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Recent Tensions between Russia and the West
(Released May 2008)

  by Fiona Allison  


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Throughout the twentieth century relations between Russia and the West have been strained at best. Although allies during World War I - until the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 - by the time of World War II, the West was more reluctant to have the Communist USSR as an ally. However, this was forced on them by Germany's invasion of the USSR in 1941; by this point in the war Britain was glad of the alliance. As soon as the war was over, diplomatic relations between the USSR and the West began to deteriorate, beginning with disagreements over the division of Germany. Britain and the United States had every reason to be apprehensive about the USSR's intentions considering that Stalin had incorporated most of Eastern Europe into his vast Soviet Empire. In the 1950s, the Cold War between the USSR and the West escalated, and throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the threat of a nuclear war was very real. The USSR was determined to become the world's biggest super-power, supplanting the United States, and Communist influence spread through South-east Asia, countries in Africa and parts of Latin America.

map of world divided into blue & red
The Cold War divided the world into two hostile blocs
In the very late 1980s and early 1990s a period of democracy ensued, but also of economic troubles, during which many Soviet Republics, such as the Ukraine and Kazakhstan, broke away and formed independent nations. In recent years, Russia has moved once again toward a one-party monopoly, and tensions with the West are on the rise. This Discovery Guide analyses the current political climate in Russia and examines its relations with the West in order to explain to what degree, if any, there has been a return to the Cold War era. It will review relations between Britain and Russia, the USA and Russia, as well as Russia's relations with its former Soviet states, its economy and the recent presidential elections.
people climbing wall
The Berlin Wall came down in 1989 signalling the end of the Cold War

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