For you that grew up in the 1950s, 60s and 70s you remember the word “Cold War”.  This was truly not a war where America was fighting one enemy in a real shooting war.  Instead it was a proxy war where the two powers, the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR), opted to support puppet governments or actually go to war against countries supported by the other power.  Military alliances were made.  The United States is a part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO.  Russia, the leading USSR country, had a military alliance referred to as the Warsaw Pact Countries.  NATO had member countries that were democratic in nature.  The Warsaw Pact was made up of countries that embraced Communism.  At the heart of the military deterrent was a storehouse of nuclear devices on both sides with enough potential destructive power to destroy the world several times over.

The Cold War began about 1947, two years after the end of World War II.  It ended in 1991.  Soon after World War II ended the Russians began plans for total domination of the world.  The first confrontation of the forces of the West (NATO) and the forces of the East (Warsaw Pact) was in Berlin and the Berlin air lift.  Germany had been divided with half being occupied by the USSR and the other half by NATO countries. Berlin, Germany’s capital, was split between the two factions but access to the city was controlled by the USSR.  The USSR cut off land routes to the capital from the West.  The Democratic West refused to be held ransom and the Berlin Air Lift began.  Instead of sending fuel and food and resources to Berlin by rail and truck the allied countries opted to fly it in.  The Soviet Union refused to attack the air craft for fear of a military escalation.  In one year 200,000 flights went into Berlin with supplies.  Finally the Soviet Union withdrew the cutoff of Berlin.  This was only the beginning.

Competition was intense.  I recall the launch by Russia in the mid-50 of the Russian Sputnik, the first satellite.  This was followed by launches by America.  Then Russian Yuri Gagarin became the first astronaut into space followed by America’s Alan Shepard. The final race in space was achieved when the United States landed a man on the moon.  Space was not the only competition taking place.  The Olympic games would be a poster child for athletic pride between East and West in general and Russia and America specifically.  While America dominated the summer games the Russians controlled the winter games.

Military competition began soon after World War II.  The Soviet Union backed the communist in China, supported their takeover of the country but China never joined the USSR or Warsaw Pact.  The Soviet Union supported North Korea and its’ invasion of South Korea.  It took a concerted coalition of free countries to curtail the invasion and thousands of American gave their lives.  The Soviet Union never officially entered the war but China acted as a proxy country for the USSR.  The USSR was active in South America and Cuba as it attempted to overthrow democratic countries and impose Communism.  Cuba was a great success story for the USSR and sat 90 miles from America’s door.  In 1961 the Cuban Missile Crisis took place and it is only now being understood that the world was extremely close to a third world war.  It took the leadership and strong will of a young John Kennedy to thwart the threat when Russia was sending nuclear missiles to Cuba.  Russia continued to export its ideology to other parts of the world.  Civil wars were conducted on the horn of Africa while America took on the threat in South East Asia. Eventually both sides realized the economic impact to their countries plus the constant threat of a devastating war no one could win was wearing on a world enjoying increasingly better life styles.  I still remember the pictures of air raid training where children were taught to get under their desks in the large cities during air raid training.  Also present to our local community was the small sign on the courthouse that identified it as a nuclear attack shelter and the meeting at Farmerville High School for the adults to show how to build nuclear shelters.  I slipped in the back and watched the weekly meetings led by Principal Horace Nolan.

Then is 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed, suddenly and abruptly.  The final war was not guns and ships and planes but instead was economics.  Ronald Reagan took the Communist to their knees and for once, the world saw peace.

All this is coming to an end.  While America has been asleep at the wheel Russia has retooled and in a surge of nationalistic fervor and under the leadership of a demagogue, the Cold War is resuming.  The Ukraine has been invaded by Russia and we provide rhetoric.  Russia is active in Syria and nothing has happened except the death of civilians and the propping up of a despot that America despises.  The future of the world will be interesting, dangerous and uncertain.

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