After World War II, the alliance between Britain, the USA and USSR ended. The USA and USSR were to become the 2 superpowers. An intense rivalry formed between the Communist and non-Communists countries, and this was called the Cold War. It was called the Cold War because it did not develop into a “Hot” war. This was because neither side wanted another war with the added threat of nuclear weapons, which could mean the end of the world. “Cold” was also to describe the “frosty” and hostile relationship between the two countries, Russia and the USA.
There were many reasons that caused the Cold War. The main cause was that the USA and the USSR had different beliefs, political ideas and systems. The clash between Communism and Capitalism. The USA was Democracy and the USSR was Communist. Communism believed in inequality, which everyone should be equal. The government-controlled many aspects of people’s lives. There was strong censorship, and they were against individual profit-making. Capitalism believed in freedom. There were free elections held, and the individuals are allowed to make profits and own lands. The two beliefs were against each other, so it was impossible that the two could have any long-term good relationships.
The two sides not only had different beliefs but different aims as well. After World War II, Germany was split into four zones between Britain, France, the USA and Russia. Berlin was also split between the four countries. This was agreed upon at the Yalta conference. But while occupying Germany, Stalin wanted Germany to stay weak and broken, so they could never recover and attack Russia again. He also wanted a “buffer” zone between the east and the west so any attack or fighting would not damage “mother” Russia. It also gives time for the army to prepare themselves if there were any attacks to be made. The Soviet Union was extremely concerned about its security after being invaded twice in the twentieth century. The west, Britain and the USA wanted to protect democracy.
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They didn’t want Germany to be too weak. They wanted to help Germany recover, participate in world trades again. The lack of mutual agreement on the German re-unification marked the start of the Cold War. The personalities of each of the leaders also played a big part in the cause of the Cold War. Stalin was cold and paranoid. He did not trust The British leaders or the American leaders. Truman, who replaced Roosevelt after his death in 1945, did not trust Stalin either. He did not share the warm relationship Roosevelt did with Stalin. Roosevelt was optimistic. He seemed to trust Russia and believed they would keep the agreements made in Yalta. Truman, unlike Roosevelt, was anti-communist and did not trust Stalin at all. Churchill, who was later replaced by Atlee, was anti-communist as well. Though he had a good relationship with Stalin, he did not trust him.
The “Iron curtain” speech he made in 1946 claiming that an “iron curtain” has formed between Western Europe and Eastern Europe made Stalin think he was trying to stir up war against the Soviet Union. The mistrust between each of the leaders caused every move on both sides to make them hate each other even more. Stalin was also upset that Britain and the USA did not tell him about the development of the atomic bomb. This led him to distrust the West even more. Britain and the USA were not happy Stalin had signed the border treaty with Poland, which made the Poland border moved further west. Truman feared Stalin would spread Communist all over the world. To prevent this, The U.S government favoured a policy strongly against Communism known as containment. The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan were all set against Communism. The Truman Doctrine of 1947 stated that America would help any non-communist country to resist communist pressure.
The Marshall Plan involved sending large amounts of American money to help non-communist countries to recover from World War II. Which, Russia refused because Stalin feared the Western influence within the iron curtain Communists’ side. He viewed them as threats to the Soviet Union. The two sides also had resentment of their history. For example, Russia did not forget that Britain and America had sent soldiers to support the anti-Communists in the Russian revolution. He also thought they didn’t give enough help to Russia in WW II. Stalin was also suspicious that Britain and France did not launch a second front in 1942. The West did not forget the Nazi-Soviet Pact Russia had signed in 1939 and Stalin’s attitude toward the Polish uprising. This made them distrust each other further.
When it came to who was responsible for causing the Cold War, there were many different views. The Russian historians blamed the west, Churchill and Truman. They said Truman and Churchill tried to destroy USSR, which was just trying to defend itself. The western writers blamed Stalin at first, saying that Stalin was trying to spread Communism all over the world and then take over. Later, however, in the 1960s, in the time of the Vietnam War, they blamed the west. Because of the Vietnam War, many people in the US started to distrust their own government. The West argued they misunderstood Stalin’s defensive motives. They said Truman did not understand how much Russia had suffered in WW II. The Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan were seen as threats to Stalin.
In the 1990s, post revisionists’ view was that both sides were to blame. The fall of Communism in Russia had led lots of Cold War files to be opened to support this view. It was said that both sides had hatred for each other. The personalities of the leaders can be blamed as well. If they trusted each other more, or Truman was more like Roosevelt, things might have gotten better. Though Churchill could see what was going to happen to East Europe, his “Iron Curtain” speech was leading Stalin to distrust the West. The lack of mutual agreement and trust between the leaders can be blamed as well. The recent view of historians agreed that the Cold War was primarily a clash of beliefs – Communism versus Capitalism.