Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Keaton from Lake Wales. Keaton Wonders, “What was the Cold War?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Keaton!

War is about as old as human society itself. Most wars have a few things in common. At least two countries declare war on each other. They fight many battles. Eventually, they come to a peace agreement. However, one war defied most of those expectations.

The Cold War was unlike any other war the United States (US) has been in. It was a time of tension between the US and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) that lasted from 1946 until 1991. The hostility began right after World War II, in which the two countries had been allies. However, the US and the USSR could not have been more different.

Trouble began when leaders of the US and the USSR realized they had very different ideas for the world after World War II. The USSR wanted to continue the spread of communism. The US, a nation built on capitalism, wanted to prevent this. Much of what happened in the Cold War grew from these opposing interests.

But the US and USSR soldiers never actually fought against each other. Are you WONDERing how that could be? Instead of waging bloody battles, the two sides tried to beat each other in other ways. Both the US and the USSR wanted to be the strongest superpower in the world. 

For much of the Cold War, the US and USSR competed in an arms race. That means both sides tried to have more and better weapons than the other. Both countries invested trillions of dollars in their militaries and nuclear weapon development. Many worried that this race would end in a nuclear war. Most are thankful that it never did.

The countries also engaged in a space race. Each believed that being the first in space exploration would mean they’d outdone the other. The USSR led this race for a long time, putting the first person in space and doing the first space walk. However, the US beat them to the moon in 1969.

The Cold War nearly broke into all-out war several times. This was always a risk during proxy wars. These were wars in which the US and USSR supported opposite sides without declaring war themselves. The US and USSR were on opposite sides of both the Korean War and the Vietnam War.  

The closest the two countries came to actual fighting was during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Cuba, a communist nation, was closely allied with the USSR. The US had tried to invade Cuba once already in a failed attempt known as the Bay of Pigs. In 1962, the USSR began giving the island nation nuclear missiles. When US spy planes spotted them, President John F. Kennedy ordered their removal. Eventually, the US pledged not to re-invade Cuba, and the USSR removed the weapons. 

The Cold War ended in 1991 with the fall of the USSR. The USSR disbanded and became many separate nations, the largest being Russia. However, tensions between the US and Russia continue to drive many political actions today.

Standards: C3.D2.His.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.W.2. CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, C3.D2.His.1, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2

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Feeling a bit prickly? You’ll fit in great with tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day!