The Real Cold War

Cold War is set during a period in Earth’s history where, as the Doctor put it, “East and West (were) standing on the brink of nuclear oblivion… lots of itchy fingers on the button…” Incredible as it might seem to us now, the background for the adventure is entirely true and if you want to learn more about the tense and at times terrifying years of the real Cold War, read on…

The Cold War was not a conventional battle fought by two sides confronting each other with an open show of strength, so it’s impossible to date the conflict precisely. Many historians, however, assert it ran from c1947 to 1991. These years saw a sustained period of political and military tension between powers in the Western Bloc – notably the United States, but also her allies - and forces in the Eastern Bloc, dominated by the Soviet Union. It was typified by paranoia and a desire by both sides that their opposite numbers did not gain the upper hand, tactically, territorially or indeed ideologically.

The confrontation was called a ‘Cold War’ as neither of the major powers involved—both possessing nuclear weapons and thereby threatened with mutual assured destruction—ever met in direct, overt military combat. Periods of relative calm would be punctuated by incidents creating acute, global tension, which many believe could have resulted in World War III. The most notable of these include the Berlin Blockade, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Suez Crisis. So-called ‘conventional’ wars fought within the scope of the Cold War, and having a bearing on it, include the Korean War and the war in Vietnam.

When did the Cold War wind down? Some say the process began in 1985 when Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the USSR and proved more interested in dealing with domestic economic issues than allowing the arms race and military stand-off to continue. In fact in November of that year he met with US President Ronald Reagan and both men agreed in principle to a policy of reducing their nuclear arsenals by fifty per cent. The Cold War had at last begun to thaw…

You can find a wealth of information about the Cold War within the BBC’s news, history and learning sites. Find out about its origins, the crucial element of espionage that in some ways defined the conflict, the development of biological weaponry or the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Finally, the BBC Archive has some fascinating videos that reveal fascinating insights into Cuba and the Cold War… Why not travel back in time and take a look!

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