The Cold War was a rivalry between the USSR and USA from 1945 - 1990 that was played out globally. Some historians actually point to WWII as the beginning of the war, when Stalin began distrusting America and Britain because they refused to invade Europe.
The Soviets saw American rebuilding efforts in Europe and Japan as the United States trying to expand its markets and use that money and power to dominate Europe and destroy the Soviet system. Americans thought that the USSR wanted to destroy democratic and capitalist institutions.¹
From the beginning of the war, the United States had the advantage. The Americans had more money, more power and could provide Europe protection while they rebuilt, while the USSR was busy rebuilding themselves.¹
During the Cold War, Earth was divided into three worlds. The First Word was the United States and Western Europe. The Second World was the USSR and its satellites, while the Third World was basically everyone else.¹
Europe was the first, but not the only battleground of the Cold War. Germany was divided into two parts with the former capital Berlin also divided into two parts. In 1961 the Soviets built a wall around West Berlin - known as the Berlin Wall.¹
The American response to the Soviets was a policy called ‘containment.’ This was meant to stop the spread of communism by standing up to Soviets wherever they tried to expand. This led to the rest of the battlegrounds of the war. Almost every part of the world was involved in some way. Some examples are the Vietnam War, other parts of Asia, Latin America, Nicaragua, Iran, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.¹
The most important part of the Cold War was the nuclear arms race. Both sides developed an impressive nuclear arsenal that could destroy the human species. Eventually these arsenals grew so large that the USA and USSR agreed on a policy of mutually assured destruction. This was very expensive for America. For instance, they spent 13 billion dollars in building up Western Europe for the Marshall Plan.¹
This world map illustrates Cold-War era alliances and shows how far the war actually expanded from Europe.