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Stalin and Khrushchev

The manner in which the cold war ended has presented a strong persuasion on the way we understand its beginning and course, as does the book Inside the Kremlin’s Cold War. More particularly, the close chronological connection between this period and the emergence and demise of the Soviet Union significantly presents the underlying connection between the country’s foreign and domestic policy in the Cold War epoch. Marxists stressed that the source of a nation’s diplomatic policy almost wholly originated from the domestic political and socio-economic systems. This Marxist perspective has been supported by patterns that show democracies as being strong internally and outwardly, and dictatorships as being internally oppressive and outwardly dissenting. Joseph Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev clearly demonstrate the extent to which internal policies and democracy played a role in the cold war.

Joseph Stalin observed, towards the close of World War II, that whoever occupied a territory equally forced his personal social system onto the citizens of captured territory. Stalin believed that capturing a territory entitled the tyrant to rule the political, social and economic system based on his values and not of those captures. In asserting this, Stalin perhaps sought to point out to the United States and the West that they were wrong not to impose their systems on others in the post World War II occupation of communist Europe and Japan. Stalin sought respect of his ideological stance in this respect and imposed the USSR systems onto the countries that the Soviet Union occupied. The United States and the Soviet Union were enemies because of their positions on crucial global matters. The two countries were the only global superpowers, strong enough to trouble each other. Prominent questions thereby persist, would the Cold War have occurred had Russia been a complete democracy modeled in the fashion of the United States of America? The answer can be derived from the relationship between Britain and the United States in the post war epoch.

Vladislav Zubok, in Inside the Kremlin’s Cold War, shows persuasively that the conservative representation of Stalin as the archetypal realist is mistaken. Stalin’s ideological values spawned two expectations that were the mainstays of his instantaneous post Second World War policy and that, paradoxically, led him to behave in manners that crumbled his pillars. Stalin first thought that capitalist countries would eventually fight among themselves. He imagined and consequently worried about a combined opposition to the ambitions of the Soviet Union. To diffuse this scenario, he imagined that the ambitions of the USSR would be easily achieved if the United States and the United Kingdom were at loggerheads. He wanted the Soviets to be respected as the ultimate superpowers ahead of America and Britain and toyed with the idea of these two countries clashing over divergent interests in Iran and Turkey. He was wrong, The United States and Britain would later unite against him.

Secondly, Stalin anticipated that Eastern Europe would gladly welcome his communist inclinations and ignore the capitalist ideologies proposed and peddled by the United States and Britain. He in fact hoped that the communist policies of the Soviet Union would eventually be welcome in the West. These hopes clearly reflect his pursuit of respect from the West. However, Stalin was brutal and it can be argued that his brutal occupation tactics could have hindered the appeal of communism abroad. Events in East Germany serve as an epitome of Stalin’s brutal occupation approach. Stalin anticipated speedy economic regeneration in East Germany and wanted popular support from residents in this region but his tactics boomeranged to his face. He was overly excited by the idea of getting support of Europeans in the West Germany regions that he forgot to control Soviet troops from pillaging zones in the East.

Stalin’s actions were very fundamental in the wellsprings of the Cold War. Inside the USSR and outside of its borders, Stalin’s leadership decisions were evidently pushed by his fear of the capitalist United States and Britain and by the greed to usurp as much territorial ground as possible. He took his pursuits to the extreme and did not tolerate opposition to his policies at home and abroad. From Inside the Kremlin’s Cold War, it can be argued that the kind of political system that Stalin ruled under instilled paranoia into the leadership and the leadership had to continually scheme to stay relevant. The Soviet Union was not a democracy in the postwar period and dissenting voices, typical of dictatorship, only served to complicate Stalin’s relationship with the West. He saw enemies where none existed. Revolutionary regimes in postwar were dangerous due to their expansionary tendencies and internal insecurity, and Stalin regarded himself a revolutionary.

Stalin was excessively optimistic and his exuberance for a communist Europe was shared by Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev did not make it easier for the West when handling global issues. Back at home, he had the support of a heterogeneous governing coalition that ironically lessened his capacity to uphold détente policies that could give in the kind of adjustments in the status quo, which might have been okay with the United States and the West. Agreement between these two protagonist countries was more difficult under Stalin than it would have appeared under Khrushchev. Stalin ruled under a homogenous government with little impediments to his foreign policy, whereas Khrushchev found himself in a heterogeneous and democratized environment where he did not authoritatively make the decisions. This relatively ‘democratized’ environment during the rule of Khrushchev can be argued to be one of the factors that led to the end of the Cold War.

Khrushchev is perhaps best remembered for his role in the Cuba missiles fiasco. It is thought that he took the missiles in Cuba principally out of his close communist convictions. This strong communist conviction led Khrushchev to try and safeguard the communist agenda in the Latin American country that closely bordered the United States. The movement of missiles to Cuba was a significant statement of intent by the communist Khrushchev and highlighted just how they seriously valued their ideological inclinations. Cuba is a very close neighbor of the United States, lying only ninety miles off the United States coast, and for the Soviets to move missiles that close to the United States implied they were prepared for an offensive against America. Khrushchev sought to put real pressure on the United States to acquiesce ground in West Berlin. The hostility between the United States and Cuba based on their clash of socio-economic ideologies was heightened by the missiles standoff. The USSR meanwhile used the standoff to demonstrate to the United States that it could close in on U.S borders.

When his terms for withdrawal of the missiles from Cuba were granted by President Kennedy, Khrushchev diligently withdrew the missiles. It is very apparent that Khrushchev wanted the recognition of Cuba as a communist and sovereign state, and therefore free from the intimidation by Americans. He also wanted the respect of Americans, so when President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech that paid tribute to the suffering of the Russian people during the Second World War, the ties between Washington and Moscow vastly improved. Nikita Khrushchev is painted as patient and diplomatic. He attempted to resolve many crises with the United State amicably, a good example being the bombing of an American U-2 bomber in Soviet Union territory.


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