In the post World War II era, a war arose between the Soviet Union and the United States, but in reality there was never really any documented fighting between the two nations, thus spawning the catchphrase “Cold War.” Even though both countries were ready to go to war at the blink of an eye and almost did, the powers-that-be never got the nerve to authorize a nuclear war that would have made World War II look like child’s play. This was a war fought in the political ring and was also a war that did not start at the end of World War II, this war started during the war against Hitler and lasted for forty more years before peace became predominant over the crumbling Soviet Union. Many events occurred in this political heavyweight bout, and both sides can be blamed for the extremity the tensions escalated to, and this Cold War would have been tough to avoid taking into account the political beliefs of the countries at hand.
During the war, once the Allied powers from the west joined forces with Stalin’s Red Army, trouble was inevitable. Luckily for the world, America had a great leader and foreign diplomat in Franklin D. Roosevelt while England countered with Winston Churchill. This duo created a steady working relationship with Stalin, thus creating the Big Three and the Grand Alliance. Even though it was far from a perfect relationship, all three diplomats realized the task at hand, the mandate of stopping Adolph Hitler and the Nazi regime of Germany.
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Sadly, this priority overwhelmed the Big Three, and no solution was ever conjured up on how to handle the Post-War situation in Europe and Asia following an Allied victory. Understandably, stopping Hitler was far from guaranteed, but any plan that was taken by the Allies in Europe never even considered the implications of how to handle the war-torn countries of Eastern Europe afterwards, an area that the Soviets had suffered many casualties and other losses to free from facist control. The few problems with Churchill and Roosevelt is that they both tended to do things their own way, sometimes leaving Stalin out to dry, and also relied heavily on their own diplomatic skills, leaving other politicians out of the foreign policy matters for each country.
While many United States Government officials were not fans of Stalin, they all realized the urgency in having him on their side of the fight. In reality, no one in the government knew how to handle Stalin except for Roosevelt, which creates one of the first major events of the Cold War: the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. With Roosevelt dying, the foreign policy of the United States was about to do a complete 180 in reverse. Suddenly, all the cabinet and legislative members have a significant role in the diplomatic world, a world they had previously been shut out of for over a decade. In the middle lies a man who had not a clue about what he was getting himself into.
Harry Truman was about to get in way over his head, and absolutely being Roosevelt’s fault, Truman was about to get into a situation he was almost completely unfamiliar with. Poor Truman had been briefed but only once in the matters involving the war, and the decisions he was about to make would shape the world forever. With Roosevelt being a pacifist with Stalin, a decent working relationship evolved between the two, and some glimmer of hope can be seen to this day about what could have happened if Roosevelt did not die and kept up the good standing with Russia. Imagining Stalin’s reaction after the Yalta Conference with Roosevelt to that of the Potsdam Conference just months after Roosevelt’s death with Truman at the helm is very aggressive towards Communism in Eastern Europe is almost comical, if the severity of the situation is not understood.
This must be noted as one of the building blocks of the Cold War with Russia, because this marks the official point where America’s stance towards Stalin and Communism changes drastically and the time where Truman begins his diplomatic journey with the forces in the Soviet Union, one that will engulf him for the rest of his tenure in office. This also must be noted as being America’s fault.
A country’s attitudes cannot visually and verbally change so radically so quickly. Roosevelt should have briefed Truman heavily on dealing with Stalin. America could stay on Stalin’s good side, leaving some remote chance of having a settlement work itself out after the war. An angry Stalin is much harder to reason with than a content Stalin, especially taking into consideration that he was absolutely insane, something you can’t play with carelessly.
The next event that shaped the world’s history and marked the official beginning of the Cold War was the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. After talking with Russia and getting their consent on joining the war on Japan, the United States again acts wrong and hastily by dropping a device that blew up the city of Hiroshima.
The agreement was with Russia that on August 8th, the Soviet Union would declare war on Japan. Taking this into account, the United States went ahead and dropped the bomb on August 6th, two days before. In another bold and careless move, the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. This bomb was dropped before the Japanese even received an ultimatum from the United States about an unconditional surrender before they will destroy another city with one of their new weapons.
That aside, the pertinent issue is that America did not even talk to Russia about their plans to drop the bomb before it was already done. So, the Red Army had to use the resources, raw materials, and not to mention the man-power to move their troops over to Japan from Eastern Europe, something that was taking in the ballpark of three months. Once they officially got there, the war is over, and the United States gives them a bold statement by ending the war so violently and quickly while letting the Russians know that the U.S. does not need or want their help anymore.
Also, the Russians probably realized that the Americans do not want them anywhere in Asia, where Communism could spread, in fact, the United States did not want to have to share occupation of Japan with the Russians, something that probably frustrated Stalin. The Americans also wanted to demonstrate the power of the bomb, and give Stalin a reason to be fearful of the powerful United States, so no troubles will arise in the post-war era. If only the United States would have conversed with Stalin briefly about their plans, maybe dropping the bomb would not have been so daunting and unnecessary.
Shunning the Soviet Union to end the war with Japan without any further interactions in Asia was the first Cold War manoeuvre of many to come from both sides. The United States was out to better their own country, and all the while not promoting any kind of unity between the superpowers, something that democracy is supposed to be all about.
Undoubtedly, one of the more important Cold War origins belonged to the region of Eastern Europe, where turmoil between the Western powers and Russia lasted for decades. Russia, sacrificing so much to stop Hitler, desperately wanted the countries of Eastern Europe, with an emphasis on Poland. On the other hand, the United States demanded that Poland be a democracy where free elections would be held.
This is certainly where the Cold War escalates, as Russia breaks a promise to uphold free elections in Poland in the late 40’s and early 50’s, something that does not sit well with Truman and his government. Through this whole debate, Stalin vehemently states that the United States is not being sympathetic to the Soviet Union. For all that the U.S.S.R. gave up during the war, they felt Poland should be theirs, but more importantly, they felt that Poland was a major security issue. The past two World Wars saw Russia being invaded through Poland, and they felt that this could simply not happen again, therefore, they wanted control so they could establish military and political defences to any country wanting to attack Russia. This, along with the same reasoning behind other Eastern European countries, including a separated Germany, became a major debate of the Cold War where tensions almost lead to war.
Russia felt that the West should establish their own capital in West Germany and let the Russians have Berlin since Berlin falls in East Germany, yet another major Eastern European conflict. This was more Russia’s fault for having such heavy tension in this area, but one can certainly understand where Russia is coming from in wanting more control over this volatile region. On the other hand, breaking a promise to hold free elections, especially in a region where popular opinion is believed to would rather have a democracy is certainly an undeniable problem for both sides of the Cold War. Hostility in Eastern Europe was unavoidable, especially with the lack of communication during the war over the plans on what exactly to do with this area after 1945.
Other events that transpired in the beginnings of this long and potentially devastating Cold War was two documents in particular produced by the American Government. With forced pressure from the interior government, Harry Truman and his administration took an aggressive stance on Communism, at any and all costs.
The first document was a speech by Harry Truman given in the spring of 1947. The document was considered a Cold War Biproxy and has gone down in history as laying a foundation for foreign policy and is called the Truman Doctrine. The main goal for this was to back up anyone fighting Communist aggression.
At any chances of stopping Communism from spreading, the United States were prepared to stop any movement by Communist countries into free countries throughout the world. It was truly the first document proclaiming the United States as the “World Policeman” against Communism and just amplified the fact that America is no longer an isolationist country and our involvement in the global spectrum became very evident.
The other very significant document in American Cold War foreign policy was NSC-68, a document brought together by the National Security Council in 1950, a relatively new organization set up to create a department of defence, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency. This document just expanded thoroughly on the Truman doctrine and packed the muscle behind America’s new foreign policy. NSC-68 called for an immediate upgrade of our defence systems.
This was a pure military move and would cost over $35 billion dollars a year. The threat for massive retaliation started to surface from this as well, and the threat of a nuclear war was ever-present, especially with the Russians successfully testing an atomic bomb in 1949. This just called for an increase in nuclear armament, and if a war broke out, this document would guarantee that if the United States would have to fight to the death, they would, and they would also go down in a blaze of glory if necessary. This marked the first guarantee of a massive military response to any Communist forces wanting to test
the waters of democracy.
This was also about the time where the “rollback” theory came into play, and Americans debated about not just stopping but penetrating any Communist movements. These bold documents from the United States marked the beginnings of the height of the Cold War that would come about roughly ten years later, where if a large scale battle broke out with Russia or China, human and land losses would be atrocious.
The origins of the Cold War would be one-sided and incomplete if it did not include the actions that were occurring in Russia. An unorganized government, led by a drunken and insane leader who makes diplomatic decisions at four in the morning is certainly a cause for action. The fact must be brought forth of the human casualties suffered in Russia by the government and the military. Individuals did not enjoy the freedom to think for themselves in Russia, and if a Russian decided to speak out or question authority, he would be killed with no remorse.
The fact of the matter is that many millions of Russian citizens were being massacred by their own government. That certainly is a large reason for concern. Any alternative scenarios to avoid any Cold War conflicts would have to of ended with these atrocities. The United States could not have negotiated for Russia to cease these actions, so even though America could have reacted better to some events during and after the war, Russia still would not have been easy to deal with when it came to their own country, not to mention Eastern Europe.
The Cold War was more than likely inevitable, but it probably could have transpired more peacefully and definitely not on such a grand level. Someone that crazy as Stalin was and consequences so heavy as letting Russia into Eastern Europe could not be ignored, and the Americans had every right to stop the advancement of Russia into Poland.
The Polish would not want to suffer those horrendous acts of oppression, and if the United States wanted to be the policeman of the world and stop these human rights violations, then Russia is the perfect place to start. The United States certainly did not always act brilliantly, and indeed they caused plenty of their own problems by a lack of good communication, but Russia was just as much to blame for the tensions throughout the world during the origins of the Cold War in the late 1940s to early ’50s.
The conflict in ideologies between capitalism and communism resulted in one of the greatest conflicts of the twentieth century. The belief that freedom and democracy would die under communist rule caused the United States to start a conflict that would last for decades. The decisions made by the United States in W.W.II caused tensions to rise between the U. S. and the Soviet Union. Fear of Communism in capitalist nations, caused the United States government to use propaganda to raise Cold War anxieties.
Furthermore, the American media influenced the attitudes of Americans, making hatred of communism spread through the nation. Thus, the United States caused the conflict known as the Cold War. The political relations going on in Europe during and directly after World War II had an enormous effect on laying the foundation for the Cold War.
Wartime conferences such as Yalta and Tehran harshened the relationship between the communists and the capitalists. At the end of W.W.II American policy towards the Soviets changed drastically. The change in presidents in 1945 caused relations with Russia to worsen. Also, other political contributions to the Cold War entailed the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. The division of Europe between the west and east drew physical borders which outlined that the war of misinformation that had begun. Also, treaties of the post war world further separated the two superpowers of the world for the decades to follow.
The waging of hot wars through other countries also strengthened Cold War hatred. The first of the cold war tensions arose out of W.W.II conferences between the Soviet Union, America and, Great Britain. Tehran, the first major conference which leads America to start the Cold War, included all three of these nations. At this conference, the reshaping of post-war Europe was discussed. Later in February of 1945, the big three met again at Yalta. At this conference European boundaries, German reparations, and Polish elections were agreed upon. Stalin, the Russian leader, agreed to hold free and fair elections.
Later after Roosevelt, who attended these conferences, died Truman became president. He accused the Soviet leader, Stalin, of not holding up to his agreements at Yalta. Stalin wanted to use Poland as a buffer zone to prevent any future invasions from happening through this area. During W.W.II the Soviets had lost 27 million, and Stalin made it clear that in no way would he allow this to happen again. Stalin responded to Truman’s accusation with the following words, “I am ready to fulfill your request and do everything possible to reach a harmonious solution. But you demand too much of me. In other words, you demand that I renounce the interests of security of the Soviet Union, but I cannot turn against my country.”
On the other hand, American General Lucius Clay, who was stationed in post-war Germany commented ” we must have the courage to proceed quickly with the establishment of a government for western Germany…42 million Germans in the British and American zones represent today the strongest outpost against Communist penetration that exists anywhere.”(7) At this response Truman changed his attitude toward the Soviets with the words, ” there isn’t any difference between the totalitarian Russian government and the Hitler government.”(8)
Furthermore, America decided to keep Stalin out of the loop about the Manhattan project, which furthered distrust, because Stalin learns about the bomb through espionage. Truman’s change in attitude toward Stalin, from that of FDR’s negotiation with “Uncle Joe” to one committed to stopping the Soviet cause, led to the creation of a new American anti-Soviet political policy. The Truman Doctrine, the name given to the policy established by Truman, would soon arise in American foreign policy. This Truman Doctrine came out of a speech Truman gave to a joint session of congress. It was the response Truman gave to Britain, which declared that they no longer could give military and economic aid to Greece. (9)
In this speech, Truman finally gave the Cold War official status, by stating the threat that the Soviet government had on national security. In Truman’s actual words he said, “I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.”(10) Congress, knowing that Great Britain would no longer give aid the Turkey and Greece, realized that these nations would soon turn to communism.
Thus, they decided to appropriate four hundred million dollars to help in the aid of Turkey and Greece. (11). To support Truman’s policy Senator Author Vandenburg stated ” its time to scare the hell out of the American people with tales of communism on the march.”(12) Thus, America was further contributed to the cold war issues by committing to stop the spread of communism in areas of the world very remote from them. America’s next political actions further caused the Cold War to escalate. In 1947, George C. Marshall the Secretary of the state at the time gave a speech at Harvard University which revealed his plans for the after-war economy. Marshall asked that all of the countries of Europe communists and capitalists alike to draw up a plan for economic recovery from the war. (13)
The Soviets refused to participate because they saw it as America using money to buy its way into good terms with Europe. In the words of the Soviet foreign minister Molotov, the Marshall plan was “nothing but a vicious American scheme for using dollars to buy its way.”(14) In the end, the United States sent 13 billion over to Western Europe to support economic recovery. (15) The Soviet Union saw this as an American attempt to keep any of these countries from turning to communism, which would close them off as US markets. Thus, the Marshall plan further contributed to a Soviet cause to continue waging a Cold War. In 1949 America helped to organize a treaty against communism. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO included the following nations: Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, the United States.
This treaty showed a clear division of Communism versus Capitalism, and it declared that an attack against one of these nations would be an attack on all of them. (16) Thus, the United States used this treaty to escalate the Cold War by showing the Soviet Union that all of the NATO countries sided with the US in the Cold War.
Finally, the United States waged hot wars through other nations; instead of actually declaring war against the Soviet Union. These hot wars in Korea and again in Vietnam. Both of these wars resulted from the United States trying to contain Communism from spreading throughout the world. (17) Thus, all of the United States’ political actions further contributed to the Cold War cause. The political actions Of the United States from the time of W.W.II onward caused the Cold War conflict.
The conferences of W.W.II set the tone for a time period of distrust between the Soviet Union and the United States. With a new president in office, Cold War policy officially began. Furthermore, from that point on the policy of the United States declared itself as anti-Communist from that point on. Thus, to get the American public to side with the government on the issue of communism, America turned to the use of propaganda. The United States used propaganda and other influences to get the American public scared of communism and in support of the cold war. The first congress began to use HUAC to stop films from having too much of a communist appeal to them(18) Furthermore, HUAC investigated people for being communist spies.
Both Julius and Ethel Rosenburg and Alger Hiss, people accused of being communist spies suffered a conviction. This caused the anti-Communist attitude in the United States to grow tremendously. Thus, the American government used a federal organization to further the public’s hatred of communism. Next, an American Senator named Joseph R. McCarthy would lead a series of trials against communists in the United States. (19) Most of the people that Macarthy accused of being a communist reached conviction. This happened despite the fact that many of the accused were not in fact communists. (20) This situation has compared to the Salem Witch trials; notably like the witch trial the main outcome of the Macarthy trial struck fear into the American public.
Thus, the McCarthy trial increased anti-Communist hatred in the US and scared anyone out of committing to the communist party for fear of their life. Therefore, the McCarthy trials acted as a form of US propaganda, which gathered American support for the Cold War against the Soviets. Moreover, with the publication of George Orwell’s book 1984, anti-communist propaganda increased. This book showed the United States under a communist dictatorship. Thus, as propaganda, this book increased the general anti-communist attitude of the American public. (20) Moreover, Hollywood began to produce anti-Communist films such as The Red Menace, which increased fear of communism in the United States. (21)
Thus, the actions of the American government, journalists, and media increased the general anti-Communist support for the Cold War. The American media also contributed to the Cold War propaganda in and out of the United States. American journalists would commonly make up stories of communism in the United States in an effort to sell papers and to continue feelings of anti-communism. (22) Also, a radio station called Radio One began to broadcast an anti-communist message in Europe. (23) These radio broadcasts defamed the Soviet Union and communism and supported democracy and the United States.
These broadcasts blatantly attempted to degrade communism, that they were never allowed to be transmitted in America. (24) Therefore, the overall actions of the United States clearly report propaganda to increase support for the Cold War, which dominated American foreign policy for decades. The United States caused the Cold War by the political decisions that it made and through its use of propaganda.
The political decisions made by the United States from W.W.II onward caused the Cold War to start and to continue for decades. Moreover, the government’s use of propaganda at home rallied the American public in an anti-communist attitude, which supported the countries political decisions. Thus, the United States caused the conflict between Democracy and Communism.
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