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ORIGINS OF THE COLD WAR INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS IN THE ERA OF THE
COLD WAR 1
David C. Engerman, 'Ideology and Origins of the Cold War, 1917-1962'. M. Leffler & O. A. Westad (eds). The Cambridge History of the Cold War, vol. 1 Melvyn P. Leffler, 'The Emergence of an American Grand Strategy, 19451952'. M. Leffler & O. A. Westad (eds). The Cambridge History of the Cold War, vol. 1 Robert Jervis. Was the Cold War a Security Dilemma? Journal of Cold War Studies, 3:1 Mark Kramer. Ideology and the Cold War. Review of International Studies, 25:4 Geir Lundenstad (1986). Empire by Invitation? The United States and Western Europe, 1945-52. Journal of Peace Research, 23:3 Eduard Mark (1981). American Policy towards Eastern Europe and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941-1946: an Alternative Interpretation. The Journal of American History, 68:2 Eduard Mark (1997). The War Scare of 1946 and its Consequences. Diplomatic History, 21:3 John Lewis Gaddis (1983). The Emerging Post-Revisionist Synthesis on the Origins of the Cold War. Diplomatic History Robert Jervis (1980). The Importance of Korea in the Cold War. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 24:3 Amikam Nachmani (1990). Civil War and Intervention in Greece: 1946-49. Journal of Contemporary History, 25 Douglas Macdonald (1995). Communist Bloc Expansion in the Early Cold War: Challenging Realism, Refuting Revisionism. International Security, 20 Geoffrey Roberts (1999). Ideology, Calculation and Improvisation: Spheres of Influence and Soviet Foreign Policy 1939-1945. Review of International Studies, 25:4 Eduard Mark (2001). Revolution by Degrees: Stalin's National-Front Strategy for Europe, 1941-47. Cold War History Project, WP 31 2
Shen Zhihua (2000). Sino-Soviet Relations and the Origins of the Korean War Journal of Cold War Studies, 2 Ilya Gaiduk (1999). Stalin: Three Approaches to One Phenomenon. Diplomatic History, 23 David Reynolds (1985). Origins of the Cold War: The European Dimension. The Historical Journal, 28 Avi Shlaim (1985). The Partition of Germany and the Origins of the Cold War. Review of International Studies, 11
3 M. Leffler & O. A. Westad (eds). The Cambridge History of the Cold War, vol. 1 David C. Engerman, 'Ideology and Origins of the Cold War, 1917-1962' The Cold War began with the Russian Revolution of 1917, when each side began a mission to transform the other in its image -the battle only went global in the 1940s.
Ideological disagreement led to conflict because both ideologies were: (a) universalistic, believing themselves destined to transform the decaying order of Europe; (b) progressive, fearing that the advance of the other was a step backwards; (c) messianic, equating their growth with historical progress. Permanent coexistence was impossible.
Ideologies are 'lenses that focused, and just as often distorted, understandings of external events and thus the actions taken in response'. Wilson saw 'liberal democracy as the endpoint of history, but appropriate only at advanced stages of development'. The declassification of secret documents in the 1990s reveals that Soviet leaders 'did not use ideology as mere cover for raisons d'etat.
(1) WWI-WWII. USSR was puzzled why US did not suffer a revolution, as they peddled world revolution; US was sure that Bolshevism was an aberration and would pass before a return to normalcy, as it promoted Fourteen Points. US interpreted NEP as a first step to capitalism, so furnished it with relief: it thought USSR was undergoing a 'Great Retreat'. Meanwhile, USSR saw Depression as evidence of crisis of capitalism. Each side believed that the other was converging towards its own model!
(2) 1945. The defeat of Nazism represented the 'final defeat of a conservative alternative', but there was no direct clash between the two because each concluded that the other had achieved a temporary immunity against immediate transformation. So the CW was fought over the membership of each bloc - to 'make neutral ground less so'. (3) 1946-47. US embassy in Moscow reported back that Stalin was "committed fanatically to the belief" that there could be "no permanent modus vivendi" between the poles (Kennan, Long Telegram): argued that containment (Berlin airlift) and integration (Marshall Plan) would allow the USSR to self-destruct. NSC 68 articulated that the opposing value systems were irreconcilable, so US should place "maximum strain" on the USSR in order to isolate it from its satellites.
As the CW progressed, each side accepted the existence of the other and its sphere of influence and competed in increasingly marginal areas (e.g. Vietnam, Angola). This 'turned areas of domestic dispute into geopolitical hotspots' and magnified their intensity.
Melvyn P. Leffler, 'The Emergence of an American Grand Strategy, 1945-1952'
FDR struck a deal with Stalin on Japan: the USSR would declare war within three months of Germany's surrender, thereby reducing American casualties, in exchange for the Manchurian ports and Far East territories, and also recognise the Chinese nationalists. 4
Truman hoped that flattening Hiroshima would end the war before the Soviets declared war and seized the territories promised to them in Yalta.
By the end of 1945, Truman was "tired of babying the Soviets", convinced they wanted to invade Turkey and capture the Black Sea Straits. He embraced containment but began rudimentary war plans, should this fail. Reports from Europe raised the threat perception. Truman heard that Europe was suffering "complete economic, social and political collapse... the extent of which is unparalleled in history"; in his advisors' estimation, communism was on the ascendancy.
The Truman Doctrine locked Republicans and Southern Democrats into supporting an internationalist foreign policy: the argument that Europe might "fall into the Soviet orbit without much effort on the part of the Russians" forced them to accept massive assistance to Europe. The task was to get Europe self-governing and self-supporting, starting with Germany, in order to keep Russia at bay. The Czech coup spurred Congress to implement the Marshall Plan.
American success in core areas required containment in the underdeveloped periphery to secure markets and access to raw materials: this is why the US cared so much about Indochina. Truman established ties with Bao Dai, the French-backed puppet emperor of Vietnam although Ho Chi Minh had popular support; he deliberately chose not to intervene in China, calculating that it was too poor and fractious to be enough of a Soviet asset to justify heavy casualties.
Truman feared the 'blackmail potential' of the new Soviet atom bomb: NSC 68 announced that the goal was not containment but the reduction of the power and influence of the USSR so that it could no longer pose a threat.
The Berlin airlift was hoped to prove that the Soviets were bluffing and call their hand: Stalin would not go to war. The US also believed that the invasion of Korea was a test of their resolve, so aimed to reaffirm military superiority as a necessary condition for successful diplomacy: it hoped to unify the peninsula, sure that China and USSR would not risk hostilities - but China intervened, lest it find the US on its border.
The purpose of the grand strategy was to 'prevent a totalitarian adversary from conquering or assimilating the resources of Europe and Asia and using them to wage war against the United States': Soviet victory would forcibly isolate the US and require it to "take defence measures which might really bankrupt our economy, and change our way of life so that we wouldn't recognise it as American any longer".
5 Robert Jervis. Was the Cold War a Security Dilemma?
Journal of Cold War Studies, 3:1 A security dilemma requires competitors to resort to force only in the defence of the status quo, but the USSR was not a status-quo power - the US desired a freezing of the status quo because it had the advantage, but the USSR was menaced by it. It is unlikely that diplomacy could have ended the Cold War, as there simply was no acceptable middle ground. This was a deep security dilemma: both sides would forgo expansion for security, but the clash of social systems rendered this impossible - it was not a simple matter of lack of trust.
In a security dilemma, both sides 'prefer the status quo to the costs and risk of seeking to expand', which they only do in defence of their vital security interests. They see their own behaviour as designed to stabilise the status quo against an aggressor. The 'fear on each side of being exploited by the other side' is the main obstacle to resolution.
The USSR was not content with the status quo. (1) Stalin's behaviour was alarming. He authorised N. Korea with no clear security advantage. He treated domestic rivals as moral threats to be eliminated. Declassified correspondence shows deep suspicion. He required foreign enemies to justify his own leadership and deny people access to Western influence.
O? It would have been 'extremely difficult' to elicit cooperation from Stalin. (2) The USSR was a revisionist actor. The US regarded it as a threat to Europe not because it might invade, but because Communists might seize power. Soviet leaders believed they had an internationalist duty to support other states' communists.
The division of Germany facilitated superpower cooperation by providing each a stake in the status quo: it was in the interest of neither for a united and neutral Germany to be a nuclear-aspirant kingmaker. Eventually Gorbachev acquiesced to German accession to NATO precisely so it would not cause tension by hanging in the balance.
Bipolarity with secure second-strike capacities should yield mutual security, such that neither side feels menaced by the other side's expansion BUT the Americans remained convinced of: (a) deterrence theory's stress on resolve; (b) the domino effect. That is, it was not a simple matter of survival: deterrence could not secure other vital interests.
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