*** war and social upheaval: The Cold War country trends

The Cold War: Regional Country Trends

Soviet Cold War cadets
Figure 1.--These Soviet Ukranian boys are participating in a military parade, perhsps May Day in 1947. They were probably cadets in a military academy. Communist doctrine accused capitalist states of militaism. In fact it was the totalitarian powers that massed huge militry forces.

The Cold War was a global struggle. It was centered on Europe, however, this was often obscured by the subsequent global aspects of the struggle. Stalin had plotted to conquer Europe withthe NAZI-Soviet Non-Agression Pact. With the defeat of NAZI Germany, he continued to pursue this goal. Thus Germany and Berlin were ground zero in the Cold War. America's European allies played critical roles in the Cold War. but without America, Western Europe could not have resisted the Red Army and Soviet domination after World War II. In Eastern Europe, East Germany was the key for the Soviets because of the potential power of a united Germany, And because of its geographic lovation, Poland became a key country in the Cold War. For without a compliant Communist Poland, a the Communist East German regime was untenable. Unfortunately for the Soviets, Poland proved the most difficult country in their Eastern European empire to contol. With the construction of the Berlin Wall, the Cold War division of the continent was essentilly frozen and the struggle moved to theThir orls. There the Communist victoryin the Chine Civil War (1949) had made the Cold war global. With Russia and China Communist, the Cold War becme an epic struggle between Totalitarian Communism and the liberal democracie--America and the Western democracies. The stuggle became more complicated when the Chinese and Soviets split. Than Nonaligned countries like India found these selves fighting Communist China as asking for aid from their former colinal masters. The two major hot wars (Korea and Vietnam were fought in Asia. Other struggles were fought in Africa, Ltin America and the Middle East. Fortunately for the Democracies, they had ascret weapon. The totalitarian powers had chosen an economic systm that did not work--Communism. Rather than generate wealth like capitlism, Communism actully destroyed wealth. The reult was the Soviet Union imploded and China decided to adopt market capitalism. Our discussion of the Cold War is primarily based on a chronological flow of events. This of necesity condenses the Cold War into its essence--a struggle between the Soviet Union and America. Thus developments in individual countries, especially the European countries most affected by the struggle are not adequately presented. Here we will collect information on development in specific countries during the Cold War. Here we are just beginning this assessment.


Africa with few exceptions (Ethiopia and Kiberia) was divided into European colonies at the end of World war II and the beginning of the Cold War. The European countries attempted to hold on to their colonies after World War II. The major exception was India which rapidly moved toward independence, especially when the Labour Party won a general election after VE Day (1945). A series of costly guerilla wars (1940s-50s) largely fought outside of Africa, except for Kenya. convinced the European powers not to resist de-Colonization. None of the Europeans publics supported costly military eddorts to maintin colonial empires. And the United states did not support their Europens allies in such an effort. Here the Cold War was involved. Decolonization and the Cold war begn at about the same time. The Soviets supporte Decolinization. Few in the Third world noted the vast Russian colonies in central Asia and Eastern Europe. Belgium, Britain, and France rapidly moved toward decoloniization. Decolonization occurred much more rapidly than anticipated. None of the European colonies jadc adequatly prepared their colonies. The British began the process in Ghana (1956). The Belgian Congo was a special case. These countries had poorly trained leaders, many of whom thought Soviet styled political and economic organization provided for rapid modernization and conveniently permanent personal power for them. The public in many countries were also attracted. They were impressed with Soviet power and the apparent success at socialism and economic planning to achieve rapid development. This lead to Africa becoming a new front in the Cold war. This was complicated by Portugal attempting to maintain their colonial possessions. South Africa and Rhodesia attempted to maintain white racist control. Soviet arms led to the Ogadon War and the Soviets switching sides. Cubans served as Soviet surrogates. The Cold War experience in Africa was not as ideological as in other regions. A range of other issues, including de-colonization, tribal issues, racism, national differences became mixed in with ideologiccal issues. The result was that the high hopes of independence were for the most part dashed. Despoite billions of dollars of aid, living standards in many African countries actully declined after independence. Only now is democracy and free market reforms in some of the contries beginning to have some impact in improving living conditions.

America, Latin America

The Latin America countries mostly joined the United States in World War II, although some like Argentina did so reluctantly. There was in the region a generalized resistance to American influence. The domination of many countries by military governments or civilian regimes strongly influenced by the military mean, however, that there was at first general support for the United states in the Cild War. This gradually shifted as socialism gradually gained increasing popular support, especially after Fied Castro seized power in Cuba (1959). As a result, the Cold War turned hot in several countries. [Brands] And the nuclear stand-off between America and the Soviet Union almost ended with tne Cuban Missle Crisis (1962). Guerrilla wars broke out in several countries , mestaticizing in both rural and urban fighting. Military regimes brutally supressed the Communist insurgenvy (Argentia, Brazil, Chikle, and Uruguay). The Communists won (Nicaragua). Fighting also occured in several other countries (Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador, and Guatemala). A stange variant occurred with the Shining Path in Peru. Liberation theology emerged from the knce conservative Catholic Church. Despite abject economic failure, the Cuban Revolution continues to attract accolytes like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela who somehow failed to get the message that the Cold War is over and that socialism does not work. While the military leaders who supressed the Communists during the 1970s are today reviled in Latin America, the free market reforms they introduced and the democratic governments they turned over power to are among the most successful in Latin America, especially Brazil and Chile. In sharp contrast, the countries that have pursued socialist revolutions (Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela) are economic basket cases.

America, North

North America is dominated by the United States and Canada. The Cold War at its essence was a struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States the two super powers emerging from World War II. America's European allies played critical roles in the Cold War, but without America, Western Europe could not have resisted the Red Army and Soviet domination. America unlike the Europeans emerged from the War largely undamaged and with a strong vibrant economy. In many respects Ameriva was strengthened by the War. Amrican industry emerged from the depression and with a much stringer technical and reserach base. And the country for the first time as a result of Pearl Harbor has a more realistic concept of its place in the world. Only slowly, however, did the public understand the Soviet threat. There was a real possiblity that like World War I, Ammerica might withdraw from Europe. Ultimately under President Truman's guidance, America provided both the nuclear umbrella and the economiic strength that enabled the Europeans to recover from the War and to build strong sucessful ecinomies. America has been criticized for some of its Cold War decisions such as supporting dictators or especially the Vietnam War. Certainly as in any such struggle, mistakes were amde and and startegies and tactics can be debated. Ultimately the American Cold War effort destroyed the totalitarian Soviet Empire, what President Regan called the Evil Empire, and allowed small nations in Europe and around the world to live and develop their futures in peace. It also created an economic sysytem that has allowed now billions of people around the world to merge from poverty and lead a prosperous life. Canada altthough a much smaller country, nonethless played an important role. As it did in World War II, played its part in the Cold War, joining NATO and the UN effort to save South Korea. Canada's commitment to NATO has remained solid, but its outlook toward the developing world varied at times from that of the United states.


The Cold War began in Europe and after the Communist victory in China expanded to Asia. There the United States fought to major wars to prevent the spread of Communism. The first was a straight forward invasion of South Korea by North Korea, made possible and incouraged by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Chinese intervention resulted in a major commitment by the United States to Nationalist China (Taiwan). Both South Korea and Taiwan becamne major sduccess stories, evolving into vibrant modern economies and democracies while North Korea abd China descended into poverty and repression. After the Vietminh defeated the French (1953), the United States gradually expanded its commitment to anti-Communidt forces. The resulting Vietnam War is a much more murky chapter and American assessments are largely based on author's political orientation. What is not a matter of controversy is the fact that several million Vietnamese and Cambodians were killed or died after the American withdrawl and many others sprnt years in Communist prison camps. And Vietnam descended into both poverty and repression. The British fought a smaller war and defeated a Communidt insurgency in Malaysia. Here Islam was a factor. India managed to maintain British style parlimentary democracy--a phenomena that was under reported in the Cold War era. India's commitment to socialist economics, however, meant that the economy stagnated. A Communist effort to take over Indonesia failed, again Islam was a factor. Singapore emerged as another of the Asian tigers. The failure of the Great Leap Foeward and the Cultural Revolution along with the break between China and the Soviet Union, greatly complicated the Cold War. And a the Soviet Union implpded, ending the Cold war, you have the phenomenon of the a country calling itself Communist and maintaining a political dictatorship while not only permitting, but actually promoting free enterprose capitalism.


The Cold War in its essence was a struggle between the Soviet Union and America, primarily over the future of Europe. It began with the Soviet Union denying democratic choice to the people of Eastern Europe and establishing a European empire. This was followed by an attempt to subvert Western Europe by desguising Soviet expznsionism in uplifting Communist ideology. Unfortunarely for the Soviets, their conduct in Eastern Europe combined with the economic engine of market capitalism, convinced the people of Western Europe to reject Communism. America's European allies played critical roles in the Cold War. but without America, Western Europe could not have resisted the Red Army and Soviet domination after World War II. Germany with its powerful economy was the key Europe. And Soviet befavior in Germany essentially immunized the Germans from Coimmunism. The Americans showed with the Berlin Air Lift that they would stand with the West Germans and other West European states to resist Communism. The subsequent West German Economic Miracle convinced the vast majority of East Germns came to see their government and Communism as an oppressive regime condeming them to failure. Soviet fear of Germany made it immpossible for the East Germans to question Communism. The Berlin Wall was part of this focus on Germany. It becamne, however. a symbol of Coomunist vfailure and oppression. Popular rejection of Communism did occur elswhere behind the Iron Curtain. And because of its geographic lovation, Poland became the epicenter for the Cold War. For without a compliant Communist Poland, a Communist East German regime even with Soviet support was untenable. Unfortunately for the Soviets, Poland proved the most difficult Eastern European satellite country to control. Developments in other European countries are important, but the Cold war was largely fought over Germany. It began and ended in Berlin. And Poland played a critical role in undercutting the East German regime.

Middle East and North Africa

The Middle East and North Africa had been a battlefield in the War, especially North Africa. Much of the region had been a part of the British, French, and Italian colonial empires. The British did not attempt to rule as colonkizers, but the French and Italians did. Most of the region rapidly achieved its independence after the War, although the French made a major effort to maintain its control over Allgeria. The region was buffeted by European totalitarian politics, in part because it fit the Islamic outlook and because the Germans first and the later the Soviets offered support to resisting British and French colonialism. The pro-NAZI suport was fueled by the Zionist experiment in Palestine and even more by the actual crearion of a Jewish state after the War (1948). Soviet policy was at first uncertain, but soon aligned with the more radical Arab states attempting to destroy Israel. Vast quantities of Soviet arms flowed into the Middle East making it the most heavily miltatized region in the developed world. Soviet alliances easily replaced the NAZIs. Poorly educated Arab rulers saw the Soviet Union as the template for rapid modernization, hiving rise to Arab Socialism. Soviet police state approaches also was a way for Arab rulers to hild on to power permanently. The development of oil began even before World War II and expanded rapidly after the War. The Soviets did not need Middle wastern oil, but the West did and thus was a way of pressuring the West. The Middle East divided into countries with ties to the West and other with close ties o the Soviet Union. None of the countruies, however, adopted free market economies and liberal democracies. As result, none of the countries developed successful economies unless they had oil and gas resources. Vast resources were wasted on military spending and wasteful government spending. With the end of the Cold War, the experiment with Arab Socialism had ended, but authoritarian regimes ruled most countries and radical Islam was increasingly wining converts in the region, in part because of the failures of Arab leaders. There is a continuing tendency in the region to blame problems on the West. One author writes, for example, 'To maintain superiority, control and influence over the region, the West has placed corrupt Arab leaders into positions of power ...." The most aggregious Arab leaders (Assad, Mubrack, Qadafi, Sadam and others) were not installed by the West, but by the dynamics of Arab politics.


Oceania was also involved in the Cold War. Australia and New Zealand strongly supported the United Srates in thecearly phase of the Cold War. After the Vietnam War, both countries took a more left-wing drift. The major battle ground in Oceania during the Cold War was Indonesia. President Sukarno attempted to engineer a Communist tajeover (1965). The Indonesian military responded by the defeating the attempted coup with a horendous bloodbath.


Australia mobilized it economy to wage World War II. Australia joined Britain in World War II after Germanybinvaded Poland (September 1939). The Australians assisted the British War World War II effort primarily in the Mideast. Communist controlled unions were not helpul in the War effort. The Soviet Union which controlled the Communist unions began the War as a NAZI ally. This changed with the NAZI invasion of the Soviet Union (Junr 1941). After Pearl Harbor, Australia for a time was threatened by Japanese attack. The Government took over management of tge economy. Many Australians like Americans and Europeans after World War II and the Soviet actions in Eastern Europe became increasingly concerned with the spread of Communism. Many saw Communism received a great deal of negative publicity in this country. Many saw Communism as a threat to free market capitalism, private land ownership, religious freedom, and also freedom of speech. And in the years following the War, the extent of Communist abuse of individual rights. A large number of Australians were concerned about communism, but were not prepared to ban the Party, seeing it as infringement of free speech and political association. And in the early years of the Cold war, the full extent of Comminist abuses of individual rights such as the extent of the Gullag were not fully understood. This was important because there was as in Britain, considerable left-wing sentiment within the labor movement. For the most part this was the socialist democratic left, but the Communists did control some unions. The left compalained of 'Red baiting' while the right complained that leftist-influnced labor unions were waging 'class struggle' rather than participating responsibly in economic affairs. The Australian Government did not immediately remove war-time controls on the economy. They continued into the late-40s. A large exception was the direction of labor, although New Australians were still supposed to work wherever they were directed for 2 years. The North Koreans under Stalin's guidanced invaded South Korea (June 1950). The United States as part of a United Nations effort intervened to save South Korea. This meant increased military spending in Asia and a Korean economic war boom. Australia joined the U.N. effort. The Menzies Government lifted price controls in the midst of the Korean War boom and also nincreased military spending. The result in Australia was run-away inflation during the early-50s. At first Communism ooked like a far away European problem. The Communist victory in China changed this (1949). Suddenly the Communists were much closer to Australia. Prime Minister Menzies attempted to ban the Communist Party by parlimrntary legislation. The High Court stopped that. A referendum also failed to achieve the dissolution of the Australian Communist Party (1951). One of the most important Cold War incidents in Australia was the Petrov Affair (1954).


The Indonesian nationalist movement grew in the early 20th century ubder Durch rule. The Japanese occupied the Dutch East Indies (DEI) at the onset of the Pacific War (February 1942). The DEI was the cornerstone of the Souther Resource Zone (SRZ), providing the oil needed to continue the war in China and fight the Pacific War with the Americans. The Japanese as a matter of policy offered independence, buthad no intention of ctually granting it. This brought them the support of the nationalist movement with generally colaborated with the Japnese during the War. THe Japanese formed an Indonesian colonial milita. Many nationlists serbved in the militia or the Japanese colonial afministration. This gave the nationalists arms for the first time. When the Japanese surendered (August 1945), most of the DEI was still in Japanese hands. The DEI was a huge archipelago it took the Allies some time to accept the Japanese surrender and for the Dutch to return and resume colonial rule. Thus the natuinalists had tome to secure arms and organize. The result was the 4-year war of independence. The Dutch finally gave up and departed (1949). The Indonesians attempted to create a liberal parlimentary democracy, but it proved to be highly unstable. The Chinese Communist Party grew to become a strong force in the country through the trade union movement and peasant organizatiins at the village level. President Sukarno dominated the country for two decades a period during which he carefully balance the conservative Army, the PKI, and his personal rule. the Communist Party (PKI) grew in strength making this balancing act increasingly difficult. Sukarno gradually swung tothe left and critism of the United States. He did not have his own political party, but depended heavily on the PKI. Sukarno appears to have been involved in a PKI coup attempt (1965). The coup was supressed by the Army commannded by General Soeharto who then launched a bloody campaign to eliminate the PKI and its suporters. General Soeharto replaced Sukarno and dominated Indonesia for three decades. He moved Indonesian back toward support of the West.

New Zealand


The Philippines became a staunch American ally in the developing Cold War. The Philippines and the United States signed a military assistance pact (March 1947). The Philippines granted the United States a 99-year lease on designated military, naval, and air bases. This was later reduced to a 25 year period (beginning 1967). The Cold War began in Europe, but developed in Asia and Oceania as well. The massive tak of rebuilding a war-devestated new nation was aided by extensive American asistance. There were, however, major problems. One of the most serious was a Communist insurgency. The Communist-dominated Hukbalahap guerrillas (Huks) were active in central Luzon. They employed terror and other forms of violnce to achieve land reform and achieve political power. They were a mjor threat for nearly a decade. Minister of National Defense Ram�n Magsaysay (and future president) oversaw a major military effort to supress the Huks insurgency (1954). While not dstroyed, the Huks wre defeated as a major military threat to the democratically elected Government. The Philippines joined the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (1954). There were difficulties with the United States over American military installations. Consideranle anti-Americanism entered Filipino political discourse. The major issues involved seemed to have been the military bases. The bases were an important contribution to the Philippines economy, but apparently offended Filipino poklitical sensibilities. The United States formally recognized full Philippine sovereignty over the bases (1956). Tensions with the United states continued until some of the bases were dismantled and the lease period reduced (1959). The United States for its part rejected Philippine financial claims and proposed trade revisions. The Huk insurgency flared again (1960s).


Brands, Hal. Latin America's Cold War.

Cohen, Stephen P. "Pakistan and the Cold War," Superpower Rivalry and Conflict: The Long Shadow of the Cold War on the 21st Century, ed. Chandra Chari (Routledge, 2009).

Deery, Phillip. "Malaya, 1948: Britain's Asian Cold War?" Journal of Cold War Studies (Winter 2007) Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 29-54.

Gray, William Glenn. Germany's Cold War: The Global Campaign to Isolate East Germany, 1949-69 (University of North Carolina), 251p.

Greenwood, Sean. Britain and the Cold War, 1945-91.

Hilton, Stanley E. "The United States, Brazil, and the Cold War, 1945-1960: End of the Special Relationship," The Journal of American History Vol. 68, No. 3 (December 1981), pp. 599-624. (article consists of 26 pages)

Hudson, G.F. The Hard and Bitter Peace: World Politics Since 1945 (Praeger: New York, 1967), 319p.

Sebestyen, Victor. Twelve Days: The Story of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution (Pantheon, 2006), 340p.

Sheinin, David M. K. Argentina and the United States: An Alliance Contained (University of Georgia Press, Athens and London, 2006), 277p.

Wise, David. The Invisible Government.

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Created: April 24, 2004
Last updated: 9:49 AM 10/24/2020