Foreign policy

Early Cold War Foreign Policy (1945-1953)

  • The Truman Doctrine (1947) was established to prevent Greece and Turkey from falling into Soviet control, marking the start of the Cold War.
  • This was further supported by the Marshall Plan (1948), providing economic aid to Western Europe in order to rebuild their war-ravaged infrastructure and economies, effectively asserting US influence in the region.
  • The foundation of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1949 was a key element of American foreign policy, creating a defensive coalition against potential Soviet aggression.

Korean War and Aftermath (1950–1953)

  • The US’s involvement in the Korean War from 1950-1953 represented the country’s commitment to contain the spread of communism, a key principle of Cold War foreign policy.
  • Following the war, president-elect Dwight Eisenhower in 1953 adopted ‘brinkmanship’ policy pressurising nations to the point of war to force a retreat, a noticeably more aggressive approach than Truman’s containment.

Cold War Escalation (1961-1970)

  • Bay of Pigs Invasion (1961) was a key foreign policy fiasco under Kennedy’s administration which intended to overthrow Fidel Castro in Cuba but disastrously failed.
  • Following the invasion, Cuba became more closely aligned with the USSR leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) where the US and USSR were on the brink of a nuclear war.
  • Under the ‘Domino Theory’, the US escalated its involvement in Vietnam to prevent further countries from becoming Communist, amplifying tensions in the Cold War.

Detente and Aftermath (1971-1980)

  • An era of Détente came in during the 1970s under Richard Nixon, whereby efforts were made to thaw relations with the USSR and China.
  • The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) I and II sought to curb the production of strategic weapons by both the US and the USSR.
  • The Camp David Accords (1978) negotiated by President Jimmy Carter were significant in promoting peace in the Middle East between Egypt and Israel.

Reagan Era (1981-1989)

  • Upon his election, Ronald Reagan brought about an end to Détente, renewing the aggressive Cold War stance with his ‘Reagan Doctrine’, offering open support to anti-Communist insurgencies.
  • Reagan inherited an energy crisis and an economy in recession, prompting a hyper-militarised response to international issues.
  • The end of the Cold War was marked by the controversial Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) or ‘Star Wars’ which intended to protect the US from incoming missiles but led to increased spending and escalating tensions simultaneously.