WhoWas to Blame for the Cold War?
Whowas to Blame for the Cold War?
TheCold War may be one of the most fundamental periods in the history ofthe contemporary human society. Marked by intense hostility thatlasted from 1945 to around 1991, the Cold War was not characterizedby any direct military confrontation from the two powers involved,i.e. the United States and the USSR, rather it involved numerousproxy wars fought on the basis of two conflicting ideologies. The twoideologies were Communism, which was propagated by the Union ofSocialist Soviet Republics (USSR) and Capitalism, which was promotedby the United States of America. The Cold War started after the endof the Second World War, which marked the termination of thetemporary alliance or cooperation between the USSR and the USAfollowing the defeat of the two blocks’ common enemy Germany. Ofparticular note is the fact that the end of the Second World Warmarked the relative decline of a large part of Europe, which went ona downward spiral, thereby placing the United States and the SovietUnion as the reigning superpowers. However, these superpowers weresoon on a collision course on political, economic, military andideological scale with each of them holding the belief that theirrespective opinions, ways of life and ideas were the most suitablefor humanity or the world at large. Researchers and scholars have,since time immemorial, been looking at the question on how the ColdWar started and, especially, which player was to blame for the startand subsequent escalation of the tension and the conflict.Unfortunately, there has never been any conclusive idea regarding theparty that was at fault or to blame. Indeed, there have beencontention as to the real origin of the conflict, with researchersand scholars opining that the conflict can be traced as far back as1917 at the beginning of the Russian Revolution War. For a long time,historians have made frantic attempts at heaping the blame on Russiaand the Soviet Union at large for the proliferation of the Cold War.Indeed, they opine that the United States simply aimed at expandingor spreading democracy and freedom. However, recent historians havetried to examine the role that the United States or rather PresidentTruman may have played in inciting the Cold War. This is especiallyconsidering his acerbic language, as well as his publiccharacterization of USSR as the worst threat to the free world(Whitfield,1996).While there may be differing opinions, it is evident that the twosuperpowers were equally to blame for the occurrence and escalationof the Cold War.
TheUnited States is blamed for the Cold War for a number of reasons.First, it is noted that at the Yalta Conference in February 1945,there was an agreement by the Big Three that East Europe would bemade a Soviet Sphere of Influence as the USSR had suffered immenseloses in the Second War (Walker,1995,pp. 37). This was aimed at assuaging Stalin’s fears pertaining tothe security of the USSR after losing about 20 million people.However, the United States reneged on this agreement after the deathof President Roosevelt and the subsequent elevation of PresidentTruman in July 1945. Scholars have noted that Truman wasinconsiderate of the Soviet Union’s security concerns and wassuspicious of Stalin as he saw him as having plans for invading theentire Europe (Walker,1995,pp. 37). In essence, he adopted a tough stance towards Stalin leadingto their eventual fall-out. This is seem as the first fundamentalfault by the United States as Stalin took over regions such asRomania, Finland and Poland since these are the countries throughwhich Germany had invaded the USSR. This was all in an effort toprevent the possibility of re-occurrence of a similar scenario.
Inaddition, the war may be blamed on crucial ideological differencesthat separated the two countries. Scholars have noted that after theSecond World War, American foreign policy officials started effortsto spread capitalism and democracy across the entire world (Edwards,1996,pp 29). This was seem as a drastic conflict with the original desireof Russian Revolutionaries to eliminate capitalism. Since the USSRhad endured invasion from the Germans on two occasions within half acentury, its leaders aimed at restructuring Europe so as to create abuffer between Soviet Border and Germany. Both the United States andthe Soviet Union saw their survival as being threatened, in whichcase they took fundamental steps to ensure that they won. As much asthey knew that collaboration would produce the best results, neitherof them could risk trusting the other (Edwards,1996,pp 29).
Onthe same note, the Truman Doctrine is often blamed for the start ofthe Cold War. This doctrine or policy by President Truman was aimedat containing the spread of communism. It goes without saying thatthis placed the United States on a direct collision course with theUSSR, thereby marking the commencement of the Cold War (Brands,2010,pp. 45). This was aggravated by the fact that the two players heldvarying political ideas, in which case they were afraid if eachother’s spread, thereby creating and escalating the tensions. Forinstance, once the Soviet Union took over Eastern Europe so as toavert the possibility of invasion from Germany, the United Statesviewed this as aggression, in which case it stepped up efforts toprevent the same. This was also compounded by the Marshall Plan,where the United States resolved to provide $17 billion so as toassist in the rebuilding of Europe’s economy (Brands,2010,pp. 45). As expected, the Soviet Union or rather Stalin viewed thisas America’s effort to dominate the Eastern European countries withits dollars and buy them to its side, thereby sidelining the SovietUnion. Of particular note is the fact that the donation was not madeout of kindness rather it was aimed at preventing countries at thepoor Eastern European side from voting for parties that they saw asextreme or too radical especially Communists (Harper,2011).These efforts made to contain Communism, ultimately created problemswith the Soviets.
However,the Soviet Union was not entirely blameless as far as the Cold Warwas concerned. Scholars and researchers have drawn attention to themanner in which Stalin treated Eastern Europe after the Second WorldWar. At the Yalta Conference held in February 1945, the Big Threenamely United States, Great Britain and Soviet Union had agreed thatthe countries in Eastern Europe would be allowed to hold free andfair elections after being liberated. The then Soviet Prime MinisterStalin, however, went ahead to impose his Communist System on allcountries that the Soviets liberated and failed to withdraw histroops as they had agree in the conference. This made Trumanparticularly suspicious of Stalin as it was evident that the laterwas not keen to honor the things upon which they had agreed in theconference. Researchers acknowledge that the three powers had agreedto allow and facilitate free elections in the East European countriesthat had previously been taken up by Nazi forces prior to theirliberation by the Red Army as it drove to Berlin (Dijk,2008,pp. 67). To the United States and Great Britain, this “promise”implied that any individual in the eastern countries could stand forelection, while all individuals who had attained the appropriate agecould freely take part in the voting exercise. This election was tobe done by secret ballot as was the case in the United States.However, Stalin had contrary ideas as he wanted to erect an “IronCurtain” around the USSR so as to reduce the possibility ofattacks. In this case, every country that was close to the SovietBorder had to incorporate a loyal communist government, withofficials who would be under Stalin’s beck and call (Hanhimäki,2005,pp. 56). This meant that the elections would be anything but fair.Indeed, countries such as Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary endedup having communist governments whose leaders sought advice fromMoscow rather than from the people over whom they governed.Researchers note that the only country that was not in this categorywas Yugoslavia, whose communist leader named Tito was not ready tosee the Soviet Communists replace the Nazis. Nevertheless, this isessentially why the Truman Doctrine was created in an effort to slowdown the spread of Communism in Eastern Europe. The United States,therefore, had every reason to feel threatened especially consideringthat the two countries were complete opposites in almost everyfundamental respect. Scholars have noted that the Truman’s Doctrinedid not simply revolve around supporting the democratic rights of themajority against the minority’s armed might rather it came with astrategic bearing. The doctrine stated that the United States wouldsupport any free people who took part in resisting any attemptedsubjugation by outside pressures or armed minorities. This was,undoubtedly, bound to be seen as an act of aggression by the SovietUnion, which eventually saw tensions between the two countries gohigh. On the same note, the United States pledged its economic andmilitary aid in support of the government of Greece. It is noted thatthere existed a widespread opinion that in case Greece went to thecommunists, the Soviet Union would slowly expand to the oil fields inthe Middle East through Turkey, which was an undesirable development(Sheehan,2003,pp. 39). The Truman Doctrine became a fundamental pillar the ofUnited States foreign policy all over the world after March 1947.Eventually, Turkey and Greece joined NATO, a gesture that was seen assending the message to the Soviet Union in general and Russia inparticular that if it dared attack either of the two, it would facethe wrath of the other NATO members as it would be seen as havingattacked all of them (Field,2005,pp. 66). This was bound to make the later feel cheated and, as muchas it could not engage in an all-out war with the United States, itbrew a tense relationship between the two countries or blocks.
However,some scholars have also opined that neither of the two players wereentirely to blame. Indeed, some researchers have insinuated that thetwo countries took fundamental steps to allow for the prevention ofthe escalation of the Cold War as they both acknowledged thedevastating effects that an all-out war would have on their economiesand the world economy at large. This is especially with regard to thepossibility of the use of nuclear weapons in the conflict. Forinstance, as much as Truman was quite apprehensive of Russia, heensured that the Korean War remained restricted by resisting thetemptation to use nuclear weapons against China and North Korea. Heacknowledged that such a thing would force the Soviet Union to launchretaliatory attacks (Sheehan,2003,pp. 39). Similar efforts were made in 1956 during the HungarianRevolution as president Dwight D Eisenhower retained his distance ashe was well aware of the fact that the USSR would be quick toretaliate in case of an interference in the Eastern Europe (Field,2005,pp. 66). Similarly, the Soviet Union had to make fundamentalsacrifices so as to prevent the possibility of an all-out war throughback down during the Cuban Missile Crisis. A large number ofhistorians and scholars opine that the two countries strivedimmensely to ensure that direct conflicts did not occur and oftenapplied tacit signaling techniques to communicate their intensions,counteractions, concerns, goals and fears.
Nevertheless,the Cold war had immense impacts on the two countries and the worldat large in all aspects including economic, social and political. Ofparticular note is the fact that the Cold War shaped the politicalagendas of the United States’ presidents both at the time and evenafter it was over in 1991. For instance, Eisenhower is noted ashaving aimed at lowering the expenditure of the government at home soas to slow down what he saw as creeping socialism, as well as savemoney for the country’s more urgent needs including security anddefense (Craig&Logevall,2009,pp. 34). On the same note, President Kennedy’s New Frontier is seenas having inspired visions of hope and patriotic fervor in theAmerican Youth.
Inconclusion, questions have been raised regarding the country thatshould bear the blame for the Cold War. However, it is worth notingthat the conflict was deeply rooted in supremacy battles between thetwo powers that remained strong after the Second World War. Each ofthem primarily aimed at spreading its ideologies, which was acomplete opposite of the other block’s ideology. In essence, it isinevitable that the two countries viewed each other suspiciously andwas not keen to keep its attention from the efforts or actions of itsrivals. In essence, the two were equally to blame for the start ofthe Cold War. Nevertheless, they are also seen as having made somecrucial decisions and undertaken crucial actions that would haveensured that the possibility for an all-out military or directconflict was averted. This does not undermine the fact that the twowere equally to blame for the Cold War as each aimed at establishingits supremacy, not only in Eastern Germany but in the entire globe.
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