Here the superpowers stood face to face, and the Berlin Wall came to be the physical representation of the Iron Curtain that cut off Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe from the West. Throughout the Cold War, American leaders adopted the premise that a massive deterrent military force must remain in Europe to prevent the Soviet Union from invading and dominating Western Europe. This doctrine, first articulated by Truman with his adoption of NSC-68, was known as containment. In Asia, the Cold War centered on China after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) came to power in 1949.
For decades, American leaders mistakenly assumed that the CCP was subservient to the Kremlin. The CCP, while technically allied with Moscow early on, had its own interests. The CCP was the dominant force in mainland Asia, and when American armies intervened in Korea and Vietnam, the CCP aimed to drive Americans from the border regions of China. In general the Cold War in Asia was bloodier than the Cold War in Europe. Korea and Vietnam were two large scale Cold War conflicts in which over 100,000 Americans and millions of Asians died. There was no comparable bloodshed in Europe during this period.
The Cold Wars effect on the world was far-reaching. After World War II and the Chinese Civil War, the lines were essentially drawn in Europe and mainland Asia. The rest of the world, however, was emerging from European and Japanese colonialism. These newly independent nations were where much of the Cold War would be played out, as both superpowers aimed to add new nations to their respective spheres of influence. Some scholars argue that the Cold War has not ended yet, since China, Indochina, North Korea, and Cuba are still nominally communist countries.
The Cold War in Europe, however, ended with the demise of the Soviet Union from 1989 through 1991. When a new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, made it clear that he would not use force to keep the Soviet empire together, it dissolved in a matter of months. The speed and peaceful nature of the collapse shocked many. The most common explanation for the collapse of the Soviet Union is the inefficiency of the communist system, which could neither provide for its people nor keep pace with Western military buildups.
The Cold War had immeasurable effects on America both domestically and internationally. Domestically, the American republic was changed beyond recognition. The National Security Act of 1947 created the Pentagon, the National Security Council, and the CIA. America had never had a standing peacetime army before. It had never had a permanent intelligence service, which was necessarily very secretive. It had never had such a powerful executive, and it had never entered into foreign alliances, which it did with NATO in 1949.
In terms of international relations, the Cold War put the United States on the world stage in a way it had never been before. During the Cold War, the United States was far more popular than it is today. Partly this is because during the Cold War many people felt that the American system was far preferable to the Soviet system, and they believed that the United States valued freedom. After the Cold War, the United States found itself the lone superpower. Without the Soviet enemy to contain, many former allies of America came to see it as a domineering and arrogant nation.