The politics of Europe before World War 2 were completely wiped out by the war’s conclusion: fascism as espoused by the Kingdom of Italy and Nazi Germany was rendered illegitimate and amoral after the atrocities of the war were brought to light. European imperialism was no longer acceptable in Europe’s Asian and African colonies, as more and more colonies took advantage of Europe’s post-war weakness to strive for independence. French Indochina (Later Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia), The British Raj (Later India, Pakistan and Bangladesh), Algeria, Malaya, Angola, Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe) and many other nations fought with their colonial masters, and among themselves as a new post-war consensus emerged – communism, socialism or capitalism.

As soon as the war ended, new powers arose to replace these decaying empires. Western Europe rallied around the United States for protection as Germany was divvied up between the victors. Western Germany was part of NATO, a loose confederation of states opposed to the Soviet Union and its occupied territories/puppet states that made up the Eastern Bloc. With the invention of nuclear weapons, used against Japan in 1945, America was set to take the initiative against the Soviets, who didn’t have a working nuclear option until 1949.

While Europe would remain an important part of the world for the imminent Cold War, the age of old-fashioned imperialism was long gone. Both the United States of America and the Soviet Union would ensure that nations with globe-spanning empires like Britain and France would lose their empires, both out of a genuine desire for decolonisation and to maintain a balance of power between the two blocs that now occupied Europe.

A shining example of the erosion of European imperial power was the Suez Crisis, where Egypt was invaded by Israel, France and the United Kingdom after it closed off shipping to Israel. Although the combined forces beat Egypt decisively, the canal was still closed off and the two superpowers of the world were watching. After the United States threatened the destruction of the British economy and general pressure from the United Nations and the Soviet Union, all three withdrew from the Suez and a diplomatic option was sought. Britain and France now realised that they weren’t great powers anymore, and wars of aggression like this would no longer be tolerated in a post-WW2 world.

For the next 40 years, NATO and the Eastern Bloc held a very uneasy peace with each other, with both sides paranoid that the other would attack them with nuclear weapons. Both sides built nuclear weapons as quickly as possible, creating new delivery methods such as ballistic missiles for land or submarine use and fast bombers that could evade interception. The future of the world was on a knife’s edge for decades as many false alarms, diplomatic crises and even computer glitches almost caused all-out nuclear war to erupt multiple times.

Both America and the Soviet Union viewed Europe as the next big battleground for a World War 3 if the Cold War ever went hot. As a result, America made sure that a nuclear deterrent was available in case the Soviets ever attacked, and the Soviets did the same. Both Italy and Turkey received Jupiter Medium-Range Ballistic Missiles in the early 60s, capable of striking military targets with unparalleled precision. At the same time, the Soviet Union was supplying Cuba with R-12 ballistic missiles in secret, to prevent a future invasion of the nation after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion only a year previously. These missiles could also be used to rapidly attack America in the event of a nuclear war, reaching their targets much faster than an ICBM launched from Europe.

What followed was a political crisis that brought humanity closer to nuclear war than in any other period of the Cold War. In the end, after tense debate at the United Nations and a blockade of Cuba by the US, both parties agreed to remove their medium-range missiles and set up a hotline between the US and the Soviet Union to ensure quick, clear communication between the two.

By the 70s, other nations around the world had, or were developing nuclear weapons of their own. Britain developed their own nuclear weapons program independent of America until the Americans realised that Britain was going to build nuclear weapons regardless of American assistance, and provided assistance under the condition that Britain’s nukes could only be launched with America’s approval. France had the same idea and built their own nuclear arsenal fully independent of America or Britain, which meant there was nothing stopping them from using them against the Soviets.

Other developments in the 70s included the expansion of the European Economic Community, later known as the European Union. In 1973, Ireland and the United Kingdom joined. By the late 80s, nearly all of western Europe past the Iron Curtain was a part of the EU. To think that Europe would be united in a community like the European Union would be laughable before the Cold War, but Europe hasn’t had any intergovernmental wars, as in two nations fighting each other, since World War 2. In 1991, after years of stagnation and failure to control its satellite states and puppet regimes, the Soviet Union collapsed, ending the Cold War.

The European Union began to expand rapidly after the collapse of the Iron Curtain and Soviet influence in Eastern Europe. With the exception of Romania, peaceful revolutions occurred around the Eastern Bloc, replacing the Soviet puppet regimes with democratic regimes. Yugoslavia erupted into civil war in the early 90s, and various post-Soviet wars in regions of the Caucasus such as Chechnya vied for independence, but the World War 3 that was so feared never came to pass.

Today, the Mediterranean Sea is still an important trading route, with the Suez Canal providing quick access to Asia and eastern Africa, and the EU being an important trading bloc that is currently the world’s largest economy. If you’re looking for a super yacht charter based in the Monaco and the South of France with access to ports around the western Mediterranean and the Caribbean, You Charter Direct provides several cruising locations in the Mediterranean so you can see some of the history of the Mediterranean for yourself.