The Cold War
1945 - 1957

1958 - 1972

The Crisis of the Cold War and the Origins of Detente

On the other hand, this 'threat' so-called was not only less dangerous than the West claimed but was positively useful as well. For this reason the United States was prepared to accept the existence of the USSR and to build up its own position - as well as that of the Western world - around it. This is why, in the last analysis, the United States aimed only to contain the Soviet Union rather than to seek its elimination. A permanent conflict with a weak and unattractive competitor had much to recommend it.

Concretely, the ability of the United States to sustain its chosen postwar strategy rested upon six key factors: 

  • US military superiority over the USSR
  • Continued domestic support for its international role
  • A reasonable degree of success in the implementation of its foreign policy abroad
  • Loyal and dependent allies
  • An economy that could bear the costs of the United States being the world's leading policeman
  • A general agreement that the Soviet Union was a serious political threat to the West. 

By the end of the 1960s these assumptions had been shattered.

1973 - 1991