Aggression and major wars are a common occurrence in European History. These wars are some of the darkest moments in human history. As a matter of fact, our Founding Fathers advised this country to stay out of these wars and avoid entangling alliances.
First came Napoleon and his attempt to spread the ideas and ideals of the French Revolution by conquering all of Europe. Then came Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany. The Kaiser tried to turn Germany into the dominant power in Europe and he started an arms race in Europe and abandoned Bismarck’s system of alliances which was maintaining the peace. This led to World War I. Then came Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler. The Nazi Regime was one of the most horrific governments in human history as they plunged the world into World War II. As soon as World War II ended the Cold War broke out.
The Cold War
In my view, the Cold War was different as this was a new era in human history. The following is my interpretation of the Cold War and how we can use the lessons learned to prevent another major war in Europe. The Cold War combined Ideology with power politics.
The Cold War was different from every other attempt to conquer Europe and then the world as the Soviet Union espoused a worldwide ideology known as Marxism or Communism that was supposed to unite the world under Soviet leadership. The greatest difference is that the Cold War was managed carefully and never resulted in a major war in Europe. Nuclear weapons changed the whole nature of warfare and now another world war in Europe probably would escalate to a nuclear war and both sides could easily be annihilated.
The Soviet Union was checkmated in Europe and decided to make a major effort in the Third World and try to nickel and dime the Western Allies to death. They were North Vietnam’s major ally in their quest to conquer South Vietnam and reunite Vietnam. When the Vietnam War finally ended, they made many new advances in the Third World. The Soviets made major investments in Africa and Latin America. In Africa, they built a large land army with their ally in Ethiopia, and in Angola they helped install a Marxist government. This gave the Soviets the ability to threaten the West in the Horn of Africa and threaten the West in the center of the continent. In Latin America, the Soviets helped a Marxist government come to power in Nicaragua and fomented revolutionary movements in El Salvador and other Latin American countries. They wanted to facilitate Marxist revolutions throughout Latin America so the United Sates would be tied down defending its own interests in the Western Hemisphere.
Too Many Commitments
Then the Soviet Union made a major move when it invaded Afghanistan. Now the Soviet Army was in striking range of the oil fields that the West depended on to survive economically. This effectively ended the policy of detente and President Carter changed his view of the Soviet Union and their ultimate objectives. President Carter responded by arming the freedom fighters in Afghanistan, leading a boycott of the Olympics, and placing trade sanctions on the Soviet Union. The Soviets got bogged down in Afghanistan and the Marxist revolution in the Third World became a stale idea.
The End Of The Cold War
The Soviets began to take serious casualties in Afghanistan and the Russian People became skeptical of war. Then the communications revolution had its effect and people behind the Iron Curtain found the truth. They now realized that the West was in good shape and the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were in a deplorable situation. This led to a massive rebellion in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union eventually imploded and the Cold War came to an end.
Where Will Russian Aggression End?
History has shown us that aggression and major wars are all too common in Europe. Nuclear weapons make modern warfare so destructive that another major war in Europe becomes unthinkable. Fortunately, the Cold War ended without a major war and a nuclear exchange in Europe. The greatest foreign policy goal of the current generation is to use the lessons of history and halt Russian aggression without a major war in Europe and a nuclear exchange.