The world was divided into capitalist and communist camps hampering cooperation and development. Russia formed the Iron Curtain and shut eastern Europe off from the western world.
A succession of crises (eg Berlin Blockade/ Hungarian Revolution/ Cuban Missiles crisis), put the entire world in a constant danger of nuclear war.
Both countries built up huge arsenals of nuclear arms, ballistic missiles, nuclear powered submarines and indulged in space race and wasted lot of resources which otherwise could have been used for development purpose. The USA and USSR poured billions of dollars-worth of aid into countries (including right-wing dictatorships). A propaganda war was fought, in which both sides ruthlessly misrepresented the other. In America, the McCarthy ‘witch-hunts’ persecuted communists and people suspected of being connected to the Communists.
Proxy wars were used as theaters of conflict for the superpowers, resulting in large numbers of casualties. The tensions and instability caused by these conflicts persisted long after the Cold War ended. The Korean (1950-53), Vietnam (1954-75), Arab-Israeli (1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982), and Afghan (1979-89) wars were all examples of the superpowers exploiting regional conflicts to promote their own ends.
The Soviet Union collapsed due to economic weaknesses. The Berlin Wall was demolished and the two German nations were unified. The Warsaw Pact disintegrated. The Baltic States and some former Soviet Republics achieved independence. America became the sole superpower of the world. Communism collapsed worldwide.
The nuclear legacy of the Cold War remains at the forefront of security issues for nuclear-capable states.
Nuclear-weapons states have inherited substantial responsibilities in protecting and stabilizing their nuclear forces. The risk that non-state actors (like terrorists) could gain access to remaining nuclear arsenals is a substantial concern.
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