Phases of Cold War

saddam hussain samo
Saddam Hussain Samo on Phases of Cold War

After the Second World War, from 1945 to 1991, the indirect rivalry between the US and Soviet Union like the military coalitions, espionage, arms buildups, economic aid and proxy wars, to dominate the world, can be divided into 7 phases for the broader understanding of how these countries carried out different propagandas by time to destroy each other. Thus, the Cold War is divided into the following 7 phases to make it easier for readers to understand it in the easiest possible way.

1st Phase (1946-1949)

At the conclusion of the Second World War, the Soviet Union formed Eastern bloc by occupying the Eastern European countries like Poland, Bulgaria, Rumania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Eastern Germany and so on and afterwards, converted these countries into its satellite states by establishing communism and destroying democracy from 1946 to 1949.

On the contrary, in March 1947, President of the United States, Harry S. Truman, unveiled the policy of containment also called “Truman Doctrine” to provide political, military and economic assistance to all democratic nations under the threat of communism or to fight communism. As per this policy, the US allocated $400 million to Greece and Turkey to stop the infiltration of communism. Besides, the US declared “Marshall Plan” on 5th June 1947. It was an American initiative to reconstruct Europe, after the end of World War II. The United States provided around $12 billion in economic support to help rebuild European Countries to prevent the spread of communism.

Pakistan and India, the two important countries for the US and Soviet Union got independence in August 1947. Pakistan was not reluctant to support democracy against communism while India followed the policy of neutrality towards the two conflicting super powers.

Soviet’s leaders looked upon the United States with Suspicion after these developments. The US also had a nuclear bomb and could easily defeat the USSR, but it was not in mood to start the third World War. The Cold war turned furious during this phase.

2nd Phase (1949-1953)

The US established a military alliance with the European countries and Canada by signing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on 4th April 1949 to check the influence of communism. The treaty provided collective defense to its members in response to an attack from external party. The sole aim of the alliance was to prevent the further infiltration of the USSR in Europe.

In August 1949, the USSR tested its first nuclear bomb at Semipalatinsk and successfully balanced its power with the US and made the Cold War more complicated. In the same year, a new communist country, China, appeared on the map of the world, creating further problems for the US.  Washington did not recognize People’s Republic of China. As a result, Beijing was drifted towards the Soviet’s bloc as evident in its support for North Korea.

In the Korean War, which lasted from 1950 to 1953, the US jumped to support the democratic government of South Korea against the communist North Korea with the help of the United Nations. The war started when North Korea invaded South Korea with the help of China and the Soviet Union. After the participation of, particularly, the US, the communist regimes found it hard to occupy the entire Korea. As a result, the war ended in 1953 and resulted in the division of Korea into two states__  North and South Korea.

3rd Phase (1953-1957)

Two new US-sponsored treaties emerged in this phase namely South-East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), signed in September 1954 and Middle East Defense Organization (MEDO) in 1955 to prevent communism from gaining ground in these regions. Within a short span of time, America gave military assistance to 43 countries and formed 3300 military bases around the USSR.

Moscow, in the response to NATO and SEATO, concluded “Warsaw Pact” with the Eastern European countries on 14th May 1955. It was a collective defense treaty like NATO.

4th Phase (1957-1962)

In 1960, the U-2 plane incident escalated the tensions between Washington and Moscow. The US flew U-2 spy planes from Peshawar airbase to collect intelligence information. In May 1, 1960, the Soviet Air Defense Forces shot down the plane and captured its pilot.

The Soviet Union constructed Berlin wall in 1961 to divide Eastern Germany from the Western Germany and effectively control the movement of immigrants. It was called the “Symbol of Cold War.”

The Cuban Missile Crisis was witnessed in this phase. In response to the deployment of the missile in Turkey and Italy by the US in the proximity to the USSR, the Soviets, with the support of the Cuban premier, Fidel Castro, started to construct the missile launch facilities in Cuba, 140km away from Florida. The activities of missiles deployment were confirmed by the US when U-2 spy plane produced clear photos of the facilities.

President John F. Kennedy ordered naval blockade to prevent missiles from reaching Cuba. Afterwards, an agreement was signed, under which, the US agreed to not invade Cuba and to dismantle its missiles present in Turkey. The USSR, on the other hand, discontinued its missile program in Cuba. The Cuban missile crisis lasted 13 days from October 16-28, 1962.

5th Phase (1962-1969)

In the wake up of “Cuban Missile Crisis”, there was an urgent need to take measures to prevent the nuclear war between the two conflicting super powers. As a result, a “Hot Line” was established in 1963 between the US and USSR to facilitate the communication in emergency and prevent the nuclear war owing to miscalculation. The Hot Line was a direct communication facility to be used in emergency only.

To reduce nuclear weapons, the partial test ban treaty (PTBT) also called Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT) was concluded in 1963. It is officially known as a treaty banning nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, outer space and under water except underground. The governments of the U.S.S.R., the United Kingdom and the United States signed it in Moscow on August 5, 1963.

Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was also concluded in 1968 to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and its technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to achieve the goal of nuclear disarmament. This phase is a period of nuclear cooperation.

6th Phase (1969-1978)

This phase is marked as Détente meaning the easing of hostility between the United States and the Soviet Union. Richard Nixon became the president of the US in 1969 and he followed the friendly policy towards the USSR to put an end to the cold war. He was the first president to visit China after World War II. He also visited Soviet Union in 1972. His visit to the Soviet Union was a historical achievement because he signed Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty or SALT I with his Russian counterpart Brezhnev to limit the number of ballistic missiles each country could hold.

In 1970, the USSR signed treaty with West Germany and agreed to not use force against her. This greatly contributed in reduction of tensions in Europe. After Nixon’s tenure ended, Jimmy Carter assumed the duties of presidency in the United States and continued the policy of Détente. His attempts were directed to negotiate further reduction in nuclear missiles. Although Carter’s efforts were honest, his attempts to put further limits on nuclear ammunition by signing SALT II in 1979 were hampered because the Congress refused to pass the SALT-II treaty. The basic reason cited for the rejection of SALT II by the Congress was the invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet Union in 1979.

7th Phase (1979-1991)

This phase proved disastrous for the USSR and resulted in its dis-integration. The Détente ended in 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. President Zia of Pakistan offered to act as a conduit to support Afghan Mujahedeen by providing them weapons and training to fight the Soviets. The US, finally, agreed to the President Zia and sent containers full of weapons and bags full of dollars to defeat the Soviets with the help of the Afghan Mujahedeen and Pakistan.

Initially, the policy makers back in Washington did not believe that these rebels would defeat the Soviets. However, the result of war turned out to be surprising for them. According to CIA estimation, by 1983, the total war expenditure of the Soviets was 8 to 10 times higher than the total money US congress spent on Mujahidin. According to CIA director William Casey, who briefed president Reagan in 1984, Mujahedin had killed or wounded 17,000 Soviet soldiers and control 60 percent of the countryside. The war had cost the Soviet’s government about $12 billion. This damage had been purchased by US taxpayers for $200 million plus another $200 million contributed by Saudi Arabia.

As a result, the Soviet Union decided to withdraw from Afghanistan in 1987. In 1991, it was dis-integrated owing to its economic bankruptcy caused by the Afghan’s war. It lost all its satellite states and new Central Asian countries also got independence from the USSR. The cold war finally ended and the US became the unchallenged super-power of the world.


Thus, the phases of cold war started from 1949 and lasted till 1991 when the USSR was finally dis-integrated and gave up its rivalry with the US owing to its economic crisis caused by the Afghan’s war. Some believe that the cold war ended in 1987 when the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, but it kept its support continue to Najibullah communist’s governments of Kabul. It was in 1991 that Moscow gave up all its activities against Washington and hence, marks the proper termination of the Cold War.



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