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Did America Win The Cold War?

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The Cold War is the 'war' fought between America and the Soviet Union; this war stemmed from the differences in their political views, and is ultimately the development of their relationship after World War Two. There are several political differences between the two countries which add to the strain in the relationship but the most important difference is the fact that America is a capitalist country and the USSR is a communist country. This relationship between the two countries has not always been a difficult one, as they were allies in World War Two. This essay will outline the different points in the War where the events may have indicated a 'winner' of the war, and ultimately whether it was America who came out on top.

"The expression 'cold war' had been coined by the fourteenth-century Spanish writer Don Juan Manuel." (McCauley, M 1998: 1) He used the phrase in describing the outcome of the War. A 'hot' war ended in either peace or death, a cold war however brings no peace and no honour for those who engaged in a war. Using this ideology, the terming of the Cold War between America and Russia as a Cold War means there can be no winner or honour at the end of the conflict. The Cold war between the US and the Soviet Union was not initially known as a Cold War, "the term 'Cold War' was popularised by the US columnist Walter Lippmann and entered general usage in 1947." (McCauley, M 1998:1) This shows that by definition at the beginning of the War there would be no winner but only the countries that take part.

However throughout the period in the battle to be the World's biggest Superpower there were several moments where it looked like the war was going to swing in one countries favour. Even though there was no direct contact between the two sides; another reason why the war was called the cold war, both America and the Soviet Union took sides in conflicts happening in the world fighting their differences out in indirect arenas. They fought for their political views through the other countries which also had the same viewpoint.

The Cold War was ultimately a race to be the only superpower in the world; both Roosevelt and Stalin were fighting it out to gain the control of the rest of the world. The main goal was to be powerful and to push their political ideals onto the rest of the world.

Although it was seen as a political war, there was also an arms race being fought to see who could be the first in the world to have atomic bombs. America claimed success in this race as they were the first to drop an 'A' Bomb in Japan on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945. This both angered Stalin but made him fearful of America, as they were close to Japan and this is exactly what America wanted. Then in 1949, four years after America successfully managed to drop the bomb Stalin ordered the release of theirs.

The Soviet Union also had success in 1949 when China became a communist country, something the US had feared. As America had been trying to contain communism, this was a blow to their democratic beliefs. This containment of Communism was their reason in committing to the Cold War. This is also the reason why they got involved in other conflicts such as the one in Vietnam, with Stalin and the USSR supporting North Vietnam and the USA supporting the democratic South Vietnam. This is another example of an indirect war in which they took sides to fight for their political ideals. However it was in this conflict which they committed to giving aid. This resulted in the Cold War in becoming a warm war.

However even though there were small successes in which both America and Russia gained some headway, ultimately like any war there would have to be a clear winner. As Lebow and Gross Stein suggest in the title of their book, "We all lost the cold war." (2004). This argument comes from the loss that both sides felt and also the rest of the world felt through the longest war ever fought.

Shrecker argues that, "outside of the left and a handful of academics, few even question the notion that America "won" the Cold War." (Shrecker, E 2004:2) this would lead us to believe that even the Russian people do not question the validity in the US claim that they were the 'winner' of the cold war.

However to state who won the war, it must also be looked at when the war finished, as there is some debate whether it finished in 1990 or 1991. "Did the Cold War end in 1990 or 1991? Those who regard the Cold War and merely another term for superpower competition between Russia and America would say 1990, when Gorbachev declared it to be over." (McCauley, M 1998: 7) This would then suggest that if the war ended on the terms of Gorbachev, the Russian leader at the end of the war, that the war was actually won by the Russians. However this is not the common argument in the result of the war.

This shows the confusion over when the war was over, which would show the ending of the war was unexpected as it was due to the downfall of the Soviet Union and not the fact America had won. As Deudney and Inkenberry suggest, "The Cold War's end was a baby that arrived unexpectedly, but a long like for those claiming paternity has quickly formed." (Deudney, D and Inkenberry, J 1992: 125)

When Gorbachev was voted into power his fresh thinking at the change of Soviet policy meant the end of the Soviet Union

"The ensuing fourth period, Cold War II, saw an acceleration in the arms race and rising political temperature. This was only halted by the fresh vision of Gorbachev, who wanted to reassess fundamentally the goals of foreign policy and to negotiate a new relationship with America, one which would remove ideology from Russian foreign policy formation. Moscow would no longer support communism and national liberation movements around the globe, and interdependence became a guiding light of Moscow's policy as it set out to build a new world order in partnership with Washington. However, all the gains accrued to America, and the demise of the Soviet Union followed swiftly on the end of the Cold War." (McCauley, M 1998:2)

The change of the Soviet Union meant the conflict with the US was now defunct, this would then show that America was not the winner of the Cold War but helped in the ultimate ending of the war by Gorbachev. "The end of the cold war, however, involved not a rising power, but a retrenching one." (Reus-Smit 2004: 16.) However in the minds of the world and several historians the winner was the USA, "The end of the Cold War was cast variously as a victory for American Policy, for the American system of government and economic life, for capitalism and democracy, for a particular civilization, and for that amorphous community called 'the West'" (Reus-Smit 2004: 19)


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