Cold War Essay

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During the era of the Cold War (1945-1990), the United States pursued a variety of foreign policies. These policies originated during different stages of the Cold War and their effects had changed the nation forever. Several of these policies were containment, détente, and arms control (limitation). The Cold War resulted from other earlier, foreign policies but came to a conclusion from these policies.

Containment was exemplified in both the Korean War (1950-1953) and the Vietnam War (1959-1975) that involved Soviet backed governments attempting to conquer other non-communist governments that eventually were supported by the United States. The foreign policy of the United States during the Cold War was driven by a fear of the spread of communism. Eastern Europe had fallen under the domination of the Communist USSR, and China was ruled by Communists. United States policy makers felt they could not afford to lose Southeast Asia as well to the Communists.

The Korean War began on June 25 when the North Korean army, substantially equipped by the Soviet Union, crossed the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea. The United States immediately responded by sending supplies to Korea, and it quickly broadened its commitment in the conflict. On October 25th, China entered the war on the side of North Korea and the communist forces struck again, this time in massive numbers. The United States feared that Korea would become united into a Communist nation by North Korean and would prevent this action by the use of force. South Korea was not already a communist nation and the United States policy of containment was to preserve a free world in which communist powers would not spread into other nations. The United States would contain the already communist nations but not allow the spread of any more communist states or satellites.

This policy of containing communism would be utilized throughout the Cold War especially during the Vietnam War, the Germany-Berlin conflict, and the Hungarian revolt. The United States would not allow a communist nation to spread and expand by the use of military force and intimidation. In both the Vietnam War and in Berlin, the United States attempted to contain the Soviet supplied North Vietnam and East Berlin from expanding into South Vietnam and West Berlin. However in the Hungarian revolt, the United States refused to assist an already communist satellite nation into becoming free of the USSR and communism because they had no desire to provoke any more conflict than needed.The policy of détente was illustrated in both Ping-Pong Diplomacy and the Helsinki Accords of 1975 in which the USSR and the United States exchanged diplomatic negotiations. Ping-Pong Diplomacy was the initiative that paved the way for diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Communist China. China had not allowed any Americans to visit China since the Chinese Communist victory in 1942 led by Mao Zedong and the opportunity for diplomacy presented itself through the game of Ping-Pong. Relations with China were detrimentally strained by both the Korean War and Vietnam War in which the United States and China fought each other over the spread of communism. Chinese premier Zhou En-lai invited Western countries competing in the world table tennis championships in Japan to visit China on their way home and ultimately, the action led to President Nixon's notorious trip in 1972. The United States was attempting to ease the tension between the US with China by cultural contact and understanding through the policy of détente.

President Nixon's policy of détente differed immensely from that of previous containment policy used by President Truman and later presidents. Détente was an effort by both the United States, China, and the USSR to gradually end the Cold War. These peace talks and negotiations would ease tensions and prevent conflicts over the spread of communism in Europe, Central and South America, and Southeast Asia. The goal of détente was also primarily to set up treaties between the superpowers in limiting the number of nuclear weapons (arms control limitation) and the prevention of an another arms race and buildup. Even though after President Reagan was inaugurated and diversely changed American foreign policy, détente had settled differences and healed the wounds with the USSR and China that would lead to the end of the Cold War soon after Reagan's tenure.

The Arms Control (limitation) policy was implemented in the SALT I negotiations of 1969 and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty) of 1972. The close proximity of powerful conventional military forces equipped with tactical nuclear weapons greatly increased the risk that a local conflict might escalate into a global nuclear war. In such areas, both powers sought to operate with great restraint, each wary of provoking the other unnecessarily. Both sides led an effort to restrict the proliferation of nuclear weapons through bilateral and multilateraltreaties limiting the further development and production of nuclear weapons and the devices, such as guided missiles, that deliver them to their targets. The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT), between the U.S. and the USSR led to an agreement in 1971 fixing the number of ICBMs that could be deployed by the armed forces of the two nations. This was a policy of arms control accomplished by President Nixon in his efforts to prevent any further nuclear weapon buildup or another arms race.

Arms control limitation policy led to the end of the Cold War by preventing further arm buildups and banning or limiting nuclear weapons that could lead to a nuclear war and more tension. These negotiations and treaties led to interaction and the beginning of the peace process by two rival, bitter enemies agreeing on common goals and ending the threat of a nuclear holocaust. Although as détente was halted by President Reagan's term in office, arms control limitation treaties had founded the beginning of the end of the Cold War in impeding the competition and deep rooted rivalry between the forces of communism and democracy.

Therefore, the Cold War had ended due to the policies of containment, détente, and arms control limitation. Although containment had created conflicts, it also prevented global communist expansion and development that would of caused the Cold War into even further and extended engagement. Détente and the arms control limitation negotiations had eased the tensions between the global juggernauts and directly led to the end of the Cold War.

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