From when World War II ended in 1945 all the way up to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Cold War dominated international affairs. It was a global struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union. Although the Cold War was sometimes fought on the battlefield, it involved everything from political rhetoric to sports. Overshadowing all was the threat of nuclear war. From an American perspective the Cold War was largely a ‘war on communism’ – this outlook by the US caused and sustained the Cold War. The US is to blame for the Cold War for demonizing the communist Soviet Union in support of our own political and economic systems.
At the end of WWII, the Soviet Union had sustained tremendous casualties and the country was almost destroyed. In order for Russia to be able to protect itself in the future, it would need to be surrounded by countries that would be loyal to Soviet Russia. The countries would serve as a buffer zone to stop possible future invading armies. The Soviet takeover of Poland was a defensive maneuver to protect Russia, not an offensive to convert Europe to communism as America assumed.
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US-Soviet relations were further worsened by the atomic bomb. Even though we had been allies during WWII, we had not told the Soviets about the atomic bomb. We had worked in total secrecy and kept Russia in the darkness about our progress. The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the first indication to Russia that we had nuclear power. By not telling the Soviets, we were telling them that we did not want them to have nuclear weapons and that we did not consider them a strong ally. Russia began to fear us, and consequently, tensions mounted between the USSR and America.
In a conference at Yalta, Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt agreed on terms of how Europe was going to be governed; there would be free elections throughout Europe and the Soviets would have control over some of Eastern Europe. The Soviet Union was not granted the right to rule the new countries as it wanted, there would be mandatory elections, which might throw away the power of Russia there.
Although Stalin did not allow completely free elections in the European countries now under Soviet influence, it was for a good reason. If the elections were free, then they might reject the communist party completely and the Soviet Union would not have that country as a defence. America insisted on a completely capitalist world and totally rejected communism as a legitimate form of government.
However, Russia’s actions to protect itself were seen as an attack on the free world by the United States. America believed that the Soviets wanted nothing less than the entire world converted to communism. Even though small satellites of communists throughout Europe, such as those in Italy and France, were operating independently from Soviet influence, we believed that there was a mass move towards communism. This communism was exaggerated as a major threat that would take over the entire world.
We were afraid of communism because it might hurt our economic power. After WWII, most of Europe was in ruins, it would need a lot of materials and work to rebuild it. Some of that material would come from the United States, which would help our economy survive. If Europe was using a capitalist system, it would have money to spend on things from the US, if it was communist, no one would have money, and thus would not be able to support our economy.
The Truman Doctrine escalated the cold war beyond repair by monetarily and militarily supporting Mediterranean countries that were hostile with the USSR. The British, who could no longer afford to sustain their influence there, withdrew from Greece and Turkey. The Truman Doctrine provided money and supplies for the countries to resist communism and remain outside Soviet authority. Truman asked Congress for 400 million for support of Greece and Turkey on March 12, 1947, in the Truman Doctrine. By giving these countries money to resist Russia, we were provoking them and gave them the signal that we thought they were the enemy.
Our fear and hatred of communism were realized in the Marshal Plan. In June of 1947, secretary of state, George Marshal, said that the United States would provide funds to help European economic recovery. Since Europe had been almost completely destroyed by WWII, it would require a lot of money to repair the damage. If the capitalist economy did not thrive immediately, many countries might turn to communism as a better solution.
To prevent Europe from adopting communism, the US would provide the funds necessary to keep European countries in free enterprise. We offered support to every country, including Eastern Europe and Russia, however, the nature of the grants was completely capitalist. Since Russia was operated in a communist society, it could not accept the money without taking in all the capitalist propaganda that would surely accompany it.
When WWII was over, Germany was divided among the allies. America, France and Britain were given western Germany while Russia took eastern Germany. Berlin, which is located in East Germany, was split between Russia and the US; Russia getting the east, the US getting the west. Shortly thereafter, America, France and Britain joined their sections and gave control of West Germany back to the Germans. Since Russia had been attacked twice by Germany in 30 years, so the Soviets wanted Germany to be broken up and powerless.
To maintain Germany in its current state, Stalin created the Berlin blockade; he prevented all access to or from East Germany. Access to Berlin from the west was cut off in stages and culminating in the full blockade on June 24, 1948. To support our part of Berlin, we started airlifting over 5,600 tons of supplies every day over the blockade. Stalin saw the US airlift response to the Berlin blockade as confrontational. The constant pressure from America and the British eventually forced Stalin to end the blockade in 1949. Russia was just defending itself by keeping Germany broken up.
The US refused to acknowledge communism as a valid form of government. All communist activity around the world was perceived as a global movement towards communism and against capitalism and democracy. The US’s skewed perspective of communism, coupled with their felt responsibility to manipulate governments and economies all throughout Europe, initiated the Cold War. The US’s actions enraged the Soviet Union, and their ideology invented a global threat in the Soviet Union and communism.
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