The Cold War

Start Free Trial

Why was the conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States called a "Cold War"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The conflict between the USSR and the United States was called the "Cold War" because neither side ever directly engaged the other in a military battle. Both the USSR and United States engaged in proxy wars, such as Vietnam and Korea, in which each side backed or directly fought for...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

governments that the other side opposed, with financial and military assistance.

Remember that the Cold War was a struggle between ideologies, in which each side aimed to bring as many other countries under its sphere of influence. The goal for the United States was not necessarily to gain territory, but rather to halt the spread of Communism and to support any and all governments that resisted it and/or aligned themselves with American interests. This strategy, first articulated under The Truman Doctrine, named for President Truman, came to be known as Containment.

The goal for both sides was generally to avoid a direct, "hot war," if possible, because both sides had vast arsenals of nuclear weapons, and each country came to understand that a nuclear war would likely wipe out human civilization. This theory became known as Mutually Assured Destruction. So while the threat of a third world war and a resulting nuclear holocaust hovered over the almost fifty year conflict, both countries went out of their way to avoid that scenario. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Why was the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union after World War II often referred to as the Cold War? 

After World War II ended, the United States and the Soviet Union were involved in a Cold War. A Cold War is a period of competition and confrontation between countries. After World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union didn’t fight each other directly, but instead, they were involved in a series of confrontations and competitions.

The Soviet Union wanted to spread its system of communism around the world. We wanted to prevent communism from spreading. Thus, we were often in confrontations with the Soviet Union over the spread of communism. When the Soviet Union tried to force the Allies out of West Berlin by blocking all of the land routes into the city, the Allies responded to this crisis by organizing the Berlin Airlift. The Allies flew supplies over the Soviet land blockade leading the Soviet Union to eventually end the blockade. West Berlin never became communist.

When North Korea, supported by the Soviet Union, invaded South Korea in June 1950 to try to unite Korea into a communist country, the United Nations, led by the United States organized a military force to defend South Korea. North Korea was unable to control South Korea.

The United States and the Soviet Union competed in what was known as the space race. The Soviet Union was the first country to put a satellite into space. The United States concerned that it was falling behind the Soviet Union formed NASA and put a great emphasis on math and science education. We were the first country to successfully land an astronaut on the moon in July 1969.

The United States and the Soviet Union also competed in the Middle East. The Soviet Union supported the Arab countries in the region, such as Egypt while the United States supported Israel. Israel and the Arab countries were enemies.

Even in sports, there was competition between the United States and the Soviet Union. Both countries tried to outdo each other in the Olympic games and in world competitions.

The Cold War was an appropriate name for the competitions and confrontations between the United States and the Soviet Union after World War II ended.

Last Updated on