1. The devastation of Europe during World War II spread from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean, with many like France and Germany left it utter ruin.The U.S. government insisted that unless a strong capitalist economy backed by democratic governments were supported they would be prime targets for the perceived aggression of communist Soviet Union and could potentially become a bigger threat to US interests that fascist Germany. This political concept was known as the Truman Doctrine and the economic aid package was known as the Marshall Plan. Secretary of State George Marshall devised a rebuilding plan to aid much of Europe, sending $13 billion dollars over the course of four years to Europe for reconstruction. Although the Soviet Union was invited to join in the plan, Josef Stalin considered it merely a veil for American aggression and refused to allow any countries under Soviet control to receive aid.
The Truman Doctrine would become the single greatest influence over the growth of tensions in post-war Europe, leading to what would become known as the Cold War. The Truman Doctrine essentially laid a foundation for America’s role in protecting the world from communism and in 1949, U.S. formed a coalition with democratic countries in Europe and North America called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). NATO was a military pact more than anything else, and it was designed to ensure peace in the Europe through the show of strength. Although the Soviet Union and communism fell in the late 90’s, NATO is not only still in place, but is populated by more countries than ever, including some that used to be under Soviet domination.
2. The Cold War is the term given for the decades of tension and rivalry that existed primarily between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, but in a larger sense between the different economic ideologies of capitalism and communism. It is given the name Cold War because there were never any actual weapons exchanges between the two countries. The elemental source of the tension between America and the Soviet Union was the incompatibility between the political potentialities of capitalism and communism. Every social aspect adheres to a country’s economic ideology and as such there was very little common ground on which the two superpowers could meet. In addition, the atrocities committed by such Soviet leaders at Stalin and Khrushchev lent the Americans a sense of moral superiority, just as the moral crises of racism and the Vietnam war assured their Soviet counterparts that communism held the moral high ground. Extremists on both sides ranging from Joseph McCarthy in America to Leonid Brezhnev in Russia acted as thermostats of public opinion, molding a general consensus among the population that followed the propagandistic devices each country used to coerce its citizens. The Cold War was marked by the arms race between the U.S. and Russia to build an arsenal of nuclear bombs and the height of tensions came during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, which would prove to be the closest the world would come to all out nuclear war. Following that near-miss, the policy generally fell into one of containment, with both sides spending more to make sure the other didn’t get an arms advantage and in the process under funding social programs. The single most identifiable symbol of the Cold War was the Berlin Wall, which came tumbling down in 1989 following the collapse of the communist regime through Eastern Europe. The actual collapse of the Soviet Union cam be attributed to many factors, but foremost among them must be considered the lack of a strong, long-term leader following the death of Leonid Brezhnev, and the high cost of the country’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

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