The Origins of the Cold War

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Cold WarIn the post World War II era, a war arose between the Soviet Union and theUnited States, but in reality there was never really any documented fighting between thetwo nations, thus spawning the catch phrase Cold War. Even though both countrieswere ready to go to war at the blink of an eye and almost did, the powers-that-be nevergot the nerve to authorize a nuclear war that would have made World War II look like childs play. This was a war fought in the political ring, and was also a war that did notstart at the end of World War II, this war started during the war against Hitler and lastedfor forty more years before peace became predominant over the crumbling Soviet Union.

Many events occurred in this political heavyweight bout, and both sides can be blamedfor the extremity the tensions escalated to, and this Cold War would have been tough toavoid taking into account the political beliefs of the countries at hand. During the war, once the Allied powers from the west joined forces with StalinsRed Army, trouble was inevitable.

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Luckily for the world, America had a great leader andforeign diplomat in Franklin D. Roosevelt while England countered with WinstonChurchill. This duo created a steady working relationship with Stalin, thus creating theBig Three and the Grand Alliance. Even though it was far from a perfect relationship, allthree diplomats realized the task at hand, the mandate of stopping Adolph Hitler and theNazi regime of Germany.

Sadly, this priority overwhelmed the Big Three, and nosolution was ever conjured up on how to handle the Post-War situation in Europe andAsia following an Allied victory. Understandably, stopping Hitler was far fromguaranteed, but any plan that was taken by the Allies in Europe never even consideredthe implications of how to handle the war-torn countries of Eastern Europe afterwards,an area that the Soviets had suffered many casualties and other losses to free from facistcontrol.

The few problems with Churchill and Roosevelt is that they both tended to dothings their own way, sometimes leaving Stalin out to dry, and also relied heavily on theirown diplomatic skills, leaving other politicians out of the foreign policy matters for eachcountry. While many United States Government officials were not fans of Stalin, they allrealized the urgency in having him on their side of the fight.

In reality, no one in thegovernment knew how to handle Stalin except for Roosevelt, which creates one of thefirst major events of the Cold War: the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. WithRoosevelt dying, the foreign policy of the United States was about to do a complete 180in reverse. Suddenly, all the cabinet and legislative members have a significant role inthe diplomatic world, a world they had previously been shut out of for over a decade. Inthe middle lies a man who had not a clue about what he was getting himself into.

Harry Truman was about to get in way over his head, and absolutely being Roosevelts fault,Truman was about to get into a situation he was almost completely unfamiliar with. Poor Truman had been briefed but only once in the matters involving the war, and thedecisions he was about to make would shape the world forever. With Roosevelt being apacifist with Stalin, a decent working relationship evolved between the two, and someglimmer of hope can be seen to this day about what could have happened if Rooseveltdid not die and kept up the good standing with Russia.

Imagining Stalins reaction afterthe Yalta Conference with Roosevelt to that of the Potsdam Conference just months afterRoosevelts death with Truman at the helm being very aggressive towards Communismin Eastern Europe is almost comical, if the severity of the situation is not understood. This must be noted as one of the building blocks of the Cold War with Russia, becausethis marks the official point where Americas stance towards Stalin and Communismchanges drastically and the time where Truman begins his diplomatic journey with theforces in the Soviet Union, one that will engulf him for the rest of his tenure in office. This also must be noted as being Americas fault. A countrys attitudes cannot visuallyand verbally change so radically so quickly.

Roosevelt should have briefed Trumanheavily on dealing with Stalin.America could stay on Stalins good side, leaving someremote chance of having a settlement work itself out after the war. An angry Stalin ismuch harder to reason with than a content Stalin, especially taking into consideration thathe was absolutely insane, something you cant play with carelessly.

The next event that shaped the worlds history and marked the official beginningof the Cold War was the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. After talking withRussia and getting their consent on joining the war on Japan, the United States again actswrong and hastily by dropping a device that blew up the city of Hiroshima. Theagreement was with Russia that on August 8th, the Soviet Union would declare war onJapan. Taking this into account, the United States went ahead and dropped the bomb onAugust 6th, two days before.

In another bold and careless move, the second bomb wasdropped on Nagasaki. This bomb was dropped before the Japanese even received anultimatum from the United States about an unconditional surrender before they willdestroy another city with one of their new weapons. That aside, the pertinent issue is thatAmerica did not even talk to Russia about their plans to drop the bomb before it wasalready done. So, the Red Army had to use the resources, raw materials, and not tomention the man-power to move their troops over to Japan from Eastern Europe,something that was taking in the ballpark of three months.

Once they officially got there,the war is over, and the United States gives them a bold statement by ending the war soviolently and quickly while letting the Russians know that the U.S. does not need or wanttheir help anymore. Also, the Russians probably realized that the Americans do not wantthem anywhere in Asia, where Communism could spread, in fact, the United States didnot want to have to share occupation of Japan with the Russians, something that probablyfrustrated Stalin.

The Americans also wanted to demonstrate the power of the bomb, andgive Stalin a reason to be fearful of the powerful United States, so no troubles will arisein the post-war era. If only the United States would have conversed with Stalin brieflyabout their plans, maybe dropping the bomb would not have been so daunting andunnecessary. Shunning the Soviet Union to end the war with Japan without any furtherinteractions in Asia was the first Cold War maneuver of many to come from both sides. The United States was out to better their own country, and all the while not promotingany kind of unity between the superpowers, something that democracy is supposed to beall about.

Undoubtedly, one of the more important Cold War origins belonged to the regionof Eastern Europe, where turmoil between the Western powers and Russia lasted fordecades. Russia, sacrificing so much to stop Hitler, desperately wanted the countries ofEastern Europe, with an emphasis on Poland. On the other hand, the United Statesdemanded that Poland be a democracy where free elections would be held. This iscertainly where the Cold War escalates, as Russia breaks a promise to uphold freeelections in Poland in the late 40s and early 50s, something that does not sit well withTruman and his government.

Through this whole debate, Stalin vehemently states thatthe United States are not being sympathetic to the Soviet Union. For all that the U.S.S.R. gave up during the war, they felt Poland should be theirs, but more importantly they feltthat Poland was a major security issue. The past two World Wars saw Russia beinginvaded through Poland, and they felt that this could simply not happen again, therefore,they wanted control so they could establish military and political defenses to any countrywanting to attack Russia. This, along with the same reasoning behind other EasternEuropean countries, including a separated Germany, became a major debate of the ColdWar where tensions almost lead to a war.

Russia felt that the West should establish theirown capital in West Germany and let the Russians have Berlin, since Berlin falls in EastGermany, yet another major Eastern European conflict. This was more Russias fault forhaving such heavy tension in this area, but one can certainly understand where Russia iscoming from in wanting more control over this volatile region. On the other hand,breaking a promise to hold free elections, especially in a region where popular opinion isbelieved to would rather have a democracy is certainly an undeniable problem for bothsides of the Cold War. Hostility in Eastern Europe was unavoidable, especially with thelack of communication during the war over the plans on what exactly to do with this areaafter 1945.

Other events that transpired in the beginnings of this long and potentiallydevastating Cold War was two documents in particular produced by the AmericanGovernment. With forced pressure from the interior government, Harry Truman and hisadministration took an aggressive stance on Communism, at any and all costs. The firstdocument was a speech by Harry Truman given in the spring of 1947.

The document wasconsidered a Cold War Biproxy and has gone down in history as laying a foundation forforeign policy and is called the Truman Doctrine. The main goal for this was to back upanyone fighting Communist aggression. At any chances of stopping Communism fromspreading, the United States were prepared to stop any movement by Communistcountries into free countries throughout the world. It was truly the first documentproclaiming the United States as the World Policeman against Communism and justamplified the fact that America is no longer an isolationist country and our involvementin the global spectrum became very evident.

The other very significant document inAmerican Cold War foreign policy was NSC-68, a document brought together by theNational Security Council in 1950, a relatively new organization set up to create adepartment of defense, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency. This document justexpanded thoroughly on the Truman doctrine, and packed the muscle behind Americasnew foreign policy. NSC-68 called for an immediate upgrade of our defense systems. This was a pure military move, and would cost over $35 billion dollars a year.

The threatfor massive retaliation started to surface from this as well, and the threat of a nuclear warwas ever-present, especially with the Russians successfully testing an atomic bomb in1949. This just called for an increase in nuclear armament, and if a war broke out, thisdocument would guarantee that if the United States would have to fight to the death, theywould, and they would also go down in a blaze of glory if necessary

. This marked thefirst guarantee of a massive military response to any Communist forces wanting to testthe waters of democracy. This was also about the time where the rollback theory cameinto play, and Americans debated about not just stopping but penetrating any Communistmovements. These bold documents from the United States marked the beginnings of theheight of the Cold War that would come about roughly ten years later, where if a largescale battle broke out with Russia or China, human and land losses would be atrocious.

The origins of the Cold War would be one-sided and incomplete if it did not include the actions that were occurring in Russia. An unorganized government, lead by adrunken and insane leader who makes diplomatic decisions at four in the morning iscertainly a cause for action.

The fact must be brought forth of the human casualtiessuffered in Russia by the government and the military. Individuals did not enjoy freedomto think for themselves in Russia, and if a Russian decided to speak out or question authority, he would be killed with no remorse. The fact of the matter is that manymillions of Russian citizens were being massacred by their own government. Thatcertainly is a large reason for concern. Any alternative scenarios to avoid any Cold Warconflicts would have to of ended with these atrocities.

The United States could not havenegotiated for Russia to cease these actions, so even though America could have reactedbetter to some events during and after the war, Russia still would not have been easy todeal with when it came to their own country, not to mention Eastern Europe. The Cold War was more than likely inevitable, but it probably could havetranspired more peacefully and definitely not on such a grand level Someone that crazyas Stalin was and consequences so heavy as letting Russia into Eastern Europe could notbe ignored, and the Americans had every right to stop the advancement of Russia intoPoland.

The Polish would not want to suffer those horrendous acts of oppression, and ifthe United States wanted to be the policeman of the world and stop these human rightsviolations, then Russia is the perfect place to start. The United States certainly did notalways act brilliantly, and indeed they caused plenty of their own problems by a lack ofgood communication, but Russia was just as much to blame for the tensions throughoutthe world during the origins of the Cold War in the late 1940s to early 50s.

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