This article is about the general term for a type of international conflict. For the specific conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States.

cold war 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.

This term is most commonly used to refer to the Soviet-American Cold War. 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” was rarely used before 1945. Some writers credit the fourteenth century Spaniard, Don Juan Manuel for first using the term (in Spanish), when dealing with the conflict between Christianity and Islam as a “cold war”.

However he used the term “tepid” not “cold”. The word “cold” first appeared in a faulty translation of his work in the 19th century.

At the end 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 “the cold war”.

Orwell directly referred to that war as the ideological confrontation between the Soviet Union and the Western powers. 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.”

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 (which in practice acted as satellites of the opposing force) is attributed to Bernard Baruch, an American financier and presidential advisor.

In South Carolina, on April 16, 1947, he delivered a speech (by journalist Herbert Bayard Swope) saying, “Let us not be deceived: we are today in the midst of a cold war.” Newspaper reporter-columnist Walter Lippmann gave the term wide currency, with the book Cold War (1947).

List of tensions called the Cold War

Since the NATO-Warsaw Pact Cold War (1945–1991), a number of global and regional tensions have also been called “Cold War”.

Cold War II

Cold War II, also called Second Cold War, Cold War 2.0, or the New Cold War refers to a renewed state of political and military tension between opposing geopolitical power-blocs, with one bloc typically reported as being led by Russia or China, and the other led by the United States or NATO.

This is akin to the original Cold War that saw a global confrontation between the Western Bloc led by the United States and the Eastern Bloc led by the Soviet Union, Russia’s predecessor.

Saudi Arabia vs. Iran

An Atlantic Council member Bilal Y. Saab, an About.com writer Primoz Manfreda, an Iranian scholar Seyyed Hossein Mousavian and a Princeton University scholar Sina Toossi, journalist Kim Ghattas, Foreign Policy journalist Yochi Dreazen, Brookings Institution researcher Sultan Barakat, and Newsweek journalist Jonathan Broder use the term “cold war” to refer to tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. In February 2016, a University of Isfahan professor Ali Omidi dismissed the assumptions that the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia would grow tense.

India vs. Pakistan

A commentator Ehsan Ahrari, a writer Bruce Riedel, a political commentator Sanjaya Baru[ and a Princeton University academic Zia Mian have used the term “cold war” since 2002 to refer to long-term tensions between India and Pakistan, which were part of the British India until its partition in 1947.


China vs. Japan

China’s Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng, The Diplomat editor Shannon Tiezzi, and The Guardian columnist Simon Tisdall used the term to refer to tensions between China and Japan. China’s state-run newspaper Global Times says that China and Japan “are stuck in a state of ‘cold peace’ and [m]ust avoid sliding into a cold war.”

Korean peninsula

A Naval Postgraduate School academic Edward A. Olsen, a British politician David Alton, a York University professor Hyun Ok Park, and a University of Southern California professor David C. Kang used the term to refer to tensions between North Korea and South Korea, which have been divided since the end of World War II in 1945. They interchangeably called it the “Korean Cold War”.


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