USA vs USSR Fight! The Cold War: Crash Course World History #39

USA vs USSR Fight! The Cold War: Crash Course World History #39

Hi, I’m John Green, this is Crash Course
World History and today we’re gonna talk about the Cold War, which actually lasted
into my lifetime, which means that I can bore you with stories from my past like your grandpa
does. When I was a kid, they made us practice hiding under our desks in the event of a nuclear
attack, because, you know, school desks are super good at repelling radiation. Mr. Green, Mr. Green! Right, remember in elementary
school there was this special guest who’d defected from the Soviet Union, and he had– Like this crazy Russian accent and he kept
going on and on about how Reagan should spit in Gorbachev’s face instead of signing treaties
with him. And I was like, whoa dude calm down. You’re
in a room full of third graders. And then for like months afterward on the
playground, we’d play Reagan-Gorbachev and spit in each other’s faces. Those were the days.
Sometimes I forget that you’re me, Me from the Past. Yeah, it’s just really nice to talk to you
and feel like you’re lis — You’re boring. Cue the intro. [theme music] So the Cold War was a rivalry between the
USSR and the USA that played out globally. We’ve tried to shy away from calling conflicts
ideological or civilizational here on Crash Course, but in this case, the “clash of
civilizations” model really does apply. Socialism, at least as Marx constructed it,
wanted to take over the world, and many Soviets saw themselves in a conflict with bourgeois
capitalism itself. And the Soviets saw American rebuilding efforts in Europe and Japan as
the U.S. trying to expand its markets, which, by the way, is exactly what we were doing. So the U.S. feared that the USSR wanted to
destroy democratic and capitalist institutions. And the Soviets feared that the US wanted
to use its money and power to dominate Europe and eventually destroy the Soviet system.
And both parties were right to be worried. It’s not paranoia if they really are out
to get you. Now of course we’ve seen a lot of geopolitical
struggles between major world powers here on Crash Course, but this time there was the
special added bonus that war could lead to the destruction of the human species. That
was new for world history, and it’s worth remembering: It’s still new. Here’s the
period of time we’ve discussed on Crash Course. And this is how long we’ve had the
technological capability to exterminate ourselves. So that’s worrisome. Immediately after World War II, the Soviets
created a sphere of influence in eastern Europe, dominating the countries where the Red Army
had pushed back the Nazis, which is why Winston Churchill famously said in 1946 that an “Iron
Curtain” had descended across Europe. While the dates of the Cold War are usually
given between 1945 and 1990, a number of historians will tell you that it actually started during
World War II. Stalin’s distrust of the U.S. and Britain kept growing as they refused to
invade Europe and open up a second front against the Nazis. And some even say that the decision
to drop the first Atomic Bombs on Japan was motivated in part by a desire to intimidate
the Soviets. That sort of worked, but only insofar as it motivated the Soviets to develop
atomic bombs of their own — they successfully tested their first one in 1949. From the beginning, the U.S had the advantage
because it had more money and power and could provide Europe protection (what with its army
and one of a kind nuclear arsenal) while Europe rebuilt. The USSR had to rebuild itself, and
also they had the significant disadvantage of being controlled by noted asshat Joseph
Stalin. I will remind you, it’s not cursing if he’s wearing an ass for a hat. Oh, I
guess it’s time for the open letter. An Open Letter to Joseph Stalin. But first, let’s see what’s in the secret
compartment today. Oh, it’s silly putty. Silly putty: the thing
that won the Cold War. This is exactly the kind of useless consumer good that would never
have been produced in the Soviet Union. And it is because we had so much more consumer
spending, on stuff like silly putty, that we won the Cold War. Go team! Dear Joseph Stalin, You really sucked. There
was a great moment in your life, at your first wife’s funeral, when you said, “I don’t
think I shall ever love again.” And then later, you had that wife’s whole family
killed. Putting aside the fact that you’re responsible for tens of millions of deaths,
I don’t like you because of the way that you treated your son, Yakov. I mean, you were
really mean to him and then he shot himself and he didn’t die and you said, “He can’t
even shoot straight.” And then later, when he was captured during World War II, you had
a chance to exchange prisoners for him, but you declined. And then he died in a prison
camp. You were a terrible leader, a terrible person, and a terrible father. Best wishes,
John Green All right, let’s go to the Thought Bubble.
Europe was the first battleground of the Cold War, especially Germany, which was divided
into 2 parts with the former capital, Berlin, also divided into 2 parts. And yes, I know
the western part was divided into smaller occupation zones, but I’m simplifying. In
1948, the Soviets tried to cut off West Berlin, by closing the main road that led into the
city, but the Berlin airlift stopped them. And then in 1961, the Soviets tried again
and this time they were much more successful building a wall around West Berlin, although
it’s worth noting that the thing was up for less than 30 years. I mean, Meatloaf’s
career has lasted longer than the Berlin Wall did. The U.S. response to the Soviets was a policy
called containment; it basically involved stopping the spread of communism by standing
up to the Soviets wherever they seemed to want to expand. In Europe this meant spending
a lot of money. First the Marshall Plan spent $13 billion on re-building western Europe with
grants and credits that Europeans would spend on American consumer goods and on construction.
Capitalism’s cheap food and plentiful stuff, it was hoped, would stop the spread of communism. The US also tried to slow the spread of communism
by founding NATO and with CIA interventions in elections where communists had a chance,
as in Italy. But despite all the great spy novels and shaken not stirred martinis, the
Cold War never did heat up in Europe. Probably the most important part of the Cold
War that people just don’t remember these days is the nuclear arms race. Both sides
developed nuclear arsenals, the Soviets initially with the help of spies who stole American
secrets. Eventually the nuclear arsenals were so big that the U.S. and USSR agreed on a
strategy appropriately called MAD, which stood for “mutually assured destruction.” Thanks
Thought Bubble. And yes, nuclear weapons were, and are, capable
of destroying humanity many times over. But only once or twice did we get close to nuclear
war: during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and then again in 1983, when we forgot to
give the Russians the heads up that we were doing some war games, which made it look like
we had launched a first strike. OUR BAD! But even though mutually assured destruction
prevented direct conflict, there was plenty of hot war in the Cold War. The Korean War
saw lots of fighting between communists and capitalists, as did the Vietnam War. I mean,
these days we remember “the domino effect” as silly paranoia, but after Korea and especially
China became communist, Vietnam’s movement toward communism seemed very much a threat
to Japan, which the U.S. had helped re-make into a vibrant capitalist ally. So the US
got bogged down in one of its longest wars while the Soviets assisted the North Vietnamese
army in the Viet Cong. But then we paid them back by supporting the
anti-communist mujaheddin after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Of course, as
we now know, nobody conquers Afghanistan …unless you are the mongols.
[Mongoltage] So after 10 disastrous years, the Soviets
finally abandoned Afghanistan. Some of those mujahideen later became members
of the Taliban, though, so it’s difficult to say that anyone won that war. But it wasn’t just Asia: In Nicaragua, the
US supported rebels to overthrow the leftist government; in El Salvador, the US bolstered
authoritarian regimes that were threatened by left-wing guerrillas. The United States
ended up supporting a lot of awful governments, like the one in Guatemala, which held onto
power through the use of death squads. Frankly, all our attempts to stabilize governments
in Latin America led to some very unstable Latin American governments, and quite a lot
of violence. And then there were the luke-warm conflicts,
like The Suez Crisis where British and French paratroopers were sent in to try to stop Egypt
from nationalizing the Suez canal. Or all the American covert operations to keep various
countries from “falling” to communism. These included the famous CIA-engineered coup
to overthrow Iran’s democratically elected prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh after his
government attempted to nationalize Iran’s oil industry. And the CIA helping Chile’s
General Augusto Pinochet overthrow democratically elected Marxist president Salvador Allende
in 1973. And lest we think the Americans were the only
bad guys in this, the Soviets used force to crush popular uprisings in Hungary in 1956
and in Czechoslovakia in 1968. So, you may have noticed that our discussion
of the Cold War has branched out from Europe to include Asia, and the Middle East, and
Latin America. And in fact, almost every part of the globe was involved in some way with
the planet being divided into three “worlds.” The first world was the U.S., Western Europe
and any place that embraced capitalism and a more or less democratic form of government.
The Second World was the Soviet Union and its satellites, mostly the Warsaw Pact nations,
China and Cuba. The Third World was everyone else and we don’t use this term anymore because it
lumps together a hugely diverse range of countries. We’ll talk more about the specific economic
and development challenges faced by the so-called “Third World countries,” but the big one
in terms of the Cold War, was that neither the U.S. nor the Soviets wanted any of these
countries to remain neutral. Every nation was supposed to pick sides, either capitalist
or communist, and while it seems like an easy choice now, in the 50s and 60s, it wasn’t
nearly so clear. I mean, for a little while, it seemed like the Soviets might come out
ahead, at least in the Third World. For a while, capitalism, and especially the United
States, seemed to lose some of its luster. The US propped up dictatorships, had a poor
civil rights record, we sucked at women’s gymnastics. Plus, the Soviets were the first
to put a satellite, a man, and a dog into space. Plus, Marxists just seemed cooler,
which is why you never see Milton Friedman t-shirts… until now available at
I like that, Stan, but I’m more of a centrist. Can I get a Keynes shirt? Yes. That, now that’s
hot. But Soviet socialism did not finally prove
to be a viable alternative to industrial capitalism. Over time, state-run economies just generally
don’t fare as well as private enterprise, and people like living in a world where they
can have more stuff. More importantly, Soviet policies were just bad: collectivized agriculture
stymied production and led to famine; suppression of dissent and traditional cultures made people angry; and
no one likes suffering the humiliation of driving a Yugo. But why the Cold War ended when it did is
one of the most interesting questions of the 20th century. It probably wasn’t Ronald
Reagan bankrupting the Soviets, despite what some politicians believe. The USSR had more
satellite states that it needed to spend more to prop up than the U.S. had to invest in
its Allies. And the Soviet system could never keep up with economic growth in the West.
But, probably the individual most responsible for the end of the Cold War was Mikhail Baryshnikov.
No? Mikhail Gorbachev? Well, that’s boring. I always thought the Soviets danced their
way to freedom. No? It was Glasnost and Perestroika? Alright. But Gorbachev’s Perestroika and Glasnost
opened up the Soviet political and economic systems with contested local elections, less
restricted civil society groups, less censorship, more autonomy for the Soviet Republics, more
non-state-run businesses and more autonomy for state-run farms. Glasnost or “openness”
led to more information from the west and less censorship led to a flood of criticism as people realized
how much poorer the second world was than the first. And one by one, often quite suddenly, former
communist states collapsed. In Germany, the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and East and
West Germany were reunited in 1990. In Poland, the Gdansk dockworker’s union Solidarity
turned into a mass political movement and won 99 of the 100 seats it was allowed to
contest in the 1989 election. Hungary held multiparty elections in 1990. The same year,
mass demonstrations led to elections in Czechoslovakia. In 1993, that country split up into Slovakia
and the Czech Republic, the happiest and most mutually beneficial divorce since Cher left
Sonny. Of course sometimes the transition away from
communism was violent and painful. In Romania, for instance, the communist dictator Ceaușescu
held onto power until he was tried and put before a firing squad at the end of 1989.
And it took until 1996 for a non-communist government to take power there. And in Yugoslavia,
well, not so great. And in Russia, it’s a little bit Putin-ey. Ah! Putin. But just twenty years later, it’s hard to
believe that the world was once dominated by two super powers held in check mutually
assured destruction. What’s really amazing to me, though, is that until the late 1980s,
it felt like the Cold War was gonna go on forever. Time seems to slow as it approaches
us, & living in the post-Cold War nuclear age, we should remember that the past feels
distant even when it’s near, and that the future seems assured — even though it isn’t.
Thanks for watching. I’ll see you next week. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan
Muller. Our script supervisor is Meredith Danko. Our associate producer is Danica Johnson.
The show is written by my high school history teacher Raoul Meyer and myself. And our graphics
team is Thought Bubble. Last week’s phrase of the week was “Justin Bieber” Thanks for
that suggestion. If you’d like to suggest future phrases of the week, you can do so
in comments where you can also ask questions about today’s video that will be answered
by our team of historians. Thanks for watching Crash Course and as we say in my hometown,
Don’t Forget To Be Awesome.

100 thoughts on “USA vs USSR Fight! The Cold War: Crash Course World History #39

  1. he wont read this, but can i commend you guys on making the intro really motivating? The music and visuals, actually makes me want to watch the rest of the video, even when I'm studying last minute and really tired

  2. So Stalin didn't exchange one sone for may be thousants of soldiers and it makes him terrible lider?
    38 episodes John telling us about Wester history and making same mistake

  3. wuaaa wuaaa wuaaa Stalin is the devil… come on gringo, if he was a terrible leader why he lead his country to victory over fascism, thing that ur country wait to long to do and then when nazis lost it, your goverment save some thousand of them to learn some politics and engineering, eat a doritos and calm down, also family is secondary to the good for a entire society, and finally, try to read less about Stalin from nazis lovers books.

  4. Meredith going from Intern to Script Supervisor is the kind of glow up in searching for in 2019

  5. there were 2 in '83. Stanislav Petrov, 'the Man who saved the world' did his saving that very same year

  6. John Green is actually a liberal.
    1. The sticker on his laptop says, "This machine kills fascists," probably referring to conservatives as fascists.
    2. He makes the anticommunist rebels and governments sound bad through the words he says. For instance, "bolstered 'authoritarian' regimes threatened by leftist guerillas" and "supported rebels to overthrow the leftist government". See, he used the word government for leftist rule and authoritarian regimes for rightist rule.
    3. He even says at 858 that he is a centrist leftist.

  7. Whenever I feel like hating those assh** in my workplace, I would think of Stalin… at least they r not THAT toxic, boy this works

  8. Some say Stalin didn't do the prisoner exchange because it would have been viewed by the public as preferential and unfair. There are a lot of different accounts and views for some of this history and your opinion seems quite biased.

  9. me from the past: i won't just watch a bunch of crash course videos before my ap exam
    me now: i won't comment about just watching crash course videos for the ap exam
    me now now: i am such a disappointment

  10. 3:10 that moment when you’re playing with silly putty to give your hands something to do while watching this

  11. My teacher always asked the class if we wanted her to slow the vid down because some of my classmates and the teacher thought he talked to fast and the classes before mine and im like really he doesnt even talk that fast.

  12. I am surprised you did not mention the nothing to do with Star Wars, Star Wars plan as part of the Soviet bankruptcy came from them spending lots of money trying to make technology that could get past the Star Wars plan even though the Star Wars plan never actually WORKED.


  14. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago had a lot to do with the fall of the soviet union.
    ''Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.'' – Ronald Reagan.
    The threat of communism in the west is still very much present today. Hell, Bernie Sanders got kicked out of a commune in the soviet union for being too lazy and now he's promising you free stuff. Nothing is free, freedom is not free.
    ''If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.'' – Milton Friedman

  15. Setting up a Soviet sphere of influence was a trigger for WWII. Without the Molotov-Ribbontrop pact it is doubtful if the Nazis would have invaded Poland.

  16. So why did Americans feel the need to invade countries in which they had no business to invade under the pretext of some vague ideology? A lot of reasons I get are incredibly self-righteous instead of practical and it's annoying. Like communism isn't great in practice usually but lives lost for something ore pointless than WWI? Sad.

  17. I’m Russian and I’m butthurt. Sorry. John Green is great and the whole team is too. But I’m still butthurt.

  18. love this show!! There is so much to learn. Thank you for always filling in the gaps that our traditional schools leave out

  19. "Nuclear weapon were and are capable of destroying humanity many times over"

    Not really. Kurzgesagt did a video on this subject. Only if we'd dug up all the uranium in the earth and use it all to produce nuclear weapons, only then would we be capable of destroying humanity, not 'many times over' though.

    But still they are capable of causing immense destruction.

  20. The Suez crisis did not lead to all out war because of the Cold War. The US pressured France, Israel and the UK to retreat due to fears that the whole region would become communist. They did this together with the Soviet Union.

  21. American capitalism want to make the entire world as their Customer, so they can transfer their wealth to them to finance their socialist program and corporation at home such as , Military, post office, gov salary, school, health care and unemployment insurance.

    a single country with limited resources can not sustain itself, evidence in Great Depression.

    ironically, their walking dead movie is communism life. 🤦🏻‍♂️🤦🏻‍♂️

  22. Stalin man bad, USSR man bad,
    USA man good. Stalin kill 500 bajillions.

    I wonder if people actually realise you can't kill over 20 million people and not have a stagnant or declining population, under Stalin, the population was actually booming. (except WWII, of course).
    Born to be programmed, I guess.

  23. Past seam distant even when it is near and the future seemed assured even though it isn't.
    What the quote.

  24. Both of my parents were alive during the coldwar
    (Mostly my dad cause he was born on 1972 and my mom was born in 1986)

  25. Did you know how NICE Gorbachev was, he treated everyone equally and his thoughts differed from every president from the past. Without him, the cold war wouldn't have ended.

  26. My brother has that same exact silly puddy, literally!! The red egg and everything, wow… Small world 🌎😮

  27. Speaking of the cold war I know family spent it as a coast guard coast watcher north of Fairbanks Alaska all alone in a log cabin watching a system for ICBM's and teaching himself music and sculpture in all the spare time.

  28. Wait a minute…I just looked up Able Archer. It didn't just take place in 1983. It took place on November 7th, 1983.

    The same date the world is said to have ended in Night Vale via nuclear apocalypse.

    So [Spoilers!] The reason Night Vale was removed from the universe on November 7th, 1983 was because Able Archer actually went wrong!

  29. So long mom
    I’m off to drop the bomb
    So don’t wait up for me
    But while you swelter
    Down there in your shelter,
    You can see me
    On your tv.

    While we're attacking frontally,
    Watch brinkally and huntally,
    Describing contrapuntally
    The cities we have lost.
    No need for you to miss a minute
    Of the agonizing holocaust. (yeah!)

    Little johnny jones he was a u.s. pilot,
    And no shrinking vi'let was he.
    He was mighty proud when world war three was declared,
    He wasn't scared,
    No siree!
    And this is what he said on
    His way to armageddon:

    So long, mom,
    I'm off to drop the bomb,
    So don't wait up for me.
    But though I may roam,
    I'll come back to my home,
    Although it may be
    A pile of debris.

    Remember, mommy,
    I'm off to get a commie,
    So send me a salami,
    And try to smile somehow.
    I'll look for you when the war is over,
    An hour and a half from now!

  30. Soviet system was doomed since beginning. We in Czechoslovakia viewed Russians as barbarians and so most people never respect such invaders. You just try to survive and hope one day their backward feudal system will collapse… it did in the end…. fortunately… I think same perception was in eastern Germany and elsewhere … you simply cannot respect civilization which pulls you back 100 years and that is exactly how Russia is perceived here even nowadays

  31. Such a shame you didnt mention Silent Coup of Gen. Soeharto sponsored by CIA which killed almost 600.000 people in Indonesia circa 1965-1970.

  32. I took History for A Levels, we were half way through the course, we'd just finished The Tudors and we had just came back from the holidays to do the Cold War. I remember these three guys that had barely been paying attention so far in the course came bursting in on the first day and yelled "FINALLY! WE GET TO FIGHT SOME COMMIES!!!"

  33. If you ask me, Georgism is the best of both worlds. It has all the avantages of capitalism (efficiency, freedom) and the (purported) advantages of communism (equality, fairness).
    What is Georgism? I'm glad you asked. In short, it revolves around the notion that "land" (which actually refers to everything in the natural world) belongs equally to all, but that labour and capital belong to those who make it. A single tax on the unimproved value of land would be efficient (because it would encourage the most efficient use of land), free (because as long as you pay the tax, you can do whatever you want on the land), and fair (because land ownership is stronly correlated with wealth). It would also be good for the environment by reducing urban sprawl, among other things.

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