Lukas, aged 16

“Our work for peace must begin within the private world of each one of us. To build a world without fear, we must be without fear. To build a world of justice, we must be just.” – Dag Hammarskjöld. 

Peace is important, what were the dangers to peace by 1949? The World War II had ended four years ago, the allies had fallen apart, the superpowers, USSR and USA had actually become enemies, the cold war had started. The times didn’t seem peaceful at all.

The USA and USSR have fallen apart because at the end of WWII, the USSR has taken over the whole Eastern Europe, saying that they need a sphere of influence, a buffer zone in case that Germany rises back and tries attacking the USSR like they did before. USA sees this as a start to the spread of communism, which, if not stopped, might spread all over the world. President Truman proclaims the policy of containment; he starts by sending help and reinforcements to Western Europe, especially to Germany, who was absolutely crippled and broken apart after the WWII , and also was on the border to Soviet sphere of influence, an obvious next target for the spreading Communism.

In 1949, after the Berlin blockade, which was the first test for containment, war was a real possibility. When the matters were at there worst, the western powers met in Washington and signed an agreement to work together, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) was formed. The world now was more or less divided into to parts, USA and NATO against USSR and the satellite states under Soviet control.

Containment proved to be a successful policy, but there were recurrent tests for it over the period. The first one was the Berlin blockade, later on came the Korean War, where the communist North clashed with the capitalist South. The United Nations decided to push the communists to the 38th parallel and leave the border there, but General MacArthur disobeyed orders and came right to the border of China. The Chinese helped North Koreans to defend themselves and pushed the UN forces back, a stalemate was reached around the 38th parallel.

From 1955, the cold war entered a new phase; N. Khrushchev replaced J. Stalin after the latter passed away in 1953. The new Soviet leader was more keen to talk it out, try to solve it in a peaceful way. However peace talks were to no avail and also Khrushchev’s actions in Eastern Europe were constantly reminding of the evils of communism. Communist forces brutally stopped protests in Poland and Hungary, the Berlin wall was built.

From 1949 the two superpowers were engaged in an arms race, both USA and USSR were inventing new weapons, trying them out and showing of to each other, trying to scare the other away, or waiting for the opponent to run out of money, facilities and other resources. After the Cuban missile crisis, in 1963, USA and USSR signed the nuclear test ban treaty in Moscow, agreeing not to test any more new nuclear weapons. People didn’t feel safe; USA and USSR had so many weapons pointed at each other that they could have destroyed each other many times over and even destroyed the Planet.

Even though no outright armed conflict or bloodshed between the USA and USSR had been experienced, the times after the World War II were not peaceful at all, many people died in Korea, Vietnam and Cuba and other proxy wars, caused by the conflict between the two superpowers. Both USA and USSR lost huge amounts of money and resources in competing each other. The cold war finally ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union.


About UN News Geneva

Sharing entires to the United Nations Peace Essay competitions run by the Information Service in Geneva in 2011
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