1. The Cold War
  2. Military Blocs
    1. NATO
    2. SEATO
    3. Baghdad Pact
    4. CENTO
    5. WARSAW Pact
  3. Arms Race
  4. End of Cold War
    1. Bandung Conference
    2. NAM: opposition to Military blocs
    3. NAM: Belgrade Summit
    4. Nehru’s speech @1st NAM conference

The Cold War

A major feature of the history of the world for almost four decades after the end of the Second World War was the antagonism between the United States and the Soviet Union and the armed confrontation between the military blocs headed by them. This was the period of the Cold War and the race in the designing and production of ever new weapons of mass destruction. It posed a danger to the very survival of humankind.

Since the end of the First World War, the United States had emerged as the strongest power in the world. After the Second World War, her power had grown still more compared with the European powers who had dominated the world for centuries. This was both in the spheres of economic and military strength. After she acquired the atom bomb, the awareness of her power was further strengthened. The United States at that time was the only country which possessed the atom bomb.

Next to the United States the mightiest power in the world after the Second World War was the Soviet Union. She had suffered more than any other country in the war. Besides the 20 million people that she lost during the war, hundreds of her towns and thousands of factories had been completely destroyed. However, in spite of these losses, her power and prestige had increased. This was to some extent due to the very important role that she had played in defeating Germany. Since the revolution, she had been ostracized and boycotted and had faced the open hostility of the other big powers. However, after the war, a number of countries in Europe, as has already been mentioned, were ruled by communist parties. The Soviet Union exercised a lot of influence over the governments of these countries. As a result of these developments, the isolation of the Soviet Union had come to an end. Also, in many countries of Europe, as well as of Asia, communist parties had emerged stronger after the war. These parties were generally supporters of the Soviet Union. Some of these parties were actively engaged in organizing revolutions in their countries. For example, the communists had been a major force in the resistance against German occupation of Greece. A large part of the country came under their control when the German army retreated from there. However, after the war was over, monarchy was restored in Greece and the new government began to suppress the communists. This resulted in a civil war which lasted till 1949 when the communists were finally defeated.

During the war, Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union had together fought against the fascist countries. Many declarations issued during the war had emphasized that the unity among these countries would continue after the war also and would be the basis of a durable peace and international brotherhood. These declarations had aroused hopes all over the world. However, the war was hardly over when conflicts and tensions began to emerge between Britain and the United States on the one hand and the Soviet Union on the other. The relations between them began to deteriorate and came to be characterized by what has been called the Cold War Gradually, the Cold War became more and more intense and the world was divided into two major blocs — the United States and West European countries forming one bloc and the Soviet Union and the socialist countries of Eastern Europe forming the other. Sometimes the ‘cold’ war became ‘hot’ but the hostilities remained confined to specific areas.

The most important reason for the ‘outbreak’ of the Cold War was the Western countries’ fear of communism. With the increase in the might of the Soviet Union, the emergence of governments ruled by communist parties in Eastern and Central Europe and the growing strength of communist par ties in many parts of the world, alarmed the governments of the United States, Britain and other West European countries. In 1949, the victory of the Communist Party of China in the civil war which had been raging there for about two decades added to the alarm. The United States openly declared that her policy was to prevent the spread of communism. One of the objectives of the massive economic aid that the United States gave to West European countries was also to ‘contain’ communism The United States began to look upon every development in the world from this standpoint, whether it promoted or helped in checking communism Britain and West European countries became aligned with the United States and began to follow a policy mainly aimed at curbing the growth of communism. This had many adverse consequences for democracy, and freedom movements in the colonies Restrictions were imposed on the liberties of the people, for example, in the United States, and justified on the ground of national security and preventing communist influence. The freedom movements in many countries began to be considered unsympathetically by countries which were not themselves colonial powers but were aligned to the colonial powers. For example, the United States supported France in suppressing the freedom movement in Indo China. Countries which wanted to pursue an independent policy and promote relations with the Soviet Union were looked upon with suspicion. All these factors made the international situation tense hi some areas it resulted in wars and in many other areas it led to prolonging of conflicts.

The growing tension in the world was worsened by the setting up of military blocs.

Military Blocs


In 1949, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed for defense against the Soviet Union. The members of this alliance were the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Portugal, Britain, France, Belgium, Holland and Luxemburg. Turkey, Greece, the Federal Republic of Germany and Spain became its members later. A NATO army was created which established its bases in many countries of Europe. Similar military alliances were set up by the United States and Britain in other parts of the world.


In 1954 South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) was setup with the United States, Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, the Philippines and Pakistan as members.

Baghdad Pact

In 1955 the Baghdad Pact was brought into being. It consisted of Britain, Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan and Iran. The United States established its military bases all over the world for use against what she considered the danger of communist aggression. The formation of these alliances and the establishment of military bases worsened the already tense international situation. These alliances and the military bases came to be looked upon by countries, which were not members of the alliances, as a danger to peace and to their independence. In some countries which were members of these alliances, these alliances were very unpopular. For example, when there was a revolution in Iraq in 1958, that country withdrew from the Baghdad Pact which had been named after capital of Iraq.


The name of Baghdad Pact was then changed to the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO). These alliances were generally unpopular in the countries of Asia and Africa as all the imperialist powers of Europe were members of these alliances and used it to suppress the movements for freedom. Most of the countries of Asia and Africa which had won their freedom refused to join these alliances.


As against these Western and Western sponsored alliances, the Soviet Union and the socialist countries of Europe —Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria and the German Democratic Republic formed the Warsaw Pact. Under this pact, the Soviet Union stationed her troops in these countries. However, the Soviet Union and the other members of the Warsaw Pact did not have any military bases in other parts of the world. The Soviet Union had treaties of friendship and mutual assistance with China.

Arms Race

The formation of the military alliances was accompanied by another dangerous development. This was the race for deadlier weapons of destruction. You have already read about the use of two atom bombs against Japan towards the end of the Second World War. For about four years after the Second World War, only the United States possessed atomic weapons. In 1949, the Soviet Union tested her first atom bomb. A few years later nuclear weapons which were thousands of times more destructive than the atom bombs used against Japan, were developed. These were the thermonuclear or hydrogen bombs. The testing alone of these bombs created serious hazards to life. Many movements were launched in all parts of the world to demand a ban on the testing and manufacture of nuclear weapons. Most of the leading scientists such as Einstein and Linus Pauling also supported this demand.

However, the arsenals of nuclear weapons in the world went on increasing. There are so many nuclear weapons in the world today that the world can be destroyed many times over. Along with the nuclear weapons and many other kinds of weaponry, new bombers, submarines and missiles have been developed which can carry these weapons over thousands of kilometers. The race for armaments which was a part of the Cold War has created the danger to the very survival of human race. Vast resources have been spent on developing these weapons. These resources, if they had been utilized for peaceful purposes, would have gone a long way in abolishing want and poverty of which millions of people all over the world are victims.

End of Cold War

cold war timeline

In the 1970s and early 1980s, some beginnings were made to end the Cold War. Agreements were reached between the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate some categories of carriers of nuclear weapons and to reduce the number of certain types of weapons installed in certain areas. The process of ending the Cold War, however, suffered many setbacks, for example:


In 1979, Soviet troops entered Afghanistan. This development increased the tension between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Star Wars

The United States launched a programme of developing new and even more deadly weapons, popularly known as the Star Wars. These weapons would have meant taking the conflict into outer space and launching attacks from there.

However, the world situation began to improve after the mid 1980s and by the end of the 1980s it could be said with much certainty that the era of Cold War had came to an end. By early 1989, Soviet troops were withdrawn from Afghanistan. Many other changes took place from the late 1980s and it is generally agreed that we are now living in a post Cold War world. This can be considered as the most significant and positive development that has taken place in recent years.


Many newly independent nations of Asia and Africa as well as many nations in other continents did not like the military blocs. They began to follow a policy of nonalignment with any military bloc. Their emergence played a very important role in reducing the intensity of the Cold War and in creating an atmosphere of peace. A crucial role in promoting nonalignment and peace was played by India after her independence.

The emergence of the countries of Asia and Africa as independent nations marked a new phase in the history of the world. These countries which had been suppressed and kept under subjugation for a long time came to their own and began to play an important role in the world. Similar developments have also taken place in Central and South America and the Caribbean. The countries which were under European colonial rule in this part of the world have become independent The United States frequently interfered in the internal affairs of these countries, particularly when radical governments came to power and tried to assert their political and economic independence. One of the significant developments in this region was the Cuban revolution which overthrew the corrupt and dictatorial government headed by Batista on 31 December 1958. In 1961, the United States sent mercenaries to Cuba but the invasion ended in a fiasco and was crushed in less than three days.

Having common problems and sharing common aspirations, the peoples of these countries began to act together although there was no organization binding them. However, they began to develop some common understanding on world affairs, particularly on the question of the independence of nations which were still under foreign rule.

Bandung Conference

In 1955, an important event took place which helped to strengthen the unity of African and Asian countries. This was the Afro Asian conference which was held at Bandung in Indonesia. The conference was attended by 23 Asian and 6 African countries. The leaders of three Asian nations, India, China and Indonesia played an important role in the deliberations of this conference. The growing importance of the Afro Asian countries was reflected in the United Nations where on a number of issues the countries of Asia and Africa functioned as a group.

NAM: opposition to Military blocs

Another significant development in the world after the independence of Asian and African countries was the emergence of Non Aligned Movement. You have read before about the Cold War and the formation of military blocs and the growth of tension in many parts of the world. Most of the newly independent countries of Asia and Africa refused to join the Cold War. They considered the formation of military blocs as a serious danger to peace and to their independence. These countries were faced with the enormous task of social and economic reconstruction which could be done only in a world free from war and tension. Some countries in Asia had joined the military alliances and had allowed foreign bases to be set up on their soil. The extension of military alliances and the setting up of foreign bases were considered by most Asian countries as a threat to their Independence and a source of tension. Hence they opposed these alliances. They were also aware of the danger which the continuance of imperialism in some parts of Asia and Africa posed to them and to world peace. The Non-Aligned nations of Asia and Africa, therefore, were in the forefront of the struggle for the liquidation of colonialism. Nonalignment has primarily been a policy aiming at the strengthening of independence, ending of colonialism and promohng world peace. It was not merely a policy of noninvolvement with military blocs but a policy for creating a better world.

India under the Prime Ministership of Jawaharlal Nehru played a pioneering role in making nonalignment a major force in the world. The other leaders who played an important role in the Non-Aligned movement were:

President Country
Sukarno Indonesia
Nasser Egypt
Tito Yugoslavia

NAM: Belgrade Summit

The first summit conference of Non-Aligned nations was held at Belgrade in Yugoslavia in September 1961. It was attended by heads of state or government of 25 countries. Besides Yugoslavia and Cuba, from Europe and the Americas, respectively, the other participating countries were from Asia and Africa. Three other countries attended as observers. The statement issued at the end of this conference affirmed the basic principles of nonalignment such as

  1. the stabilization of peace
  2. liquidation of colonialism and imperialism in all their forms
  3. peaceful coexistence between nations
  4. condemnation of racial discrimination
  5. opposition to military alliances
  6. disarmament
  7. respect for human rights
  8. establishment of economic relations between nations based on equality and free from exploitation

The popularity of the policy of nonalignment was reflected by the number of countries which joined the group of Non-Aligned nations. Beginning with 25 Countries which attended the Belgrade conference in 1961, there are today 109 countries which are following the policy of nonalignment. They are drawn from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. The Tenth Summit of the Non Aligned Movement was held at Jakarta, in Indonesia, in September 1992. The Seventh Summit had been held at New Delhi with India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as the Chairperson, and the Sixth Summit at Havana, in Cuba, in 1979 under the Chairmanship of President Fidel Castro. Two movements of national liberation —the Palestine Liberation Organization and South West Africa People’s Organization —were made full fledged member states of the Non-Aligned Movement. (As mentioned earlier, Namibia, whose struggle for independence was led by SWAPO, has already become independent), All countries of Africa, including South Africa, are members of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Movement has played a very important role in world affairs, particularly in ending colonialism and in promoting peace. The Non-Aligned countries are also working for the creation of a new international economic order in which the economic relations between nations would be based on equality, nonexploitation of one nation by another, and the narrowing down of economic disparities between nations.

Nehru’s speech @1st NAM conference

The word Non-Aligned may be differently interpreted, but basically it was coined and used with the meaning of being Non-Aligned with the great power blocs of the world ‘Non-Aligned’ has a negative meaning. But if we give it a positive connotation it means nations which object to lining up for war purposes, to military blocs, to military alliances and the like. We keep away from such an approach and we want to throw our weight in favour of peace. In effect, therefore, when there is a crisis involving the possibility of war, the very fact that we are unaligned should stir us to feel that more than ever it is up to us to do whatever we can to prevent such a calamity down upon us…

Some six, seven or eight years ago, nonalignment was a rare phenomenon. A few countries here and there asked about it and other countries rather made fun of it or at any rate didnot take it seriously. “Nonalignment” What is this?  You must be on this side or that! — that was the argument. That argument is dead today, the whole course of history of the last few years had shown a growing opinion spread in favour of the concept of nonalignment. Why? Because it was in tune with the course of events, it was in tune with the thinking of the vast numbers of people, whether the country concerned was Non-Aligned or not, because they hungered passionately for peace and did not like this massing up of vast armies and nuclear bombs on either side. Therefore, their minds turned to those countries who refused to line up.

The most fundamental fact of the world today is the development of new and mighty forces. We have to think in terms of the new world. There is no doubt that imperialism and the old-style colonialism will vanish. Yet the new forces may help others to dominate in other ways over us, and certainly the underdeveloped and the backward. Therefore, we cannot afford to be backward.

We have to build in our own countries societies where freedom is real Freedom is essential, because freedom will give us strength and enable us to build prosperous societies. These are for us basic problems. When we think in terms of these basic problems, war becomes an even greater folly than ever. If we cannot prevent war, all our problems suffer and we cannot deal with them. But if we can prevent war, we can go ahead in solving our other problems. We can help to liberate the parts of the world under colonial and imperial rule and we can build up our own free, prosperous societies in our respective countries. That is positive work for us to do.

In next parts we will see:

  1. Independence of Asian countries after WW2 + Korean and Vietnam War.
  2. Independence of Africa

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