Cold War: Phases and Effects

Meaning Of Cold War:

The term ‘Cold War‘ was for the first time used by Bernard Baruch, an American statesman, and immediately picked up by Prof. Lippmann to describe the situation that had arisen between the Western powers and the Soviet Union by the spring of 1947.

The first signal of this development was given by Winston Churchill in his Fulton speech. He says, “If the Western Democracies stand together in strict adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter, their influence for furthering those principles will be immense and no one is likely to molest them. If however, they become divided or falter in their duty and if these all-important years are allowed to slip away, then indeed catastrophe may overwhelm us all.” He predicted the inevitability of post-war struggle against Russian barbarism.

The cold war is an aftereffect of the second world war. But the cold war is not a new feature. It existed even before World War II. But it is only after World War II that it assumed wider dimensions.

Defining the cold war, Hartman has written, “Cold War is a state of tension between countries in which each side adopts policies designed to strengthen itself and weaken the other by falling short of actual war.”

Origin or Phases Of Cold War:

After the Second World War, the whole world was engaged in a cold war. The origin of the cold war can be divided into the following phases:

  • The first phase from 1946 to 1953.
  • The second phase from 1953 to 1958.
  • The Third phase from 1958 to the present.

First phase from 1946 to 1953:

This is the first phase of the cold war. During this phase, America resorted to direct military intervention through the Truman Doctrine of March 1947 and the economic integration of West European powers by the Marshall Plan of June 1947.

Truman Doctrine:

In March 1947, President Truman addressed a joint session of the American Congress and announced what came to be known as the Truman Doctrine. This is what Truman said on that occasion. “The very existence of the Greek state is today threatened by the terrorist activities of several thousand armed men, led by communists, who defy the Government’s authority…Greece must have assistance if it is to become a self-supporting and self-respecting democracy. Turkey has sought financial assistance from Great Britain and the U.S. for the purpose of effecting that modernization necessary for the maintenance of the purpose of effecting its national integrity. That integrity is essential for the preservation of order in the Middle East. We shall not realize our objectives unless we are willing to help free people to maintain their free institutions and their national integrity against aggressive movements that seek to impose upon them totalitarian regimes. This is no more than a frank recognition that totalitarian regimes imposed on free peoples by direct or indirect aggression, undetermined the foundations of international peace and hence the security of the U.S. The U.S. has made frequent protests against coercion and intimidation, in violation of the Yalta agreement, in Poland, Rumania and Bulgaria…I believe that it must be the policy of the U.S. to support free people who resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures. We must take immediate and resolute action. The free people of the world look to us for support in maintaining their freedom. If we falter in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the world, and we shall surely endanger the welfare of our own nation.”

The Truman Doctrine was a proposal to send military and economic aid to Greece and Turkey. It was a policy of American support to “free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” It was “frank recognition that totalitarian regimes imposed on free people, by direct or indirect aggression, undermine the foundations of international peace and hence the security of the United Nations.”

In May 1947, the American Congress authorized aid to Greece and Turkey. By 1953, it was found that the American policy had completely changed the state of affairs in Greek and Turkey. The guerillas were completely eliminated from the Greek scene. Peace was restored in the country. Railways began to operate normally. Traffic or roads became safe. Bridges were restored. Thousands of new houses were built. Agricultural production surpassed the pre-war level. More land was under cultivation than ever before. The same was the case with Turkey. Peace was restored in that country. Fresh elections were held. The one-party government in Turkey disappeared after 27 years.

Marshall Plan:

In a speech at the Harvard University on 5th June 1947, George Marshall, Secretary of State of the United States observed thus “The truth of the matter is that Europe’s requirements for the next three or four years of foreign food and other essential products, principally from America, are so much greater than her present ability to pay that she must have substantial additional help or face economic, social and physical deterioration of very grave character. It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace.” Again ” Initiative, I think, must come from Europe. The role of this country should consist of friendly aid in the drafting of a European programme and of later support of such a programme as far as it may be practicable for us to do so. The programme should be a joint one, agreed to by a number of, if not all, European nations.

According to Prof. Edward Mead Earle, “It (Marshall plan) was a spectacular example of a fundamental Anglo-American principle of state craft-enlightened self-interest. The government and the people of the United States believed with conviction and sincerity that Europe could survive as free and independent only if recovery were prompt and thoroughgoing. And since they believed that their own freedom was contingent upon the survival of free institutions and political independence in Europe; they were willing to invest to stake more than 10 billion in European recovery. Seen in retrospect, this was the most profitable investment, as well as the largest, which the people of the United States ever have made in their own security and national interest.”

The following lines throw ample light on this phase of the Cold War:

“The Berlin blockade, from early 1948 until May 1949, was the first open test in the Cold War. It was a struggle fought with weapons of blockade and air-lift and only this test but hardened Americans resolution to carry containment through to completion; it also helped to bring the birth of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in April 1949.

This phase of the cold war ended with the establishment of NATO on April 4, 1949. The North Atlantic Treaty was signed in Washington on 4th April 1949, by the United States, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherland, Norway, Portugal, and the United Kingdom. Greece and Turkey became members in February 1952. The Federal Republic of Germany joined NATO in May 1955.

Second phase from 1953 to 1958:

During this period, U.S.A continued to give economic and military assistance against the U.S.S.R. The death of Stalin is 1953, brought some change in the Cold War. There was a temporary recess in the cold war. But soon after, the Russian leaders were not satisfied with the attitude of western powers. As such, the cold war continued during this period.

During this period important treaties such as SEATO and Warsaw Treaty were concluded.


The SEATO is a much more flexible instrument than NATO. According to Sir Francis Low, “The SEATO can never be a complete answer to the Communist menace in South East Asia. It is a make-shift arrangement in that it includes four Asian democracies with total population of something like 475 million. In the words of Chester Bowles, the participation in the Treaty makes up less than 15 percent of the population of free Asia. To rely on an alliance of these nations would be like trying to hold Europe with a NATO consisting of Spain, Portugal, and Greece with the rest of Europe sitting on the sidelines. It would be welcome assistance, but it could hardly be decisive. Again the SEATO cannot be regarded as a treaty with many teeth, since it possesses little in the shape of external strength on the spot beyond the American Seventh Fleet and Okinawa Garrison. Its main purpose is to act as a clear warning to Communist China that any Asian state covered by the treaty can appeal for help either against armed attack or subversive acts from without. To that extent, it is a valuable attempt to draw a line for the protection of nationalist democracies against communist aggression.”


The beginning of this pact was made on the 24th of February 1955, when the Prime Minister of Iraq and Turkey entered into a pact pledging themselves to co-operate for their security and defense. Article 5 of the pact throws membership open to states “actively concerned with the security and peace in this region” (Middle East), and by virtue of Great Britain acceded to the pact on 25th April 1955.

According to Henderson, “The U.S.A. had demonstrated its belief in unqualified support for the aim and ideals of the pact.” According to another statement, this pact is a normal development that should promote peace, stability, and well-being in the area. In no respect can this natural association be deemed hostile or threatening or directed against any other nation.”

The Baghdad Pact:

The Baghdad Pact consists of a Preamble and 8 Articles. The Preamble states that friendly and brotherly relations existing between Iraq and Turkey are in constant progress and it is desirable to implement the contents of the treaty of friendship and good neighborliness concluded between Iraq and Turkey on the 29th March 1946 which recognized the fact that peace and security between the countries is an integral part of the peace and security of all the nations of the world and in particular the nations of the Middle East and is the basis of their foreign policies. Under the above circumstances, the Baghdad Pact was created.

According to Harold Guise, “The whole Middle East area today resembles a huge chess-board for economic and political manoeuvre system matched anywhere else. The complex struggle for post-war economic and political power is nowhere as potentially disrupting as in that part of world.”

According to late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the Baghdad Pact, which was avowedly meant to bring security to West Asia, was about the most potent instrument devised to do everything contrary to what it was intended to do. It is really extraordinary, everything that it was intended to do resulted in doing the very opposite of it.

The Warsaw Pact:

In 1955 eight European Nations, viz. Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Poland, Rumania, and the U.S.S.R. with an observer from Red China met in Moscow, concluded a Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation and Mutual Assistance and decided to set up a joint command of the armed forces of the signatory states. The united command of the armed forces of eight countries was to have its headquarters in Moscow and was to be headed by I.S.Koniev, Marshal of the Soviet Union. The defense ministers or other military leaders of the signatory countries were appointed Deputy Commanders-in-Chief and given Command of the armed forces assigned to the unified armed forces by each respective signatory country. The question of participation of the German Democratic Republic in measures pertaining to the armed forces of the unified command was left to be considered later on.

Third phase from 1958 to the present:

This phase started in 1958. It saw the Cuban Crisis, Vietnam Crisis, etc. During this period, the Partial Test-Ban Treaty, the Non-Proliferation Treaty came into light. However, even now the cold war exists. The West Asia Crisis of 1973 still causes a good deal of war. As a London newspaper observes; The present conflict by far the most formidable in the equipment of both sides are putting the two super-powers into straining the situations. It is unthinkable that the United States should allow Israel to be crushed (if that possibility were to arise) and therefore certain that the Americans would have to pour in planes and guns if Israel urgently needed them. But there is no sign that Washington welcomes having to play this role.

Similarly, it would be almost equally difficult for the Soviet Union to stand by and do nothing if the armies of Arab states, which the Russians have equipped, were to be smashed for the fourth time. The Russians would find it particularly difficult to abandon the Arab States together because of a major political fact; the Arab cause of regaining the world. This same fact makes it impossible for the Chinese to declare themselves neutral.

The Americans, with their barely achieved link with the Russian and Chinese for the explicit purpose of working together to keep the peace, are finding this new link in-operative in these circumstances. Whatever may be going on privately between Washington and Moscow to keep the war from spreading, the fact of this war, fought with superpower equipment, with all the world watching to see which shall let down his client, is bound to exacerbate their relationship.

The kind of misunderstanding that can arise is seen in the allegations coming from Washington that the Soviets are deliberately inciting Algeria, Iraq, and other Arab countries to go to the help of the Egyptians. This must look like a deliberate attempt by the Russians to widen the war. But these actions may, in fact, be due to a Soviet wish to avoid getting drawn into the war themselves. It can easily be seen how such misapprehensions could seriously injure the fragile confidence between the super-powers that both of them want, above all else, peace.

In fact, the cold war today is guided by the ideological factors and also by the desire for superiority by the great powers. This is made clear by the committee on foreign affairs of the U.S.A’s House of Representatives.

Two opposite political lines have crystallized. On the one extreme the U.S.S.R and democratic countries aim at the whittling down of Imperialism and the strengthening of democracy. On the other side, the United States of America and England aim at strengthening of imperialism and chocking of democracy because the U.S.S.R and the democratic countries stand in the way of fulfilling imperialist plans aiming at world domination and crushing democratic countries stand in the way of fulfilling imperialist plans aiming at world domination and crushing democratic movements, a campaign against the Soviet Union and the countries of the new world on the part of the imperialistic politicians of the United States of America and England…and draw up and agree on a common platform to work out its tactics against the chief forces of the imperialist camp.

Role of Asian and African States in the Cold War:

According to M.L.Sondhi, the Cold War was a challenge to the new Asian and African states as it threatened the positive steps towards the construction of diplomatic strategies and policies which had to be undertaken as forerunners of their internationalized socio-economic development.

The resistance to the cross-pressures of the super-powers by the new Asian and African states including India took six main forms of attitudes and opinions.

  • The struggle between the two sides was viewed by these states as being essentially one of the moves on a chess-board rather than a struggle between two systems of a social organization dedicated primarily to moral and ideological considerations.
  • The memory of colonial rule ensured that these states supported international action against policies like racial discrimination which were the legacy of an imperialist era and sought initiatives to deny political roles to states which did not pursue the policy of anti-colonialism with vigor and fortitude.
  • These states sought to extend the scope of activity by the United Nations. They helped to evolve new ideas by which international institutions were revived to help maintain world peace and to promote economic and technical assistance and scientific and cultural co-operation.
  • The new members of the international community urged the importance and utility of the new method of negotiation in settling international issues.
  • Many of the new states sought to avoid military alliances and especially the setting up of permanent military bases which they believed did not enhance but reduced general security.
  • They welcomed economic and cultural co-operation with both the United States and the Soviet Union. An important assumption they made was that neither of those powers had the objective of world conquest. Although the United States and the Soviet Union in their polemical exchanges accused each other of being Hitler’s heir, the new Afro-Asian states believed that even at their worst both of these powers were fundamentally different from the model of Nazi Germany.

Effects of the Cold War:

The following effects of the Cold War are noticed-

  • It created bitterness among super-powers: Although the second world war ended in 1945, yet there is no permanent peace in the world. Still, the world powers continue to devise ways and means to destroy each other.
  • It resulted in a race of armaments: As a result of the cold war, there is a mad race of armaments in various states of both the blocs. Now huge sums are spent for military purposes.
  • It has affected economic development: States are spending large sums on armaments and military preparedness. As a result of this, the economic development of the nation is hampered, because the amount which could easily be spent upon economic welfare and development of a nation was wasted in the manufacturing of nuclear armaments and other destructive weapons.
  • It has given rise to permanent alliances: As a result of the cold war between both the super-blocs, we find that both sides conclude permanent alliances and pacts. NATO, SEATO, CENTO, WARSAW Pacts are the direct result of the cold war.
  • It stood in the way of achieving one world: The cold war created great hindrance in achieving one world. The tension between both the blocs has reduced the U.N.O to just a forum of world opinion.


To conclude we may say that the cold war has greatly affected international politics. After world war II, huge amount has been spent on arms. If the same amount had been spent on the welfare of human beings, the humanity of the world would have been happier and prosperous. It is in the interest of humanity that we should halt the cold war. But there seem to be practically no prospects for the same.

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