Origins of the Cold War

Origins of the Cold War - History

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835)

Fred Inglis, The Cruel Peace: Everyday Life and the Cold War (1991)

The origins of the cold war are not really that difficult to uncover. Nor are these origins that complex. Here in the west we have the tendency -- not unusual, I suppose -- to place the entire responsibility of the cold war upon the shoulders of the Soviet Union. And so, there have been a few events which have shaped this response. For instance, when Mother Russia overthrew its tsar, made a revolution, became the Soviet Union, unified itself under Lenin and created an ideological structure called communism, the United States could only react with fear and trepidation. The government could not accept the simple fact that a country could exist with economic and political principles so critically opposed to democracy and industrial capitalism.

By 1919 or 1920, the Red Scare had become an American reality. Through the manipulation of public opinion and repression and even physical force, anarchists, socialists and communists were clearly forced into retreat. Socialism or communism in the United States is simply an impossibility -- it is too European for American tastes. It always has been and perhaps always will be. True, there have been socialists and communists in this country well before 1917. And they exist today as well, but only as small pockets of supporters from whom we basically never hear a word. Americans fear revolution. Americans fear change -- real, fundamental social, economic and political change. And what really terrifies Americans are immigrants who desire change through revolution. Again, it's too European. This is an attitude which does have a history and I think if you study the atmosphere of the United States in the late 1840s and 50s you will discover why. In 1848, most European governments were under assault from the left. And when many of these individuals came to this country to escape political repression, they brought their ideas of revolution -- red ideas -- with them.

The French Revolution -- or something on the scale of the French Revolution -- could never have taken place in this country. Radicalism, true liberalism, a revolutionary frame of mind, is an impossibility on American soil. Review the last two centuries of American dissent or radicalism. You will soon notice that it is a history full of examples in which independent thought or direct criticism is most often met with the club or the stick. Meaningful dissent in the United States is an impotent force. Whether that dissent is homegrown or imported from abroad, the results have almost always been the same. So when we speak of dissent in this country today, it is perhaps better to speak of permissible dissent rather than true dissent.

When we turn to the more immediate and tangible causes of the cold war, we must begin with World War Two itself. On July 25, 1945, two months after Germany had surrendered, the Big Three -- Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin and Harry Truman -- met at POTSDAM in order to discuss the fate of Germany. By 1945, Stalin was the veteran revolutionary, a man who had held the reins of Soviet power and authority for nearly twenty years. Truman, on the other hand, had been President barely three months. The crucial issue at Potsdam, as it had been at Versailles in 1918 and 1919, was reparations. The Soviet Union, as to be expected, wanted to rebuild their near-destroyed economy using German industry. The United States feared it would have to pay the whole cost of rebuilding Germany, which in turn would help rebuild the Soviet Union. So, after all the discussions had ended, a compromise was reached and Germany was to be partitioned into four occupied zones. Britain, France and the United States would occupy parts of western Germany while the Soviet Union would occupy east Germany.

The main issue at Potsdam and for the next two years was who would control Europe. Britain had its chance, so too did France and Germany. Was it now Russia's turn? Or perhaps the United States? Few people ever questioned why Europe needed to be controlled in the first place but in the end, everyone wanted to avoid yet another war. Russia wanted Poland. Everybody wanted Poland. But especially Russia. Historically, Poland had always been the key state needed from which to launch an attack against Russia. The United States upheld the principles of self-determination, principles declared in Woodrow Wilson's FOURTEEN POINT PLAN. For Wilson, nations should have the right to choose their own form of government. Of course, Wilson really meant was America's destiny to make "the world safe for democracy".

The Soviets viewed this demand as unacceptable for it indicated that the United States was really taking too heavy a hand in determining what nations ought to adopt what specific form of government. In response, Stalin went on to create what Winston Churchill, never at a loss for words, dubbed the IRON CURTAIN. For Churchill:

from Stettin on the Baltic to Trieste on the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of central and eastern Europe -- Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia. From what I have seen of our Russian friends and allies during the war I am convinced that there is nothing they admire so much as strength and nothing for which they have less respect than military weakness.

By 1946, the United States and Britain were making every effort to unify all of Germany under western rule. The Soviet Union responded by consolidating its grip on Europe by creating satellite states in 1946 and 1947. One by one, communist governments, loyal to Moscow, were set up in Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. Stalin used Soviet communism to dominate half of Europe. Why Stalin did this might not be clear. Was he trying to build an international communist movement beginning in eastern Europe? Or, was he simply trying to protect his borders from any intervention on the part of the United States or the allies? The climax came in March 1948. A communist coup in Czechoslovakia overthrew a democratic government and the Soviet Union gained a foothold in central Europe.

Given the experience of World War Two itself, this division of Europe was perhaps inevitable. Both sides wanted their values and economic and political systems to prevail in areas which their soldiers had helped to liberate. If both sides had accepted these new spheres of influence, a cold war might never have occurred. But the nations of western Europe and the United States still had Hitler on their minds and they soon began to see Stalin as a similar threat.

With World War Two at an end by the end of the summer of 1945, the United States knew that the Soviet economy was in a state of near-collapse. The Soviet Union had lost at least 20 million souls during the war alone and perhaps another 20-30 million from Stalin's decade of purge trials. Thirty thousand factories and forty thousand miles of railroad tracks had been destroyed. All the industrialization that Stalin had promised and delivered to his people with the Five Year Plans had been lost. Truman realized this and remained confident that the United States was in the stronger bargaining position. He surmised that the Soviets had to come to the United States for much-needed economic aid. As early as January 1945, FDR had already denied the Soviet request for a six billion dollar loan. Lend-Lease proved no more effective. In the Spring of 1945, Congress agreed that they would not allow Lend-Lease for any post-war reconstruction in Russia. This was obviously a major shift in policy for under the Lend-Lease Act of 1941, the United States had shipped enormous quantities of war materiel to the Soviets, including almost 15,000 planes, 7000 tanks, 52,000 jeeps and almost 400,000 trucks.

Overshadowing all these initial cold war issues of 1945 was the atomic bomb. The new weapon used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August presented a whole new category of problems. Even friendly nations would have had difficulty resolving their problems -- given the state of American and Soviet affairs in 1945, the situation was positively explosive. The early history of the bomb is interesting. One would have thought that the Germans, with their V1 and V2 rockets, were far in advance of any developments by the Allies. But thanks to Hitler and the Nazis, from the early 1930s onward, there was a steady exodus of Germany's greatest scientific minds. They came to Cambridge in England or to the United States. Albert Einstein (1879-1955), Max Planck (1858-1947), Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976) had all pioneered the new physics upon which nuclear fission rested. The Hungarian Leo Szilard (1898-1964) and Danish scientist Niels Bohr (1885-1962) had worked on uranium fission in Germany before the war, but they left as well. In August 1939, Einstein wrote a letter to FDR urging him of the necessity to start work on a new super-weapon before the Germans had developed one themselves.

The Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge became the most important British research center. It was at Cavendish that Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937) first achieved atomic disintegration in 1919 and where James Chadwick (1891-1974) identified the neutron in 1932. The first chain reaction uranium fission was achieved at the University of Chicago in 1942. A huge nuclear plant built at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, produced fissionable material in large quantities. Under the direction of J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967)), the actual weapons development took place at Los Alamos in New Mexico.

During World War Two, Roosevelt and Churchill followed a policy that would ensure a nuclear arms race at war's end. Still, Stalin found out about the Manhattan Project and by 1943 had already begun development of a Soviet bomb. After the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagaski and the subsequent surrender of Japan, the United States developed a disarmament plan based on turning over all fissionable materials, plants and bombs to an international regulatory agency. The Soviets responded quickly with their own plan which stipulated nothing less than a total ban on the production of all fissionable material. They further added that all existing bombs would be destroyed. Wishing to preserve its monopoly on nuclear weapons, the United States continued to stress regulation and inspection by an independent agency. But the Soviets, in the hopes of neutralizing any United States advantage, insisted on immediate disarmament. Eventually an agreement was reached and the two sides agreed to disagree.

Another cause of the cold war revolved around a relatively new development in United States-Soviet relations. At the beginning of 1946, Truman decided that he was "tired of babysitting the Soviets who understand only an iron fist and strong language." Stalin responded in February with a speech stressing the basic incompatibility between Soviet communism and western democracy, thus inaugurating a new hard line policy. Frustrated, Washington found meaning in a crucial document known as the "Long Telegram." In 1946, the Soviet expert George Kennan, sent an 8000 word telegram to Washington from Moscow. Kennan was a foreign service officer who new Russia well. He understood their history, their culture and their language. Kennan explained the communist mentality in the following way. The Soviet's hostility to the west is rooted in the need to legitimize their bloody dictatorship -- they must therefore believe in the inevitable triumph of communism over the beast capitalism. The Soviets, Kennan continued, would exploit every opportunity to extend their system and therefore could not and would not be converted to a policy of harmony and cooperation. According to Kennan, Russia's policy was:

to undermine the general and strategic potential of major western powers by a host of subversive measures to destroy individual governments that might stand in the Soviet path, to do everything possible to set the major Western powers against each other.

But since the Soviets believed that they had history on their side -- history as understood by Marx's materialist conception of history -- the communists were in no hurry and would not risk major war. Met with firmness, Kennan went on, the Soviets will back off. Eventually published as "THE SOURCES OF SOVIET CONDUCT," in the journal Foreign Affairs and signed by "X," Kennan's observations quickly gave Washington its own hard line and for the next three decades or so American foreign policy could be expressed by one word: containment. In order to quiet Soviet ambitions, the United States now had to embark on a path of intervention, under the guise of containment.

There were two other administrative policies that also helped to shape the future of US-Soviet relations during the early stages of the cold war. Most western European Communist parties were at a peak in the years immediately following World War Two. The French Communist Party, for instance, won almost 30% of the vote in November 1946 elections. In Greece, Communist led guerrillas supplied from Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Albania, posed a threat to the uninspired government of Greece. The Greek communists attempted to seize power in late 1944, when their tactics of mass slaughter turned off a majority of Greeks. But the communists fought back, aided by Tito, not Stalin. Civil war eventually broke out in Greece in 1946 amid economic crisis. By January 1947, the British informed the United States that they could no longer supply economic aid to Greece or Turkey. Believing that the Soviet Union was responsible for Britain's pullout, the United States decided that they had to assume the role of supplying aid. The TRUMAN DOCTRINE of March 12, 1947 announced aid to Greece and Turkey in the stated context of a general war against communism. Aid in the amount of $400 million was approved by the House and Senate by a margin of three to one. In many ways, the Truman Doctrine marked the formal declaration of the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union -- it also solidified the United States' position regarding containment.

The Soviets accepted the Truman Doctrine's "two rival worlds" idea. It went along with the Marxist-Leninist notion of a world divided into two hostile camps -- one capitalist, the other communist. For Stalin, a final class struggle, determined by the laws of historical development, would mean certain Soviet victory.

In May came the American decision to "reconstruct the two great workshops," Germany and Japan. And on June 5, Secretary of State George C. Marshall gave a SPEECH AT HARVARD which would further harden the United States' position toward the Soviets. Marshall proposed a scheme of extensive aid to all European nations if they could agree on how to revive a working economy, "so as to permit," he wrote, "the emergence of political and social conditions in which institutions can exist." There's no doubt which institutions Marshall had in mind -- a free market economy directed by forces not in Europe but across the Atlantic. Marshall even included the Soviets in his plan. But at a meeting in Paris the following month, the Soviets gave their response to the Marshall Plan by walking out. Neither Russia nor its satellite states would take up the offer. Meanwhile, as the Marshall Plan pumped US dollars into Europe, West German economic recovery began to trigger a general European recovery. The Soviets viewed this development as little more than a capitalist plot to draw the nations of eastern European into the American sphere of influence.

1947 was a crucial year in early cold war history. The forces of the free world, it seemed, were rallying to resist Soviet aggression, build up the defenses of the non-communist world and, tackle the problem of European economic recovery with massive assistance from the United States. That assistance grew to something like $20 billion before 1951.

The issue of Soviet containment was also played out in 1949 with the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO. The idea for something like NATO grew from general European fears of renewed Soviet aggression. Hitler was still on everybody's mind. Although Hitler was dead, was Stalin perhaps viewed as the next aggressor? Regardless of whether or not Stalin was hell-bent on world domination, the point here is that he was perceived to be an aggressor in the Hitler mold. Western Europe also needed some guarantee from the United States that they would be protected from any aggression while they began the slow process of economic recovery.

England, France and the Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) initiated the organization of what would become NATO by forming the Western Union in March 1948 to get the ball rolling. The main force behind the creation of NATO was not Truman, as you might have suspected, but the British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin. By January of 1949, Truman called for an even broader pact which eventually would involve the United States, Canada and ten European nations. The North Atlantic Treaty was eventually signed April 4, 1949. NATO was created with the sole aim of protecting Europe from Soviet aggression, "to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law." There were two main features of the Treaty. First, the United States made a firm commitment to protect and defend Europe. As stated in the Treaty, "an armed attack against one shall be considered an attack against all." Second, the United States would indeed honor its commitment to defend Europe. So in 1950, Truman selected Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) as the Supreme Commander of NATO forces. Four United States divisions were stationed in Europe to serve as the nucleus of NATO forces.

The American public embraced NATO because it offered a way of participating in world affairs and opposing Soviet power in a more indirect way. Americans no longer believed that world security would come through the United Nations -- itself a product of World War One -- but they still held on to the ideas of some sort of collective security with an ideological base. The Atlantic nations were said to be held together by both common interests as well as a common commitment to democracy and industrial capitalism. For western Europe, NATO provided a much-needed shelter of security behind which economic recovery could take place. In a way, NATO was the political counterpart of the Marshall Plan. For the United States, NATO signified that the United States could no longer remain isolated from European affairs. Indeed, NATO meant that European affairs were now American affairs as well.

Despite the apparent advantages of NATO, there were problems right from the start. Neither Britain nor France provided much in the way of military strength for a number of years. France was too heavily committed overseas, especially in Indochina and Algeria. And the British were in the midst of losing even more territories of their Empire. West German military presence in NATO was next to nothing. So, it was the United States which provided the entire muscle behind NATO. It was clearly an unequal partnership which at different times seemed to bother both Europeans and Americans. But what eventually counted, at least in the context of the late 1940s and early 50s, was not the ground forces under NATO control but the American "nuclear umbrella" acting as a deterrent against any Soviet temptation to attack. As it turned out, Eisenhower returned to Europe with tens of thousands of American GIs for the second time in a decade, this time to guard the enemy of World War Two against one of its former Allies. While this buildup continued, NATO forces remained outnumbered many times over by Russian ground forces. But what sustained Europe's spirit and perhaps deterred the Soviets -- who had very little intention of an armed attack on Europe -- was the assurance that such an attack would bring the United States, with is massive resources, into the war.

The western alliance embodied in NATO had the effect of escalating the cold war. Historians are pretty much agreed. NATO was created by an over-reaction of the western world to what they perceived to be Soviet aggression. Once again, Hitler was on everybody's mind. But Stalin was not Hitler. Furthermore, the Soviets were not Nazis. And in the end there was very little evidence of a Soviet plot to invade western Europe. All NATO really did was intensify Soviets fears of the West and to produce even higher levels of international tension.

As the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union grew in the late 1940s and into the 50s, both countries began to rebuild their military forces. Following World War Two, American leaders were intent on reforming the military forces. There were two main goals policy makers had in mind. First, in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, the armed forces had to be unified into an integrated system. Such a policy of unification was required by the cold war itself. Second, there was also a need for entirely new institutions to coordinate all military strategy. In 1947, Congress solved both issues by creating the National Security Act. The results of this Act should be familiar to all of us today since it established institutions we know take for granted. The Act created first, a Department of Defense which would serve as an organizing principle over the army, navy and air force. Second, the Act created the National Security Council, a special advisory board to the executive office. And lastly, the Act created the Central Intelligence Agency or CIA, which was in charge of all intelligence.

In 1949, American military planners received a rather profound shock: the Soviets had just succeeded in exploding an atomic bomb of their own. The bomb was a fission bomb, created by the disintegration of plutonium 239 mixed with uranium 235. By this time, however, nuclear technology had advanced so far that this sort of bomb, like the one that leveled Hiroshima, was as obsolete as a six-shooter. The first United States explosion of an H-bomb, or hydrogen bomb, took place in 1952. The Soviets announced the detonation of a similar thermonuclear device in August of the following year. This fusion bomb, the product of fusion at extreme temperatures of heavy isotopes of hydrogen, is many times more powerful than the A-bomb. In fact, since it operates by chain reaction, the only limit to its size is determined by the size of the aircraft which is carrying it. A bomber can carry a 100 megaton bomb. The Hiroshima bomb, which killed 80,000 souls in less than fifteen minutes, was about 1/700th as large as a 100 megaton bomb. Because the H-bomb was manufactured from one of the most common elements, enough bombs could be readily produced to destroy the planet several times.

Of course, who would want to do that? This was possibly the most dangerous period for nuclear war. The vast growth in the numbers and kinds of long range nuclear weapons meant the neither the United States nor the Soviet Union could hope to escape the ravages of thermonuclear war. Of course, the massive numbers of nuclear warheads produced actually resulted in a stalemate -- and this was good for everyone concerned. The world shuddered at the thought that the destiny of the globe was in the hands of two super powers, yet the logic of the "balance of terror" worked right from the start. Total war was too dangerous. It would destroy everything. There are no victors in thermonuclear war -- only victims.

In the wake of all these developments a new national defense policy was needed by the United States and it came with a policy document known as NSC-68. NSC-68 was based on the premise that first, the Soviets were trying to impose absolute authority over the world and second, that the United States had to face that challenge. What all this boiled down to was this: no more appeasement and no more isolation. NSC-68 raised defense spending immediately. While the 1950 budget had allocated $13 billion for military spending (about one-third of the national budget and five percent of the GNP), the 1951 budget, dedicated $60 billion for defense (about two-thirds of the national budget and more than eighteen percent of a rising GNP). In the end, NSC-68 stands as a symbol of America's determination to win the cold war regardless of cost.

Cold War

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Cold War, the open yet restricted rivalry that developed after World War II between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies. The Cold War was waged on political, economic, and propaganda fronts and had only limited recourse to weapons. The term was first used by the English writer George Orwell in an article published in 1945 to refer to what he predicted would be a nuclear stalemate between “two or three monstrous super-states, each possessed of a weapon by which millions of people can be wiped out in a few seconds.” It was first used in the United States by the American financier and presidential adviser Bernard Baruch in a speech at the State House in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1947.

What was the Cold War?

The Cold War was an ongoing political rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies that developed after World War II. This hostility between the two superpowers was first given its name by George Orwell in an article published in 1945. Orwell understood it as a nuclear stalemate between “super-states”: each possessed weapons of mass destruction and was capable of annihilating the other.

The Cold War began after the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945, when the uneasy alliance between the United States and Great Britain on the one hand and the Soviet Union on the other started to fall apart. The Soviet Union began to establish left-wing governments in the countries of eastern Europe, determined to safeguard against a possible renewed threat from Germany. The Americans and the British worried that Soviet domination in eastern Europe might be permanent. The Cold War was solidified by 1947–48, when U.S. aid had brought certain Western countries under American influence and the Soviets had established openly communist regimes. Nevertheless, there was very little use of weapons on battlefields during the Cold War. It was waged mainly on political, economic, and propaganda fronts and lasted until 1991.

How did the Cold War end?

The Cold War came to a close gradually. The unity in the communist bloc was unraveling throughout the 1960s and ’70s as a split occurred between China and the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, Japan and certain Western countries were becoming more economically independent. Increasingly complex international relationships developed as a result, and smaller countries became more resistant to superpower cajoling.

The Cold War truly began to break down during the administration of Mikhail Gorbachev, who changed the more totalitarian aspects of the Soviet government and tried to democratize its political system. Communist regimes began to collapse in eastern Europe, and democratic governments rose in East Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, followed by the reunification of West and East Germany under NATO auspices. Gorbachev’s reforms meanwhile weakened his own communist party and allowed power to shift to the constituent governments of the Soviet bloc. The Soviet Union collapsed in late 1991, giving rise to 15 newly independent nations, including a Russia with an anticommunist leader.

Why was the Cuban missile crisis such an important event in the Cold War?

In the late 1950s, both the United States and the Soviet Union were developing intercontinental ballistic missiles. In 1962 the Soviet Union began to secretly install missiles in Cuba to launch attacks on U.S. cities. The confrontation that followed, known as the Cuban missile crisis, brought the two superpowers to the brink of war before an agreement was reached to withdraw the missiles.

The conflict showed that both superpowers were wary of using their nuclear weapons against each other for fear of mutual atomic annihilation. The signing of the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty followed in 1963, which banned aboveground nuclear weapons testing. Still, after the crisis, the Soviets were determined not to be humiliated by their military inferiority again, and they began a buildup of conventional and strategic forces that the United States was forced to match for the next 25 years.

A brief treatment of the Cold War follows. For full treatment, see international relations.

Atomic power play

Communist leaders Mao Tse-Tung (left) and Nikita Khrushchev, 11 August 1958 © As plans were made for the division of power in the postwar world, Truman initially opposed any Anglo-American ganging-up on the Russians, and said he would keep every agreement with them. But his desire to appear decisive and tough spurred his belief that he could get 85 per cent of his own way out of every deal with the Russians, and that if not, they could 'go to hell'. Truman went to the Potsdam Conference in July 1945 to advance only American interests ('win, lose, or draw - and we must win'), and believed that the atomic bomb was his 'ace-in-the hole'.

Truman viewed the US as the world's trustee for atomic power.

Thus rather than meet the Soviet claim, based on the Yalta accords, to about $10 billion in reparations from Germany, the President insisted that each nation take reparations from its own zone in Germany. This denied the Soviets access to the industrial Ruhr, but zonal reparations also augured economic-political division of Germany.

American use of atomic bombs against Japan at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 was intended to shorten the war and save lives. But Truman believed as well that the bombs would cause Japan to 'fold up' before the Soviets entered the Pacific War, which would assure exclusive US occupation of Japan, and a chance to negate concessions due the Russians in Manchuria. In effect, the prospect of political gain in Europe and Asia precluded serious US thought of not using atomic bombs against Japan.

Truman viewed the US as the world's trustee for atomic power, sided with Cabinet advisers who thought America's technological genius assured its supremacy in an arms race, and proved as resistant in many ways as Joseph Stalin, who sought atomic parity, to international control of atomic energy. The President also chided Secretary of State James Byrnes for reaching compromise accords in Moscow in December 1945 on eastern Europe, Asia, and atomic power. The Russians understood only an iron fist, Truman said, and he was tired of babying them.

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2 - Ideology and the origins of the Cold War, 1917–1962

Russia’s Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 triggered a confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States that would last much of the twentieth century. In its early years, each side aimed to transform the other. American–Soviet conflict became global only in the 1940s, at which point it shaped the international system and every nation in it. In addition to competition over markets or territories, this new form of struggle – the Cold War – was at its root a battle of ideas: American liberalism vs. Soviet Communism.

The ideologies animating the Cold War had centuries-long pedigrees, emerging by the early twentieth century as powerful and compelling visions for social change. These ideologies – explicit ideas and implicit assumptions that provided frameworks for understanding the world and defining action in it – were not antithetical to material interests, but often shaped the way foreign-policy officials understood such interests. Ideologies were lenses that focused, and just as often distorted, understandings of external events and thus the actions taken in response.

Ideologies in conflict and in common

Though American leaders typically proclaimed their immunity from ideological temptations, this self-perception ignored a rich tradition of American thought and policy that developed, defined, and acted upon a clear set of ideological premises. The foreign policy of the United States, like so much else in that country, drew on a long tradition of liberalism originating in the ideas of John Locke. As the etymology suggests, Lockean liberalism was, its core, a theory of liberty, one that viewed liberty as defined for the individual, based in law, and rooted in property. The Declaration Independence paraphrased Locke in proclaiming human beings “endowed by their Creator” with rights to “life, liberty and [where Locke had emphasized property] the pursuit of happiness.” Liberty could be protected only by a system of laws in a polity guaranteeing popular sovereignty. A government, furthermore, should provide only formal freedoms (protecting the rights of property and participation), not substantive ones (equality of condition).

Essay on the Cold War: it&rsquos Origin, Causes and Phases

After the Second World War, the USA and USSR became two Super Powers. One nation tried to reduce the power of other. Indirectly the competition between the Super Powers led to the Cold War.

Then America took the leadership of all the Capitalist Countries.

Soviet Russia took the leadership of all the Communist Countries. As a result of which both stood as rivals to each other.

Definition of the Cold War:

In the graphic language of Hartman, “Cold War is a state of tension between countries in which each side adopts policies designed to strengthen it and weaken the other by falling short by actual war”.

Image Source:

Infact, Cold War is a kind of verbal war which is fought through newspapers, magazines, radio and other propaganda methods. It is a propaganda to which a great power resorts against the other power. It is a sort of diplomatic war.

Origin of Cold War:

There is no unanimity amongst scholars regarding the origin of the Cold War In 1941 when Hitler invaded Russia, Roosevelt the President of USA sent armaments to Russia. It is only because the relationship between Roosevelt and Stalin was very good. But after the defeat of Germany, when Stalin wanted to implement Communist ideology in Poland, Hungery, Bulgaria and Rumania, at that time England and America suspected Stalin.

Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of England in his ‘Fulton Speech’ on 5 March 1946 said that Soviet Russia was covered by an Iron Curtain. It led Stalin to think deeply. As a result of which suspicion became wider between Soviet Russia and western countries and thus the Cold War took birth.

Causes of the Cold War:

Various causes are responsible for the outbreak of the Cold War. At first, the difference between Soviet Russia and USA led to the Cold War. The United States of America could not tolerate the Communist ideology of Soviet Russia. On the other hand, Russia could not accept the dominance of United States of America upon the other European Countries.

Secondly, the Race of Armament between the two super powers served another cause for the Cold War. After the Second World War, Soviet Russia had increased its military strength which was a threat to the Western Countries. So America started to manufacture the Atom bomb, Hydrogen bomb and other deadly weapons. The other European Countries also participated in this race. So, the whole world was divided into two power blocs and paved the way for the Cold War.

Thirdly, the Ideological Difference was another cause for the Cold War. When Soviet Russia spread Communism, at that time America propagated Capitalism. This propaganda ultimately accelerated the Cold War.

Fourthly, Russian Declaration made another cause for the Cold War. Soviet Russia highlighted Communism in mass-media and encouraged the labour revolution. On the other hand, America helped the Capitalists against the Communism. So it helped to the growth of Cold War.

Fifthly, the Nuclear Programme of America was responsible for another cause for the Cold War. After the bombardment of America on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Soviet Russia got afraid for her existence. So, it also followed the same path to combat America. This led to the growth of Cold War.

Lastly, the Enforcement of Veto by Soviet Russia against the western countries made them to hate Russia. When the western countries put forth any view in the Security Council of the UNO, Soviet Russia immediately opposed it through veto. So western countries became annoyed in Soviet Russia which gave birth to the Cold War.

Various Phases of the Cold War:

The Cold War did not occur in a day. It passed through several phases.

First Phase (1946-1949):

In this phase America and Soviet Russia disbelieved each other. America always tried to control the Red Regime in Russia. Without any hesitation Soviet Russia established Communism by destroying democracy in the Poland, Bulgaria, Rumania, Hungery, Yugoslavia and other Eastern European Countries.

In order to reduce Russia’s hegemony, America helped Greece and Turkey by following Truman Doctrine which came into force on 12 March 1947. According to Marshall Plan which was declared on 5 June, 1947 America gave financial assistance to Western European Countries.

In this phase, non withdrawal of army from Iran by Soviet Russia, Berlin blaockade etc. made the cold was more furious. After the formation of NATO in 1949, the Cold War took a halt.

Second Phase (1949-1953):

In this phase a treaty was signed between Australia, New Zeland and America in September, 1957 which was known as ANZUS. America also signed a treaty with Japan on 8 September, 1951. At that time by taking armaments from Russia and army from China, North Korea declared war against South Korea.

Then with the help of UNO, America sent military aid to South Korea. However, both North Korea and South Korea signed peace treaty in 1953 and ended the war. In order to reduce the impact of Soviet Communism, America spent a huge amount of dollar in propaganda against Communism. On the other hand, Soviet Russia tried to be equal with America by testing atom bomb.

Now United States of America formed SEATO in 1954 in order to reduce Soviet Russia’s influence. In 1955 America formed MEDO in Middle East. Within a short span of time, America gave military assistance to 43 countries and formed 3300 military bases around Soviet Russia. At that time, the Vietnamese War started on 1955.

To reduce the American Power, Russia signed WARSAW PACT in 1955. Russia also signed a defence pact with 12 Countries. Germany was divided into Federal Republic of Germany which was under the American control where as German Democratic Republic was under Soviet Russia. In 1957 Soviet Russia included Sphutnick in her defence programme.

In 1953 Stalin died and Khrushchev became the President of Russia. In 1956 an agreement was signed between America and Russia regarding the Suez Crisis. America agreed not to help her allies like England and France. In fact West Asia was saved from a great danger.

Fourth Phase (1957-1962):

In 1959 the Russian President Khrushchev went on a historical tour to America. Both the countries were annoyed for U-2 accident and for Berlin Crisis. In 13 August 1961, Soviet Russia made a Berlin Wall of 25 Kilometres in order to check the immigration from eastern Berlin to Western Berlin. In 1962, Cuba’s Missile Crisis contributed a lot to the cold war.

This incident created an atmosphere of conversation between American President Kenedy and Russian President Khrushchev. America assured Russia that she would not attack Cuba and Russia also withdrew missile station from Cuba.

Fifth Phase (1962-1969):

The Fifth Phase which began from 1962 also marked a mutual suspicion between USA and USSR. There was a worldwide concern demanding ban on nuclear weapons. In this period Hot Line was established between the White House and Kremlin. This compelled both the parties to refrain from nuclear war. Inspite of that the Vietnam problem and the Problem in Germany kept Cold War between USA and USSR in fact.

Sixth Phase (1969-1978):

This phase commencing from 1969 was marked by DETENTE between USA and USSR- the American President Nixon and Russian President Brezhnev played a vital role for putting an end to the Cold War. The SALT of 1972, the summit Conference on Security’ of 1975 in Helsinki and Belgrade Conference of 1978 brought America and Russia closer.

In 1971, American Foreign Secretary Henry Kissinger paid a secret visit to China to explore the possibilities of reapproachment with China. The American move to convert Diego Garcia into a military base was primarily designed to check the Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean. During the Bangladesh crisis of 1971 and the Egypt-Israel War of 1973 the two super powers extended support to the opposite sides.

Last Phase (1979-1987):

In this phase certain changes were noticed in the Cold War. That is why historians call this phase as New Cold War. In 1979, the American President Carter and Russian President Brezhnev signed SALT II. But in 1979 the prospects of mitigating Cold War were marred by sudden development in Afghanistan.

Vietnam (1975), Angola (1976), Ethiopia (1972) and Afghanistan (1979) issues brought success to Russia which was unbearable for America. American President Carter’s Human Rights and Open Diplomacy were criticised by Russia. The SALT II was not ratified by the US Senate. In 1980 America boycotted the Olympic held at Moscow.

In 1983, Russia withdrew from a talk on missile with America. In 1984 Russia boycotted the Olympic game held at Los-Angeles. The Star War of the American President Ronald Regan annoyed Russia. In this way the ‘New Cold War’ between America and Russia continued till 1987.

Result of the Cold War:

The Cold War had far-reaching implications in the international affairs. At first, it gave rise to a fear psychosis which resulted in a mad race for the manufacture of more sophisticated armaments. Various alliances like NATO, SEATO, WARSAW PACT, CENTO, ANZUS etc. were formed only to increase world tension.

Secondly, Cold War rendered the UNO ineffective because both super powers tried to oppose the actions proposed by the opponent. The Korean Crisis, Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam War etc. were the bright examples in this direction.

Thirdly, due to the Cold War, a Third World was created. A large number of nations of Africa, Asia and Latin America decided to keep away from the military alliances of the two super powers. They liked to remain neutral. So, Non-Alignments Movement became the direct outcome of the Cold War.

Fourthly, Cold War was designed against mankind. The unnecessary expenditure in the armament production created a barrier against the progress of the world and adversely affected a country and prevented improvement in the living standards of the people.

Fifthly, the principle ‘Whole World as a Family’, was shattered on the rock of frustration due to the Cold War. It divided the world into two groups which was not a healthy sign for mankind.

Sixthly, The Cold War created an atmosphere of disbelief among the countries. They questioned among themselves how unsafe were they under Russia or America.

Finally, The Cold War disturbed the World Peace. The alliances and counter-alliances created a disturbing atmosphere. It was a curse for the world. Though Russia and America, being super powers, came forward to solve the international crisis, yet they could not be able to establish a perpetual peace in the world.

Origins of the Cold War

Origins of the Cold War
Although relations with the Soviet Union were already strained, Roosevelt’s death and the beginning of Truman’s presidency brought new tensions to the relationship. Russia’s traditional paranoia led to the establishment of a communist satellite buffer zone around the USSR. The spread of communism into Asian and South American countries exacerbated anticommunist feelings in the United States and contributed to the pressure for increased buildup of defensive forces.

Yalta Conference: Conference of Russia, Great Britain and US in Feb.1945 with leaders FDR, Stalin and Churchill in Crimea. The result was statement of Soviet intent on entering the Pacific War two to three months after the end of the European war, Churchill and FDR promise for Soviet concessions in Manchurian and return of lost territories. Stalin recognized Chiang as China's ruler, agreed to drop demands for reparations from Germany, approved plans for a UN Conference and promised free elections in Poland.

Potsdam Conference: Truman, Stalin and Churchill met in Potsdam Germany from July 16-Aug. 2 to decide on postwar arrangements begun at Yalta. A Council of Foreign Ministers was established to draft treaties concerning conquered European nations, and to make provisions for the trials of war criminals. The Soviet Union agreed to drop demands for reparations and Germany was decentralized into British, Russian, French and US zones.

partitioning of Korea, Vietnam, Germany:
As decided by the Potsdam by the Council of Foreign minister, Germany, Vietnam and Korea were divided into zones to be held by US, France, Britain and the Soviet Union and then reorganized through self-determination.

de Gaulle, Charles:
The French President during WWII, he was also active in several treaty conferences.

Churchill, Winston, "Iron Curtain" speech:
Asked for Anglo-American cooperation to combat an "Iron Curtain" that cut across Europe from the Baltic to Adriatic. The iron curtain was the satellites and territories held by the communist Soviet Union. An early theory for Soviet containment.

Ruler of Russia from 1929-1953. In 1935 Stalin endorsed a "Popular Front" to oppose fascism. Stalin also had considerable influence in the Yalta agreement as well as being a leader of one of the world's superpowers. After WWII, the primary focus of Amer. was to curb Stalin's and communist influence.

Bretton Woods Conference: Meeting of Allied governments in 1944. From the Bretton Woods Agreement, foreign currencies would be valued in relation to the dollar and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and World Bank were created.

Dumbarton Oaks Conference: An international conference held August-October 1944 at Dumbarton Oaks Washington D.C. to discuss plans for an international organization to be named the United Nations. 39 delegates from US, Great Britain and Russia gathered.

San Francisco Conference, 1945, and UN Charter:
A meeting of world nations to establish a international organization for collective security. The conference established committees General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, the International Court of Justice, Trusteeship Council, and the Secretariat.

UN: Security Council, General Assembly, Secretary-General:
January 10, 1946 was the first UN General Assembly, electing Trygve H. Lie of Norway as Secretary General. The UN represented a worldwide attempt for a peaceful world after the hidden treaties and chaos caused by WWII.

Atomic Energy Commission:
To oversee the control and development of nuclear weapons. The "Barouch Plan" set up the International Atomic Development whose goal was for use of peaceful potentials for atomic energy and to provide nations with security against surprise attacks.

superpowers: The world powers after WWII created a new balance of power. These superpowers consisting of the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain began proceedings such as the Yalta and Potsdam. Conferences represented the superpowers and their importance in postwar reconstruction.

socialism, communism: Two forms of governing, socialism and communism became fearful subjects after WWII as fears of war led to hatred against socialist and communist American troops. Fear and hatred against communism and Socialism continued throughout the Cold War.

The countries surrounding the Soviet Union created a buffer zone between Russia and the rest of Europe. These "satellites" were nations conquered by the Soviet Union during the counteroffensive attack of the Russians against the Germans during WWII.

Nuremberg trials:
Thirteen trials held accusing leaders of Nazi Germany of crimes against international law from 1945-1949. Accusations included murder, enslavement, looting and atrocities against soldiers and citizens of occupied countries.

Department of Defense created:
The Department of Defense was created in 1947 by the National Security Act. Reforming the Departments of War and Navy they became the Departments of Army, Navy and the new Department of the Air Force. Result of need for a consolidated department.

Voice of America, CARE: A part of the US Information Agency, Voice of America was a US government radio station sent to Eastern Europe nations.

Yugoslavia, Tito, Marshall:
Marshall Tito is the name used by Josip Bronz since 1934. Tito was the communist dictator of Yugoslavia until proclaiming himself president in January 1953. Through his rule he kept Yugoslavia independent of Soviet control and was recognized as the only lawful authority in Yugoslavia.

Czechoslovakian coup: On February 25, 1948, a communist coup led by Klement Gottwald took control of the Czechoslovakian government after the October 5 announcement of Moscow's plan to block the Marshall Plan in Europe. Czechoslovakia became a communist satellite of the Soviet Union.

Containment, Kennan, George F.: An advocate for tough foreign policy against the Soviets, Kennan was the American charge d'affaires in Moscow through WWII. He was also the anonymous Mr. X who wrote "The Sources of Soviet Conduct" in the magazine Foreign Affairs advising a policy of restricting Soviet expansion to protect western institutions. The theory of containment was accepted by the U.S. government and seen through the domino theory and US actions in Vietnam and Korea.

Truman Doctrine: From Truman’s address to Congress on March 12, 1947, the president announced that the United States would assist free people resisting "armed minorities or. outside pressure." Meant as a offer for aid against communism the Truman Doctrine established the United States as a global policeman, a title proved by US actions in the UN, Vietnam, Korea and Egypt. The Truman Doctrine became a major portion of Cold War ideology, a feeling of personal responsibility for the containment of communism.

Marshall Plan: Truman's secretary of state George C. Marshall proposed massive economic aid to Greece and Turkey on Feb. 27, 1947 after the British told the US they could not afford to continue assistance to the governments of Greece and Turkey against Soviet pressure for access to the Mediterranean. The Marshall Plan was expanded to mass economic aid to the nations of Europe for recovery from WWII. Aid was rejected by communist nations. The Marshall Plan also hope to minimize suffering to be exploited by communist nations.

Point Four: A post-WWII foreign aid treaty devised from the fourth point of President Truman's inaugural address in 1950. Plan would make provisions to supply US investment capital and personnel to agricultural and industrial development as well as development in other national interests.

Gandhi: Spiritual and political leader of India. 1920 led nonviolent disobedience movement for independence for India. During 1924 led another civil disobedience movement for India's freedom in exchange for India's help against Japan Assassinated.

Israel created, 1948: From the UN General Assembly on April 28, 1947, the Palestine partition of Arab and Jewish states. On May 14, 1948 Israel proclaimed independence and US recognized the new state but the Arabs rejected the proclamation and declared war against Israel. Admitted in U.N in 1949.

Berlin Blockade: On March 20, 1948 the Soviet withdrew representation from the Allied Control Council and refused to allow US, British, and France to gain access to Berlin. June 24, the Western Powers began Berlin Airlift to supply residents of Berlin. After 321 days in 1949 Russia agreed to end blockade if the Council of Foreign Ministers would agree to discuss Berlin. The airlift provided food and supplies to the blockaded people and intensified antagonism against Stalin.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO): Following the Vanderberg Resolutions on April 4, on October 1948, Denmark, Italy, Norway, and Portland joined the Canadian-US negotiations for mutual defense and mutual aid. The North Atlantic Treaty was signed in Washington on April 4, 1949 creating the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The organization considered an attack against one member of the alliance, an attack on all.

Warsaw Pact: Treaty unifying communist nations of Europe signed May 1955 by: Russia, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia. East Germany. Hungary, Poland, and Romania after the signing of the NATO treaty in 1949. Communist China dedicated support but did not sign the treaty.

Southeast Asia Treaty organization (SEATO), Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) and the Australia, New Zealand US (ANZUS): All these treaties were formed post WWII as mutual defense pledges in an attempt to halt the spread of communism through Europe and Asia.

NSC-68: In the 1950's President Truman called for a top secret investigation from the CIA to review national defense policy. The NSA-68 called for a massive military buildup and increase in defense spending through raising of taxes in fear of Soviet aggressive intentions and military strength. The NSC-68 became of major importance throughout the Cold War as it spoke of the need to remain a step ahead of the Soviet Union to protect its own security.

fall of China, Tse-tung, Mao, "lost China": Mao Tse-tung, head of the Chinese Communists demanded US halt military aid and for US forces to leave China in January 1945. In 1949, the communists controlled major cities and to avoid a full scale war with China, and the U.S. complied with Communist demands.

State Department "White Paper," 1949:
The United States Relations With China With Special Reference to the Period 1944-1946 warned that the Nationalists were on the verge of collapse because of political, military, and economic deficiencies, and US interference would lead to outbreak of war.

Chiang Kai-shek, Formosa: Chiang Kai-shek was the Nationalist leader in China whom the United States supported during the Chinese civil wars. After losing major cities, the Nationalist government moved their headquarters to the city of Formosa. Chiang Kai-shek was opposed by the communist leader Mao Tse-tung who opposed US involvement in the war.

Quemoy, Matsu:
On September 3, the Communist army attacked the Nationalist held islands of Quemoy and Matsu. These attacks led to the Formosa Revolution which Eisenhower issued, giving the president power to defend Formosa without committing to defense of islands.

Korean War, limited war: After Japan's defeat in 1945, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel between Soviet troops to the north and the People's Democratic Republic and US troops to the south. June 24, 1950 North Korean troops attacked the Republic of Korea, provoking war. US gained UN approval to stop the considered communist domino. The "limited" war was to hold the 38th parallel without beginning WWIII. A cease fire was installed on July 26, 1953.

Truman-MacArthur controversy: During WWII, MacArthur was general in the Pacific Wars. At the beginning of the Korean War, he became the United Nations Commander in Korea. He was recalled from duty after expressing unpopular opinions about the US policy in Korea.

The Cold War

The Cold War that spanned more than four decades touched nearly every country on earth. The ideological, diplomatic, military, and cultural struggle that started between the Soviet Union and United States went through a number of phases as people and countries in the post-World War II era struggled to define what freedom would mean for them. This unit of study contains two strands – one for 10th-grade world history students and one for 11th-grade U.S. history students. The first path through the Cold War focuses on the origins of the world-wide conflict the newly emerging nations that had been colonies before World War II, and then after the war had to choose whether to align themselves with the United States or Soviets the international conflicts that arose as a result of those alliances and finally the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The second path through the Cold War teaches students about the roots of the conflict the ways in which the American government imagined and implemented anti-communist policies abroad and at home the effects of the Cold War on individual Americans the war as it came to Vietnam and finally the end of the Cold War.

This unit also provides detailed instructions to support student analysis of a number of relevant primary sources, including addresses made by Churchill, Stalin, Truman, Gandhi, Castro, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Gorbachev, and dozens of ordinary citizens that experienced the turmoil and daily life of the Cold War. The unit concludes as it begins with a focus on an engaging and historically significant question: Why and how was the Cold War Fought?

In addition to teaching students about the Cold War, this unit teaches students how to read, write, and think historically, analyze historical evidence from primary and secondary sources, and make interpretations. Students will practice Common Core reading and writing skills, especially identifying the perspective and point of view of a source, integrating information from visual and written sources, identifying evidence from sources, using that evidence to support an argument or interpretation, and communicating that argument in well-conceived sentence, paragraph, essay, or explanation.

Drawing on new historical scholarship about the global context of the Cold War, students consider, Why and how was the Cold War fought?

This unit was made possible by the generous support of the Library of Congress, the Walter and Elise Haas Fund and History Channel, in addition to California History-Social Science Project / California Subject Matter Project funding.

Two Superpower Blocs and Mutual Distrust

World War Two finished in 1945 with Europe divided into two blocs, each occupied by the armies of, in the west America and the Allies, and in the east, Russia. America wanted a democratic Europe and was afraid of communism dominating the continent while Russia wanted the opposite, a communist Europe in which they dominated and not, as they feared, a united, capitalist Europe. Stalin believed, at first, those capitalist nations would soon fall to squabbling among themselves, a situation he could exploit, and was dismayed by the growing organization among the West. To these differences were added fear of Soviet invasion in the West and Russian fear of the atomic bomb fear of economic collapse in the west versus fear of economic domination by the west a clash of ideologies (capitalism versus communism) and, on the Soviet front, the fear of a rearmed Germany hostile to Russia. In 1946 Churchill described the dividing line between East and West as an Iron Curtain.​

Potsdam and the Origins of the Cold War

An exploration of Potsdam and its effects on the Cold War.

The 70th anniversary commemorations of the end of the Second World War haven’t been hitting the peace-making highlights with much enthusiasm. And no wonder: in retrospect, the periods of the end of World War II and the start of the Cold War are one and the same. The so-called “Good War” did not end well. The hybrid combination in the victorious Allies of democracies and totalitarians made for vastly different aims and long-lasting effects: the Soviet Army occupied much of Eastern Europe and half of Germany because they had pushed the Nazis back that far. This was a fact on the ground only another full-scale war could possibly change.

Seventy years ago this week, the Potsdam Conference was winding up. It was a meeting between Winston Churchill, Harry Truman, and Joseph Stalin to decide what do with a defeated Germany in terms of territory, reparations, and administration of the occupied zones. But things changed rapidly during the course of that meeting in the Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam, Germany, from July 17-August 2.

Truman had only been President for a few months following the sudden death of Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 12. While in Potsdam, he was told that the U.S. atomic bomb was read for use. This knowledge was held back from the Russians and A-bombs were dropped on Japan on August 6th and 9th. Churchill would lose an election in the middle of the Conference, to be replaced by the Labour Party leader Clement Attlee, who had accompanied him in case of just such a contingency. Meanwhile, their British Empire was on its last legs, fatally undermined by the war. Only Stalin remained of the “Big Three.”

Robert Cecil explores “Potsdam and its Legends.” In terms of reputation it was no Yalta Conference, which had been held in February, 1945, and was seen as another Munich, or sell-out, by the right-wing in the U.S. But it did very much fail to unite Germany, a result that pleased the Soviets and the French (Charles de Gaulle had not been invited to Potsdam and did his best to let his pique be known about this).

Thomas G. Paterson has some other legends to question in his short introduction to the origins of the Cold War. Most historians now think the Soviet threat at the end of the war was exaggerated. The U.S., meanwhile, was expanding into the vacuum of the British Empire, projecting its might all over the world, and encircling the U.S.S.R. Stalin’s brute paranoia and the U.S.’s vision of a new imperium made for years of missteps, proxy wars, and nasty little struggles in the dark of espionage.

Both these articles makes for bracing reading, as all good history should.

Watch the video: Origins of the Cold War (January 2022).