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The Cold War After the end of the Second World War, there was great tension between the two superpowers, the United States (U.S.) and the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.). The tension reached a peak in 1947, and most historians consider this year to be the starting point of the Cold War. The war lasted for more than four decades, and it did not end until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The struggle was called the Cold War because direct warfare between the two superpowers never happened. Instead, the “war” took the form of an arms race, meaning that the countries competed for military domination. They both produced large numbers of weapons, including nuclear weapons. They also expanded their armies, created networks of military alliances, and carried out propaganda campaigns and espionage. The countries did not wish to fight each other directly as this could have resulted in a nuclear war. Instead, they supported different sides in other conflicts around the world. In the Vietnam War, for instance, the United States supported South Vietnam while the Soviet Union supported North Vietnam. The greatest fear during the Cold War was that the battle would end in a nuclear war with hundreds of millions of people being killed. This was avoided because each country feared that the other country would have stronger weapons and a bigger army than its own. Therefore neither of the countries attacked. However, even though it never came to direct warfare between the superpowers, they came very close to it in 1962. The Cuban Missile Crisis was the most important direct confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union during the entire period, and it is the closest the world has ever been to nuclear war.