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In the USA and the USSR, the cold war drove a number of policies including huge increases in spending on military and research and development related to weapons. It also affected the populace by nurturing an environment and atmosphere of fear and loathing towards the other nation despite the fact that people were still very similar in both places. In the end it had a much more dramatic effect on the economy of the USSR as they were basically bankrupted by trying to keep up with miltary spending in the US.
In other nations there were also serious effects as the Cold War basically served to ignite and intensify other conflicts like the Korean War, the War in Vietnam, the war in Afghanistan between the Soviets and the Mujahadeen, etc.
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