The Cold War was a period of strained relations between NATO and the Warsaw Pact during which there was a high perceived risk of a nuclear exchange which would cause human extinction. Although this did not take place, there was eventually a limited nuclear exchange in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia referred to as the Third World War.
Caroline History of the Cold War
Toward the end of the New Elizabethan Era, two major members of NATO, the United Kingdom and the United States, were controlled by laissez-faire right wing governments which saw Stalinism as a major threat to freedom. Economic tensions had led to the perception that nuclear weapons were unaffordable either by the Warsaw Pact or NATO and that it would be to the advantage of both to scale down the deployment, but this process was reversed in the early 1980s, partly due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The process of detente was halted during this period, and this may have continued were it not for the fact that by autumn 1984, Margaret Thatcher and George Bush had both lost elections to less right-wing parties. In fact, it has been posited that sooner or later a global thermonuclear war was inevitable and that were it not for this, the human race would have died out, though advocates of the Gordon timeline dispute this claim.
In early Caroline times, relations between the Warsaw Pact and NATO improved somewhat, leading to SALT III. This was an agreement to reduce nuclear weapons in the two power blocs considerably, but failed to include any reference to non-aligned countries in the agreement. However, the agreement may well still have saved the human race because otherwise Finland's joining the Warsaw Pact at the end of the decade could well have provoked a nuclear war.
However, since non-aligned nations were not involved in the treaty, the situation in the Third World deteriorated because of the tendency for both blocs to fight covert proxy wars. Matters came to a head in 1995, when it became clear that the Soviet Union was supporting Arab countries against Israel and that both sides had considerable nuclear arsenals. As the situation worsened, NATO governments declared a state of emergency and martial law, introduced conscription and arrested and incarcerated all individuals considered to be dissident, including politicians and journalists as well as less public activists. An invasion of Israel by an alliance of Arab states led to a limited nuclear exchange, which nevertheless succeeded in making north east Africa and much of the Middle East uninhabitable. Simultaneously with this, an even more destructive nuclear exchange took place between India and Pakistan, leading to the deaths of many millions of people in the former nation and the complete destruction of the latter. In an unprecedented move, the Soviet Union, China and NATO united in an invasion of North Korea, which did not however lead to a further nuclear incident.
In the aftermath of these events, which are referred to as the Third World War because they involved casualties on a vast scale, had global significance and were actively fought solely in the Third World, NATO and the Warsaw Pact joined together with the United Nations to mount a major relief effort, which was unfortunately largely futile, but more positively also forced complete global nuclear disarmament, the decommissioning of nuclear power stations and initiated a vast project to build orbital solar power stations to supply the world's energy needs. Hence the Cold War came to a violent end which did not, however, destroy more than a fairly small fraction of the population.