Essay Question: “The USA should be blamed for the Cold War. ” Do you agree with this statement? The Cold War is believed to have lasted from the end of World War II to the dismantling of the Soviet Union in 1991 and remains one of the most significant political events of the 20th century. In reality, this War was a tense political period, marked by open hostility, lack of understanding, and deliberate provoking between the Democratic and Communist blocs, the East and the West, and most importantly, the United States and the Soviet Union.
Although this period has now come to an end, historians and scholars are still having many disputes about the actual causes of the Cold War tensions. I however, agree to the statement, “The Soviet Union should be responsible for the Cold War” to a large extent. The first cause of the Cold War on the American side can be traced to their leader, President Harold S. Truman. Rather than manipulating the political scenes from behind closed curtains, he openly placed himself at the fore, blatantly leading the Americans against the communist Soviet Union.
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What began as subtle machinations escalated rapidly into a fervent rejection of communist ideology, with Harold Truman demonstrating open hostility that contributed undeniably to the culmination of the Cold War. His personal prejudices became pronounced early on, and it was obvious that he was more suspicious of the Russians than his predecessor Roosevelt. These suspicions were easily aroused, and on occasion resulted in irrational deductions that convinced him of Russia’s hostility.
When the Soviet Union succeeded with a communist coup on Czechoslovakia in 1948, Truman perceived the take-over as an offensive move, and by extension, made it known that this was the first step in a Soviet attempt to impose communism globally. Truman was a symbolic figure at the apex of the right wing movement, and his open hostility was the trigger that gave the other European nations the confidence and boldness to follow suit. In fact, in the Truman Doctrine of 1947, Truman blatantly declared the divisions between free, democratic nations, and undemocratic communist states.
Therefore, he drew clear lines of separation, clearing all ambiguity and ensured that the Cold War was unavoidable. Economically too, America applied various measures that displayed hostility towards the Soviet Union. The Marshall Plan was introduced in 1947 as an economic extension of what the Truman doctrine had achieved. Publicly, it was announced that the Plan was an effort to curb ‘hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos’, but this was just yet another masked threat aimed at implying that these were caused by communism, and that the Americans were about to eradicate it.
It promoted the economic recovery of Europe, creating secure markets for American exports. In addition, communism was less likely to gain control in a prosperous western Europe. By September 1947, 16 nations had drawn up a collective plan to lean on American aid, and this brought them together ideologically against the Soviet Union. As such, America successfully alienated the Soviet Union by establishing economic barriers that left her stranded in a sea of hostility.
Faced by such adversity, the only means of regaining economic stability was through military means, and therefore the Soviet Union engaged in the Cold War. Thus, we can say that America was responsible for setting up economic barriers which left the Soviet Union with no peaceful alternatives, resulting in the occurrence of the Cold War. Finally, America’s military manoeuvring provides evidence of their intent to perpetrate the Cold War. Against the Nazi threat during World War II, the Americans adopted a diplomatic front through an unofficial but significant nonetheless policy of appeasement.
They allowed the Germans to remilitarise the Rhineland, annex Austria, and conquer Czechoslovakia, virtually inviting them to direct their aggressive energies towards the Soviet Union. In the aftermath of Germany’s military surrender, Truman abruptly cancelled America’s military assistance program, known as Lend-Lease, to the USSR. In using their atomic bombs on Japan, America sent extreme messages of their imminent aggression. Its real aim was to intimidate the Soviet Union, which had not sufficiently built up its atomic arsenal to challenge America in an actual military confrontation.
Therefore, through such threats, the Americans left the Soviet Union with no choice but to protect their pride and sovereignty, and this culminated in the Cold War. However, from a Soviet perspective, the aggressive actions undertaken by the Soviet Union were major causes of the Cold War and its continuation. As Norman Lowe wrote, “(It was Stalin’s aim) to take advantage of the military situation to strengthen Russian in Europe; this involved… acquiring as much territory as he could get away with. Indeed, at the inception of the Cold War, the Soviet Union was on the verge of amassing a great deal of power, resources and territory, and it was very possibly this that ignited the Communist fear in the United States and brought about the Cold War. It was not until Russia started attacking neighboring countries and instilling Soviet governments that American fear of Russia itself came about. Russia felt justified in these takeovers because they needed to feel protected from the ruthless capitalism of the west.
Any Soviet act of aggression was, however, countered by the United States, further raising diplomatic tension. Even before the Second World War ended in August 1945, tensions and fractions were already beginning to appear in the relationship between the two sides ‘ due in large part to the action of the Soviets. For example, the Russians set up a Communist government in Poland when they swept through it, blatantly disregarding the Polish government-in-exile in London and spreading discontent to the British and American governments.
This was merely the beginning of the tightening grip of the Russians over Europe. Despite agreeing to carry out free elections in Eastern European countries during the February 1945 Yalta Conference, by the end of 1947, every state in Russia except Czechoslovakia (who soon fell to the Communist after a coup in 1948) had a Communist government and were under the “watchful eye of the secret police and Russian troops” (Lowe). This ignited profound anger and fear in the West who saw this Russian dominance in Eastern Europe a step to a world-wide Communist takeover.
The Berlin Blockade and Cuban Missile Crisis are another two excellent examples of how the Soviets time and time again brought tensions between themselves and the Americans and British to boiling point. Throughout the Cold War, each step that the Soviet Union took to strengthen its power and the power of the Communist party was viewed as an act of aggression, and it is therefore arguable that the Soviets were at fault in the instigation of the Cold War due to these immense acts of aggression. Next, the military and arms build-up of the Soviet Union also played important roles in fanning the flames of the Cold War.
As a historian noted, “At war’s end, the United States rapidly demobilized troops and decommissioned weapons. The Soviet Union did not… (and) continued to field a huge, threatening army. ” Throughout the course of the Cold War, there were reports that the Soviet Union was racing to build its own atomic bombs, and by September 1949, they indeed succeeded. As this shocking revelation shook the world, the atmosphere of mistrust in the United States soon turned into an era of Communist fear which no doubt fanned the flames of the Cold War.
As the Russian continued to build up nuclear armaments, this sparked off the nuclear arms race, which created the worldwide fear and paranoia of a devastating nuclear war which was possible the greatest “feature” and cause of the continuing Cold War. Furthermore, even after the Cuban Missile Crisis which they sparked off, as Sherry Sontag writes, “The Soviets (continued to) develop missiles at a phenomenal rate. ” It is vital to note too, that it was Stalin who began work on his thermonuclear program before the U. S. and which sparked off an escalation in the arms race.
There were many other things that American Naval Intelligence was able to find out about the Soviets, driving the fear of Soviet attack even deeper into Americans’ hearts. For instance, they found that the Soviets had placed their Delta ballistic missiles out of reach of the U. S. , but just a straight shot away from Washington D. C. Thus, the stubbornness of the Soviets to demilitarize and their numerous actions that led to and continued the arms race directly provided the raw materials of fear, suspicion and aggression that fanned the flames of the Cold War.
Thirdly, Stalin was a key player of the Cold War, and his aggression, paranoia and unrealistic attitudes were vital in the build up of tensions and aggressions during the Cold War. Throughout the Cold War, Stalin constantly applied tyrannical methods to secure Soviet control over territories across the globe which he used to secure his own position from potential party rivals and domestic threats – real or imagined. As John Gaddis writes, “(Within the Soviet Union), it was no longer permitted there to distinguish between state interests, party interests and those of Stalin himself. As such, the shrewd and ambitious but paranoid Stalin conflated his own security interests with those of the Soviet Union. Gaddis continues, “Stalin saw things very differently: security came only by intimidating or eliminating potential challengers. World politics was an extension of Soviet politics, which was in turn an extension of Stalin’s preferred personal environment: a zero-sum game, in which achieving security for one meant depriving everyone else of it. ” It is therefore arguable that the Stalinist threat – and the natural defensive response of the U. S. nd Briton to it – probably made the Cold War conflict unavoidable. Furthermore, Stalin’s insistence on dominance and his refusal to compromise and place Soviet interests below that of his allies or peace, created resentments and assured that his empire would be held together only by force. As a historian wrote, “Soviet diplomats were rude and uncooperative at the various post-war international conferences… The United States tried to create a stable and secure international order and ease suffering in Europe. The Soviet Union on the other hand, tried to expand its influence and control of territory. As such, this selfish and aggressive mindset of Stalin made it impossible for the various nations to reach a conclusion on the various issues of contention peacefully. It often forced the Western countries to stray away from the use of negotiations and peaceful agreements to using threats of force and retaliation ‘ a major contributor to the continuation of the Cold War. Thus, it was this mixture of Stalin’s aggression, paranoia and unrealistic attitudes that resulted in the suspicion, anger and mistrust between the two sides, and this prevented the end of the Cold War before Stalin died.