Fighting for the Third World
After World War II, the world’s nations were
grouped into three
worlds. The First World
included the United States and its allies. The
Second World consisted of Communist nations led
by the Soviet Union. The Third World was composed of developing nations in Africa, Asia, and
Many Third World nations had serious problems. These problems were often due to a long history of colonialism. Some Third World nations
faced political unrest that threatened the peace.
Other problems included poverty and a lack of
education and technology. Some of these countries
tried to stay neutral in the Cold War. They met to
form what they called a
third force. It consisted
of nonaligned nations, or countries that did not
take sides between the Soviets and Americans.
Others actively sought American or Soviet aid.
How were developing nations affected by the Cold War?
Confrontations in Latin America
In Cuba, the United States supported a dictator in
the 1950s. In 1959, a young lawyer, Fidel Castro,
led a successful revolt. Castro received aid from
the Soviet Union. In 1962, the Soviets and
Americans almost went to war over nuclear missiles that the Soviets placed in Cuba. The Soviets
finally pulled the missiles out. Over time, the
Cuban economy became more dependent on
Soviet aid. When the Soviet Union collapsed in
1991, this aid stopped. It was a serious blow to
The United States had also backed a dictator,
Anastasio Somoza, in Nicaragua. Somoza's government fell to Communist rebels in 1979. The
rebels were led by Daniel Ortega. When the new
government began helping leftist rebels in nearby
El Salvador, the United States struck back. It
began to support Nicaraguan rebels that wanted to
overthrow the Communists. The civil war in
Nicaragua lasted more than a decade. Finally, the
different sides agreed to hold free elections.
What happened in Latin America?
Confrontations in the Middle East
The Middle East often saw conflict between those
who wanted a more modern, Western-style society
and those who wanted to follow traditional Islam.
Such a struggle took place in Iran. In the 1950s, a
group tried to take control of the government from
Iran's ruler, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.
The United States helped the Shah defeat them.
Over time, the Shah tried to weaken the influence of Islam in Iran. A Muslim leader, the
Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini, led a successful
revolt. In 1979, the Shah was forced to leave the
country. Khomeini made Islamic law the law of the
land. He followed a foreign policy that was strongly against the United States. He also led his country in a long war against its neighbor Iraq.
The Soviets gained influence in Afghanistan
after 1950. In the 1970s, Islamic rebels threatened
the country’s Communist government. The Soviets
sent in troops to support the government. The
United States felt its Middle East oil supplies were
in danger and supported the rebels. In 1989, after
a costly occupation, Soviet troops left Afghanistan.
What happened in Iran and Afghanistan?