COLD WAR Essay, Research Paper
Less than a year after the end of World War II, the great wartime leader of
Britain, Winston Churchill gave a speech at Westminster College, in Fulton,
Missouri. After receiving an honorary degree and being introduced by President
Harry Truman, he delivered a historic speech.
Churchill said, ? It is my duty to place before you certain facts about the
present position in Europe. From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the
Adriatic an Iron Curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line
lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe.
Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Bucharest, and Sofia; all these famous
cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet
sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet
influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control
It was in this 1946 speech that the term ?Iron Curtain? was first used to
describe the growing East-West divide in postwar Europe between communist and
democratic nations. The ?Iron Curtain? was a result of the policy of
isolation set up by the Union of Soviet Republics (USSR) after World War II that
involved rigid censorship and travel restrictions. It acted as a barrier to
communication and the free exchange of ideas between the USSR (and its satellite
states) and the rest of the world.
In June of 1948, Josef Stalin ordered the blockade of West Berlin?s roads
and railways. There was no way of traveling by land into the city. The only
access to West Berlin was through a twenty-mile air corridor.
Nikita Krushchev came to power in the Soviet Union in 1955. His policy was
liberalization, or ?deStalinization.? The concept was a shake-up of the
Communist Party. He even preached that a ?peaceful co-existence? with
capitalist nations was possible. The cold war relaxed for a few years and
Austria was even given true independence in 1955. Hungary successfully revolted
against Russian occupation in 1956 and held a free election for a new
government. Unfortunately, Khrushchev was not about to give up on Berlin.
The ?Iron Curtain? became even more real on August 14, 1961. This was the
morning that the world woke up to learn that a barbed wire fence dividing the
Eastern sector of Berlin from the three Western sectors had been erected
overnight. The purpose was to stop East Germans from fleeing to the West. More
than three million had fled since the war. The news caught Western leaders by
surprise. There had been a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the three Western
powers in Paris in July 1961, but no one mentioned the possibility of a Berlin
wall. After hasty consultations, the three Western allies decided that there was
nothing that could be done. Military action would have been unthinkable, because
it would have led to a confrontation in which the West would have had to back
down. The wall of barbed wire was soon replaced with brick. Mines peppered the
ground. Automatic machine gun turrets were installed that shot anything that
moved near the wall. East Berlin was effectively a prison. President Kennedy
issued a statement condemning the erection of the wall as a violation of written
and unwritten agreements. The wall remained as a symbol of the ?Iron Curtain?.
The wall came down and the curtain lifted during 1989 through 1991, when
Communist governments fell in Eastern Europe and the USSR.
In April 1951 a paper known as NSC-68 was published which detailed the United
States objectives and programs for national security. The paper was written
primarily by the U.S. State Department?s, Paul Nitze. It was written in the
aftermath of the Soviet explosion of their first atomic weapon. The report
predicted the Soviets could launch a nuclear attack on the United States by
1954. There was worry about he Soviet Union?s recommended an increase in U.S.
spending for nuclear and conventional arms. Paul Nitze worked in investment
banking before entering government service. He served as vice chairman of the
U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey (1944-46). He was the head of policy planning for
the State Department (1959-53). He also served as Secretary of the Navy
(1963-67) and Deputy Secretary of Defense (1967-69), as a member of the U.S.
delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) (1969-73), and
Assistant Secretary of Defense for international affairs (1973-76). For over
forty years, Nitze was one of the chief architects of U.S. policy toward the
At a National Security Council meeting on January 31, 1950, President Truman
met with Defense Secretary Louis A. Johnson, Secretary of State Dean Acheson,
and Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) David Lilienthal to discuss
continuing the thermonuclear project. The surprise of the Soviet atomic bomb
tests three months earlier greatly concerned Truman. The President was disturbed
too, about the deteriorating relationship between America and Russia. The
Communist success in China the year before seemed to Truman a deepening of the
rift. He was now determined to make a thorough review not only of America?s
loss of atomic monopoly, but also of its existing political military strategy.
The result of that effort was National Security Council paper 68, or NSC 68.1.
NSC 68 was completed in April of 1950 and approved as a national security
policy in September. For two months after the paper was completed, many top
Washington officials debated NSC 68?s call for an enormous military build-up,
estimated at a $40,000,000,000, more than three times the $13,000,000,000
appropriation for 1950. The main aim of those funds was to build the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military structure in Europe.
NSC-68 was intended to elaborate the overriding objectives of the US national
security policy. It began with an assessment of the physiology of the world
crisis, adopting two basic assumptions in respect to the global distribution of
power: first, following the defeat of Germany and Japan and the collapse of
British and French Empires, the international system was bipolar with the US and
the Soviet Union representing the two centers of power. Secondly, the Soviet
Union had fundamentally antithetical objectives compared to those of US and,
driven by a ?fanatic faith,? sought to ?impose its absolute authority over
the rest of the world.? Behind this bipolarized reality stood the inherently
irreconcilable struggle between the free and the slave society or, in other
words, between ?the idea of freedom under a government of laws, and the idea
of slavery under the grim oligarchy of the Kremlin.? The Cold War was
substantially a ?real war in which the survival of the free world? was in
NSC-68 asserted that Soviet leadership regarded the US as the ?only major
threat? and as the ?principal enemy whose integrity and vitality mush be
subverted or destroyed by one means or another? in order its ?fundamental
design? to be accomplished. To this end, Soviet economy, though far behind, as
a percentage and value of Gross National Product, from that of US, was operating
?on a near maximum production basis? so as no just to contribute generally
to the strengthening of Soviet power, but largely to increase the ?war-capacity?
of the Soviet Union. Military capabilities were being exclusively developed to
support the design of Soviet leadership for world domination. It was estimated
that by 1954 the Soviets would have had a stockpile of approximately 200 atomic
bombs and a sufficient number of aircraft to deliver them. In this case they
could probably inflict serious damage to the US by a surprise attack. This
atomic capability, coupled with the possession of the thermonuclear bomb, and in
conjunction with the already excessive conventional forces stationed in the
Eastern Europe, would rank the Soviet Union in a extremely favorable position to
carry out simultaneously the following courses of military actions: ?to
overrun Western Europe, to launch air attacks against the British Isles? and
to attack selected targets with atomic weapons. In moving to a final assessment
of Soviet intentions, the document argued that Moscow sought to employ the ?methods
of the Cold War? and the techniques of ?infiltration and intimidation? in
order both to overthrow Western institutions, and to establish its world
NSC-68 regarded that the principle task of the US national security should be
the assurance of the ?integrity and vitality? of its society. Given that
American integrity was in ?greater jeopardy than ever before,? the document
rejected explicitly the preceding policy of isolation and called for a ?positive
participation in the world community.? The US, as ?the center of power in
the free world,? should undertake the responsibility of world leadership? in
order to organize and consolidate a global environment in which the American
Society would be able to ?survive and flourish.? To this end, US foreign
policy should include two closely interlinked strategies: the first was the
development of a ?healthy international community,? which had already been
actually in force through the economic activities of the US throughout the
world. The other was the containment of the ?Soviet System.?
As the document finally took shape, NSC-68 was relatively brief. Reportedly,
it began with a statement of the nature of the world crisis and ended with a
call to action by the United States. The world crisis it defined primarily in
terms of long-range historical processes affected specifically by the Russian
revolution and the Communist movement since then and, second, the development of
nuclear weapons, the significance of which it explored. It provided a general
theory about what Russia was trying to do, which concluded that the Kremlin had
no master plan and that it had three major objectives. In order of priority,
these were: to preserve the internal power position of the regime and develop
the U.S.S. R. as the base for that power, to consolidate control over the Soviet
satellites and add them as support for that base, and to weaken any opposing
centers of power and aspire to world hegemony.
The document examined and compared Soviet capabilities with Western
capabilities, including conventional military forces and nuclear weapons and a
projection of future nuclear capabilities and economic strength. It asserted
that the Soviet system had vulnerabilities, three of which were identified:
agriculture as an economic problem, the brittleness of the relationship of the
Soviet masses to the top Soviet leadership, and relations with the satellites.
But on the whole, the result was disquieting. The Soviet Union was pictured as
capable of rapid economic growth at the same time that it maintained a large
military establishment. The document estimated that within four years the Soviet
Union would have enough atomic bombs and a sufficient capability of delivering
them to offset substantially the deterrent capability of American nuclear
weapons. In comparison, it emphasized the inadequacy of the Western capability
to meet limited military challenges due to a lack of conventional forces,
shortcomings in the Western alliance system, and the military and economic
weakness of Western Europe.
The paper rejected the possibility of negotiation with the Soviet Union
except on the basis of power political considerations. Similarly, in concluded
that the prospects of achieving effective regulation of armaments were remote
because the necessary methods were incompatible with the Stalinist regime.
Persistent efforts to achieve an effective agreement on arms regulation were
considered necessary, particularly for nuclear weapons, although it was held
that the success of these efforts depended upon the growth of free-world
strength and cohesion.
In conclusion, NSC-68 pictured four alternatives facing the United States:
continuing on the present course of limited budgets with no increase in
capabilities and no decrease in commitments, preventive war, withdrawal to the
Western Hemisphere?the Fortress America concept; the development, and the
development of free-world cohesion through a program to increase free-world
capabilities. The fourth alternative it examined in greater detail, analyzing
the relationship between the strength of the United States, as the center of the
free world, with the strength of the countries on its periphery, the
relationship of economic and military programs to each other, and both to
psychological factors of strategy. It stressed the importance of allies to
American security, the inadequate military preparedness of the free world, hence
the need for improving it.
NSC-68?s importance was particularly significant because NSC 68 argued for
an extensive rearmament at a time when America was at peace. NSC 68?s
rationale had to do more than just change national military strategy. The paper?s
logic somehow had to remove deep American psychological and historical
prejudices against maintaining-and-funding-a large ground during peacetime. This
is exactly what NSC 68 did. And it did so, in part, for three reasons. First,
because America was not operating in a period of total peace, but rather in a
tense ?cold war? with the Soviet Union, the paper was able to define the ?nature?
of the Soviet threat in ideological terms, not just military. ?The risk we
face,? warned the authors of NSC 68, is ?of a new order and magnitude.?
The paper declared ?It is quite clear from Soviet theory and practice that the
Kremlin seeks to bring the free world under its domination by the methods of the
Ambassador George F. Kennan was a great American statesman. A Milwaukee
native, Ambassador Kennan served the United States in important diplomatic posts
throughout Europe and in Washington between 1927 and 1953. Although Kennan is
most well known for his theories involving the former Soviet Union, his
interests extended far beyond that. Controversial at times, his arguments
challenged Americans to think about the world in new ways. In 1952, while
serving as Ambassador to the Soviet Union, he was declared ?persona non grata?.
This was a result of making unflattering comments about Stalin and comparing the
USSR to Nazi Germany during a stopover in Berlin.
His next Ambassadorship was in Yugoslavia. He joined the Institute for
Advanced Study at Princeton University, his Alma Mata, where he established
himself as a diplomatic scholar. He wrote several nationally acclaimed books and
won the Pulitzer Prize and eight other prestigious awards for his writing, his
lecturing, and his commentary on important global issues. Ambassador Kennan
played a significant role in the formation of foreign policy in general and
U.S.-Soviet relations in particular. He received the Medal of Freedom, one of
the nation?s highest awards, from President Bush.
On February 22, 1946, George Kennan sent the historic Long Telegram from
Moscow. This official document had great influence on both the onset of the Cold
war, and on the shaping of the United States. The Long Telegram was sent to
Washington shortly after Stalin?s speech about the inevitability of conflict
with the capitalist powers.
George Kennan discussed in his telegram three issues: the principal
motivating factors behind Soviet foreign policy, and the historical and
ideological background of the post-war Soviet perception of international
relations; its attainment on both the official and the unofficial level; and
finally, the far-reaching repercussions for the for the U.S. foreign policy.
The analysis began with the thesis that the Soviet leadership saw world
politics as a split into capitalist and socialist societies. ?The USSR still
lives in a antagonistic capitalist encirclement? with which there can be no
?permanent peaceful coexistence.?
Kennan said that the Soviet leaders had a great suspiciousness of the outside
world and a ?neurotic view is world affairs.? He determined that this was a
result of two prime determinants: first, from Russia?s long and deeply rooted
agricultural past, and second, from the fear of contact with the economically
developed and socially advanced West. The second sort of determinant of
insecurity especially reinforced the Kremlin?s antipathy for the West, because
its ?rule was relatively archaic in form, fragile and artificial in its
psychological foundation, unable to stand comparison or contact with the
political systems of western countries.?
Kennan came to the conclusion that Soviet policy aimed primarily at
strengthening the relative power of the USSR in the international environment.
Of far greater importance, the Soviet rulers would attempt to accomplish their
goals through the ?total destruction of rival power.? To this end they would
use every direct or indirect means, and they would do everything in their power,
so as to undermine and infiltrate the political, social and moral edifice of
western states, by exploiting the contradictions inherent in the capitalist
Kennan painted a very bleak picture of the Soviet Union. In summing up his
view, at the beginning of the fifth and last section of the Telegram, he
underlined emphatically that the U.S. had to confront ?a political force
committed fanatically to the belief that with the U.S. there can be no permanent
modus vivendi, that it is desirable and necessary that the internal harmony of
our society be disrupted, our traditional way of life be destroyed, the
international authority of our state be broken, if Soviet power is to be secure.?
Under these urgent circumstances, the overriding task of the U.S. grand
strategy, Kennan argued, should be the stopping of Soviet expansion.
In closing his telegram and recommending a general outline of instructions
rather than some straightforwardly applicable steps for action. Kennan cautioned
the U.S. in their dealing with the Soviet Union. He asked American officials to
approach with objectivity, thoroughness and calmness. He was convinced that it
was within the capabilities of the U.S. to solve the problem without direct
confrontation, or a ?general military conflict? for two basic reasons:
first, the soviet leaders, unlike Hitler, were ?neither schematic nor
adventurist,? in that sense they were extremely ?sensitive to the logic of
force?; second, the Soviet Union continued to lag economically far away behind
the West. As a consequence, the interests of the U.S., Kennan went on in his
argument, could best be served by building a healthy and vigorous American
society, on the one hand, and by conceiving and ?exporting? to other free
nations its ?positive and constructive? image of the world, on the other.
Kennan?s Long Telegram presented a completely opposite view of U.S.- Soviet
relations than did NSC-68. They reflected two diametrically opposed perceptions
both of the nature of world politics and the U.S.-Soviet security dilemma. The
Long Telegram was concerned more with the impact of the distribution of power on
the U.S.-Soviet relations. It regarded that there would be a possibility of
mutual gain from cooperation with the Soviets. In this sense, the Long Telegram
maintained that the most effective way of controlling the Soviet Union was by
exercising indirect power upon the Soviet Union, in order to get them to do what
the U.S. wanted. NCS-68 focused on the military dimension of power. It asserted
that an enhancement of Soviet strength would inevitably decrease U.S. power and,
hence, the U.S.-Soviet conflict was only a ?zero-sum? political and military
interaction. Against the Soviet Union it advocated the use of hard power,
exclusively associated with the manipulation of tangible and material means,
such as threats, so as to compel the Soviet Union to acquiesce to the will of
the United States.