History Other / Europe'S Cold War: The 1945 Ð’â€“ 1950 Bridge Of Bitterness
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Autor: anton 07 November 2010
Words: 2539 | Pages: 11
After the end of World War II, the United States and USSR were the only two remaining powers in the world. Europe, which was now in shambles, was left with a power vacuum, from which both the U.S. and the USSR would vie for control. At the world's end, although the friendly wartime alliance between the U.S. and USSR turned inimical, both countries were not looking for another war. The United States, although not as damaged as other countries, saw the destruction of fighting two major world wars within the same generation. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, having experienced both World Wars, and the Russian Revolution Ð’â€“ all of which thoroughly devastated their borders, land and people, wanted to protect and secure their boundaries first and foremost. Thus, because Stalin saw a safe buffer for his own boundaries within Eastern Europe, he tried to secure his own presence in those countries with methods the United States sometimes found alarming. The U.S. not realizing the extent to which Stalin worried about his borders and his homeland security being exploited once again, regarded Stalin's actions as aggressive (i.e. Soviet occupation in Poland), and bolstered attacks, asserting on the USSR's behalf, their bent on world domination. The United States misconstrued Soviet intentions and assigned Ð’â€˜world domination' as Stalin's main goal. With such a seemingly aggressive Soviet threat at hand, the U.S. utilized documents and speeches like Kennan's Long Telegram, Churchill's Iron Curtain Speech and the Truman doctrine to acknowledge the maturing Soviet menace. These three documents and declarations deepened the stratification of the already tenuous Soviet and U.S relationship and unwittingly expedited and worsened Cold War tensions. The Soviets would then respond to the United States via pronouncements and reactions (i.e. the Cominform as a rebuttal to the Marshall Plan) as an escalating tit-for-tat would lead the U.S. and the USSR towards more enmity. Therefore, although conditions during 1945 Ð’â€“ 50 were already absolutely ripe for the burgeoning of the Cold War, had America worked harder at refining its policies, the Cold War may have been avoided.
The undemocratic occupation of Poland by the Soviets at the end of the war would spark one of the first foreboding actions that the U.S. would perceive and misinterpret as antagonistic domination. By the end of the war in 1945, the great U.S./USSR partnership had already begun to show signs of dilapidation. Before the war's end however, during the Yalta Conference, America still needed the aid of the Soviets to conduct the Pacific theatre and defeat the Japanese. Thus, it was agreed to let the Soviets keep Poland as its indemnity as long as a democratic institution of freely elected officials was implemented. However, after the detonation of the first atomic bomb ended the war with Japan, distrust began to develop between the U.S. and USSR. The dropping of the two bombs challenged and reconfigured the balance of power. No longer was the United States and Soviet Union tantamount to each other in clout; rather, the United States possessed an immensely powerful weapon that the Soviets had yet to control. This elevated the position of the United States to a more influential and authoritative stratum. More importantly, this shift of power created unease within Stalin's already "cynical" and "suspicious" (Zubok, Pleshakov 24) mind. Stalin, after all, had "feelings of inferiority toward the West and Western leaders." (Zubok, Pleshakov 23) Stalin therefore did not need anymore evidence of Western superiority. Stalin, then, was concerned that the United States would not hold to its agreement over Poland since the Soviet military was never employed in Japan; and without Poland, opposing troops would be right on USSR borders threatening the defense of Stalin's homeland. Hence, even after the war's end, the Soviets were still assertively occupying Poland and deliberately not allowing for a freely elected democratic government as agreed to in Yalta. Furthermore, while expanding Poland's boundaries, Stalin herded several thousand Germans west into an ever-shrinking Germany. To America, these Soviet actions were a great indication of aggressive Soviet clout. And to the United States, these actions not only warranted a closer inspection of Soviet actions in relation to its words, but also a new foreign policy of containment.
From such actions, it seemed that the United States had to adopt a policy to combat Soviet action. While the Soviets and Stalin asseverated one thing, the United States saw that the Soviet's actions were another. Kennan's retort to this Soviet aggression was his paper, "The Sources of Soviet Conduct," from which he designed the policy of Ð’â€˜containment.' In this policy, Kennan argued that, "in these circumstances it is clear that the main element of any United States' policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies." (Judge, Langdon 33) What is to be duly noted in Kennan's assertion is the patience that was to accompany any action towards the Soviet Union from the United States. Furthering his reason for resolute patience was the direct inculcation against any amount of histrionics that would offer bolstering threats that would connote unnecessary "outward Ð’â€˜toughness.'" (Judge, Langdon 33) The Soviets were, in any case, "by far the weaker party," and "may well contain deficiencies which will eventually weaken its total potential." (Judge, Langdon 36) Kennan also suggested that the Soviet leaders were "keen judges of human psychology, and as such they are highly conscious that a loss of temper and of self-control is never a source of strength in political affairs." (Judge, Langdon 33)
What Kennan failed to propose, however, was the portion of the Soviet's psyche that was deathly insecure about its own Russia's borders. Kennan's foreign policy to Ð’â€˜contain' Soviet encroachments was misconstrued and not fully comprehended in two crucial aspects. The first was that Kennan, although patently stating the Soviet's downfalls, allotted them too much credit with regards to their aim, power, and collectedness. Recognizing Soviet authority, Kennan painted a very sturdy Soviet system when he writes that, "on the principle of infallibility there rests the iron discipline of the Communist Party. In fact, the two concepts are mutually self-supporting. Perfect discipline requires recognition of infallibility. Infallibility requires the observance of discipline. And the two together go far to determine the behaviorism of the entire Soviet apparatus of power." This tautological assertion produces a Soviet image that is not only committed to its belief, but is also influential and calculating. (Judge, Langdon 32) The Soviets even had the power to define truth, because in the USSR, "truth is not a constant but it is actually created, for all intents and purposes, by the Soviet leaders themselves." (Judge, Langdon 32) However, the Soviets were far from composed; in actuality, they sought after communism with a seemingly hard-line approach in response and defense to impinging capitalistic ventures towards their sacred borders (i.e. America's implementation of the Marshall Plan). Furthermore, with the lack of understanding Soviet insecurities about their borders, adjunct to the dearth of fully comprehending the policy of "patient" containment, it was effortless to inject the idea of a Soviet desire for domination within the American attitude. Therefore, a desperate need for containment in any way to combat the Ð’â€˜mischievous' Communists was needed. Thus, this original concept of containment had a great potential to be exploited in the future (i.e. the NSC 68). Although it was only subtly offered in the X Article, the Soviet's infractions were seen as an aggressive threat to the Ð’â€˜free world.' Therefore, the notion of Ð’â€˜patience' and full comprehension took an eager backseat to the more hard-line and poignant hitters like Churchill's accusations of an Iron Curtain descending upon Europe because of the Soviet's belligerent bent on converting countries to communism.
Several weeks after Stalin's Election Speech had validated Marxist-Leninist thought and held as the culprit of WWII the development of world capitalism, Churchill's Iron Curtain Speech resounded through Fulton, Missouri, and subsequently, through the world. Churchill outlined a dark and sober stripe down central Europe, demarcating and thus stratifying the two powers, and thereby leaving no room for discussion and negotiation between the world of the West and Communism. For, as Churchill dogmatically asserts, "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 EuropeÐ’â€¦that lie in what I might call the Soviet sphere, and all are, subject, in one form or anotherÐ’â€¦to Soviet influenceÐ’â€¦I do not believe that Soviet Russia desires war. What they desire is the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines." (Judge, Langdon 15-17) Churchill's heavy-handed indictment ironically foreshadowed the kind of blame that Kennan hoped would not be so externally expressed. And, as the Soviets, like Kennan had suggested, "are quick to exploit such evidences [loss of self-control and threats] of weakness," it seems that Stalin, king of the Communists, exploited and abduced Churchill's speech to broadcast that, "there is no doubt that the set-up of Mr. Churchill is a set-up for war - a call to war with the Soviet UnionÐ’â€¦" (Judge, Langdon 18) These are the claims that expedited the Cold War to the point where one must wonder Ð’â€“ would the Cold War have delved so deeply into a frenzy had these blaming judgments not been made? A more circumspect look at the actual demarcation line will offer a different picture than Churchill had, and consequently will divulge yet another misunderstanding that unwittingly accelerated the war.
In February of 1947, after Britain informed the United States about the imminent abandonment of Greece, in a decisive moment, the president announced in March that the Truman Doctrine would be employed to offer military and economic aid to the factions in Greece and Turkey who opposed communism. To relieve the financial burden of American taxpayers, the Truman administration decided upon the re-industrialization and re-unification of the three Western zones of Germany under for formation of a new government and currency cadre. These actions were accompanied by the initiation of the Marshall Plan, from which the United States extended aid from a $400 million dollar budget allotted to this plan. (Leffler, 56) Churchill had affirmed a line down central Europe, which had appropriated to the Soviets the countries of Poland, East Germany, Czech, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, Albania and Bulgaria. From these countries, Poland and Czechoslovakia both initially accepted aid from the Marshall Plan. "At the time of the Marshall Plan, Yugoslavia was in the process of breaking with Stalinist ideology to pursue its own form of communism. While it never joined the Marshall Plan, Yugoslavia received $150 million in civilian aid from the United States by 1951." (CNN.com Cold War Website) A more prudent synopsis of this situation would clearly reveal that the Ð’â€˜iron curtain' that had descended Ð’â€˜so heavily' down Central Europe was not in fact as codified as Churchill had accused it to be. Yugoslavia had accepted $150 million dollars by 1951, which was five years after Churchill had demarcated the lines of strict stratification. Therefore, Churchill's snapping charges expedited the hostilities of the Cold War and unnecessarily fostered a deeper divide of ideology and aims.
In rebuttal to the Marshall plan, Stalin erected the Cominform. Because the Marshall Plan was perceived as a major threat to Stalin's Communism, the Cominform was instituted as a ploy to Ð’â€˜unite and strengthen the communist nations' under the terms Stalin had set. Having Europe divided up into two separate spheres of influences adjunct to having those spheres promote each owns' paradigmatic philosophies additionally divided Europe and US/USSR economies. America's decision to re-industrialize Germany and introduce a new currency-the D-mark not only provoked more unease concerning USSR borders, but it had infuriated the Soviets, who in turn decided to block all railroad lines which ran into West Berlin that fed and sustained the dependent lives there. Pulling the balance of power once again, the United States displayed its might by airlifting supplies that arrived in West Berlin every forty-five seconds for eleven months. The muscle, sway, and fortitude delineated by the United States, much to the chagrin of the Soviet Union, once again limned capitalist authority, all the while sending the Soviets back to reevaluate situations. The battle over Berlin was the first security crisis and crucial confrontation between the US/USSR because not only did this conflict pin one power directly at heads with the other, but also, within only eleven months, both spheres were able to quickly realize the potential of the United States.
Ironically enough though, the shift of power seemed to equalize itself from 1947 to 1949. In the USSR, the five fundamental changes were engendered from the Berlin confrontation would have America in a new frenzy for Ð’â€˜containment.' Galvanized by being blamed for the start of the Cold War, and the humiliation of the Berlin encounter, Stalin increased his military and strategic planning to additionally secure his borders by moving more troops in Eastern Europe, took political measures to solidify communist efforts, attempted to establish an economic recovery plan for the Soviet Union (COMECON/Malatov Plan), secured his home bases with the purges and imprisonment of Ð’â€˜traitor enemies,' and succeeded in testing his own first atomic bomb by 1950. Soviet expansion seemed at the foot of America's door; several events like the 1948 communist coup, which ousted the Czechoslovakian democratic-socialists and initiated a hard-line communist regime, and the Cominform expulsion of Tito, in response to Tito receiving aid from the United States, painted a dire portrait of a Soviet Communist control that was swiftly expanding in Europe. With these five drastic changes, Stalin created an eastern bloc, which with the West's creation of a solidified western bloc, stimulated a dichotomy of political, economic, and strategic ideologies.
These events, which accelerated the war, fit perfectly within the Western perspective that the Soviets were bent on iron dominance. These hasty affairs promulgated the picture of Soviet expansionism, but if one should more prudently review the Soviet's actions, it would be quite possible to paint a different portrait. Although territories like Austria, Greece and Turkey would have impressively added to the Ð’â€˜Soviet bloc' territory, Stalin did not push for them with as much vigor and force as he could have. He allowed the democratic factions in Greece and Turkey to overcome the communist effort. And in Austria, although there were confrontations between the soldiers (for American and Soviet soldiers occupied Austria), Stalin did not aggressively push to obtain Austria within its sphere of influence. These territories were simply not worth all the political strain, fighting and money that would be needed to secure these areas. Therefore, its seems like Stalin was not searching solely for world domination as it had been so inexorably accused, rather, it seems that Stalin desired only the countries that were strategically sound to him and his borders.
Therefore, it may be concluded that although the Soviet's vices and own proliferating actions of the Cold War have not been highlighted, one should not look past the rash, and misinterpreted heavy-handed accusations and misapprehensions stemming from the United States that unnecessarily provoked and escalated ill tensions between the U.S. and the USSR to expedite the already distended Cold War.
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