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Cold War: Cuban Missile Crisis to Detente

Cold War: Cuban Missile Crisis to Detente

Cold War: Cuban Missile Crisis to Detente Terms

Arms Race

A competition between rival nations to achieve superiority in military weaponry.


An international system in which two rival superpowers dominate global affairs. The Cold War, in which the world was essentially divided into two hostile camps respectively aligned with the United States and Soviet Union, epitomized bipolar international politics.

Cold War

The decades-long confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union, which lasted from the late 1940s to the early 1990s. The name "Cold War" arose from the fact that the conflict that never escalated to direct military confrontation (that would have been a "hot war").

Capitalism, Capitalist

A socio-economic system in which property and the means of production are owned by private citizens or corporations rather than by the state. Decentralized market behavior, rather than centralized government decision-making, determines the allocation of goods through society.


A social, political, and economic system rooted in the philosophies of Karl Marx and V.I. Lenin, in which all economic and social activity is controlled by the state and/or the Communist Party. All property is owned collectively; there is no private property or private enterprise.


A United States foreign policy during the Cold War that called for containing the expansion of communism and, more specifically, Soviet influence; the plan was originally devised by U.S. diplomat George Kennan.

An American policy that sought to halt the spread of Communism to countries which were not already Communist

Détente, Detente

A relaxation of tensions between hostile nations.

Iron Curtain

The line that divided Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe from Western Europe. Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill coined the phrase in a 1946 speech.

Kremlin, The Kremlin

A fortified palace complex at the heart of Moscow, the Kremlin is the seat of power of the Russian government. "The Kremlin" was often used as a shorthand to refer to the entire Soviet government, as in: "The Kremlin objected to the Marshall Plan."

Massive Retaliation

A military doctrine announced by President Eisenhower's Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, in 1954, Massive Retaliation was meant to deter Communist aggression by suggesting that any Communist provocation, anywhere in the world, could lead to massive retaliation—a nuclear strike—by the United States against the Soviet Union itself.


The capital of Russia and the Soviet Union. "Moscow" is often used as a shorthand for the Soviet government, as in: "Moscow sent in troops."


An international system in which many powerful states exert significant influence on global affairs.

Proxy War, Proxy Wars

A war in which two superpowers support opposing third parties as a substitute for fighting each other directly. For example, Angola's Civil War during the 1970s was a prominent proxy war of the Cold War era. The Soviet Union and Cuba backed the Marxist MPLA government, while the United States and South Africa backed the anticommuist UNITA rebels.


The principle that the citizens of a nation should be able to choose their own form of government through democratic processes.

Soviet Satellite, Soviet Satellites

A nation that was formally independent, but in fact dominated by and subservient to the Soviet Union. After World War II, many of the nations of Eastern Europe became Soviet satellites.

Third World

A term used to describe poor, underdeveloped nations—usually former colonies of European powers—in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union each sought to win allies in the Third World.

The West

In the context of the Cold War, "the West" referred to the anticommunist nations of Western Europe and North America, which joined together in formal military alliance through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The West existed in contrast to the Communist nations of the East.

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