ABSTRACT.In cold war as in world war, the sea united a western coalition and allowed it to bring strength to bear against the long open frontiers of the Soviet empire. It also insulated different countries against the spread of subversion, so that the West, even when defeated abroad(for example in Vietnam), was not vulnerable to the sort of progressive collapse which brought down the Soviet system.
RÉSUMÉ.Pendant la guerre froide comme pendant la guerre mondiale, la mer unifia la coalition occidentale et servit à apporter du renfort pour lutter contre les longues frontières ouvertes de l'empire soviétique. Elle protégea également de nombreux pays contre la propagation de la subversion, ce qui permit à l'Occident, même en cas de défaite à l'étranger(comme au Vietnam), d'échapper à l'effondrement progressif qui perdit le système soviétique.
The geography of the Cold War closely resembled that of the two World Wars; like them, it can be seen as a contest between a maritime coalition and one centered on the Eurasian land mass. In both cases, the sea offered the maritime coalition what turned out to be decisive advantages, though they were little appreciated in the cases of World War I and the Cold War. The Cold War differed from the other two in important ways, however. It never escalated to full-scale central war, although it included several bitter, costly wars. In addition, the Cold War was partly ideological, and ideology was never bound by geography, maritime or otherwise. This essay is primarily about the role of the sea in the war, more than about the role of naval forces.
The central role of the sea is reflected in the name of the Western Alliance: it is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization(NATO) because the North Atlantic links North America with Western Europe.
Ultimately the Cold War remained cold because both sides came to realize that nuclear weapons made a central war mutually suicidal. They therefore faced the paradox that much of their military investment, and indeed much of the shape of their forces and their policies, was in weapons and strategies which had only limited impact on the outcome.
When World War II ended, Stalin's Soviet Union occupied much of Central Europe. Despite objections voiced by some of the victorious Western Allies, there was no serious prospect of ejecting him.