Emergence of the Cold War
By the end of the war, the United States stood alone. The end of World War II virtually left two of these superpowers, who helped end Hitler’s realm, at a crossroads. The rivalry between the Soviet Union the United States and for control over the post World War II world emerged before World War II had even ended. The two United States presidents who served their tenure during the war (Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S Truman) and disgruntled Soviet leader Joseph Stalin never actually trusted one another. Even through teaming up to bring down Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler, this mutual mistrust actually began as far back as 1917.
In 1917, the United States was never on good terms with the Bolshevik government that formed after the Russian Revolution. Stalin also resented the relationship the United States had with Great Britain throughout the war. The United States and Great Britain did not share nuclear weapons research with the Soviet Union during the war in fear that a nuclear epidemic may one-day rise because of the mass abundance of nuclear warheads. Stalin was also very annoyed and seemingly somewhat jealous of Truman’s offering of postwar relief funds to Great Britain and not extending any help to the USSR.
There were many other factors that contributed to the conflicts between the United States and Soviet Union policies but they can all be summed up by one word: Power. United States foreign policy was given a very formidable window of opportunity post World War II. After playing a major role in the defeat of the Nazi Germany super power, post-war ramifications were essentially dictated by the United States. With the backing of Stalin and the Soviet Union, the United Nations was also formed to stop wars between countries, and to provide a platform for dialogue.
The United Nations aimed to facilitate cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace . Although together on the United Nations front, policy actions taken by the United States differed greatly from those of the Soviet Union. While under the microscope of the entire world, President Harry S. Truman saw this as an opportunity to spread democracy. United States foreign policy sought to promote a world rich full of capitalism and free of communism.
Truman worked endlessly to clean up the huge mess left behind after World War II by establishing a number of international organizations that would promote democratic order and keep peace between nations. After the United Nations, he helped create the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) while also funding the rebuilding of a broken down and debt ridden Japan under the command of General Douglas MacArthur. After prosecuting Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg trials, Truman in 1947 also outlined the Marshall Plan, which set aside more than $10 billion for the rebuilding and reindustrialization of Germany.
The Marshall plan was a direct result of the Soviets unwillingness to comply with international order in maintaining democracy, and it is one of the pinnacle moments that set the stage for the beginnings of the Cold War. Soviet foreign policy differed greatly from the United States post World War II. The Soviet Union, under the rule of Stalin, had always been a communistic society. There were two main fundamentals that drove Soviet foreign policy. Firstly, Soviet foreign policy has traditionally been seen in terms of security, hence its strong interest in Eastern Europe after WWII.
This area provided potential invasion routes into the Soviet Union. Stalin felt very strongly about communist ideals and sought to spread his ideology throughout Europe while it was looking for direction post World War II. The other key feature of Soviet foreign policy was its ideology – Marxist-Leninism (the theories of Marx as developed by Lenin). A core belief was to encourage and foster communist revolutions wherever and whenever possible. This ideology was sometimes seen as contradictory to the security f the Soviet Union because by spreading communistic revolution ideals, it furthered scrutiny from established super powers (the United States and Great Britain), which threatened its security. A number of commissions, councils, and conferences were established in order to determine post-war ramifications for European countries. The Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM), Far Eastern Advisory Commission (FEAC), Yalta Conference, Allied Control Council (ACC), and Paris Peace Conference were all instrumental in establishing a sense of world order to help sort out European issue stemming from World War II.
There seemed to be a pattern of Soviet discontent throughout all of these councils and conferences because of the minority political stance they shared within their Grand Alliance partners (the United States and Great Britain). In 1944, a memorandum from the Maisky Commission to Molotov stated that the Soviets intentions were to “break Germany up into a number of more or less independent state formations… Military, industrial and ideological (reparations, especially) reparations in labour…” Germany’s reparations were one of the main components that began to cause tension feeding into United States vs.
Soviet foreign policy. In February of 1945, at the Yalta Conference held in Russia, the Soviets proposed German reparations of $20,000,000,000 be paid, half of which would go to the Soviets. This was a number that was scoffed at by the Grand Alliance. It was evident that Soviet policy intended to spread communism throughout war-ridden Europe, especially through their reparation demands.
Tensions rose at the Potsdam Conference regarding Soviet behavior in Germany at the war’s end, a working paper of United States delegation stated “Payment of reparations should leave sufficient resources to enable the German people to subsist without external assistance… all these removals were in complete violation of all efforts to maintain ‘non-war potential’ industries in Germany… What we saw amounts to organized vandalism directed not alone against Germany, but against US forces of occupation” Stalin’s policy on Germany was simply to make sure they never posed a threat to Soviet existence again by burying them while they were down post-war. A classic battle for the future of German ideology existed, communism vs. democracy, Stalin vs. Truman. Joseph Stalin’s most successful policy for the Soviet regime came with the installment of the “Iron Curtain” at the Yalta Conference. The Iron Curtain was both a physical and an ideological division that represented the way Europe was viewed after World War II. To the east of the Iron Curtain were the countries that were connected to or influenced by the former Soviet Union.
These included: Poland, Eastern Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Austria. Stalin was also able to finagle policies that gave Soviet occupation on top of the Iron Curtain as well. These countries included: Korea, China, Albania, Yugoslavia, and Iran. The Soviet stronghold of Eastern Europe was seen as a threat to the United States and Great Britain because of the threat of communism and permanent rifts between countries. Though ironically enough, the Soviet occupation was supported by the United States at the Yalta Conference. Foreign Minister Molotov viewed democracy as a threat to the Soviet Union and furthermore would lead to world domination by the United States.
In the Novikov telegram, Molotov states “the foreign policy of the United States, which reflects imperialist tendencies of American monopolistic capital, is characterized in the postwar period by a striving for world supremacy” Stalin also began to grow jealous of the United States relationship with Great Britain, specifically with the postwar loans made and this is reflected in the telegram: “The current relations between England and the United States, despite the temporary attainment of agreements on very important questions, are plagued with great internal contradictions and cannot be lasting. In accepting the loan, England finds herself in a certain financial dependence on the United States from which it will not be easy to free herself… The objective has been to impose the will of other countries on the Soviet Union” Molotov then goes on to mention that the only thing standing in between the United States and world domination would be a war with the Soviet Union. The United States didn’t have the nicest words to say about the Soviets either after World War II.
In February of 1946, George Keenan, a young State Department expert stationed in Moscow, drafted his famous “long telegram”. This expressed a view of Soviet power as an “intractable” foe, bent on an expansionist policy to spread its power and influence, which became the basis of American Cold War policy. Kennan powerfully states, “World communism is like a malignant parasite which feeds only on diseased tissue… Many foreign peoples, in Europe at least, are tired and frightened by experiences of the past, and are less interested in abstract freedom than in security. They are seeking guidance rather than responsibilities. We should be better able than Russians to give them this.
And unless we do, Russians certainly will” The alarm sounded by Keenan seemed to be confirmed by Moscow’s growing influence throughout the world. Stalinist occupations in France, Italy, Greece and Vietnam seemed posed to take power. European nations faced immense pressure to de-colonize their pre-war empires, particularly the Near East and Asia. The Truman administration embraced a strategy of containment to block any further spread of Russian power. The spread of communism influenced United States policy more so than any other threat during that time. The United States and President Truman believed that drastic differences in political and socioeconomic ideologies would only cause further rifts between nations in the future.
Although democracy was the fundamental ideology promoted by the United States, its main concern post World War II was to stop communism. In 1947, the United States and Truman began establishing many agencies and policies, domestically and foreign, to support their cause. Within the United States, Truman began his push by signing the National Security Act in 1947 to restructure America’s defenses for the new Communist threat. The act successfully reorganized the military and created new office positions: Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It also created the National Security Council (NSC), to advise the president on global affairs, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to conduct espionage.