Research topic: The Cold War
The Cold War denotes the period from the end of World War 2 to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The term primarily describes the tense relationship between, on the one hand, the USA and the majority of countries in Western Europe, and, on the other, the Soviet Union and countries in Eastern Europe. The relationship between the two sides, who were organised respectively as members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, was characterised by a high level of armed preparedness and an arms race, as well as a balance of fear based on the possession of nuclear weapons.
The conflict, which did not result in any military conflict in Europe, initially concerned the balance of power in Europe and the control of Germany after the fall of Nazism. The conflict was not simply a geopolitical struggle for military supremacy, but also embodied rivalry between difference social systems - between capitalism and communism, between democracy and totalitarianism.
From the mid-1950s the situation between the two sides in Europe had basically become deadlocked and the Cold War spread to the states that were to become known as the Third World. This was the result primarily of rivalry between the main opponents in the Cold War, but was also the result of attempts by newly independent states to exploit competition between the two blocs for their own benefit. In contrast to the situation in Europe, conflicts in the Third World often developed into long-standing and bloody wars. Both the Soviet Union and the USA fought proxy wars as well as engaging in their own campaigns, in Afghanistan and Vietnam respectively.