The Cold War was the characteristic feature of the period following WWII. It was followed by the Marshall plan (1948-52) which helped to reconstruct Western Europe after the war. The Cold W actually started when the Am government decided to test an atomic bomb and 2 bombs were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was dictated by political rather than military considerations. In 1949 most Western Europe, the USA and Canada formed a military alliance the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forming a united front against any possible communnist attack.
The years that followed the war were the years of prosperity for Americans but despite it there were growing fear of communism and new wars. A politician Joseph McCarthy used thise fears to win power and started violent attacks on communists and progressive people. This period was called ‘mccarthism’. The wave of fear involved the US into the conflict between South&North Korea, it lasted for 2,5 years, ended in 1953. More than 33,000 had died in Korea, still it was left divided into two parts.
The South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) was formed in 1954. High-level contacts between the USA&the USSR were resumed in the late 1950s. For the 1st time in history the Soviet leaders visited the USA. John Kennedy’s administration (1961-63) saw the Cuba Crisis of 1962, the signing of a partial nuclear test band treaty. After the solution of the CC there were good prospects for improving east-west relations, but in Nov,1963 Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. He was succeeded by the vice-president Lyndon Johnson who continued the liberal polices of his predecessor. The Civil Rights Bill prohibiting racial descrimination which Kennedy had proposed was finally passed in June, 1964.
In 1964 Johnson was reelected for the 2nd term, the country had got ever more deeply involved into the Vietnam War, which arose much protest and violance on the half of students and black Americans. By 1968 about 500,000 Americans were fighting in South Vietnam. The new elected president, republican Richard Nixon started looking a way to end the war, by March 1973 all Am soldiers had left Vietnam, the US had failed to settle its rule or unite South&North Vietnam.
But in his domestic policies Nixon had a complete failure. First vice-p. was Spiro Agnen was forced to resign when some his dishonest deals were brought to light. In 1974 Nixon himslef was forced to resign because of his involvement in the Watergate Affair. During the 1972 presidential election campaign , agency of the Rep party broke into the democr party headquarters at the Watergate hotel for the purpose of taping telephone&bugging the rooms.
Vice-pr Ford became president. During his office (1974-76) the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) between USA&USSR was signed.
In 1976 elections Ford was defeated by the democratic candidate James Carter. He was criticized at home&abroad for incompetence and inconsistency. Trying to assume the role of a ‘defender of human rights’ on the world-wide scale he launched an anti-soviet campaign (he supposed human rights were violated there). Tried to sign peace treaties with Arab countries, but succeeded only in Egypt (Camp David Agreement). All his steps could be assessed as Cold War moves (support for the neutron bomb, his doctrine of possibility of a limited nuclear war, boycott of the Moscow Olimpic games). In the elections of 1980 he was defeated by the repub candidate Ronald Reagan, a former actor and supporter of the conserv.right-wing of the Rep party. Reagan strengthened the military power of the USA and was ready to slow down arms race negotiating with Michael Gorbachev, a new Soviet leader. They signed the Intermediate Range Nuclear Force Treaty under which both countries were to destroy all their land-based nuclear missiles. Thus they put a real end to the Cold War.
In 1988 Reagan’s vice-pr George Bush was elected President (1988-92).