Cold War and Border Politics
“Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you”
- Nikita Khrushchev, Premier of the Soviet Union 1958 - 1964
From 1945 and 1989 the world was divided by the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union. It was an ideological war: U.S. democracy and capitalism versus Soviet Union communism.* But whereas a “hot war” involves two countries or peoples fighting directly against each other, the Cold War was an indirect war. The U.S. and the Soviet Union never fought it out on the battlefield or in the air because to do so would have been utterly MAD—Mutually Assured Destruction; both countries had nuclear warheads that could deplete an entire country of its population in a nanosecond. The Cold War is a dense topic that could be studied extensively. However, for those of us who do not have that amount of time or interest, this brief essay will introduce key concepts and events (although not all key concepts and events) of the Cold War. It will also show how the Chamizal Dispute and the Chamizal Convention of 1963 played into the picture.
Although the U.S., the Soviet Union, and Great Britain were allies in World War II, by the end of the war, there was severe tension between them. The Soviet Union had taken the brunt of the war, losing 25,000,000 citizens and soldiers (14 percent of the Soviet population) to Nazi Germany. The Soviet Union wanted to set up “puppet governments” throughout Eastern Europe to make sure that they would never be attacked again. The U.S. and Great Britain saw this as a threat, believing that the Soviet government was attempting to diffuse its gospel of communism throughout the world.
True to its word, the Soviet Union began setting up communist regimes throughout Eastern Europe. President Harry Truman reacted by calling on Congress for a $400,000,000 foreign aid package to help Greece defend itself. Also, by Secretary of State George Marshall’s urging, the U.S. gave significant monetary aide to western European nations to repel communism.
At the same time that the U.S. was combating communism by giving money to Europe, the Berlin Blockade and Berlin Airlift occurred. At the end of World War II, Berlin had been divided in half, with East Berlin being occupied by the Soviet Union and West Berlin being controlled by the “West.” The Blockade started when the Soviet Union blocked railroad and vehicular traffic into West Berlin in an attempt to starve West Berliners. The Soviet Union hoped that West Berlin would succumb to them. However, the allies of France, Great Britain, and the U.S. solved the problem by flying airplane after airplane into West Berlin to feed the citizens. West Berlin actually ended up with a surplus of food! The Berlin Blockade ended up being an embarrassment for the Soviet Union.
During the Korean War (1950-1953) the U.S. military intervened directly. Similar to Berlin, Korea had been divided into two sovereign countries at the end of World War II—a communist north and free-republic south. In 1950 North Korea called for a unified, communist Korea, and attacked South Korea. The Soviet Union supplied North Korea with money, ammunition, and special fighter pilots. The U.S. did not want communism to spread anymore than it already had. As a result, thousands of U.S. troops fought alongside South Korean forces to keep the country “free.” By 1953, North Korea had been forced to retreat and the war ended. To this day, North Korea remains communist while South Korea remains a republic.