansionary policy of Communist Soviet Union.
The Cuban missile crisis marks the closest the Cold War came to becoming a full scale nuclear conflict. The United States aimed nuclear missiles, placed in Turkey and Italy, at Moscow and also attempted to overthrow the Cuban regime in the famous Bay of Bigs Invasion. In response, Nikita Khrushchev, Premier of the Soviet Union, met with Fidel Castro to begin construction of nuclear missile silos in Cuba. The U.S. Air Force discrovered photgraphic evidence of the missile preperations and President Kennedy responded by announcing the installation of a military blockade around Cuba. As leaders of the Soviet Union and United States negotiated, Soviet ships attempted to run the blockade, causing the Navy to fire warning shots. Eventually the 13 day crisis ended when the Soviet Union publicly agreed to dismantle and return their weapons to the Soviet Union and the U.S, agreed to secretly dismantle the nuclear weapons aimed at Moscow.
The Cold War never resulted in direct military conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union, but was marked by economic competition, a nuclear arms race, military tension, and proxy wars.