For nearly half a century after 1945 the Cold War dominated international relations. The Cold War has been defined as a state of extreme tension between the superpowers, stopping short of all-out war but characterised by mutual hostility and involvement in covert warfare and war by proxy as a means of upholding the interests of one against the other. It might not have become a ‘hot’ war but it was a dangerous era. Indeed, it remained ‘cold’ because the development of nuclear weapons had made resort to war a suicidal enterprise: both sides would be totally devastated by such an eventuality. The struggle between the two sides was accordingly pursued by indirect means, very often at considerable risk, and the resulting tensions ensured that both sides maintained a high and continuous state of readiness for war. The massive expenditures by both sides on research and development of nuclear arsenals and delivery vehicles led to a spiralling arms race which could, in turn, as a result of miscalculation by one side or the other, have resulted in a holocaust. There is a huge bibliography seeking to interpret and explain the origins and development of the ‘Cold War’.
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Michael L. Dockrill
Michael F. Hopkins
- Macmillan Education UK
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