The Cold War is the name of the confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States which occurred between March 5, 1946 and February 1, 1992. Despite the fact that this conflict is called war, no armed conflict happened between the parties. However, conflicts occurred in other countries and the USSR and the U.S. were an active part in these. Experts invited to IPN’s public debate “Lessons of Cold War” discussed the impact of that Cold War on the history of mankind, on the present and future of everyone given its continuous effects, its inheritance and lessons that should be learned.
The permanent expert of IPN’s project Igor Boțan said the Cold War was called cold because not even one armed battle occurred on the territories of the countries involved in that war, while the armies of the Soviet Union and the U.S. didn’t take part in an open clash against each other. The name “Cold War” was first used by writer George Orwell in 1945, after the explosion of two bombs in Japan. “The Cold War between the USSR and the U.S. was partially characterized by the production, proliferation and subsequent intimidation through the eventual use of nuclear weapons. But it does not go only to nuclear weapons as the essence of the war was to ensure uninterrupted armament also with other types of weapons, not only nuclear ones. The greater was a party arming itself, the more obvious were the threats” he stated.
The expert explained that the Cold War triggered the formation of opposite military alliances. This way, the creation of the North-Atlantic Alliance (NATO) was proclaimed on April 4, 1949. Beside the United States and neighboring Canada, this included a series of Europeans capitalist states, such as the UK, France, the Benelux countries, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Italy, and Portugal. Also, a document was signed in Poland on May 14, 1955 to legalize the military-political union of the Socialist states, known as the Warsaw Pact. This included such states as the USSR, Poland, East Germany, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Albania, and Bulgaria. That agreement lasted until the end of the Cold War.
“It is formally considered that the starting point of the Cold War was the famous speech given in Fulton by ex-British Premier Winston Churchill, on March 5, 1946. In fact, the causes of the start of the Cold War were ideological, political and economic in character. If we refer to the ideological causes, the ideologies of the U.S. and the USSR were antagonist, while the ideology of the USSR was even expansionist. The pretention of expansionism caused actually the chase for armament, which was open and was led to show to the rival the power and the discouraging potential for the other side. As to the political causes, capitalist America and socialist Soviet Union feared the expansion of the mutual influence in the world and this expansion was used as a scarecrow,” stated Igor Boțan.
German political scientist Anneli Ute Gabanyi, senior research analyst at the Research Institute of Radio Free Europe in Munich and senior research associate at the German Institute for International and Security Issues in Berlin, considers the term “Cold War” appeared in 1938-1939. It referred to the Cold War that was being waged by Hitler on Poland before attacking this. Also, Poland’s allies, the U.S. and the UK, on the one side, and the Soviet Union, on the other side, started to divide the spheres of influence for the period after World War II when they were partners in their fight against Nazi Germany. “In October 1948, Churchill met with Stalin and calculated the percentages, which is the percentage the West will possess of Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, etc., and the percentage the Soviet Union and the West will possess of Greece, which was very important for the UK,” explained Anneli Ute Gabanyi, author of recent history and security studies on Romania and the Republic of Moldova.
According to her, during the war, in January 1945, Stalin, in a conversation with a Yugoslavian political scientist and politician, said: ‘This war is not as all the other wars of the past. Where the armies of a state penetrate, that state imposes also its political and social system”. So, for the Soviet Union it was important from the start to create no only a particular kind of security around it, but to also surround itself with countries that had the same system and that didn’t threaten the social and political systems of the Soviet Union. When Russia started its war against Ukraine, some of the observers said that Russia, Moscow, Putin would not tolerate a democratic systems on its Western borders, which is in Ukraine.
Anneli Ute Gabanyi said the Soviet Union, demarcating the spheres of influence in which its satellite countries that didn’t choose the occupation or the regime were, gradually imposed a system on these, even an economic one, which never happened earlier in history. It was an absolutely unique system in the history of mankind.
Lecturer Ion Valer Xenofontov, doctor of history, said the name “Cold War” appeared back in the 14th century and is attributed to the regent of Castilla Juan Manuel, who said that it was a war between Christians and Moors. “Earlier, the hot wars had a clear start day and ended with a peace treaty, but the Cold War does not have a start and an end,” stated the doctor of history.
He made reference to Andre Fontaine’s fundamental work “History of the Cold War” in which the author reminded of the “Cold War” not after World War II, but after the Bolshevik coup of October 1917. “Then the world was split. That Bolshevik regime established on the ruins of the Russian Empire created a new society, a new vision, a new ideology, being antagonistic to other systems that existed at that moment,” he stated.
According to Ion Valer Xenofontov, it is known that the Western world was waiting to see the end of the civil war in Russia and recognized the Soviet Union only after it was clear that those who supported the Russian Empire lost ground and a new Bolshevik power was established. The West recognized the Soviet Union formed in 1922. The world was later split through the additional secret protocol of August 23, 1939. It was clearly seen how the Stalinist Soviet Union, together with Nazi Germany, divided the world into spheres of influence and the world became dichotomic.
Ion Valer Xenofontov also said that the name “Iron Curtain” is attributed to Nicolae Iorga who used this after the occupation of territories in the summer of 1940. He noted that an “Iron Curtain” appeared in Romania after Bessarabia, north Bukovina and Hertsa region were annexed by the Soviet Union.
The public debate entitled “Lessons of Cold War” was the 21st installment of IPN’s project “Impact of the Past on Confidence and Peace Building Processes” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany.