Soviet Leaders And The Cold War Essay

Soviet Leaders And The Cold War Essay

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Soviet leaders probably did not enjoy reading George Kennan’s famous “Long Telegram,” abbreviated LT for short. A 1946 cable sent from the American embassy in Moscow to Washington, D.C., the LT set the foundations for containment. Although containment did not advocate for an eradication of communism’s existing footholds, the policy did make the Cold War “hot” in several instances. These “hot” conflicts occurred in countries where the U.S. attempted to stop communism’s spread – countries such as Vietnam (1955 – 1975), Korea (1950 – 1953), and Greece (1946 – 1949), to name a few. Yet the LT also attacked Russian rulers personally by calling them “neurotic” and “insecure.” Soviet leaders, eager to rebut such slanderous statements, asked their own ambassador Nikolai Novikov to send them a comparable document by the year’s end.

A superficial glance of Novikov’s response might not surprise a casual reader. Indeed, the telegram mirrors what a typical high school student might expect from a Soviet document vilifying the United States. Not only did Novikov accuse the U.S. of desiring “world domination,” for example, but he also criticized unfair “monopoly capital[ism],” which in his view permitted U.S. expansion into Eurasia. Yet Novikov’s reply also reveals deeper insights into how the Soviets viewed themselves in the world. Normally, the Soviets portrayed themselves as a legitimate (and equally powerful) alternative to American hegemony. The launch of Sputnik in 1956, for instance, led the Soviets to tout communism’s superiority over capitalism (and Americans to fret over their lackluster science curriculum). Yet many parts of Novikov’s response portray the USSR as an underdog overcoming an imperialistic power – a portrayal strikin...


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...e – contrary to what Truman believed. At the very least, the U.S. significantly misunderstood Soviet intentions regarding the 1947 Greek Civil War. Indeed, while the Truman Doctrine advocated giving Greece and Turkey $400 million based on assumed Soviet interference in the area, Stalin actually did not give any assistance to the Greek communists. (In fact, the Russian dictator even explicitly ordered Yugoslavian dictator Josip Tito to withdraw his own support. ) Hence, Novikov’s portrayal of his country as an ascending underdog desiring independence more than imperialist domination may not have been a mere ideological invention. Instead, perhaps early Cold War Russia truly did desire to live in peaceful competition with the United States, making the worst instances of the Cold War preventable incidents arising from groundless suspicions and needless miscommunication.

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