The term Cold War was first used for hostile attitude adopted by the United States and its friends on one side, and the Soviet Union and its allies on other, soon after the Second World War. Unlike traditional wars, this was a diplomatic conflict, without the use of armed forces. The two sides maintained normal diplomatic relations, yet behaved like enemies. Walter Lippmann, in 1947, used the term “diplomatic war”. The Cold War was defined by Fleming as “a war that is fought not in the battle field, but in the minds of men; one tries to control the minds of other.”John Foster Dulles, us secretary of state in early 1950s, a leading critic of the USSR, had said that, “The Cold War was a normal crusade for moral values-for good against bad; right against wrong; religion against atheism”.
Giving a moral dimension to the Cold War. Dulles thus described the Soviet Union as bad, wrong and atheist. Louis Halle in his book The Cold War as History described the Cold War as a situation of high tension between two power blocs, it was more dangerous than an armed conflict; and all disputes and conflicts were used as pawns in the Cold War. Unlike a normal war, it was fought in the diplomatic channels and the United Nations forum. According to Grieves, the Cold War was “a form of conflict taking place below the level of hot war in a thermonuclear age.”
The nature of Cold War underwent constant changes during over four decades of its duration. However, Kegley Jr. And Wittkopf mentioned three primary characteristics of the Cold War. These were:
- The periods of intense conflict alternated with periods of relative cooperation; and reciprocal. Action-relation exchanges were also evident.
- Both actors (US and USSR) were willing to disregard their respective professed ideologies whenever their perceived national interests rationalized such inconsistencies, for example, each backed allies with political systems antithetical to its own when the necessities of power politics seemed to justify doing so.
- Throughout the Cold War contest, both rivals consistently made avoidance of all-out war their highest priority. Through a gradual learning process involving push and shove, restraint and reward, tough bargaining and claim negotiation, the Super Powers created a security system, or rules for the peaceful management of their disputes.
Thus, Cold War was a state of peacetime unarmed warfare. Both the Super Powers had constructed their blocs, mostly on ideological basis. There indeed were several unattached or non-aligned countries, but Cold War was essentially fought between two power blocs. Each side used ideological weapons against the other. The two Super Powers tried to weaken the other block, to generate defections, and to strengthen their own position. Both gave liberal economic aid and established military bases in the territories of smaller allies.
Propaganda, espionage, military intervention, military alliances, regional organizations and supply of armaments were some of the tools used to promote the bloc interests. Such actions aggravated the Cold War. The Supper Powers and their close allies locked at every issue from their ideological and bloc viewpoint. Attempts were made to encourage industrial unrest, ethnic conflicts, and feelings of narrow nationalism to weaken the opposite bloc. Thus, as Louis Halle said, the Cold War was even worse than a regular-armed conflict.