The decades-long “Cold War” (1947-1989) between the United States and the Soviet Union was so named because the two global powers never came to direct blows. Yet, the war was not without its victims. In fact, millions of Cubans, Koreans and Vietnamese suffered under Communist tyranny. In this video, Renowned British historian Andrew Roberts explains why “The Cold War” could just as easily be called “The Third World War.”
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From the end of World War II, the United States and its Western European allies were involved in a nearly half-century long, titanic struggle with the Soviet Union known as “the Cold War.”
It was cold only in the sense that the Russians and the Americans never came to direct blows.
But it was certainly not cold for the Cubans, Koreans, Vietnamese, and others who got caught up in the Communists' relentless drive to destabilize the free, democratic, capitalist world.
There were, to be sure, many morally complex moments during this long struggle, but the Cold War was, at its core, as clear a conflict of good versus evil as World War II had been. Just like that war, the Cold War was a death match between the forces representing freedom and the forces representing totalitarianism.
Because hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions—died in it, the Cold War can, with good reason, be described as 'the Third World War.'
The instigator of this war was Josef Stalin, the mass-murdering dictator of Russia and of the many non-Russian peoples he had incorporated into what was known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or Soviet Union for short.
Stalin knew that his Soviet armed forces could not take on the might of the free West. Instead, he decided to wage this fight through the use of proxies, and by a massive use of disinformation and misinformation.
His initial prey was Eastern Europe: the Baltic States—Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia—as well as Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia. Stalin had troops in all these countries at the end of the war. Despite what he promised American President Franklin Roosevelt at the Yalta Conference, the Soviet leader had no intention of removing them. And gaining control over their governments proved to be quite easy.
In March 1946, Winston Churchill famously declared that “from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”
When Stalin threatened both Greece and Turkey, President Harry Truman finally had enough. The so-called Truman Doctrine was born. The United States and its allies would not permit any further expansion of the communist empire.
The Cold War was on.
For the next five decades, and across four continents—Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America—the US and the Soviet Union battled for influence—sometimes overtly, like in Korea and Vietnam; and sometimes covertly, through their various spy agencies. But the moral lines of this battle never changed: the freedom of the West versus the communist tyranny of the Soviet East.
There are, nonetheless, as there were even at the time, those who argue that the Cold War was an over-reaction by the West: that the ambitions and strength of the Soviet bloc were greatly exaggerated; and that America, with its massive defense build-up, was just as responsible for the Cold War as was the Soviet Union. But this simply isn't true—as an immense amount of archival evidence from Russia, not available until after the Cold War ended, now proves.
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