Home The Map as History > The Cold War and Confrontation between East and West 1947-1991
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The ideological and strategic positions taken by the USSR and USA led to the division of large sections of the world into alliances with one or other of the Great Powers. This bipolar situation remained in place despite the emergence of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Europe was the principal theatre for ideological warfare between the Soviet Union and the United States. It was divided into two separate blocs by what Winston Churchill called the 'Iron Curtain".
Faced with threats from the Soviet military powers, the Western European nations and the United States were convinced that they had to negotiate and sign a military alliance in April 1949: the North Atlantic Treaty. The USSR and the popular democratic states in Europe countered this move with the Warsaw Pact which was signed in 1955.
On 24 June 1948, following a decision by the West to introduce a single currency inside their occupied zones, Stalin launched a coup de force by setting up a tight blockade to prevent the delivery of essential supplies to the 2 million inhabitants of West Berlin.
This war cost many lives, but neither side could claim victory. It ended with the long-term division of the Korean Peninsula into two separate states.
The deployment on the island of Cuba of Soviet missiles which could reach almost the entire territory of the United States brought the world very close to an outbreak of nuclear war in October 1962.
During the night of 13 August1961, thousands of soldiers were deployed to supervise the installation of fences and barbed wire around the Western perimeter of Berlin in order to prevent people from fleeing the Eastern European countries for the free world.
Before long, West Berlin was surrounded by a 155-kilometre long wall.
To avoid the spread of Communism to all regions of Vietnam and neighbouring countries, the United States provided support for Saigon in its conflict with Hanoi.
Despite its considerable superiority in terms of men and equipment, the US Army’s involvement was a failure and Vietnam became a unified Communist state.
In 1977 the USSR installed its new SS20 medium-range missiles in Europe which led to a new period of tension between the East and West and sparked a huge series of peace movements.
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