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Q6. Discuss the strategies used by the two Superpowers in the Cold War. 

The Cold War was a period of hostility and competition between the United States and the Soviet Union that always stopped short of direct war between them. By 1948, two superpowers had established their spheres of influence in Europe and started confronting each other. Cold war never erupted into open warfare, mainly because their growing arsenals of nuclear weapons made such a war seem suicidal to both sides. two world wars in quick succession had shown the spiraling destructive potential of modern technology.

Cold War assumed the form of a series of crises that were resolved along two lines of development: either by non military means or by fighting war’s by proxy (substitute) where one or both powers fought each other by supporting smaller allied states in regional wars.

To avoid direct confrontation each side carefully assessed the seriousness crisis based on:

  • Strategic value (in terms of location and/or resources) For example, oil-rich Middle East, strategic choke points such as the Suez and Panama Canals or Turkey’s control of the Hellespont threatening Russia’s access from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.
  • Superpower’s sphere of influence: For example :Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 with Cuba in the United States’ traditional sphere of influence (‘Home Turf), but having strong diplomatic ties with the Soviets.


Each side needed to pursue a strategy between being too aggressive and too weak, show strength and resolve without being too provocative. Playing a game of brinksmanship, it should push the other side into a position that would make any further escalation of the crisis run the risk of war, thus forcing it to back down. Finally, the strategy in a crisis should provide the opposition a face-saving way to back down without feeling publicly humiliated.

The United Nations played a valuable role here as mediator to defuse the crisis. Another aspect was secret “back channels”, the two powers installed a “hot line” after the Cuban Missile Crisis, thus providing direct communications with one another during any future crises.

In the process, they avoided nuclear Armageddon and provided some glimmer of hope that the human species might survive its technological adolescence.

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