As tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union increased, each side began to develop alliances with other nations.

image of the NATO flag

Source: Flag of NATO, Mysid, Wikipedia

In 1949, the United States joined eleven other countries (Great Britain, Belgium, Canada, France, Denmark, Portugal, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands) in an alliance that would protect the members from a military attack by an outside force. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was initially formed to protect the European countries against the threat of Soviet domination. Since its creation, more members have joined NATO. Click on the link below to access NATO’s website.


Image of the Warsaw Pact emblem

Source: Warsaw Pact Logo, Fenn-O-maniaC, Wikimedia

In response to the creation of NATO, the Soviet Union created an alliance. In 1955, the Soviet Union signed a treaty that established the Warsaw Pact. In the treaty, the Soviet Union and seven of its satellite countries (Albania, Romania, Hungary, Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria) agreed to defend one another in the event that one of its members was attacked by an outside country or alliance. The Soviet Union led the armed forces of all nations of the Warsaw Pact. The Warsaw Pact began to fall apart as the Soviet Union began to crumble in 1989.

Interactive exercise. Assistance may be required. Click on NATO or Warsaw Pact to locate the countries of each alliance on the map below.

The Space Race

Image of the satellite Sputnik

Source: Sat 1, the Truman Library

The tension between the United States and the Soviet Union escalated in to one of the most momentous events in the history of the United States. In 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first satellite to orbit the Earth. The United States saw Sputnik as an example of how technologically advanced the Soviet Union was compared to the United States. This surprise launch into space marked the beginning of the space race.

The United States scrambled to meet the challenge set before them, and in 1958, the United States launched its own satellite into space called Explorer. Under President Eisenhower, the United States created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), an agency dedicated to space exploration.

The Berlin Airlift

Image of a map of Berlin, superimposed over a photograph of the city of Berlin

Source: The Berlin Airlift, The Truman Library

At the end of World War II, Germany was divided into four sections each occupied by members of the Allied Powers, including a Soviet zone. The capital city of Berlin, which was located within the Soviet zone, was also divided into four sections; Allied forces controlled western Berlin while Soviet forces controlled eastern Berlin.

In June 1948, the Soviet Union moved toward total domination in Germany. The Soviets closed all traffic to and from Berlin. This blockade effectively cut off all supplies and food to Berliners.

Image of a map of Berlin divided into occupation zones

Source: berlinerBloackadeLuftwege, Leerlaufprozess, Wikipedia

To counteract the Soviet’s attempts at total control of Berlin, the Allied-occupied zones decided to provide their sections of Berlin will food and supplies. Because the Soviets had blocked the highways, railroads, and even canals, the Allies used planes to deliver supplies to Western Berliners.

Image of an airplane flying just above a group of people who are standing on a hill

Source: Berlin Airlift, U.S. Air Force

The Berlin Airlift lasted for a little more than a year with the Allies carrying more than 2 million tons of cargo over the Soviet blockade to West Berlin. The blockade ended when the Soviets opened the highways, railroads, and canals to West Berlin in May 1949. Although the Berlin Airlift did not result in a battle between the United States and the Soviet Union, the conflict did increase tensions between the two nations.