Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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ABC-CLIO's The Encyclopedia of the Cold War: A Political, Social, and Military History

The Cold War arose from the ashes of World War II, as the United States and the Soviet Union emerged as superpowers and engaged in an ideological conflict between capitalism and communism. While the two sides managed to avoid direct combat with each other, they did engage in battles that included propaganda, proxies, scientific achievements, and an arms race. The development of new weapons technologies paralleled some of the needs of the space program, as both nations searched for a dependable missile- or rocket-based delivery system for their nuclear arsenals. On October 4, 1957, the Soviets struck first in space with the launch of Sputnik 1, which was propelled by an R-7 rocket that was an early intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). This event shocked the American people, igniting fears of a "missile gap" between the two superpowers. Embarrassed by the Soviet Union's perceived lead in technology, the U.S. government became determined to overtake the Soviet space program, and the space race ensued.

Although the two primary opponents in the Cold War were the United States and the Soviet Union, the conflict spread all over the world, with proxy battles fought  in such places as Southeast Asia, Central America, and Africa during the second half of the 20th century. The most notable hot wars during that time were the Korean War (1950–1953), the Vietnam War (1959–1975), and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (1979–1988). However, a variety of other countries took their turns on center stage during the Cold War, including Angola, China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Nicaragua, and Poland. The Cold War also bore witness to the rise to prominence of such leaders as Fidel Castro and Lech Walesa. To learn more about all the countries and people who played significant roles in this global struggle, explore ABC-CLIO's comprehensive five-volume The Encyclopedia of the Cold War: A Political, Social, and Military History, edited by Dr. Spencer C. Tucker and Dr. Priscilla Mary Roberts. The encyclopedia offers detailed essays on the Cold War, nearly 1,300 reference entries, and an extensive chronology. In addition, more than 450 images and numerous documents and maps provide valuable insight into the people, places, and events of the Cold War.

 

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