Thursday, September 30, 2010
The term applied to the period of superpower confrontation between the end of World War II and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992. The conflict was marked by small regional wars conducted by proxy, primarily in Africa and Southeast Asia, and a continuous engagement of Eastern Bloc intelligence agencies against their NATO adversaries. The opening salvo of the Cold War in the intelligence field is often considered to have been the defection in September 1945 of cipher clerk Igor Gouzenko, who revealed the existence of a wide-scale Soviet espionage offensive. Thereafter, the West’s objective was to monitor the deployment of Warsaw Pact forces so as to predict accurately the scale of any threat. Clandestine operations, including the construction of the Berlin tunnel and the development of an aerial reconnaissance capability—first dependent on aircraft, then on sophisticated satellites—were intended to give sufficient warning of any planned aggression so suitable countermeasures could be taken. Whereas United States policy, as articulated by President Harry Truman, had been to contain Soviet hegemony, President Ronald Reagan decided to confront it and authorized massive military aid to Afghan resistance organizations that eventually succeeded in forcing the Red Army into a humiliating withdrawal in February 1989. The Cold War effectively came to an end in November 1989 with the election of a non-Communist government in Poland and the destruction of the Berlin Wall.