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1: The Cold War and How It Shaped the World

The Origins of the Cold War In Europe After WWII


Definition of the Cold War: A period of intense competition between the superpowers of
the United States of America (USA) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)
for political, economic and military influence globally, which began in Europe after
World War II

What could signify the outbreak of the Cold War: It can be represented by the initiation
of an action-reaction cycle with regards to the policies the superpowers confronted each
other with, as it embodied the manifestation of mutual misunderstandings and
suspicion on the part of the superpowers with regards to each others policies that led
to the establishment of rivalry between the superpowers for influence


1917: Western Involvement in the Russian Civil War

US-led Western involvement in the Russian Civil War sowed the seeds of latent
tensions between the USA and the USSR, as such involvement that saw the USA
and its allies attempting to topple the fledgling Bolshevik regime by providing
aid to the anti-communist Whites, in a bid to stem the perceived threat of the
spread of communism into post-WWI Europe, was a form of aggression aimed at
undermining the Bolshevik regime that encouraged distrust with regards to
subsequent US motives and policies
1939: Nazi-Soviet Pact
The Nazi-Soviet Pact served to fuel Western perceptions of the USSRs
expansionistic desires, as the pact saw the USSR being guaranteed territory in
the form of the Baltic states and part of Poland in exchange for a pledge of non-
aggression towards Nazi Germany, that allowed the USSR to expand its sphere of
influence though aggressive territorial acquisition
1941-1945: Disagreements in Wartime Alliance
Such pre-existing distrust and tensions between the USA and the USSR
continued even throughout their alliance during WWII which was perhaps an
alliance of convenience whose strongest bond was a common interest in
defeating Nazi Germany, as seen in the delay in the opening of a second front
against Germany until 1944 that was perceived by Stalin to be an attempt to
weaken the USSR, and the denial of Soviet access to information on American
development of atomic weapons that was an attempt to curtail the growth of
Soviet military power, all of which served to entrench the presence of mutual
tensions that was likely to encourage the would-be superpowers to come into
conflict upon the elimination of the common Nazi threat that underpinned their
Long-Running Ideological Divides
Ideological divides created the necessary conditions for conflict between the
superpowers to occur by amplifying mutual tensions that were tolerable before




Such ideological divides could be seen in superpowers firm belief in the

superiority of their ideological doctrine, with the USA deeming the freedoms
provided by capitalist democracy as basic freedoms to be protected and
promoted in the face of the denial of such freedoms by communist regimes that
were regarded as inherently expansionistic, and the USSR deeming the
centralised control espoused by communism as necessary to prevent instable
and degenerative societies that capitalist democracy was seen to promote
Such ideological divides in turn caused the superpowers to view each others
post-war aims through an ideological lens, with the USA deeming Soviet
attempts at to establishing its own security through the reorganisation of post-
war governments in Eastern Europe as signs that the USSR was embarking on its
inherent expansionism, and the USSR deeming American attempts to create an
international regime of trade through tying loan negotiations to requests for the
elimination of trade barriers in Eastern Europe as evidence of American
attempts to impose capitalist and democratic ideals in a bid to weaken
communist regimes including the USSR itself
As a result of ideological divides, the superpowers misinterpreted each others
policies and interests as a threat to their national security, leading to the
adoption of mutually-exclusive stances aimed at safeguarding national security
interests that represented a lack of compromise, thus resulting in the
aggravation of tensions that led to the build-up of mutual misunderstandings
and suspicions between the superpowers



Soviet Failure to Adhere to Post-War Agreements on Poland

Soviet failure to adhere to post-war agreements on Poland was deemed as a
ruse to spread communism throughout Europe with political domination of
Poland as a stepping stone
The failure of the Soviets to conduct free elections in Poland as promised at
the February 1945 Yalta Conference and the subsequent setting up of a
communist-dominated coalition government by June 1945 represented
attempts to establish a Soviet-friendly regime that allowed the USSR to
exercise influence over its affairs
This stoked American fears that the USSR was seeking to build a sphere of
influence in neighbouring Eastern European countries through the setting
up of similar regimes augmented by the continued presence of Soviet
military forces in these countries
Bolstering of Communist Forces in China
Only a few days after the Japanese surrender in September 1945, the USSR
moved troops into neighbouring Manchuria and handed over the weapons of
disarmed Japanese troops to Communist units that allowed them to
establish a foothold in Manchuria and Northern China in spite of official
Soviet recognition of the Nationalist government
Such actions were viewed as an instance of Soviet attempts to spread
communism beyond its borders by bolstering communist elements in
neighbouring countries


Sovietization of Eastern Europe

The failure to abide by post-war agreements on Poland was followed with
the Sovietization of Eastern Europe, in which the USSR set up full communist
regimes Eastern European countries by rigging elections in favour of local
communists and suppressing non-communist elements to consolidate
communist control
This could be seen in Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary and
Czechoslovakia where rigged elections between 1946 and 1947 allowed the
communists to secure majorities was followed with the suppression of non-
communist parties that led to the establishment of full communist regimes
in these countries by the end of 1947, with Soviet satellite, Czechoslovakia,
coming under communist rule by February 1948
Such efforts served to confirm American fears that the USSR was building a
sphere of influence in Eastern Europe through the consolidation of Soviet-
friendly regimes in Eastern European countries, as a prelude to the spread of
communism throughout Europe- fears that seemed plausible in light of the
growing popularity of communism in Western Europe as exhibited by
membership of communist parties in France and Italy being in excess of 1
million in each country
Non-Cooperation in Administration of Germany
Non-cooperation in the administration of Germany served to fuel American
fears that the USSR was seeking to obstruct post-war agreements in a bid to
expand its control and influence in Germany in tandem with similar efforts
In Eastern Europe
Under the August 1945 Potsdam accords, Germany was to be divided among
the 4 occupying powers with an occupation zone each, with the USSR being
granted additional reparations from the 3 western zones in exchange for
goods from its zone
However, the USSR failed to adhere to their part of the agreement, arguing
that they would not supply goods from their zone until a satisfactory level of
reparations had been received
This represented yet another violation of post-war agreements that was
deemed as attempts to spread communism throughout Europe by doing so
in Germany as well, as the USA saw such Soviet intransigence as attempts to
perpetuate the breakdown of economic activity and poverty that was seen as
conditions favourable to the flourishing of support for communism
Bolshoi Theatre Speech
10. Stalins Bolshoi Theatre Speech in February 1946 served to further stoke
American fears regarding Soviet expansionism, as the speech saw a
denunciation of capitalism as a system that inherently generates conflict and
the re-affirmation of communist-oriented economic planning as necessary to
build national strength, which was an expression of Stalins desire to
strengthen the USSR which American diplomats feared would be expressed
through the spread of communism throughout Europe
Overstaying in Iran
11. The USSR failed to observe a deadline on 1 March 1946 to withdraw its
forces from Iran, which the USA deemed as Soviet desire to perpetuate its
attempts to build a sphere of influence on its southern perimeter. The USSR

only withdrew in May after the USA took the issue to the United Nations
Political Pressure on Turkey
12. The USSR applied political pressure on Turkey through Stalins public
campaigns for the annexation of Turkish territories and the establishment of
Soviet bases in the Turkish Straits, which was perceived as further
expressions of Soviet expansionism that fuelled American fears of the spread
of communism
Berlin Blockade
13. The Berlin Blockade represented the culmination of superpower disputes
over the administration of Germany, as it was a Soviet attempt to force the
USA and its Western allies to cancel their plans to create a West German
state which was seen to be impending with the creation of a common
currency for the 3 Western zones in June 1948, in order to forestall what
they deemed as the precursor to the revival of an economically strong and
rearmed Germany that posed a security threat
14. The blockade in June 1948, which manifested through a land and rail
blockade that denied West Berlin of vital supplies, was deemed by the USA
and its Western allies as Soviet aggression aimed at expanding its influence
over Germany in a bid to prevent its economic revival that would encourage
European economic growth which would undermine the appeal of
15. Such fears regarding such Soviet expansionism thus motivated a Western
response in the form of an airlift of supplies amounting to 6000 tons daily
until May 1949 when the USSR ended the blockade, as means of preventing a
withdrawal from Berlin that would have demonstrated US failure in
protecting Germany from Soviet aggression and thus motivate further Soviet
expansionism facilitating the spread of communism
16. Soviet aggression and American retaliation during the blockade thus
embodied superpower confrontation over irreconcilable aims regarding the
political settlement of Germany, and thus the Berlin Blockade represented
the full manifestation of superpower rivalry rather than the declaration of
superpower conflict



Stringent American Conditions on Loans to the USSR

As early as January 1945, the USA attempted to impose its post-war vision of
instituting an international regime of trade on the USSR by attaching the
conditions of the removal of trade barriers to American goods in Eastern
Europe in return for a $6 billion loan to the USSR
Such American efforts were deemed as attempts to cultivate close economic
ties between Eastern Europe and the USA that would deny the USSR from
having exclusive access to Eastern European markets and raw materials and
thus hinder its efforts in building a sphere of influence as means of
safeguarding its security


Inconsistency in US Policy Towards the USSR

The USA demonstrated inconsistency in its policy towards the USSR, through
the ambiguity of Roosevelts diplomacy and the clarification of the American
position on the political settlement of Eastern Europe by Truman
Roosevelt appeared to endorse a Soviet sphere of influence in Eastern
Europe in 1943 and 1944 where he raised no objections towards proposals
to allow the USSR to regain her 1914 borders and to give the USSR influence
in Romania and Bulgaria in exchange for the recognition of British influence
over Greece, but he later insisted that the region be open to American
influence and democratic practices at the February 1945 Yalta Conference
Roosevelts apparent willingness to compromise and extend concessions
initially encouraged Stalin efforts to build a Soviet sphere of influence in
Eastern Europe through the setting up of communist-dominated regimes in
Poland, Bulgaria and Romania by June 1945
However, Roosevelts ambiguity in his diplomacy later, coupled with the
subsequent clarification of the American position on the political settlement
of Eastern Europe by Truman after Roosevelts death, where he reiterated
Roosevelts later insistence for the adoption of democratic practices in
Eastern Europe, served to arouse Soviet perceptions that the USA was
attempting to weaken the USSR by undermining its attempts to consolidate
its Eastern European sphere of influence as a security buffer through the
encouragement of a system incompatible with the communist-dominated
regimes being set up, that the USSR deemed as necessary for Eastern Europe
to serve as an effective security buffer
Termination of Lend Lease Programme
The termination of the Lend-Lease Programme in May 1945 without prior
notice was seen as American disinterest in collaborating with the USSR in
post-war economic reconstruction, a perception that seemed to be
strengthened with the failure to address a further Soviet request for a loan
in August 1945
Such perceptions encouraged the USSR to deem the USA as bent on
entrenching Soviet economic weakness in a bid to weaken it and undermine
its attempts to build a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe as a security
American Use of Atomic Monopoly
The USA felt their sole possession of atomic weapons provided them with a
bargaining chip to intimidate the USSR into accommodating its interests, as
seen in its offer to provide the USSR with information about atomic
weapons, in return for the reorganisation of communist-dominated regimes
in Romania and Bulgaria
However, such tactics were perceived by the USSR as American attempts to
intimidate them into giving concessions by emphasising American military
superiority, and thus the USSR did not yield towards such American
Instead, the American use of their atomic monopoly served to fuel
perceptions that the USA was bent on weakening the USSR by hindering its
attempts to establish a security buffer by consolidating its influence over
Eastern Europe
Acceptance of Kennans Long Telegram

Trumans acceptance of Kennans Long Telegram in February 1946, which

argued that Soviet foreign policy was inherently expansionistic due to the
ideological justification that communism provided towards the maintenance
of the historic state of conflict between Russia and its Western neighbours,
marked the start of the consolidation of a more confrontational American
approach towards the USSR in a bid to stem Soviet aggression that Kennans
analysis espoused
Trumans acceptance of Kennans analysis also demonstrated his suspicions
towards Soviet policy, as it meant that Kennans vision of Soviet hostility
resonated with his anti-Soviet instincts
Reception to Churchills Iron Curtain Speech
Churchills Iron Curtain speech in March 1946 saw him stating that the USSR
was extending its control and influence over Eastern Europe by installing
Soviet-friendly regimes and was attempting to project their power into
Western Europe by directing communist parties there to work against
elected governments
Churchill added that the only way to deal with the Soviets was to be firm
with them, drawing lessons from the failure of the appeasement policy with
Nazi Germany in the 1930s
By painting Soviet security policies as an attempt to build an empire in
Europe that mirrored Nazi attempts in the 1930s that threatened American
security, at a time when the USA was conflicted by the desire to continue the
wartime partnership with the USSR and suspicions that the USSR was trying
to spread communism throughout Europe, Churchill was able to stoke
American fears that the USSR was trying to spread communism and
motivate the USA to take a firmer stance against the USSR over its actions in
Eastern Europe
This could be seen in the drafting of the Clifford-Elsey Report in July 1946,
which stated that the ultimate Soviet objective was world domination, using
Soviet aggression in Iran and Manchuria along with their flouting of wartime
agreements as examples, which reflected the growing anti-Soviet consensus
among US policy-making circles
Non-Cooperation in Administration of Germany
The USA also demonstrated non-cooperation in the administration of
Germany, by responding to Soviet refusal to deliver goods in exchange for
reparations with the halting of reparation deliveries in May 1946
Such non-cooperation was further demonstrated with the merging of the US
and British zones into the Bizone and the relaxing of restrictions on
industrial protection that were put in place at the August 1945 Potsdam
Conference as means of smothering German economic revival by September
This represented American efforts to rehabilitate Germany economically
that was deemed by the USSR as American cultivation of the revival of its
wartime enemy, with the Bizone as the nucleus of a future West German
state hostile to the USSR
Soviet fears of future German aggression were thus revived, generating
Soviet perceptions that the USA as trying to undermine its efforts to
establish security and thus weaken the USSR
Truman Doctrine




The Truman Doctrine represented the culmination of the increasing

establishment of anti-Soviet consensus among US policy-making circles, as it
represented the confirmation of American fears of a Soviet-directed
communist crusade with its pledge to support free peoples resisting
attempted subjugations by armed minorities or outside pressures, an
explicit reference to the USSRs efforts to impose communist regimes upon
its neighbours
Such American fears seemed to be confirmed in view of a communist
insurgency in Greece which the USA saw as a manifestation of Soviet efforts
to spread communism throughout Europe, as communist Yugoslavia and
Albania sent aid to the Greek communists despite Soviet endorsement of
British influence in Greece
$400 million in aid was given to Greece as well as neighbouring Turkey
which was a historical target for Soviet expansionism, in order to prevent
communism from taking root these countries, which would draw them into
the Soviet sphere of influence
Greece and Turkey were also seen as vital allies that would prevent the
spread of Soviet influence into the Middle East, which would lead to the
regions vital oil resources falling into Soviet control
The Truman Doctrine was also the declaration of ideological conflict with
the USSR, as by dramatizing the conflict between the USA and the USSR as an
ideological struggle between two competing sets of ideas, the USA was
pitting itself against the USSR and its communist ideology
Marshall Plan
The Marshall Plan was an attempt to address the poor economic conditions
in Europe which increased the appeal of communism, with $13 billion in aid
being provided to 18 European countries that allowed them to purchase
food, raw materials and industrial machinery from the USA as means of
encouraging economic recovery
The USA hoped that Eastern European states would accept the offer of aid
under the Marshall Plan, as it would lessen their dependence on the USSR
and weaken its sphere of influence
However, the USSR vetoed the inclusion of Eastern European states, rightly
considering that the extension of the Marshall Plan to Eastern Europe would
generate closer economic ties between the USA and Eastern Europe through
large inflows of American capital facilitating American monopoly of markets
and purchase of critical raw materials, which would then in turn
economically isolate the USSR from its satellites and consequently obliterate
its sphere of influence
In response to such a blatant attempt to undermine Soviet influence over
Eastern Europe which would prevent the establishment of security on its
borders, the USSR retaliated with the Molotov Plan which aimed to bind the
countries of Eastern Europe into a single economic area
The announcement of the Marshall Plan and Soviet rejection of the plan
marked the moment when compromise between the superpowers was no
longer possible, and prompted a more aggressive Soviet policy in Eastern
Europe, based largely on fear of the actions of the USA

Formation of NATO
The Berlin Blockade was an episode of Soviet aggression that stoked
Western European concerns regarding such future aggression. Such
concerns resulted in Western European calls for renewed American military
commitment to Europe, which culminated in the formation of the North
Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in April 1949. NATO provided for a
permanent American military presence in Europe and thus protection for its
Western European members against future Soviet aggression
West Germanys integration into NATO in 1955 led to the formation of the
Warsaw Pact which encompassed the USSR and its Eastern European
satellites in retaliation to West Germanys re-militarisation after the Korean
War that was deemed as an American-directed cultivation of a security
threat against the USSR and its satellites