Why you should care about the Cold War

Why you should care about the Cold War

(BPT) – Can you imagine living in a world on the brink of imminent catastrophe, caught between superpowers dueling over the very future of mankind?

While this sounds like the plot of a science fiction story, it was reality for millions of people throughout the five-decades-long geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union known as the Cold War.

The Cold War ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union on Christmas Day in 1991 but it continues to influence cultural and political discourse in 2024.

The 2023 film ‘Oppenheimer,’ which recently won seven Academy Awards, told the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, one of the architects of the first atomic bomb – the precursor of the more advanced nuclear weapons that kept the world on edge during the Cold War.

Just this month, Netflix released a documentary entitled, ‘Turning Point: The Bomb and The Cold War,’ which documents the development of nuclear weapons, the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, and asks viewers, considering the current war between Russia and Ukraine, to consider whether the Cold War ever really ended.

The Cold War’s lasting impact simply cannot be overstated, and understanding the conflict is essential to making sense of the world we live in today.

Congress recently designated the National Cold War Center (NCWC), which will be located on the site of the former Eaker Air Force base in Blytheville, Arkansas, as America’s official museum of the Cold War.

Set to open in the fall of 2027, the NCWC will be the best place in the world to learn about the profound history and global impact of the Cold War through immersive experiences and tours of original U.S. Air Force facilities that played a key role in America’s victory in the conflict.

Ahead of the center’s official opening, visitors can experience a taste of what is to come by visiting the Blytheville Air Force Base (BAFB) Exhibition, which tells the story of the Blytheville (later renamed Eaker) Air Force Base and the heroes who manned it during the Cold War. As a Strategic Air Command, the base housed B-52 bombers capable of launching with 15 minutes’ notice and armed with nuclear warheads three times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Nagasaki during World War II.

Christian Ostermann, an award-winning historian of the Cold War, is the founding director of the Wilson Center’s History and Public Policy Program and oversees the center’s Cold War International History Project. Ostermann also serves as co-chair of the NCWC’s National Advisory Board.

Ostermann has spent 25 years studying the Cold War, its historical significance, and how its legacy continues to shape our world today.

‘The Cold War was an epic struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union over power, influence and resources. It was also a struggle of ideas and ideologies, of how best to organize a modern society – our way of life,’ said Ostermann.

While the Cold War was primarily a high-stakes duel between the United States and the Soviet Union, the imminent threat of nuclear war and its unimaginable consequences impacted every corner of the globe, he said.

‘In Blytheville, we have this authentic site that can bring that history to life – what it felt like to fight, and survive, the Cold War,’ said Ostermann.

For more information on the National Cold War Center, America’s official museum of the Cold War, visit nationalcoldwarcenter.com.


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