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The Cold War refers to the continuous geopolitical, economic and ideological struggle that was between the two super powers in the west (USA and its NATO allies) and the powers in the East (Soviet Union). This Cold War began in the year 1947 which was the time that the Second World War was ending and it continued until the year 1991 when the Soviet Union was dissolved. The term ‘cold’ was used because there was no large scale direct fighting between the East and the West and that there were only regional fights between the countries that the two sides supported.
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During the cold war, the alliance against Nazi Germany was split leaving USA and USSR as the only two sides that greatly differed over ideologies such as capitalism, totalitarianism, communism and liberal democracy. The two countries were not at any time involved in a full-scale armed fighting but they were always each armed heavily for a World War III. It was believed that each side held a strong nuclear deterrent that made the other side afraid to attack because of the fear of total destruction on its part. Apart from the nuclear deterrent on both sides, dominance on both sides was expressed through psychological warfare, technological competitions and propaganda and espionage. One of the events leading to the origin of the Cold was remarks by a British leader Winston Churchill who gave some anti-communism remarks during his speech in the year 1946 (Fleming 34).
Ways in which the West and the East Differed
The cold war is believed to be the most important political issue in the early post war period and it was as a result of long time disagreements between USA and the Soviet Union. However, during the Second World War, these two countries put their differences aside and they were allied. The end of the World War II triggered the resurface of the antagonisms between the two countries (Fleming 44). America had survived destruction from the war and it hoped to share its idea of liberty, democracy and equality with the rest of the world which was in turmoil after the war. America was much aware of the effects of the Great Depression that were experienced in the years 1929-1940. In an attempt to avoid another depression, it sought to remove all the trade barriers in order to help the nation create outside markets for its industrial and agricultural products. Free trade would also help other western nations to export their products and hence be able to rebuild their nations that were destroyed in the World War II. Generally the free trade would help boost the economic growth of all the western nations and also help to boost the relationships between the countries.
The Soviet Union had a different Agenda that contrasted sharply with that of the Americans. They believed in a centralized, autocratic form of government that was very different with the American’s emphasis on freedom and democracy. During the World War II they had briefly abandoned the Marxist-Leninist ideology but it was still one of the country’s policies. Distraught by the death of 20 million citizens during the struggle, Soviet Union was focused on reconstruction and also protecting itself from another future attack of the same magnitude. Specifically, they feared attack of their nation from the West and hence were very determined to prevent another great attack. The Soviet Union was intent on demanding defensible borders but the in the East. But the Americans had already declared independence and self-government to countries in the east such as Poland and Czechoslovakia(Meernik 68).
The Cold War origin was as a result of the differing opinions about the shape of the postwar and this was what led to distrust between the two super powers. Firstly, the conflict started over Poland. Moscow wanted a government that was subject to Soviet impact; Washington on the other hand, wanted a more independent and representative government that was in line with the Western model (Russett 29).Different interpretations of different forms of government were discussed in the Yalta Conference of February 1945 and it provided provisions to ensure that the elections in Poland would be ‘free and unfettered.’
Harry Truman had succeeded Franklin D. Roosevelt and he became the president of America. During his regime, he promised to respond to the international affairs between these two super powers and his decisions to respond to Soviet Union lead to the early Cold war between the two nations. During his first meeting with Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov, he made it clear that he was supporting self-determination and he urge the diplomat to implement the Yalta accords. Molotov took offence of this and he exclaimed that he had never been spoken to like that in his entire life. Truman responded to him that if he follows the agreements then he will never have to be spoken to like that. This is where the relations between the countries got deteriorated (Meernik 82).
Control the Soviet Union then became a policy to the Americans during the post war years. George Kennan who was a top official in Moscow established and elaborated on a new approach to control Soviet Union. This is because he felt that Soviet Union would not change their stand and hence they had to be stopped by control the efforts of Russia to expand the territories. The application of this containment policy was first applied in the eastern Mediterranean. The Great Britain was an ally to Greece where communist forces were threatening to rule a monarchy in civil war, and Turkey, the nation in which the Soviet Union had compelled for territorial concessions and also the mandate to build marine bases on the Bosporus. In the year 1947, Britain could not afford the aid and hence the U.S quickly came in to offer their assistance. Truman was able to then allocate $ 400 million to cater for the economic and military assistance to Turkey and Greece (May 39). Truman and the American society, however, had to pay a price for the containment policy. Truman had overstated the threat of the Soviet Union to the U.S and through this; there emerged an inspired wave of anti-communism and pave d the way for the emergence of McCarthyism.
Effects of the potential conflict to the culture, economics and politics of the United States
Effect on ideology
The effect of the cold war not only shaped the foreign policy of the U.S, but it also helped to improve the domestic affairs. In the past, the Americans had been afraid of radical subversion but efforts to root out communism became much stronger after the World War II(Waltz 35). The foreign events made the anti-communist hysteria to be strong. It surprised the Americans when the Soviet Union exploded its own atomic device and this made Americans to fear that they could be attacked by them at any given time.
As the cold war continued fifteen years later that is from 1945-1960, the U.S experienced great economic growth. The war was the main reason that it got back its prosperity and it in the postwar period it was able to become one of the richest nations in the world. The Gross Domestic Product of the United States improved from $200 thousand million in 1940 to $ 300 million in 1950 and more than $500 thousand million in 1960. This made more Americans to consider themselves as middle class. Major companies also grew larger through merges and they expanded their branches overseas where they could get labor cheaply.
Effect on the lifestyle of the Americans
The workers in America found their lifestyles changing as the nation progressed industrially. Many of the workers became involved in provision of services rather than production of goods. Farmers on the other hand were in great trouble as the benefits of agriculture lead to consolidations and hence family farms were thrown out of business by the large farming businesses (Betts 37).
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There was movement of the Americans from inner cities to suburbs where cheaper hosing was found in order to fit the big families that were as a result of a postwar baby boom (May 51). And as the suburbs grew bigger, more businesses were created such as large shopping centers that reduced traffic of shoppers in the cities. New highways were also constructed so as to make the suburbs accessible.There was also the widespread marketing of the television which had been developed previously but not marketed until after the war.
In conclusion, the Cold War was an important historical event. Specifically, it was very important to the Americans as it enabled them to progress economically, culturally and politically. We can therefore say that the United States became even more powerful after the Cold War and up to now it is regarded as the most powerful nation in the whole world.
Betts, Richard K. “Wealth, power, and instability: East Asia and the United States after the Cold War.” International Security (1993): 34-77. Print.
Fleming, Denna Frank. The Cold War and Its Origins: 1917-1960. 1950-1960. Vol. 2. Doubleday, 1961. Print.
May, Elaine Tyler. Homeward bound: American families in the cold war era. Basic Books, 2008. Print.
Meernik, James, Eric L. Krueger, and Steven C. Poe. “Testing models of US foreign policy: Foreign aid during and after the Cold War.” The journal of Politics 60.01 (1998): 63-85. Print.
Russett, Bruce. Grasping the democratic peace: Principles for a post-Cold War world. Princeton University Press, 1994. Print.
Waltz, Kenneth N. “Structural realism after the Cold War.” International security 25.1 (2000): 5- 41. Print.
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