Day: March 21, 2020

The Cold War by Martin Walker – Book Review

The Cold War by Martin Walker – Book Review

In The Cold War, Martin Walker gives a detailed summary of the Cold War. He opens with an introduction briefly outlining the conflict, as well the changes it brought not only to the nations directly involved, the United States and the Soviet Union and their allies, but to the entire world, especially the East Asian nations. Walker begins the first chapter with the Yalta Conference in the February of 1945, during the closing days of World War II, between the leaders of the “Big Three” powers, Stalin of the Soviet Union, Churchill of Britain, and Roosevelt of the U.S., which he states to be the start of the Cold War. Walker talks about the optimism of the 3 leaders of the future that was to lie ahead of the German defeat. The leaders discussed how Europe was going to be divided among the Allied countries. The author noted that the Soviets have had a long history of being invaded by other forces throughout its history, most famously Napoleon during the 19th century. The Soviets wanted control of the eastern European countries, especially Poland (as the Germans in both World Wars, and Napoleon in 1812 had when through that country to attack the Russians), to have the same system of government working closely with the Soviets, “just in case” of another invasion in the future. Stalin’s desire to make all of Eastern Europe communist led to unease between the leaders. Also, in April of 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had more or less attempted to maintain good relations with the USSR, died. After Harry Truman succeeded as president, American relations with the Soviet Union deteriorated rapidly. The first Soviet nuclear testing in 1949 brought about the Nuclear Age.

The author then proceeds to give the reader some background knowledge about the state of the Europe after World War II. The economy of all of Europe was in ruins, reaching a critical point by 1947. Coal and electricity supplies were acutely short, and food rationing was worse than it had been during the war. There was twice the number of unemployed as there were in the worst days of the Great Depression. The United States was forced to provide billions of dollars of aid and write off billions more in debt. The $5 in loans provided by the US and Canada to Britain was being used up at reckless rate, as the Treasury called it. The terrible winter of 1947 did not help the situation, either. Britain was so poor by that period that it had to grant independence to many of its colonies, including India and Pakistan in 1947. The main reason for the aid is to help bolster economies in order to prevent a communist takeover. This did not prevent people from voting communist in Eastern Europe, however, thus forming the Iron Curtain between East and West Europe. Relief efforts, such as the Truman Doctrine managed to keep Greece and Turkey away from communist rule, and the Marshall Plan provided much-needed relief to the countries of Western Europe. Food aid was provided to parts of Soviet-controlled Berlin by the Berlin Airlift.

Walker goes next to describe the rest of the world, where a civil war is taking place in China between the US-supported government and the Communist forces, the Middle East, where much of the actual fighting caused by the Cold War took place (ironically, noted the author, since the conflict was between white men in the Western world). He talks about the Korean War and the rise of Communism in Asia. All those, he states, added to the tension between the two superpowers of the world, the United States and the Soviet Union.

Walker then describes in detail some major events, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the launching of the first satellite, then the first dog, then finally human, into space, and conferences between American presidents and Soviet leaders. He divides the war into two phases, the first being the period of great tension between World War II and the Cuban Missile Crisis, during which armed forces were brought to full alert, then a “New” Cold War after about a decade of relative calm, brought by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. He also discusses the effects of the War on the economies of both countries, and others involved in it, including the debts that the countries had to accept in order to sustain their development of nuclear arms. Social life during the Cold War is also discussed, describing the everyday life of the people, mainly on the Western side, and how they did various things that are unheard-of and may seem silly today, such as learning how to defend from a nuclear attack, how to build a shelter, and others like peace rallies, songs opposing …