Berlinermauer L_to_R,_British_Prime_Minister_Winston_Churchill,_President_Harry_S._Truman,_and_Soviet_leader_Josef_Stalin_in_the..._-_NARA_-_198958 Checkpoint_Charlie_1961-10-27

Following the death of Roosevelt in 1945, the relationship that had built up between the USSR and the USA began to fall apart. Distrust and suspicion began to increase between the USSR and its former allies, particularly once Truman came to power since he was extremely anti- communist. This factor, alongside others such as the grievances following the two World Wars, different political ideologies, lifestyles and aims following the Second World War, led to the development of the Cold War. In my opinion, all of the causes are significant because they each had a part to play in its conception, such as a clash of ideologies between the west and east, and the change of tactics of towards the east, as well as the shifting of balances within the alliances. I also think it is important to note how the failures of World War Two were carried on within the ruins of the political problems of both the west and east.

“The Cold War was caused by the military expansionism of Stalin and his successors, and the Americans response was basically a defensive reaction”.[1] This quote shows that there was wrong on both sides from the east and west, and highlights, at a basic level, the simplicity of the build-up. As the USSR began to expand its military and establish itself as a superpower, America felt the need to protect itself because the implications of the building of the Cold War were eminent. The USA were also weary because, for the first time, Russia had a vast amount of economic and military potential to rival their own power.

The USSR distrusted and was angry with both the US and Britain, partly because of tensions leading back to the First World War, and also because they had tried to invade and stop the spread of communism. The US and Britain were scared of the manifestation of the communist ideology, particularly in a country left in such a vulnerable state after falling apart once the Romanov legacy and, effectively, the Tsarist regime was eliminated. They were also concerned because of how much the principles of communism clashed with those of capitalism which fundamentally come down to the notion of a totalitarian state against one advocating freedom.

The USA was, for their part, angry about the Nazi-Soviet Pact. The Nazi-Soviet pact was the agreement between Germany and Russia over the separation of Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe, as well as an agreement that neither country would open war against each other, effectively forming an alliance. Although the pact was not followed religiously by Hitler or Stalin, the USA and Western powers felt distrust towards the East, and they felt like they could not trust Stalin, who had his own personal agendas for Russia which he put before everything else.

Prior to that, the USSR did not want to join the U.N because there were western powers involved, and the USSR was angry with the issue of un-shared technology and information regarding the atomic bomb. The bomb itself was created so that the U.S could have leverage over other nations, and stop the war in Japan. The importance of the possession of this information concerning a new vital tool is the way it changed the balance of world power which lead to more strain between the west and east super powers. The USA was scared of the shear forced and mass of the USSR military capability, even though they possessed nuclear captivity. America thought that this would stop the build-up of tensions because, after the horrors of the Second World War, it was scared of rivalry and they didn’t want to have any form of threat against the capability of their military, economic and ideological status. President Truman made a remark, “’I’ll certainly have a hammer on those boys’ (the Russians)”[2]. This lead way to the nuclear arms races – a scramble of who would have the higher amount of nuclear arsenal of weapons – and the scientific areas of each country were pushed to make advances. The space races of supremacy concerned which country would be first to invent new fields of technology and advance quicker.

Nearing the end of World War Two, tensions had already begun to appear at the Yalta and Potsdam conferences because there were problems over deciding who controlled what within Germany, and which parts to separate between the USA and USSR. There were a conflict of interests, and this started the build-up of differences between the clash of powers which already had issues of distrust as they had grievances leading back since the First World War. The only thing up-holding unity was a common enemy; you could say it fell into place after certain implications when making post war boundaries.

The Yalta was an important conference in the February of 1945. President Roosevelt needed Stalin’s help within the pacific, and was ready to make any agreement with the Russians so that they would assist in the conflict between the Japanese and the Pacific. Although the conference was successful, there were growing problems and a lack of trust afterwards about reparations and what to do with Poland. [3]

What changed the course of the next conference was the death of Roosevelt and the consequential election of a new president, Truman, who implemented a tough policy towards the Russians and a new attitude towards the eastern communist regime. [4]

Following the Postdam conference in the July of 1945 there were separate aims and ideologies for the West and the East. Russia felt they owed a sense of compensation but harsh reparations on Germany kept their strength to the bare minimum and enabled harsh control over them. [5]Because they did not want to be in firing range again if there was a war spilling over within Europe, the USSR wanted a protected buffer zone and financial compensations for the lives and buildings they lost. But the US and the west wanted to conform and improve Germany, making them a strong new democracy and giving them stability as quickly as possible. They believed that harsh sanctions brought upon them would be counter-productive, and would stop a strong alliance being made with them. The other disagreements were about how much influence Russia was allowed to have within Eastern Europe. This was seen as a crucial point in the pre-Cold War build-up because it showed the friction and barriers in Europe building between the ‘west’ and ‘east’.

The ideology behind the communist regime focused on total control of its people and totalitarianism. The people of the Russian communist state had to put their differences aside and the individual did not matter because everyone had to work for a greater Russia. However, because the USSR had become an imperial superpower with a different ideology, it did not have any real personal say, freedom or human rights to express themselves. The USA believed in Capitalism, democracy and freedom, but they feared that the escalation of communism would have a negative impact on the world because it was the opposite to capitalism. They believed that a total-control government would seem appealing to some parts of the world and spark radical growth, especially after the War where capitalism was falling in certain areas. “The free peoples of the world look to us for support in maintaining their freedoms.”[6] This shows that, compared to the USSR, it would seem that the US was the protector of the freedom and to fight the oppressors.

“The U.K has India and her Possessions in the Indian Ocean in her sphere of interests ; the U.S has China and Japan , but the Soviet Union has nothing.”[7] This shows the agenda of communist Russia; they felt like they were owed something and wanted to gain some power within Eastern Europe. Initially the Soviet Union rejected the ‘Marshall plan’ because they believed they needed more financial aid due to different political agendas. Their counter solution to the Marshall plan was the ‘Comecon”.

Stalin created the ‘Comecon’ in October 1947, and this allowed him control over all of the communist states within Europe. [8]Furthermore, in January 1949, which was known as the ‘Iron Curtain”, they had full control over Eastern Europe and direct rule from Russia via political and economic gains and policies was made apparent and had to be followed within the eastern block too.[9] This was so Soviet Russia would have more centralised control, and these countries would be dependent on Russia for economic support, and ensure permanent trade for the USSR and the eastern block. According to Winston Churchill “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent”.[10] The idea of the east and west was already set in motion of the start of the cold war was already happening.

The Truman doctrine was about the ‘containment’ of the Soviet Union. Truman did not want to destroy Russia, he just wanted them to stop there aggressive expansion which he feared could get out of hand. The ‘Marshall Plan’ was an economic package to help Western Europe boost their economy and strength, allowing his allies to stabilise themselves in a quicker process to stop communism spreading within Europe[11]. They offered the aid of 15 billion US dollars, and decided which countries need aid to gain economic and military boom to be a solid and united Europe. [12]This would give the Americans more economic strength and solidify political alliances between the USA and Western Europe. America also sold lots of goods and products to the Europeans. This doctrine was to counter soviet expansionism. [13]To prevent the Russians from having total control over Europe the idea of ‘containment’ came within the Truman doctrine to protect the ‘free people’ of the world to fight against the totalitarian regimes. “In these circumstances it is clear that the main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies”.[14] This shows they had long term versions to keep Russia contained and control in any shape of from the USA policy side.

The Berlin blockade was a very important cause on the differences and sub conflict between the western powers and eastern Russia. The Russians blocked the western powers because they wanted total control, but the western powers started to supply food on a daily basis in retaliation, as well as aircrafts, supplies and aid. This would lead to many proxy wars about who believed they were more superior or imperialist within the future.

In conclusion, I have talked about the various causes that led to the build-up of the Cold War, from the conferences and the ending of the World War Two, to previous grievances and the clash of political ideologies between the ‘west’ and ‘east’. All of these factors are very important because they put forward the argument of the old war, such as the segregation of the Europeans. I think that the Cold War was inevitable in the long run because there was so much distrust, mainly between the U.S and the U.S.S.R, and broken promises and differences in ideologies. Factors were already set in motion, such as the divide of Korea and problems concerning what to do with Germany.

Key Resources:

Lewis. R, Adrian. The American Culture of War The History of U.S Military Force from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom.(New york: Routledge Taylor& Francis Group,2007)

Campbell .E.A. American Historical Documents The USA in World Affairs.(London: George G. Harrap & Co LTD,1974)

Williams-Koch, Alastair. Russia’s International Relations in The Twentieth Century p.(Oxon:Routledge,2013)

Muller. W , James. Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” Speech Fifty Years Later.(Columbia: University of Missouri Press,1999)

Levering .B , Ralph. Debating the Origins of the Cold War : American and Russian Perspective.(Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc,2001)

Maddox, James Robert. Weapons For Victory: Hiroshima Decision.(USA: University of Missouri Press ,2004)

McMormick . J Thomas. America’s Half-Century: United States Foreign Policy in the Cold War and After.(Maryland: The John Hopkins University Press,1995).

H.Hart, Michael. The 100 A Ranking of The Most Influential Persons In History . (New york: Carol Publishing group, 1993)

[1] H.Hart, Michael. The 100 A Ranking of The Most Influential Persons In History . (New york: Carol Publishing group, 1993)P.486

[2] Maddox, James Robert. Weapons For Victory: Hiroshima Decision.(USA: University of Missouri Press ,2004) P.101

[3] Campbell .E.A. American Historical Documents The USA in World Affairs.(London: George G. Harrap & Co LTD,1974)p.128

[4] McMormick . J Thomas. America’s Half-Century: United States Foreign Policy in the Cold War and After.(Maryland: The John Hopkins University Press,1995). p.41

[5] ibid.p.40.41

[6] Campbell .E.A. American Historical Documents The USA in World Affairs.(London: George G. Harrap & Co LTD,1974)p.137

[7] Levering .B , Ralph. Debating the Origins of the Cold War : American and Russian Perspective.(Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc,2001).p.92

[8] Williams-Koch, Alastair. Russia’s International Relations in The Twentieth Century p.(Oxon:Routledge,2013)P.91

[9] ibid.p.91

[10] Muller. W , James. Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” Speech Fifty Years Later.(Columbia: University of Missouri Press,1999)P.99

[11] Campbell .E.A. American Historical Documents The USA in World Affairs.(London: George G. Harrap & Co LTD,1974) p.146

[12] ibid.p.146,147

[13] ibid.p.146

[14] Lewis. R, Adrian. The American Culture of War The History of U.S Military Force from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom.(New york: Routledge Taylor& Francis Group,2007) .p.67

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