UPSC Exam  >  UPSC Notes  >  NCERT Textbooks (Class 6 to Class 12)  >  Chapter Notes - The Cold War Era

The Cold War Era Class 12 Political Science

After the Second World War the period of International relations from 1945 to 1990 is known as an era of the Cold War. In fact, after the end of the Second World War, the war time cooperation between Soviet Union and USA had almost come to an end and the distance between both the super powers had increased considerably. In fact, certain incidents had taken place which had added fuel to the fire as a result of which the mistrust between both the nations had further increased.
As a result of all this ‘war of nerves’ had started between Soviet Union and its supporters on the one side and the USA and its supporters on the other side. These two power blocs were also known as Soviet bloc and American bloc. This period of tension between both the power blocs was given the name of ‘Cold War’ by famous scholar Mr. Bernard Baruch. During this period of Cold War bullets were not fired from either side nor bloodshed had taken place, yet a war like situation prevailed. In fact, this was a war for supremacy between two power blocs representing two different ideologies (Communism and Capitalism) and it had kept the whole world as hostage almost for a period of 45 years.


  • Cuba was a small island nation under the Presidency of fidel Castro. It was a communist country and an ally of Soviet Union.
  • In 1962 Nikita Khrushchev, leader of USSR converted Cuba into a Russian base placing nuclear missiles in Cuba because USSR worried that the US would invade communist rule Cuba and overthrow Fidel Castro.
  • After three weeks when the US became aware of this, US President John F. Kennedy asked the US to remove these missiles and ordered American warships to intercept any soviet ships heading to Cuba.
  • A clash seemed evident as both the Power came on the verge of a hot war.
  • Eventually both sides decided to avoid the war. There was an agreement between the USA and USSR that the USSR abandoned the idea of creating a missile base in Cuba on the condition that America would never attack over Cuba.
  • The Cuban missiles crisis was a high point of what came to be known as the cold war.

The Cold War Era Class 12 Political Science

Fig: The Threat of Cuban Missiles

End of World War II (1939 to 1945) & Beginning of Cold war

  • Allied Powers (US, USSR, Britain, France)
  • Axis Powers (Germany, Italy, Japan) The end of the Second World War was also the beginning of the Cold war.
  • World War II came to an end when the US dropped two atom bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
  • The bomb, was code-named ‘Little Boy’ and ‘Fat man’
  • The US dropped the bombs to contain the advancements of the USSR in Asia and to exhibit its nuclear superiority.
  • End of World War II thus resulted in the beginning of the cold war.

Cold War
The Cold war referred to the competitions, the tensions and a series of confrontations between the United States and the Soviet Union backed by their respective allies during 1945 to 1991.

  • According to Flemming, “Cold War is a war that is fought not in the battlefield but in the minds of men; one tries to control the minds of others.”


  • Struggle between USA and USSR for supremacy.
  • During the cold war the world was divided into two Power blocs.
  • In fact, cold war was a fight for supremacy between two ideologies capitalism (USA) and communism (USSR)
  • During the cold war both the super powers had tried to include newly independent countries into their respective bloc.
  • During the cold war both the super Powers had entered into alliance and counter alliances with the purpose to spread their influence.
  • Both the Powers accumulated advanced weapons and ammunition, especially nuclear weapons.
  • They were involved in a fierce arms race spending huge amounts.
  • The super Power concluded a number of Treaties controlling the race as well.
  • These included – LTBT (1963), NPT (1967), SALT I (1972), SALT II (1979)
  • Logic of deterrence deters the Powers from entering into a direct conflict.
  • According to this the cost of war is so high that no one is in the position to benefit from it.

The two super Powers were keen on expanding their areas of influence. This led to a sharp division of the world into two alliance systems or Two Power Blocs.

  • One Bloc was led by the USA and many other Western Europe countries members of this Bloc.
  • The Second Bloc was led by the USSR and many other Eastern Europe countries members of this Bloc.
  • That is why these were also called the ‘western’ and ‘eastern’ alliances.

Smaller states

  • Promise of protection, against their local rivals.
  • Weapons and Machinery
  • Economic aid 

Super Power’s- Vital resources, such as oil and minerals.

  • Territory from where they could launch their weapons.
  • Location to spy on the other Power.
  • Economic support to pay the military expenses.

Military alliances - Armed attacks on any one of them regarded as an attack on all of them.

Western alliances was formalized into an organization

NATO (North Atlantic treaty Organization)

  • Formed in April 1949
  • 12 members: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United states.

Warsaw Pact

  • Warsaw Pact so named because the treaty was signed in Warsaw.
  • Formed in 1955
  • Principal function was to counter NATO’s Forces in Europe
  • Soviet Union, Albania, Poland, Romania, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria.  

SEATO (South East Asia Treaty Organization)

  • Formed in 1954 to prevent soviet aggression in the east.
  • The United States, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Philippines, Thailand and Pakistan formed the South East Asia Treaty Organization.
  • Purpose of the organization was to prevent communism from gaining ground in the region.

CENTO (Central Treaty Organization)

  • Formed in 1959 to prevent soviet expansion in the south.
  • Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Great Britain and the United States.
  • CENTO originally known as the Baghdad Pact. It was renamed CENTO in 1959 after Iraq pulled out of the pact.

The Cold War Era Class 12 Political ScienceNAM Non Aligned Movement

  • The roots of NAM went back to the friendship between three leaders- Yugoslavia’s Josip Broz Tito, India’s Jawaharlal Nehru
  • And Egypt’s leader Gamal Abdel Nasser who had a meeting in 1956. Indonesia’s Sukarno and Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah strongly supported them.
  • These five leaders came to known as the five founders of NAM
  • The first non-aligned summit was held in Belgrade in 1961.It was attended by 25 countries.
  • NAM should not be confused with isolation or neutrality.
  • Isolation means remaining aloof from world affairs.
  • Neutrality means principally a policy of staying away from war.

The Cold War Era Class 12 Political Science


  • The cold war also led to several shooting wars, but it is important to note that these crises and wars did not lead to another world war.
  • The two superpowers were poised for a direct confrontation in Korea (1950-53) Berlin (1958-62) the Congo (the early 1960s) and in several places Vietnam and Afghanistan
  • Non Aligned countries played a role in reducing cold war conflicts. Leader of NAM mediated in the Korean crisis.
  • In the Congo crisis the UN secretary general played a key role.
  • As the cold war rolled out from one arena to another, the two super powers exercised the logic of restraint.
  • The US and USSR decided to collaborate in limiting or eliminating certain kinds of nuclear and non-nuclear weapons.

The two sides signed three significant agreements within a decade. These were -

  • Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT)
  • Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)
  • Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABMT)

New International Economic Order

  • A challenge for most of the Non-Aligned countries who were characterized as the least developed countries (LDCs) was to be developed themselves and bring their population out of poverty.
  • This led to the demand of an NIEO. The United Nations conference of trade and development (UNCTAD) brought out a report in 1972 entitled-towards a new trade. Policy for development, it proposed following reforms in the international economic order.
  • Give LDCs control over their natural resources.
  • Obtain access to western markets.
  • Reduce the cost of technology from western countries.
  • Provide the LDCs with a greater role in international economic institutions.

India and the Cold War

  • India followed a two way policy regarding the cold war.
  • Stay away from the alliances.
  • Raise the voice against newly decolonized countries becoming a part of these alliances.

This served India’s interest in two ways:

  • Allowed India to take international decisions in a way that served its own interest rather than the interest of superpowers.
  • India could balance one super power against the other if pressurized by one superpower it could tilt towards the other.

India’s Policy of non-alignment was criticized on number of counts

  • Unprincipled in the name of pursuing national interest India. Often refuse to take a firm stand on crucial international issues.
  • Inconsistent India signed the treaty of Friendship with USSR in 1971 for 20 years.


  • Capitalism - An economic system in which a country’s trade and Industry are controlled by Private owners For Profit, rather than by the state.
    Socialism - means of Production are owned and operated by the state. Profit is used for social welfare and distributed on the principle of equality.
  • Truman Doctrine 1947 - Truman Doctrine was an American Foreign Policy whose stated purpose was to contain soviet geopolitical expansion during the cold war. President Harry S. Truman declared immediate economic and military aid to the government of Greece and Turkey as a help because both these countries were facing the onslaught of Soviet Union.
  • Marshall Plan (1947-52) - US aid for the reconstruction of Western Europe
    To save the European countries of the influences of communism.
    To spread American influences over European countries.
  • Deterrence - It was a logic followed by both the superpowers to avoid large scale destruction i.e. not to take place in a hot war between them because both of them had the capacity to retaliate.
  • Axis Power - It was another camp against allied forces led by German “Italy and Japan”.
  • Allied Forces - Allied forces were one of the two camps during the second world war including the US, Soviet Union, Britain and France.
  • UNCTAD - United Nations conference on Trade and Development.
  • NIEO - New International Economic Order
    LDCs - Least Developed Countries
    Decolonization - Decolonization is the process by which colonies become independent of the colonizing country.
  • Alliance system - Alliance system was created by the two superpowers to expand their sphere of influence all over the world.
  • USSR - Union of soviet socialist Republic

Arms Control Treaties - Both the super powers understood that might occur in spite of restraint. To limit the destruction, they decided to collaborate in limiting certain kinds of nuclear and non-nuclear weapons through ‘arms control’ by signing various treaties.

  • Limited Test Ban Treaty
  • Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
  • Anti-Ballistic missile Treaty

The Cold War Era Class 12 Political ScienceTime Period of world war  
World War I - 1914-18
World War II - 1939-45

The First world - The first world consisted of the US, Western Europe and their allies.

The Second world - The second world was the communist Bloc the Soviet Union, China, Cuba and their allies.

The Third world - The remaining nations, which aligned with neither group, were assigned to the third world.

The document The Cold War Era Class 12 Political Science is a part of the UPSC Course NCERT Textbooks (Class 6 to Class 12).
All you need of UPSC at this link: UPSC
677 docs|670 tests

Up next

FAQs on The Cold War Era Class 12 Political Science

1. What was the Cold War era?
Ans. The Cold War era refers to the period of political tension and rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union from the end of World War II in 1945 until the early 1990s. It was characterized by ideological conflicts, proxy wars, and the arms race between the two superpowers.
2. What were the main causes of the Cold War?
Ans. The main causes of the Cold War were ideological differences between the capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union, the competition for global influence and power, and the distrust and suspicion between the two nations after World War II. The division of Germany and the race for nuclear weapons also contributed to the tensions.
3. How did the Cold War impact the world?
Ans. The Cold War had a significant impact on the world. It led to the division of Europe into Western and Eastern blocs, with the Iron Curtain separating the two. It resulted in the arms race, with both sides developing nuclear weapons. Proxy wars were fought in different regions, such as Korea and Vietnam. The Cold War also influenced politics, economics, and culture worldwide, as countries aligned themselves with either the United States or the Soviet Union.
4. What were some major events during the Cold War era?
Ans. Some major events during the Cold War era include the Berlin Blockade, the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the construction of the Berlin Wall, the Vietnam War, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. These events marked significant turning points and heightened tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union.
5. How did the Cold War end?
Ans. The Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The reforms initiated by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, such as glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring), led to political and economic changes within the Soviet Union. The Eastern European countries under Soviet influence also gained independence. This marked the end of the bipolar world order and the beginning of a new era of international relations.
677 docs|670 tests
Download as PDF

Up next

Explore Courses for UPSC exam

How to Prepare for UPSC

Read our guide to prepare for UPSC which is created by Toppers & the best Teachers
Signup for Free!
Signup to see your scores go up within 7 days! Learn & Practice with 1000+ FREE Notes, Videos & Tests.
10M+ students study on EduRev
Download the FREE EduRev App
Track your progress, build streaks, highlight & save important lessons and more!
Related Searches



practice quizzes


The Cold War Era Class 12 Political Science


Objective type Questions


study material


The Cold War Era Class 12 Political Science






Important questions


Viva Questions


Sample Paper




shortcuts and tricks


The Cold War Era Class 12 Political Science


mock tests for examination


Semester Notes


video lectures


Previous Year Questions with Solutions


Extra Questions




past year papers