Cold War Essay, Research Paper
During the period of the Cold War, the world s two superpowers, America and the Soviet Union, exploited every aspect of national life and policy in their countries for purposes of propaganda. The Cold War was a war fought with propaganda and economic weapons, stopping short of military confrontation, as between the USA and the USSR after 1945.
After World War II Stalin achieved domination over many of the countries of Eastern Europe in late 1945 creating a huge communist bloc including Poland, Romania, Hungry, Bulgaria and Albania. Truman, the new president in 1945, after Roosevelt died was much more anti-Communist than his predecessor. By 1946, the friendship between the two allies had broken down and they did not trust each other.
In response and in order to prevent the spread of communism, the US developed the Marshall Plan which offered US aid to European countries after the war, but in return, the US could exert influence on the internal governments of those countries receiving aid. The countries had to adopt democratic policies and purchase American goods. Obviously, the Soviets and other communist countries rejected the plan. In addition, the Truman Doctrine, known as the doctrine of containment allowed the US to send money, advice and equipment to countries to prevent communist takeovers. This plan and doctrine shows quite clearly that the US had no intent to remain separate from Europe unlike its previous Isolationist policy, and it had no intent to allow the spread of communism within Europe.
In 1948, Stalin blocked the roads to West Berlin to cut off the suppliers provided from the Allies in the hope that Berlin would be dependent on the USSR. The US did not want to break down the roadblocks and cause a war but they did not want to give in to the USSR. Instead, they airlifted supplies to the citizens of West Berlin. This continued for ten months until Stalin opened the roads. Each side got their own interpretation, or propaganda, of the event.
President Truman says in 1949, We refused to be forced out of the city of Berlin. We demonstrated to the people of Europe that we would act resolutely, when their freedom was threatened. Politically it brought the people of Western Europe closer to us. The Berlin blockade was a move to test our ability and our will to resist.
And a Soviet commentary on the crisis, quoted in P Fisher, The crisis was planned in Washington, behind a smokescreen of anti-Soviet propaganda. In 1948 there was danger of war. The conduct of the Western powers hit the West Berlin population with harshness. The people were freezing and starving. In the Spring of 1949 the USA was forced to yield their war plans had come to nothing, because of the conduct of the USSR.
This crisis concerned many that there could be another war this time between the Soviet Union and the US. The Western powers decided to band together and they formed a group called NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).
The balance of power, which existed between the two superpowers, was achieved mainly through fear; fear of the unknown and fear of the known destructive powers of dangerous nuclear weapons. When Britain and the United States tried to consolidate capitalism and democracy in Western Europe, Stalin accused them of trying to devise an Anti-Soviet bloc. Basically everything that happened became subject to the opposite interpretations of the two sides of the iron curtain.
In 1945, the Americans tested an atomic bomb in a desert located in the United States. Stalin was informed about it at the Potsdam conference. In 1949 the Soviets tested their bomb and the Americans were concerned. This latter development along with government propaganda put the Soviet Union in a very bad light in the US. Each leader (Stalin and Truman) took every opportunity to denounce the others policies and felt a responsibility as a superpower to get involved. The leader did not agree with and even held a strong dislike for the others government.
There was an ongoing competition between the two superpowers with each trying to get the upper hand. This continued through the years, even with changes in leadership in both, the US and the Soviet Union. It encompassed virtually every aspect of life including military, weapons, the space race, sports etc.
In 1955 the Western Allies upset the Soviet Union by ending the occupation of Western Germany and allowing rearmament. In retaliation, the Soviets set up the Warsaw Pact, their own agreement with the Eastern European states to ensure military control. This included Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and the Soviet Union. East Germany was an observer. This divided Europe into two groups those belonging to NATO and those in the Warsaw Pact i.e. noncommunist Vs communist.
Both, Democratic and Communist blocs of states attempted by sustained campaigns, to win the side of the great masses of their fickle and uncommitted people to therefore achieve their objectives without resorting to armed conflict.
At the start of the war it appeared as though the Soviet Union and Communism had a distinct advantage over the United States and Democracy. The Soviet government controlled the entirety of its media and managed to basically seal off the people from any sort of western propaganda. On top of all this they could also count on aid from other communist parties. However, their advantage slowly collapsed during the 1980 s as the communications technology advanced on both sides. Many communist regimes broke down at the end of the decade because of their powerlessness against the spread of information from the Western World.
In the Soviet Union, Stalin was worshipped. He ordered that pictures and statues of himself were to be placed everywhere; places named after him and people at his meetings were forced to clap when even his name was mentioned. The policy of Social Realism was supported by all writers, artists, film-makers and even composers. With the idea of Social Realism in mind, the subjects that were dealt with were all just ordinary people. The writer, artist etc had to show how communism was developing in a simple, clear, optimistic manner. The writers had to be members of the Party-controlled Union of Soviet Writers, and books which were already published and did not follow the correct Party were destroyed. Stalin also manipulated the education of the Soviet children. They were taught that he was the Great Leader and they were only allowed to learn his version of history. The education system became more strict introducing uniforms, quizzes and exams. Stalin wanted to generate useful citizens.
The United States could not prevent its people from being exposed to communist propaganda and Eastern views because of freedom of speech and of the press. However by the 1980 s there was more of a balance. The US was afraid of communism and Soviet ideas thinking that they would cause a nuclear holocaust. The government and the press twisted stories and truths to make Russia seem evil and cruel and the US came out smelling like a rose.
Victories in the competition between the US and Russia were widely publicized and celebrated in the US. In many ways, Americans were as brainwashed as the Soviets, seeing only the US perspective of any clash or competition as the right way.
The nation became overly sensitive and paranoid to any communist beliefs and it was considered unamerican to have them. People could lose their jobs and Americans who were found guilty of providing secret information to the soviets could have had such an extreme punishment as execution.
Each contained the other until there gradually developed something of a mutual understanding. The basis of this coexistence was an unwritten but apparent acceptance that, in Europe at least, neither side would trespass on the territories of the other.