For decades historians have been debating the origins of the Cold War and they are typically classified into three categories: the orthodox, revisionist, and post-revisionist views. Orthodox historians place exclusive responsibility on Stalin and the Soviets, revisionist historians place this blame on the Americans, and post-revisionists believe that the Cold War was simply a misunderstanding between the two superpowers.
Taking into consideration the size, power and influence that both the united States and Soviet union had acquired by the 1 sass it was extremely improbable that they would remain allies after the war, largely due to contrasting political and social norms. With an anticipated post-war economic decline in the united States, Stalin and his red army penetrating Eastern Europe, and most importantly the successful testing and use of an American atomic bomb, tensions Were extremely high. The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, changed the way the world looked at international relations.
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The United States and the Soviet Union both held aggressive expansionist ideologies and are therefore equally responsible for the Cold War. Following the war, American President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill participated in a confidential meeting from August -12 1941 on board a warship. The meeting was held to discuss allied goals post World War II. The meeting resulted in 8 “common principles” by which they hoped all nations would abide in an attempt to avoid future warlike conflict, namely the Atlantic Charter.
Britain and the United States agreed “not to seek territorial expansion; to seek the liberalizing Of international trade; to establish freedom of the seas, and international labor, economic, and welfare standards,” and both nations were “committed to supporting the restoration of self-governments for all countries that had been occupied ring the war and allowing all peoples to choose their own form of government. ” 1 The goal in creating this charter was to achieve “a peace without victors. The Atlantic Charter presented Roosevelt and Churchill vision for the post-war world, which they hoped would involve collective security and improved international trade. This also solidified the allied relationship between the united States and Britain during the war. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the British Foreign Secretary at the time, Anthony Eden traveled to Moscow, Russia to discuss issues regarding Anglo- Soviet-American relations with Joseph Stalin. This meeting occurred on the 16th and 17th Of December 1941. Eden took from this meeting that Stalin had zero belief in any of these values and it is extremely unlikely that they were going to give up any of the territory conquered by the red army in Eastern Europe. This meeting and the Soviet motives that Eden discovered foreshadowed the conflicts that would later emerge as the Cold War grew in intensity. The Atlantic Charter is significant in investigating the cause of the Cold War because it was one of the first occurrences where the United States ND Britain realized how polar opposite their post-war goals were to those of the Soviet Union.
Their interests could not have been more different, which was an extremely large problem and root cause of the Cold War. The Soviet’s wanted to occupy all nations in Eastern Europe to prevent another German invasion, whereas the United States was interested in taking preventative, non-violent legislative measures to promote democracy. This was proof that the alliance between these three nations that carried through the war was unlikely to last beyond it. Contrasting ideologies of the two nations greatly undistributed to the rising tensions between them and the eventual emergence of the Cold War.
Five years following the Atlantic Charter, the Yalta Conference took place in February 1945. 3 At Yalta, the “big three,” Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union met to discuss the rebuilding of War-torn Europe and the governance of previously invaded European countries. The reoccurring issue of conflicting attitudes emerged again at Yalta because the communist Soviet’s wanted to expand their empire and the democratic Americans wanted to prevent precisely that. Upon the leaders’ arrival, the issue of Poland arose almost instantly.
Stalin was direct in his response to this issue that “for the Russian people, the question of Poland is not only a question of honor but also a question of security. Throughout history, Poland has been the corridor through which the enemy has passed into Russia. Poland is a question of life and death for Russia. “4 Stalin was not interested in giving up Poland as he believed it would put Russia in a vulnerable state, increasing the probability Of German invasion. He was adamant that he would not back out of Poland and the issue was non-negotiable.
The “big three” came to the nonsense that all invaded countries would be restored to their pre-war governance and hold free elections. The statement announcing this was articulated as “the establishment of order in Europe and the rebuilding of national economic life must be achieved by processes which will enable the liberated peoples to destroy the last vestiges of Nazism and fascism and to create democratic institutions of their own choice. ” 5 Stalin was reluctant to accept this statement because it clearly did not coincide with his communist ideologies.
Given his irrational and paranoid nature, it was clear that he had o intention of keeping this promise made at Yalta. The other significant issue brought up at Yalta was that Roosevelt went in with the intention to convince Stalin to participate in the United Nations. Stalin accepted and the Soviet union was on the permanent Security Council, meaning they were granted a veto. This significantly limited the power of the united Nations in regard to upcoming conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union because they both had a veto and any attempt at intervention in the conflict would be stalemated.
The conflict regarding the lack of democratic elections being held n Eastern Europe would be addressed at the Potsdam conference in July 1945 where the new American President, Harry Truman would meet with Stalin and voice his complains about the lack of elections being held. Truman felt that Stalin was setting up Communist puppet governments in Eastern Europe and although the nations were nations by name, they had no real sovereignty. Truman now saw first hand how untrustworthy Stalin was, and came to the conclusion that negotiating with Joseph Stalin was utterly pointless. Shortly after the peacetime conference in Potsdam in February 1946,
George Keenan, deputy head of the U. S. Mission in Moscow until April 1946, wrote the “long telegram” outlining his views on the Soviets. 6 It was then published under the name Mr.. X to keep his identity hidden. It was based on the premise that the Soviet union would continue to expand and Stalin and the Russian communists could not be negotiated with in good faith. This was significant because he was the first person to publicly acknowledge that Stalin was neurotic. He is announcing openly that negotiating with a man like Joseph Stalin was ridiculous, as he would never honor the promises he made.
The only language that Stalin understood was force, and the United States had to come to that realization. Seaman’s analysis is accepted at the state department and initiatives such as the Branch plan were abandoned. The Branch plan was an initiative proposing the creation of an international atomic development authority. The initiative was created in late 1945 and the Americans were still looking at the soviets as allies and were planning to attempt to build a framework by which the United States and Soviet union could potentially collaborate on issues including nuclear proliferation.
This Lana was abandoned after the long-telegram was published and widely accepted. George Seaman’s letter is significant because it becomes the basis for the American policy of containment. American-Soviet tensions were rising and both nations coming to realization that the former allies could not be trusted. Greece in 1947 saw a civil war between communists and pro-democrats and in 1 947, the communists were winning. Greece turned to Britain for help but the British government announced that it’s country was devastated from World War II and could not afford to prop up the Greek government.
Britain cited if it were between spending money and letting Greece fall to communism, they would settle for the latter. The United States responded to this immediately. Truman was presented with a choice to let Greece become communist or intervene to prevent that from happening. Truman decided on using American military force to avert communist takeover in Greece. This incident becomes the origin of what will emerge as the Truman Doctrine.
President Truman made a speech before Congress on March 12th 1 947 asking for $400,000,000 in aid to support the governments in Greece and Turkey to prevent the expansion of communist governments. Truman us ported his request with the following statement: “At the present moment in world history nearly every nation must choose between alternative ways of life… L believe that is must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures. 7 The Truman Doctrine was essentially stating that the American government would provide any country facing communist takeover with military aid. The Truman Doctrine paves the way for several proxy wars between the Americans and Soviets. Greece was the first example of this as he United States was providing the pro-democracy forces with military and economic support and the Soviets were doing the same with the pro- communism forces. This was controversial as revisionist historians, such as William Appleton Williams, viewed it as an act of aggression by the United States attempting to start another war.
However, Arthur Schlesinger Jar. And other orthodox historians believe it was an honest and necessary attempt by the United States to prevent Soviet expansionism that agreed with the policy of containment. Many consider the Truman Doctrine to be the official declaration of the Cold War. Following the Truman Doctrine, US Secretary of State George Marshall addressed Harvard University on June 5th 1947, presenting the Marshall Plan. He began by stating , “l need not tell you, gentlemen, that the world situation is very serious.
The truth of the matter is that Rupee’s requirements for the next three or four years of foreign food and other essential products – principally from America – are so much greater than her present ability to pay that she must have substantial additional help or face economic, social, and political deterioration of a very grave character. ” He was suggesting that the Ignited States “should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. ” He declared that “communism is not the enemy of democracy, poverty is. 8 This statement is extremely valid, as countries with economic stability are more likely to support capitalist and democratic ideologies. The lessons of the sass’s taught the Americans that people in a democratic state would seek desperate and extreme options when faced with unrelenting poverty. Marshall was suggesting that if the United States wanted democracy to thrive in Western Europe, they would need to lift those nations out of poverty. The Marshall plan was a means of providing economic aid to the democracies of Western Europe, in turn providing incentive for surrounding nations to follow suit.
The Cold War was largely a war fought for public opinion, and if the Americans wanted to win that war they felt it was crucial to demonstrate that the quality Of life was better in the West. They wanted Europeans and the world to see that the American political system of democracy produced a higher standard of living Han the Soviet’s communist regime. Truman passed the Marshall Plan into law on April 3rd 1948. 9 The Marshall Plan and Truman Doctrine faced severe criticism regarding American concern with it’s own economic benefit, and the principles of the NUN.
Many saw the Marshall plan as self-serving for Americans, suggesting that it was a method of continuing the lend-lease program that had done so much to transform the American economy. The demand for American manufactured goods during World War II was enormous and completely solved the issue of American unemployment. With the war coming to a close, he United States is panicking because that demand is gone and American leaders needed to find a new market for American manufactured goods. One way to do this was to lend money to the war-torn countries of Eastern Europe.
This was a large subject of criticism because the United States was trying to improve its own economy at the expense of European countries. However, many consider the Marshall Plan as a genuine attempt to pull European countries out of poverty and into a democratic state. The argument that the Marshall plan was for American economic gain Was valid, because a to of the money from the Marshall Plan did return to the United States. The Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan received criticism from the Soviet Foreign Minister, Andrei Fishiness.
He presented the opinion of the Soviet Logion on the issue at the UN on September 1 8th, 1947. 10 In his speech he said that “The so-called Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan are particularly glaring examples of the manner in which the principles of the United Nations are violated, of the way in which the Organization is ignored. ” 11 Soviet reactions were, as predicted, confrontational. Fishiness was arguing that the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan contradict the principles of the UN charter: “to save future generations from the scourge of war. His argument is valid, because it is the role Of the United Nations Security Council to take care Of these issues and the United States had technically sidestepped the LINE. He ironically argues “moreover this plan is an attempt to split Europe into two camps. ” Visionary argument is ironic because it fails to acknowledge that splitting Europe into two separate “camps” is the exact same thing that the Soviet Union has done with Eastern Europe. It can be argued that the United States did undermine the United Nations, however there was no way to meet the threat of Soviet expansionism without this intervention.
The United States and the Soviet Union were both members of the Security Council and therefore both given a veto. This meant that the issue of American intervention in Europe was always going to be stalemated. The Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan are both examples of the United States attempting to intervene in the communist takeover in Europe while achieving personal gain. Andrei Fishiness is an example, much like Stalin Of an accusatory, and hypocritical political figure representing Russia on the international stage. An event of such magnitude, like the Cold War, is unlikely to have a sole aggressor.
The blame for the escalating conflict between former allies in the post-war era can be shared between the United States and Soviet Union. Both superpowers wanted to expand their sphere of influence at the expense of the other. With such polar opposite political ideologies from the world’s greatest superpowers it was unlikely that they would get along. Therefore, the Cold War was inevitable and was not caused y one nation’s leader or the other. Yalta and the other peacetime conferences are prime examples that highlight the differences between the Soviets and Americans.