Impact of World War II


The aftermath of World War II was the beginning of a new era. It was defined by the decline of the old great powers and the rise of two superpowers; the Soviet Union (USSR) and the United States of America (US) creating a bipolar world. Temporarily allied during World War II, the US and the USSR became competitors on the world stage and engaged in what became known as the Cold War, so called because it never boiled over into open war between the two powers but was focused on espionage, political subversion and proxy wars. Western Europe and Japan were rebuilt through the American Marshall Plan whereas Eastern Europe was in the Soviet sphere of influence and was forced to reject the Marshall Plan. The world was divided into a US-led Western Bloc and a Soviet-led Eastern Bloc with some nations trying to stay out of the Cold War through the Non-Aligned Movement. The Cold War also saw a nuclear arms race between the two superpowers; part of the reason that the Cold War never became a "hot" war was that the Soviet Union and the United States had nuclear deterrents against each other, leading to a mutually assured destruction stand-off.
As a consequence of the war, the Allies created the United Nations, a new global organization for international cooperation and diplomacy. Members of the United Nations agreed to outlaw wars of aggression in an attempt to avoid a third world war. The devastated great powers of Western Europe formed the European Coal and Steel Community (that later evolved into the European Union) in an attempt to avoid another war between Germany and France by economic cooperation and integration, and a common market for important natural resources.



The war also increased the rate of decolonization from the weakened great powers with India (from Great Britain), Indonesia (from the Netherlands), the Philippines, a number of Arab nations, and Israel being created in the years immediately following the war.
At the end of the war, millions of people were homeless, the European economy had collapsed, and much of the European industrial infrastructure had been destroyed. The Soviet Union, too, had been heavily affected. In response, in 1947, U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall devised the "European Recovery Program", which became known as the Marshall Plan. Under the plan, during 1948-1952 the United States government allocated US$13 billion (US$137 billion in 2013 dollars) for the reconstruction of Western Europe.