Cold War: A Post-Revisioninst View Of The Origins Essay, Research Paper
Sorry no bib on this; it was an in-class handout. This got me a 40/40 in AP History.There are three main schools of thought that trace the origins of the Cold War. The Orthodox view is that ?the intransigence of Leninist ideology, the sinister dynamics of a totalitarian society, and the madness of Stalin? (Doc 1) cause the Cold War. The Revisionists claim that ?American policy offered the Russians no real choice?[and] the United States used or deployed its preponderance of power? (Doc 2) and these actions caused the Cold War. The Post-Revisionist position is that the Cold War was initiated both by the United States and the USSR. Through the analysis of documents and other sources, the actual cause of the ?war? lies with both powers. Both powers caused the Cold War because, although the US and the USSR were allied during World War Two, the USSR and US had different ideologies and aims of the war that conflicted after the war was over and the threat that each power imposed on the other.
The primary cause of the Cold War is the exceedingly bipolar systems of government that the USSR and the US were administered under. The US had a democracy and had, in April of 1945, just said farewell to one of the most liberal presidents that ever had been elected. By making many social reforms, President Roosevelt pulled the US out of the crippling depression and into on of the most prosperous decades ever. The aims of the US are evident in the ?Atlantic Charter?, which was signed by Churchill and Roosevelt in August of 1914. According to the Charter, the US would ?seek no aggrandizement?. respect the rights of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live?. bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations?. [and seek] the abandonment of the use of force? (Doc 4). While still early in the war, the ?Atlantic Charter? was later adopted by the United Nations and remains, to this day, one of the cornerstones of the western world. However, the other power that emerged still ?intact? after the war, the USSR had a very different way of government and dissimilar aims of the war. The USSR was a communist nation and had Stalin its dictator. ?From the Soviet perspective, extending the borders of the USSR and dominating the formerly independent states of eastern Europe would provide security and would be proper compensation for the fearful losses the Soviet people had endured in the war? (p. 1111). This shows that Soviet ambitions directly conflicted with the western doctrine as outlined in the ?Atlantic Charter.? ?Stalin presented his views on the distinctive nature of the war that was being waged: ??. whosoever occupies a territory also imposes on it his social system. Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army has power to do so? (Doc 8). These documents and accounts show that both the US and the USSR had governmental systems to which they deeply adhered and those systems were in ?close quarters? in Europe after the war, which caused the tensions the heighten even more. They were not willing to try to make the spheres of influence coexist in peace, neither of them.
Another factor that added to the tension between the two powers was the ultimate threat that they posed on each other. The condition in Europe after the war encouraged communism because there were starving citizens as well as wealthier citizens and this extreme and life-threatening example of class division encourage those to wish for total equality, the definition of communism. If countries such as France, Britain and the western half of Germany fell to communism, then the USSR would control the whole of Europe and perhaps become an insurmountable enemy just a the Atlantic away on one side and three miles on the other. ?The extent of the damage suffered by the city in air raids and form the other effects of the war were enormous?. There was no gas, no water, no electric current and no means of transportation? (Doc 5). Communism was beginning to look appealing to those downtrodden citizens in western Europe. Stalin, after alluding to the massive losses suffered by the USSR during the war, said:
So what can there be surprise about the fact that the Soviet Union, anxious for its future safety, is trying to see to it that governments loyal in their attitude to the Soviet Union should exist in these countries? How can anyone? describe these peaceful aspirations of the Soviet Union as expansionist tendencies on the part of our state? (Doc 20)
Thus showing the USSR?s wish to expand, even if for a ?noble? cause. These threats to US influence and European security did not go unanswered by the US. In March of 1947, president Truman delivered his famous speech, the ?Truman Doctrine.? ?One way of life is based upon the will of the majority?guarantees of individual liberty?and freedom from political oppression. The second way of life is based upon terror and oppression?fixed elections?and the suppression of personal freedoms? (#7). He goes on to ask for hundreds of millions of dollars to aid the masses in Europe, thus deterring them from becoming communist, and fundamentally declaring that the US?s main goal is containing communism to the eastern half of Europe. He does this through harsh and generalizing comparisons between the communal way of life and the democratic but the message was clearly heard throughout the world. Through these documents, this is apparent that both the US and the USSR were very rigidly adhered to their cause and way of life, thus neither power was willing to compromise, which caused and already high tensions to further escalate into a period that lasted from the end of the war to, perhaps, 1989, when the USSR collapsed.
Thus, through the very different ideologies of the US and the USSR and the hazard that each power imposed on the other and thus the fact that neither was willing to compromise with each other, the Cold War was initiated. These aspects of both USSR and US diplomacy caused a line to be drawn down the middle of Europe with communist nations and influence on the eastern half and democratic on the west. An aspect that was declared in Churchill?s famous speech at a college in Missouri: ?An iron curtain has descended across the continent? (Doc 19).