The main concern of the United States and the other western powers during the Cold War was that the Soviet Union would obtain control of the Western European countries through either invasions or by communist takeovers of unstable governments. Neither side was ever directly engaged in a full-scale armed combat, and the doctrine of mutually assured destruction, or MAD, prevented either faction from using their heavily armed nuclear arsenals. Psychological war, propaganda, proxy wars and espionage were the primary means of each side's struggle for dominance in post-World War II Europe.
The U.S. worked to stop Soviet expansion through a policy of containment that was conducted on the political, economic, ideological and military levels. The Cold War began about two years after the 1945 end of World War II and saw its final years between 1985-91 with the coming of Glasnost, the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, German reunification and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.