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A cold war or cold warfare is a state of conflict between nations that does not involve direct military action but is pursued primarily through economic and political actions, propaganda, acts of espionage or proxy wars waged by surrogates. The surrogates are typically states that are "satellites" of the conflicting nations, i.e., nations allied to them or under their political influence. Opponents in a cold war will often provide economic or military aid, such as weapons, tactical support or military advisors, to lesser nations involved in conflicts with the opposing country.

Origins of the term

The expression "cold war" has historically had a number of meanings. In the fourteenth century, Don Juan Manuel referred to the conflict between Christianity and Islam as a "lukewarm war" and defined the distinguishing characteristics between such a war and a hot war. "War that is very fierce and very hot ends either with death or peace, whereas a lukewarm war neither brings peace nor confers honour on those who wage it." [1][2] Then, during the course of World War II, George Orwell used the term in the essay “You and the Atomic Bomb” published October 19, 1945, in the British newspaper Tribune. Contemplating a world living in the shadow of the threat of nuclear war, he warned of a “peace that is no peace”, which he called a permanent “cold war”.[3] Orwell directly referred to that war as the ideological confrontation between the Soviet Union and the Western powers.[4] Moreover, in The Observer of March 10, 1946, Orwell wrote that “[a]fter the Moscow conference last December, Russia began to make a ‘cold war’ on Britain and the British Empire.”[5]

The definition which has now become fixed is of a war waged through indirect conflict. The first use of the term in this sense, to describe the post–World War II geopolitical tensions between the USSR and its satellites and the United States and its western European allies is attributed to Bernard Baruch, an American financier and presidential advisor.[6] In South Carolina, on April 16, 1947, he delivered a speech (by journalist Herbert Bayard Swope)[7] saying, “Let us not be deceived: we are today in the midst of a cold war.”[8] Newspaper reporter-columnist Walter Lippmann gave the term wide currency, with the book Cold War (1947).[9]

Cold wars

  • Rome and Carthage, Mid 3rd century BC-146 BC: The main contest regarding Mediterranean dominance, often being fought through the Punic Wars.
  • 92 BC–627: Relations between the Roman Republic and Empire and their successor the Byzantine Empire on the one hand and the Parthian Empire and its Sassanid successor on the other, could be characterized as decades of cold war interspersed with outbursts of direct warfare. Known as the Roman–Persian Wars, that ancient cold war had most of the above-mentioned characteristics of modern ones, such as war by proxy involving such satellites as Armenia and various pre-Islamic Arab tribes.
  • 1608–1755: The war for control of North America between the British and French[10]
  • The Great Game, 1813-1907: Geopolitical conflict between the Russian and British Empires over influence in Central Asia.
  • 1892–1914: France and the Russian Empire vs. Germany and Austria–Hungary set off by the formation of the German Empire, which politically and geographically challenged the older empires of Europe, and the fall of Otto von Bismarck, whose system of alliances placated the major powers about the potential danger of Germany.
  • 1923–present: Greece vs. Turkey (see Cyprus dispute), set off by the post–World War I political troubles left from the defunct Ottoman Empire
  • 1947–1991: United States vs. Soviet Union - the Cold War set off by the ideological and political differences of the victors of World War II
  • 1949–1979: United States vs. People's Republic of China (see Sino-American relations), part of the Cold War
  • 1949–present: People's Republic of China vs. Taiwan (see Political status of Taiwan), set off by the Chinese Civil War's conclusion.
  • 1954–present: North Korea vs. South Korea (see Korean reunification), set off by the conclusion of the Korean War over a year prior.
  • 1962–present: United States vs. Cuba (see Cuba – United States relations)
  • 1979–present: Saudi Arabia vs. Iran (see Saudi-Iranian relations)
  • 1979–present: Israel vs. Iran (see Israel-Iran relations)

In popular culture


See also Category:Cold War films
  • Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove (1964)
  • James B. Harris' The Bedford Incident (1965)
  • Michael Apted's Gorky Park (1983)
  • Sam Peckinpah's The Osterman Weekend (1983)
  • John Milius' Red Dawn (1984)
  • Walter Hill's Red Heat (1988)
  • John Schlesinger's The Falcon and the Snowman (1985)
  • Richard Benjamin's Little Nikita (1988)
  • John McTiernan's The Hunt for Red October (1990)
  • Clint Eastwood’s In the Line of Fire (1993)
  • Ben Affleck's Argo (2012)


See also Category:Cold War novels
  • Ian Fleming's From Russia, With Love
  • Peter George's Red Alert (1958)
  • Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler's Fail Safe (1962)
  • John le Carré's The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963)
  • John le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974)

Television and video games

  • The Pax Cybertronia from the stance of the Decepticons and Predacons in The Transformers and Beast Wars.
  • The event succeeding the Great Galactic War in Star Wars: The Old Republic.



  1. McCauley, Martin (2004). Russia, America and the Cold War. Pearson Education Limited. 
  2. Stephenson, Anders (1996) (PDF). Fourteen Notes on the very Concept of the Cold War. Columbia University. Retrieved 2013-10-31. 
  3. Kort, Michael (2001). The Columbia Guide to the Cold War. Columbia University Press. pp. 3. 
  4. Geiger, Till (2004). Britain and the Economic Problem of the Cold War. Ashgate Publishing. pp. 7. 
  5. Orwell, George, The Observer, March 10, 1946
  6. Gaddis 2005, p. 54
  7. Safire, William (October 1, 2006). "Islamofascism Anyone?". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Archived from the original on October 22, 2006. Retrieved December 25, 2008. 
  8. 'Bernard Baruch coins the term "Cold War"',, April 16, 1947. Retrieved on July 2, 2008.
  9. Lippmann, Walter (1947). Cold War. Harper. Retrieved 2008-09-02. 
  10. Leebaert, Derek (2006). The Fifty-year Wound: How America's Cold War Victory Shapes Our World. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-51847-6. 

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