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Superpowers In The Initiation Of The Cold War History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

The Cold War was a global conflict between the Capitalist East and the Communist West predominantly the United States and the Soviet Union. The threat of war came from tensions between the two superpower nations and their allies. Both the United States and the Soviet Union played very distinctive roles in the initiation of this war. Factors such as America’s fear of communism attack, the enmity and lack of understanding between capitalist East and Communism West and the Soviet Aggression contributed to the initiation of the Cold War. The blame for the Cold War cannot be placed on one nation – it developed as a series of chain reactions and a struggle for supremacy. Thus, both of the superpowers caused the conflict, known as the Cold War, though the extent to which they played that role is arguable because of the differing roles each superpower played in its initiation.

America’s fear of communism attack had an enormous effect in laying the foundation of the Cold War. It regarded its outbreak as a result of their hostility and diplomatic incompetence. The policy of “Containment” 1947- also called the “Truman Doctrine”- ensured that Soviet expansion of communism was limited and prevented. American leaders wanted to halt the spread of communism by giving economic aid to nations that were threatened by the Soviets or other dictatorial governments. Historian George F Kennan supported this policy as he suggested a “long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies in the hope that the government would mellow or collapse”. Americans tried to prevent the spread of communism by fighting it even to the extent of the Vietnam War. However, despite the development of this policy, Russia failed to comply. It developed the “Iron Curtain”, as Winston Churchill called it, making sure that the territory came under the control of people friendly to the Soviets. This thus led to Soviets control of a greater extent of Eastern Europe. This reflects that suspicion and greater tensions led to mutual distrust. Therefore, America played a great role in the initiation of the cold war as their fear of communism attack advocated their distrust to the Soviets.

The lack of understanding and mistrust between capitalist East and communism West contributed immensely to the initiation of the Cold War. Both the US and the USSR advocated to the Cold War due to their differing ideologies. Open resentment and deliberate distrust were factors in which aided in further separation. This is shown as the U.S. instituted high altitude investigation flights over the Soviet Union using spy planes. They believed that the USSR was in mischief in their build-up of nuclear weapons. However, it was not mistrust alone but also just heavy differences in ideologies and opinions that led to the Cold War. For example, at the end of World War II- in 1948- the USSR controlled the Eastern portion of Berlin; it stopped the westerners- USA- reaching Berlin to provide it with supplies. The more the mistrust grew, the more each side pointed out the difference of opinion. This is evident as the lack of mutual understanding between US and USSR led the world down a very dangerous path -Korea, Berlin, Cuba, Vietnam Wars. It also led to the development of weapons of overwhelming destructive capability. Both the US and the USSR were both just as guilty for the initiation of the Cold War as the mistrust between them allowed them to comply with deeds that were deceitful. This reflects that both superpowers had a major role in the Cold War. It can be argued that the Cold War was thus inevitable, and therefore not one specific nation was entirely at fault, due to the differences in the capitalist and communist ideologies.

The Soviet aggression played a notable role to a certain extent in the beginnings of the Cold War. The Yalta Conference held in 1945 was a conference about how the defeated European countries would be governed after the war. The Soviet aggression became evident in this conference as they had a different view on the future of Poland. Stalin wanted Poland to be under Soviet control and prohibit democracy in it. However, this power caused great bitterness in the USA as they feared that if the USSR established a communist government in Poland, this would give the USSR permanent control over the Polish institution. Historian George Kennan corroborates this concept as he deduces that the Cold War was a conflict between two superpowers, caused by the Soviet aggression in the Yalta Conference. It is argued that the breakdown of relations was a direct result of Stalin’s interpretation of the agreements of the Yalta Conference. W. Averell Harriman, the American ambassador supported this saying: “We began to realise that Stalin’s language was somewhat different from ours”. Stalin’s idea of democracy was a communist one, in which the communist party represented the people and no opposition was allowed. Therefore it can be deduced that the Soviets were to blame for the Cold War as they were obsessed with their security rather than the need for “democracy” in Poland. This event thus led to the deterioration of the relations between the Soviet Union and USA.

Stalin’s influence and suspicions had a vast effect on the initiation of the Cold War. The need for total control and protection against future threats had its influence on the war’s commencement. This is evidently shown through the use of network of spies and informers, not only against the West, but also to hunt down the oppositions at home. An example of this was the formation of the MVD later called the KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti or Committee for State Security) which controlled and co-ordinated activities such as catching enemy spies and dealing with any internal political or social dissent. Evidently, Stalin’s burden by the possibility of a strong West German state was the reason behind crippling Germany. Stalin believed that all communist governments should do as he commanded. Although Yugoslavia was a communist country, it was not under direct influence of the USSR. When Marshall Tito the Yugoslavian leader refused to do as Stalin ordered, all diplomatic relations were broken off with Yugoslavia. Stalin was a significant factor in the Cold War as his influences led to the destruction of the Soviet Union’s relations and greater hatred towards them. The USSR played a major role as their- especially Stalin’s- actions unarguably started a string of chain-reactions within and against the US. Therefore, a good deal of the blame of the Cold War must be placed on the USSR and Stalin.

The Soviet Union’s plan for world domination was a contributing factor to the initiation of the Cold War. Stalin planned for a communist take-over the world. The domination of Europe was the first step to world control. The Soviet’s played a major role as their aim was to block America’s involvement in Eastern Europe in order to fulfil its plan for world domination. This sequentially intensified the relations between the USSR and USA as the USA wanted to control its area of influence and the USSR wanted to stop the spread of American capitalist and business. The British commentator Paul Johnson supported this as he wrote: “In effect Stalin had polarized the earth… It was he who had built the Iron Curtain… (he) hated “Westerners” in the same way Hitler hated the Jews.” The Berlin Blockade 1948 was one of the consequences of the Soviet Union’s plan in which they failed to succeed in. Stalin’s plan was to try to starve the people of West Berlin hoping that the Western powers would do nothing and leave him in control. This event was an example of the USSR’s plan of world domination as it tried to block/stop American’s involvement in Western Europe. This reflects that despite their failures, the Soviet Union contributed greatly to the Cold War as their plan for world domination was overpowering.

The Soviets belief of threat and insecurity from the US and the Western world played a crucial part in encouraging a hostile attitude leading to the Cold War. The USSR leaders were determined to destroy the Western world in order to remove the “threat”. This is evident as the Soviets “backfired” to the commencement of the Marshall Plan 1947 and the Cold War. This can be supported as the USSR set up a Cominform (The Communist Information Bureau) in September 1947, to strengthen the links between communist parties in different countries to make sure they obey the Soviet rule and attack the Marshall plan. Soviet leader A.A. Zhadanov corroborates this saying: “…The Soviet Union will make every effort to ensure that the Marshall Plan is doomed to failure…” However, the Marshall plan remained more powerful than the Cominform and the Comecon (The Council for Mutual Economic Aid) which was later established in 1949. Therefore it can be deduced that the Soviets played a greater role in the initiation of the Cold War as their defensive actions and their feel of “threat” led to the conflict.

Stalin’s foreign policy of Soviet expansion contributed enormously to the tensions of the Cold War. It was known to be a catalyst in the war. Stalin’s aims were to take advantage of the military situation in post-war Europe, to spread world revolution and to ensure the survival of new communist states against hostile neighbours. This in turn was to strengthen the USSR influence. Although, the Soviet foreign policy was established in 1917, it became provocative and expansionist in nature after 1945. However, this policy and the USSR influence were perceived as a threat to the Americans and the westerners as Soviet expansion meant a method of smashing democracy and the spread of revolutionary ideas in the Western World. This is evidently shown as the US was threatened when Stalin became quite effective in his goal to gain territory. His communism regime between 1945 and 1948 became successful with victories in Poland, Romania and Finland. They felt the need to respond to try and stop the USSR influence. This in turn led to the initiation of the Cold War as the West refused to believe that the Soviet Union abandoned the aim of world revolutions and believed it to be the cause of Stalin’s motives.

The response of both US and USSR to the arms race played a major role in the beginning of the Cold War. It was a competition between the two superpowers to accumulate the most powerful and advanced nuclear weapons. It was a physical demonstration of how the Cold War had begun and escalated. The USSR was annoyed about not knowing about the creation of America’s atomic bomb in 1945. The feel of insecurity from the USSR led to the production of an atomic bomb that was later produced in 1949. The blame of the Cold War in this case is directed to both the US and the USSR as once they both gained the creation of an atomic bomb, both sides began to stockpile arms. Due to the support of weapons, the US and USSR were competing with each other creating greater hatred between them. Both of the superpowers caused the Cold War as they both wanted to deter each other and gain greater power.

Although both USA and the USSR contributed immensely to the slow evolvement of the Cold War, each played distinctive roles in its initiation. The USSR is more responsible of the two superpowers. Through aspects such as America’s fear of communism attack, the enmity and lack of understanding between capitalist East and Communism West, the feel of threat from the Soviets and the Soviet Aggression, it is deduced that there are conflicting explanations for the start of the Cold War but it can be seen clearly to be instigated by the USSR. During the years 1945 to 1991, both of the superpowers- Soviet Unions and the Americans- tightened their grip over the countries having extremely different beliefs for the world. In the end, the use of force failed but the hostility remained between the two superpowers creating the longest global conflict between the capitalist east and communist west in the 20th century.

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