Ever since Stalin signed the Nazi-Soviet pact with Hitler, his relationship with other Western leaders was to deteriorate dramatically, especially with France, America and Britain. Though they felt surprised by this move on the Russian part, they also felt deeply resentful and very concerned that he should join the side of the obvious aggressor. Hitler’s anti-communist views were well known making the relationship even more surreal. However, they appeared to fail to recall that had they supplied sufficient aid for Russia when Hitler stated his interest in conquering its land, then the sudden partnership might have been avoided. But Stalin felt that the Russian interests were ignored by Britain and France, and so finally on 24 August 1939, he formed an alliance with his arch-enemy.
Stalin made Russia an allied country to Britain and America in 1941, when German troops invaded Russia. Though his contributions helped win the war, there was still a tense atmosphere between the leaders. Stalin had great uncertainties about the allied countries, remembering their previous negative response to his needs.
The war ended with conferences to try and decide on the best reprimand for the aggressing countries. They were led by the Big Three; Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin (leaders of Britain, America and Russia). Both Churchill and Roosevelt were anti-communist, bringing more suspicion to be felt by Stalin of his “allies” true intentions. He deemed that though he voiced his opinions, they were not being listened too.
Stalin was also bitter towards the other leaders for there lack of support, Russia had a loss of 20 million citizens during World War II, and the damage caused to their land was catastrophic. Stalin believed that had Britain and America sent more of their troops to help, the numbers could have been much lower. For compensation he wanted reparations and more land, but it appeared to him that Britain and America were taking liberties in the claims, when it was him who was most indebted to them. The final infuriation Stalin felt was when it was decided that though it was clearly in the new Soviet quarter, the capital of Germany, Berlin was to also be split into four, and shared among the leaders. As the disagreements became more frequent, Stalin’s distrust and suspicion for the other leaders became clearer.
Explain the main differences in government and society between U.S.A and the U.S.S.R.
The United States and Russia had different political systems, each believing that theirs was the best. Though allies during the war against Hitler, they were very suspicious of each other. Russia believed that the capitalist countries wanted to undermine communism in Russia: America was worried that Russia was trying to spread communism throughout Europe and eventually the rest of the world.
The U.S.A had always been capitalism and had made a great success of doing so. It was and still is the most richest and powerful country in the world. Most people believed this was due to isolationism – staying out of European affairs. It was also due to privately owned industries, which achieved a lot of money from export of goods, the stock markets, production of oil and also the assembling of produced crops coming from privately owned farms and landowners. But though there was great wealth in America, there was also great poverty, the slums were of some of the worst conditions found in the world. However, most Americans felt that being free of control by the government (privately owned business’ and property) was more important than everyone being equal.
Capitalist meant that private individuals owned their own businesses and property, which is how most American’s liked it. Only the poor would try to encourage a communist policy, as it would benefit them most. The government was chosen in a free democratic election. This means that people could vote for different political parties e.g. Republican, Democratic, and even Communist. The future of the country is relied on the result of the election. American’s strongly believe that individual rights should be protected, and that the government shouldn’t interfere with people’s lives. They saw this as the people’s freedom.
The U.S.S.R, in 1917, opted for a totally new government, a communist government. It came about after the Bolsheviks (supporters of communism) introduced a harsh policy called War Communism; it helped to both win the Civil War that was taking place at the time and also to put Communist theories into practice by re-distributing wealth among the Russian people. Russia was to remain a strict Communist state until 1993, when permission was granted for citizens to privately own property.
A communist state is a one-party dictatorship. Though elections are held, all the candidates belong to the Communist party. Communist meant that businesses were owned and managed by the government. Everyone was equal in what they received. This made extreme poverty in Russia rarer than in the U.S.A, but also prevented any true wealth from occurring. Even so, unemployment was rare. For Communists the rights of individuals were seen as less important than the welfare of the State, so people’s lives were tightly controlled.
The U.S.A and the U.S.S.R had emerged from the war as the two ‘superpowers’. They were the two countries big, rich and strong enough to sort out international affairs and exercise real international leadership. The Americans may have disapproved of Soviet Communism, but they tried not to get involved. However, by the 1940’s the U.S.A had learnt a lesson, the policy of isolation was set firmly against and it was decided there would be no more appeasement of dictators, America would now react to every Communist action.
The following were equally to blame for causing the Cold War:
1) The personal relationship between leaders in 1945
2) The war damage suffered by U.S.S.R
3) Stalin’s takeover of Eastern Europe
4) The Truman Doctrine and Marshall Aid
Do you agree with this statement? Explain your answer referring to 1,2,3 and 4.
I don’t totally agree with this statement because though all those points do attribute to the Cold War, they were not all equally to blame. The Cold War arose for a number of reasons, all of which are very important when realising why the Cold War occurred.
The main disputes happened between the two superpowers, the U.S.A and the U.S.S.R, though generally it was Communist Russia against the Capitalist West. Each side was convinced of their superiority and believed that they had the best political system. For this reason, both sides wished to spread its influence throughout Europe and the world. They would use propaganda, economic and military assistance to achieve this.
It was the confrontation of the two sides that was known as the Cold War – cold because there was no actual fighting or ‘hot’ war, though each side did fight wars in various parts of the world in defence of their interests. The Cold War lasted until the collapse of the Communism in Europe in 1989-90.
It began with the poor relationship between the leaders in 1945. This was due to the distrust between them as they discussed the punishment for Germany. They were known as the Big Three, Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill. Roosevelt and Churchill were anti-communist, Churchill more so than Roosevelt. Though they managed to agree on some important matters in the beginning, their political beliefs played a big part in their insecurity while working together. Churchill and Stalin particularly had problems with one another, resulting in unnecessary verbal abuse and backstabbing. When Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, his vice president, Harry Truman, replaced him. Truman was much more anti-communist than Roosevelt, and was very suspicious of Stalin, his feelings were very much reciprocated.
There were a number of reasons for Truman’s hostile attitude towards Stalin: firstly the spread of communism was a threat to American business because communist countries would not buy American goods. Truman was scared another depression like that of the 1930’s could be the result. Also Stalin was believed to be another dictator like Hitler. Truman was determined to stand up to Stalin since the 1930’s had shown that appeasement did not work. Finally America still had an atomic bomb, allowing them to believe they could be aggressive towards the Soviet Union because they did not have a nuclear weapon at this point. All these reasons determined that America was going to forget its normal isolation policy and resist communist expansion.
The war victory gave the Soviet Union the confidence to play a bigger role on the world stage, and it would appear also to show superiority of communist Russia over capitalist Germany. Russia had suffered enormous damage and had a loss of 20 million Russians during the war. This huge set back only made Russia more determined not to let it happen again. Stalin pledged for huge reparations to be made to help re-build his country but the other leaders hesitated at such a demand, they remembered the same demand coming from France after the First World War. Stalin was also bitter that America and Britain hadn’t supported him more during World War II, making him feel even more resentful towards his “allies”. In order to prevent future invasions from the west, Stalin was determined to ensure Soviet domination of Eastern Europe to provide a protected zone for Russia. He went about his plan by leaving his troops in the countries of Europe that they had liberated. It worked well as by July, Stalin’s troops effectively controlled the Baltic states, Finland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania. The communist takeover was becoming more and more likely. By 1946, Stalin had achieved the domination of Eastern Europe that he was after. Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania all by then had Communist governments. Churchill described the border between Soviet controlled countries and the west as an iron curtain. Stalin, however, defended his actions by claiming he had rights, and also that his actions were aimed at Russian security and essentially defensive.
However, this had a big effect on the Cold War, becoming a key factor in the starting of it. Because of the suspicion that existed between the east and the west, the actions were seen by America as being the first stage in a communist take-over of the whole of Europe. All the Western powers were alarmed by Stalin’s takeover of Eastern Europe. Though it had been agreed that Stalin would heavily influence Eastern Europe, it was not agreed for it to undergo such complete Communist domination.
The Americans response marked a new era in America’s attitude to world politics. He came up with the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Aid, both showing his intentions clearly. Under the Truman Doctrine America was prepared to send equipment, money and advice to any country, which was in America’s view, under threat of a Communist takeover. The policy became known as containment; Truman’s aim was to stop Communism from spreading any further. Marshall Aid, named after General Marshall, was an organisation to supply money to poor countries likely to turn to Communism as an answer to their ‘hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos.’ The American General George Marshall assessed the situation and claimed an estimated $17 billion would be needed to rebuild Europe’s prosperity. When Truman first put his plan to Congress it was turned down, $17 billion dollars was a lot of money and many Americans were becoming concerned by Truman’s involvement in foreign affairs. But their attitude changed when the Communists took over the government of Czechoslovakia. The final push literally came when a pro-American Minister, Jan Masaryk was found dead below his window. Though Communists claimed he jumped, Americans suspected he was pushed. Immediately the Congress accepted the Marshall Plan and made $17 billion dollars available over the next four years.
Though it was extremely generous of the Americans to do this, the act was seen by Russians as equally aggressive attempts to spread American power in Europe. With so much suspicion and hostility, any action claimed as self-defence by either side was perceived as aggression. The fact that both sides possessed nuclear weapons probably prevented war between them. The Cold War was at its worst, and was to last until the collapse of Communism Europe in 1989-90.