The Soviet Union was very concerned about its security after having been invaded and almost defeated twice in the twentieth century. It felt vulnerable being surrounded by hostile democratic states and preferred to have smaller communist states protecting it, thus the Iron Curtain descended. The Iron Curtain refers to an imaginary barrier through Europe that separated Russia and its communist allies from the rest of the democratic nations in the west. The states on each side of the Iron Curtain acted as buffer states in case of war.
America on the other hand was not at all concerned about its security. Many other western countries had encouraged America to take leadership in the west because of its stability and ability to ensure protection to the other smaller, less powerful countries. America was the most powerful country at that time and many nationalistic Americans felt that America should behave like a super-power and take the leading role in world affairs. America had always needed to invest money abroad to ensure its economic status. This would certainly not be possible should the Soviet Union dominate the other countries.
In 1945 when America was able to create and use the atomic bomb, the USSR felt insecure and was determined to create one of its own. After that, Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) were built up into huge arsenals by the USSR and America. Both sides soon had the power to wipe out the not only the enemy, but the rest of the world as well. The United States exploded a hydrogen bomb in 1952, and the Soviets tested on year later. Both nations rushed to develop missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
In November 1955, the USSR managed to come up with a hydrogen bomb, in response to the one tested by USA in 1952. After that, the USA moved its bombers to Europe to threaten Moscow for the first time. In 1955, West Germany, even with much protest by the Allied citizens, was allowed to re-arm and join NATO. The USSR responded by signing the Warsaw Mutual Defense Pact, promising military aid to each other.
In 1957 the Soviets used a missile to launch a satellite, Sputnik 1, into orbit around the earth. The arms race then became a space race as the United States rushed to launch its own satellites, some for military purposes.
US’s first atomic sub
US’s second atomic sub
US’s first Atomic Warship
Shoulder Anti-Aircraft Missile
During the Cold War, both the United States and the Soviet Union tried to demonstrate their power. The space race was an opportunity for the two nations to show their technological capabilities. The U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were in fierce competition for superiority in space as they repeatedly tried to top each other.
The first space flights planned were in the form of unmanned satellite launches. The Soviet Union launched Sputnik I on October 4, 1957 and it was the first orbiting satellite. On November 3, the Soviet Union set another record when it launched Sputnik II with the first living creature in space, a dog named Laika. On January 31 of the following year, the United States reacted with Explorer I, its first satellite.
The next level in the space race was the sending of a human into orbit around the earth. The U.S. began its Mercury program with an unmanned 18 minute flight on January 31, 1961 that carried a chimpanzee. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union went forward with its Vostok program. On April 12, Yuri Alekseyvich Gagarin became the first human in space when he completed one orbit in a 108 minute space flight aboard Vostok I. Later, in June 1963, Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space. The United States began to catch up on February 20, 1962 when John Glenn orbited the earth three times in under five hours. The legendary US Apollo 11 mission, carrying Neil A. Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, and Michael Collins, began with its launch on July 16, 1969. Neil Armstrong became the first person to step on the moon. Therefore, the US won the space race to the moon.
The Berlin Wall:
The Berlin Wall which was built in 1961 brought the tension in the Cold War to great heights. Dissatisfaction with forced collectivization of agriculture, repression of private trade and supply gaps, an increasing number of people left the GDR. The open border between the Soviet sector and the Western controlled sectors in Berlin permitted thousands of East Europeans to escape from Soviet rule. This had a negative impact upon the economies of East Europe and it served as a great political embarrassment for the Soviet Union.
The government of the GDR made efforts to prevent the people from leaving. On Sunday, August 13, 1969 the GDR blocked off East Berlin from West Berlin with barbed wire. Citizens of each state were no longer allowed to enter the other state. A few days later the barbed wire was replaced by the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall had a total length of 166km and was about four meters high. There was a trench behind the wall to prevent vehicles from breaking through, watchdogs, watchtowers, bunkers and a second wall. From 1961 to 1981, there were 37,800 cases where people successfully traversed the Berlin wall from the East to the West. There were over one-hundred killed in attempts to climb over it.
The three Western powers and the the U.S.S.R. were in conflict over the future political structure of Germany. The Soviet Union objected to the Western plans for a common currency and threatened to blockade Berlin. The issue was not capable of being resolved. On June 24, 1948, the Soviet Union stopped all shipments to Berlin from West Germany and cut off electricity to the three Western sectors of Berlin. The Berlin blockade lasted 320 days as Great Britain and the United States supplied up to 13,000 tons of food and other items in an airlift to West Berlin. A total of 200,000 flights were made and a total of 1.5 million tons in supplies were delivered. The blockade ended on May 12, 1949 when the Soviet Union reluctantly gave in to Western plans.The Berlin border reopened in November 1989. The reunification of Germany took place on October 3, 1990.
In 1962, Communist Cuba asked the Soviet Union for military assistance as they were convinced that the USA was planning an attack on them. The USSR sent Cuba materials to build missile bases and launch sites. When the president of USA, John Kennedy heard that Cuba could launch missiles to cities in America, he demanded that the USSR remove its weapons and troops in Cuba. During that period, the whole world stood dangerously on the edge of a breakout of nuclear war. The USSR however, removed its weapons even with protest from the communist Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
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