From the end of World War II in 1945 until the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, the world was polarized by a global conflict between two wartime allies, the Soviet Union and the United States.
The Cold War’s impact was global in scope and created political divisions based on free world orientation, socialist orientation, or nonalignment.
The two superpowers — the United States and the Soviet Union — struggled for dominance. Their obsession with national security was reflected in strategies of containment, pact building, and military and economic assistance programs.
To many the Cold War was perceived to be:
- a contest between democratic and totalitarian political systems
- a clash between Marxist and capitalist theories of development/economic progress.
Superpower competition in the less developed world — the Third World — centered on tactics of covert action, insurgency, wars of liberation, and trade dependency. Accompanying activity included escalating militarism and disproportionate allocations of revenue for arms build-ups.
The term competitive grand strategy refers to the rivalry between the individual grand strategies of the two superpowers as they competed for power and influence in the less developed world.
American grand strategy can be defined as an integration of military and economic objectives in the war against communism.
The military component of grand strategy was concerned with repelling the Soviet threat through a policy of containment.
The economic component was concentrated on protecting America’s desire for open markets.
At first these two prongs could be separated. By the end of the Eisenhower administration though the two were intertwined.
American grand strategy evolved into liberal grand strategy as the US became more explicit in its drive to foster democracy and capitalism abroad.
Soviet grand strategy focused on combating the threat of capitalist encirclement and on acquiring the resources necessary to develop economic and industrial prowess as a preparation for the ‘hot war’ that the Russians thought was inevitable as long as capitalism existed.
To summarize, after World War ll, the United States was obsessed with the war against communism and the idea of containment which scholars say “has truly been America’s grand strategy since the late 1940s.”
The overarching US objective was to prevent Soviet penetration of emerging nations.
The USSR, on the other hand, was determined to prevent ‘capitalist encirclement’ of its territories and was eager to prove its economic and industrial prowess.
By the mid-1950s, each superpower believed that the success of its grand strategy depended on “winning” the Third World. The competition to supply military and economic assistance, weapons, technology, and expert advice to the less developed world accelerated.
Cold War rivalry dominated the last half of the 20th century.