The Cold War was a war because of its deadly Arms Race
As both nations raced to build the most destructive atomic weapons, and schools practiced attack drills with the looming threat of atomic warfare, the Cold War tensions increasingly grew. The threat of an actual, devastating war was ever-present in both nations as the arms race ensued.
Shortly after the end of World War Two, American politicians developed a strategy called "containment." The goal of this strategy was to contain Soviet influence in the world, particularly in places that recently gained their independence after the war.
The Arms Race between the United States of America and the Soviet Union (USSR) represents why the Cold War was a war. After the Second World War, there was a race between the USA and the USSR (the two global superpowers at the time) to spread their form of government – either democracy or communism. A method that both countries chose to flex their muscles was the development of nuclear weapons. The United States created the Atom Bomb during WWII, and by 1949 the Soviets developed their own Atom Bomb as well. By 1952, the Americans built an even more powerful weapon, the Hydrogen Bomb – and the following year, the Soviets had their own too. Both countries could effectively wipe out humanity if they deployed their nuclear weapons. This added to the tension between both countries and pushed forward conflicts and proxy wars of the Cold War.
While the Arms Race between the United States and the Soviet Union escalated tensions between both countries, the decision to not use nuclear weapons conveys that the Cold War was not a war. The Soviets put nuclear weapons in Cuba – just over one hundred miles from the Florida coast – and fighting never occurred. The development of arms alone is not enough reason to call the Cold War a war.