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AMERICAN HISTORY SINCE 1865 THE COLD WAR What responsibility does the United States bear for the origins of the Cold War, 1941-1953?
Introduction During the war - Yalta and Potsdam Atomic weapons - Japan Germany Truman doctrine/Marshall plan Cyprus/Greece/Turkey/Iran/Eastern Europe Russian Perspective Conclusion Western Europe Since 1945: D.W. Urwin
- The spread of Communist activity worldwide post-war spurred America to respond. Communist guerrillas were seeking to seize control of Greece. The Soviet Union was expanding its influence in the Black Sea and Eastern Mediterranean, as well as supporting Yugoslav claims over Trieste and pressing for influence in the middle-east and over former Italian colonies such as Eritrea. In Asia the communists under Mao Zedong were slowly winning the Chinese civil war1. +Korea.
- Berlin blockade/airlift.
- The Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb in Autumn 1949.
- Korean war broke out in 1950.
- American invasion of North Korea, and threatened action in Chinese-controlled Manchuria, encourage China to provide military aid to the North Korean regime and widened the scope of the conflict.
- Upon election, President Eisenhower negotiated a peace settlement in Korea, and America withdrew to South of the 38th parallel.
- The West's failure to respond in anything over than a verbal way to the 1961 erection of the Berlin Wall encourage the USSR to press further, contributing to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1963. Origins of the Cold War: Leffler & Painter
- US Foreign Policy:
- Revisionists argue that America was no innocent bystander in the unfolding of the Cold War, and reasons for this include economic expansionism and rediscovered imperialism2.
- The Gaddis thesis is that the US responded to the threat of Stalinist aggression, but would have rather avoided becoming embroiled in international disputes.
- Leffler argues that US initiatives were spurred by fears of nationalism, and military weakness in Britain and Western Europe. He is countered by those who say he ignores evidence of Soviet aggression.
- American military planners devised during the Second World War a blueprint for a network of bases, to be the new frontier of US defence overseas; these bases would allow control of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and ensure that any conflicts were kept away from US soil. Much of this planning was based on the perceived threat of nuclear weapon attack, but they would also serve as launching posts for aggressive action. By aggravating Soviet fears, did the US nurture what it hoped to avoid?
- The US did fear that the spread of Soviet influence in Europe and Asia would hamper the operation of free-markets and harm American economic interests. America realised that the USSR would avoid war, and seek to gain control through political and economic means. 1 Western Europe Since 1945: D.W. Urwin 2 Origins of the Cold War: Leffler & Painter
- Nuclear Weapons:
- Alperovitz hypothesis is that the US dropped the atomic bomb on Japan in order to end the war as quickly as possible, despite the likelihood of imminent Japanese surrender. In doing so America prevented Soviet entry into the Pacific theatre, allowed swift transfer of resources to Western Europe, and demonstrated willingness to use weapons of mass destruction3.
- Others argue that America did not know Japan was on the brink of surrender, and the bomb was used to save lives, both Japanese and American.
- Roosevelt excluded the Soviets from any information regarding the progress of the bomb, something which bred distrust.
- Arms Race:
- Russia was not formally consulted about the development of the bomb during the war, quite the opposite; therefore, post-war co-operation over nuclear arms management began with difficulty.
- Stalin had to respond to the Western monopoly of atomic technology with his own rapidly accelerating programme.
- European Policy:
- Whilst Russia and the US were, in theory, happy to see a unified Germany, it was France that wanted it to remain divided economically and militarily neutered.
- The Marshall Plan:
- Stalin decided against participating, fearing that the US would use it to bring Eastern Europe into NATO's orbit. The Truman administration was relieved, as it had been anticipated that the USSR would have tried to sabotage the plan from within and that Congress would not have approved expenditure in potentially communist nations4.
- The European Recovery Plan distributed $13billion between 1948 and 1952; $2.7billion went to Britain, making it the largest single recipient.
- There was a fear that the Soviet Union would seek to exploit Western withdrawal from Empire and rising discontent and instability within past colonies. The Cold War: J.L. Gaddis
- The Soviet Union and the US were already at loggerheads ideologically and geopolitically before the war was over. Moreover, their wartime experiences were very different. America suffered less than 300,000 wartime casualties and little physical destruction within its territories. Russia, on the other hand, saw as many as 27million casualties and utter devastation on the Eastern front5. These disproportionate losses meant that the Soviet Union felt morally entitled to a significant role in the reshaping of the post-war world.
- The allies, seeing Churchill and Roosevelt successively replaced by Truman and Attlee, lacked the continuity in leadership that the USSR enjoyed.
- Britain and the US had provided extensive support to the Soviet Union during the war to prevent Stalin considering an alliance or ceasefire with Nazi Germany.
- Stalin broke his promises at Yalta, including that to hold free democratic elections in Eastern European satellite states.
- Use of the atomic bomb in Japan upset the balance of power between the US and the USSR, instigating the arms race. Stalin feared it would become a weapon of blackmail if the US alone wielded it.
- Kennan, in his long telegram, hypothesised that the Soviets had to treat the rest of the world as hostile to them as it justified autocracy within the USSR. The best solution for the Western world
3 Origins of the Cold War: Leffler & Painter 4 Origins of the Cold War: Leffler & Painter 5 The Cold War: J.L. Gaddis
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