Friday, September 17, 2010

Essay on Who Was to Blame for the Cold War?

Essay on Who Was to Blame for the Cold War?

The West’s intolerance towards communism had existed ever since the Russian revolutions in 1917.

After the revolution of November 1917 Lenin decided that the war against Germany should end, Russia had faced huge casualties and economic instability due to the war effort. So in the treaty of Brest-Litovsk Lenin agreed to stop fighting, giving 27% of Russia’s farmland and 75% of its iron-ore reserves. The Allies were very unhappy about this, as Russia’s large army was needed to pressure the Germans into surrendering. Lenin was confidant that communism would break out in Western Europe and the sacrifices made were only short term.

The Allies were unhappy with the withdrawal by Russia and the communist takeover. The communists seized land, factories and banks from their rightful owners and they murdered the Russian royal family and many political opponents. In response to the communists The USA and Britain sent troops and supplies to help the Whites fight the Reds and gain control of Russia during the Russian civil war of 1918-1921 they failed and this caused hatred towards the West from many Russians.

This was the start of an era of no co-operation between the Allies and the USSR. The USA refused to recognise the communist government till the 1930’s. While Russia was determined to become as powerful as the USA, Lenin introduced the NEP (new economic policy) and his predecessor Josef Stalin introduced the 5-year plans for industry. In 1922 Russia formed the Soviet Union, merging with 5 other countries, adding a piece of land the size of Europe to its territory. The West were afraid the communists would move further into Europe, many western European countries such as France had strong communist parties with strong followings.


The Capitalist and Communist systems were very different and didn’t easily interact. Communism is built on the notion that everyone is equal and should have the same rights and conditions as everyone else. The government runs the economy. All factories and businesses make profit to the government that are used for public good. Whether as Capitalism has a free-market economy, where profits are private. Freedom was interpreted in different ways in both systems. Elections for example, in a democratic western country you can vote for any party regardless of their political standing, in the USSR all parties standing for elections are communist.

Human rights there were also a huge difference. The West detested the strict limits on human rights in the USSR. But in the USSR there was a smaller gap between the rich and poor, while in Capitalist countries there was a huge margin between the rich and the poor. Living standards were higher in the West but more poor people in the west.

At the start of the Second World War Stalin and Hitler agreed that they would not go to war against each other, That Hitler would not attack the Soviet Union and the USSR would stay passive. When Hitler broke the agreement and invaded the USSR, enquiring more “living space” for Germans the Allies offered help and supplies to the USSR. They now had a powerful ally who could advance on Germany. Both sides of the alliance had problems with each other; Britain and America were worried that Russia may pull out of the war and make an agreement with Germany (like they did in 1917) the Russians were annoyed by the amount of time it took the Allies to bring up a second front (the invasion of France) The USSR were doing most of the fighting in Europe and taking huge casualties. They believed that the other Allies weren’t committed enough to the cause.

When it was obvious that Germany was going to lose the war, Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill met to decide what would happen in the future. They met at Yalta in the Soviet Union. They agreed that:
· All the countries under Nazi rule would be liberated and allowed to set up their own democratic governments.
· Germany would be demilitarised and divided between the four main Allies: USSR, USA, Britain and France.
· Berlin would also be split between the allies.
· Eastern Poland would be given to the Soviet Union and Poland would gain land from Eastern Germany.
· The United Nations would be set up to stabilise Europe and provide peace.
· The Soviet Union would attack Japan once Germany had fallen.

After the war had ended the three main leaders of the Allied countries met again at Potsdam in Germany on July 17th to decide on reparations and to sort out borders. Roosevelt had died before the meeting so his vice-president Harry Truman was now president. Truman had a strong dislike of Communists and came to Potsdam suspicious of Stalin and his intentions. Churchill had lost the recent election and was replaced by Labour Prime minister Attlee.

There were many more disagreements at Potsdam than at Yalta; Stalin had sacrificed the lives of 20 million Russian soldiers to win the war against Germany and was determined to see Germany kept weak, he couldn’t face the risk of Germany attacking again. Soviet troops were occupying much of Eastern Europe and Stalin had set up many Communist parties without permission. Stalin wanted a defensive border between the USSR and the rest of Europe.

Truman and Atlee didn’t want the mistakes of the first world war to happen again so they wanted Germany to get back up on its feet again, they decided that much of Germanys industrial machinery and goods would go to the USSR as reparations and the USSR would gain land from Poland. The freedom of Poland was secured; Britain demanded that Poland was free to elect a democratic government. They had entered the war to defend Poland so they insisted it didn’t become under communist control.

Truman announced at Potsdam the successful testing of the atomic bomb; he didn’t declare his intentions to use it on Japan. Truman didn’t want the soviets to help fight Japan because it would mean that they would take more land for their communist power. Britain also secured their influence over Greece; Greece was vital as it gave access routes to India and other British Commonwealth countries.

There were now a large number of countries communist and allied with the USSR. The Western powers were afraid it was an advance of communism to take over the whole of Europe. In March 1946 Churchill gave a speech and spoke of an “iron curtain” that had descended upon Europe. Churchill believed that all these new communist countries were really under the influence of Stalin. This was largely true; Stalin set up a process called Cominform to co-ordinate the countries of Eastern Europe. He also communicated with the strong communist parties in France and Italy.

After the war much of Europe had been devastated by war and countries economy’s had fallen apart by the cost of the fighting. The west had accepted Stalin’s “buffer zone” but was determined not to let communism spread any further. This was called containment. Communist guerrilla rebels were attacking Greece and Britain, needing Greece for supply routes across to India asked the USA to supply troops to fight the rebels. Truman being very anti-communist agreed and rescued Greece from Communist takeover. In 1947 Truman made a speech saying that America should be there to support the free peoples of Europe from the threat of Communism (or called outside pressures) this new policy was called the Truman Doctrine.

In correspondence with the new Doctrine the Marshall plan was developed. The Marshall plan involved giving huge loans to European countries to help them rebuild cities and get their Economies going again. This could allow the USA to make profits from newly established trade in Europe. The plan worked very well and 13 billion dollars was pumped into Western Europe. Stalin refused aid to the Eastern European countries accusing the USA of trying to bribe countries away from communism. Stalin fought back in 1948 by closing the supply routes into West Berlin. Stalin didn’t want Western, capitalist influence in his part of Germany. West Berlin was now stranded, with little food. Power and fuel was cut off and Soviet troops surrounded West Berlin. A new German currency, the Deutschmark had been introduced into Western Berlin. Now Stalin introduced the Rouble, the Russian currency into East Berlin.

The Western powers needed to get food to the People of West Berlin. General Clay suggested running an armed convey down one of the supply routes and using force, if necessary, to get to West Berlin. Truman rejected the idea as it could spark off a war. It was known that the Russians had more troops than the Western Powers and a strong foothold in East Germany. The Russian army would crush any attack. They finally decided to supply West Berlin by air, as the only available route was the air corridors. At first it seemed impossible. West Berlin would need 4500 tons of supplies every day. But with 24 hour takeoffs and a large fleet of planes they were able supply West Berlin with most of the Supplies it needed. Stalin ordered for troop movements so it looked like the USSR was readying for attack and scare the West but American spies knew that it was only intimidation. In response Truman sent a squadron of B-29 bombers to West Germany. These Bombers had the capability to drop atomic weapons on long-range targets. Russian intelligence informed Stalin that the West were determined to stay in Berlin so Stalin lifted the blockade after nearly a year; the increasing threat of War with the West and the atomic bomb would mean catastrophic problems for the USSR.

As a result of the Berlin airlift Germany was permanently divided. America set up NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) for the USA and its Western allies. One agreement with NATO was if one country belonging to NATO were attacked, it would be seen as an attack against them all. The USSR saw NATO as Aggression towards them but the west saw it as just defensive.

So who was to blame for the cold war? I personally take the view of a post-revisionist and say that it was both sides to blame. The Lack of information and understanding on both sides caused a rift in communications. Each side saw any movement or change as an aggressive move (such as the USSRS buffer zone) and lack of understanding on what each side wanted to achieve. The difference between Communism and Capitalism was also a main factor. They were two different systems at either end of the spectrum, both economically and socially.

Neither side wanted war. The threat of the atomic bomb kept the USSR from any real aggressive movements until 1949. The West was worried by the Strength of the Russian army and its position in Eastern Europe. Problems from the war that needed co-operation caused strain and arguments. Such as the problem of what to do with Germany and Poland.

Both sides had intentions, America wanted to extend its trade into Europe and the USSR wanted to create a defensive line for its country. Both motions were seen as acts of aggression and to get as many allies as possible. The USA set up NATO, the USSR set up communist parties in different countries.

In conclusion the Cold War was the result of endless suspicion and no co-operation. Stalin’s need for safety and Americas need for trade and Capitalism in Europe. It was fuelled by post war problems in Europe such as Germany and the incompatibility of both systems, Communism and Capitalism. The Atomic bomb was a huge propaganda tool for the USA as was the supposed strength of the Russian army. The history before the Second World War set the scene for the cold war with the Russian civil war and the revolutions of 1917. the Cold war marked the lack of trust between two rival super powers.

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