The Causes of the Cold War - Post-Revisionist

The Causes of the Cold War - Post-Revisionist

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Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signified, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold but not clothed." There was never a war that this idea can be more correct applied to than the Cold War. According to noted author and Cold War historian Walter Lippman, the Cold War can be defined as a state of tension between states, which behave with great distrust and hostility towards each other, but do not resort to violence. The Cold War encompasses a period from the end of the Second World War (WWII), in 1945, to the fall of the Soviet Union, in 1989. It also encompassed the Korean and Vietnam Wars and other armed conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, that, essentially, were not wars for people but instead for territories and ideologies. "Nevertheless, like its predecessors, the Cold War has been a worldwide power contest in which one expanding power has threatened to make itself predominant, and in which other powers have banded together in a defensive coalition to frustrate it---as was the case before 1815, as was the case in 1914-1918 as was the case from 1939-1945" (Halle 9). From this power contest, the Cold War erupted.

In April 1945, Russian forces that had been triumphant at Stalingrad had pushed the German forces back into Germany and American and British forces that had been victorious in their invasion of Normandy did the same; they met at the Elbe River in central Germany (Lukacs 17). Europe was separated into two independent halves, one Russian occupied and the other American; from this division, the Cold War emerged. "When a power vacuum separates great powers, as one did the United States and the Soviet Union at the end of World War II, they are unlikely to fill it without bumping up against and bruising each other" (Gaddis). This 'bumping' and 'bruising' caused the tensions and hostilities that surfaced in the years following WWII. There are three doctrines examining the origins of the Cold War: Orthodox, the belief that "the intransigence of Leninist ideology, the sinister dynamics of a totalitarian society, and the madness of Stalin" (McCauley 88) caused the Cold War; Revisionist, the idea that "American policy offered the Russians no real choice...either acquiesce to American proposals or be confronted with American power or hostility" (McCauley 90) and thus, America caused the war; and the

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Related Searches">Post-Revisionist view, a combination of the two, citing both American and Soviet Russian policy as causes. The fact that both the Orthodox and Revisionist views have convincing evidence is confirmation that the Post-Revisionist viewpoint is the correct assessment of 'blame.' Beyond the evidence that the other two viewpoints provide in support of the Post-Revisionist outlook, there were deep-seated fundamental differences such as the dissimilar attitudes, aims and ideologies that Moscow and Washington subscribed to.
One of the fundamental differences between the attitudes of Washington and Moscow originates from the happenings in each nation during and before WWII. "The basic factor in producing this national sense of insecurity has been geographical. Throughout its history Russia has been without natural frontiers to serve for its defense" (Halle 13). The Soviet outlook was one of paranoia and insecurity because Soviets had been massacred from their western border several times in their history. In Asian and European historian Elizabeth Seeger's chronicle The Pageant of Russian History, there are numerous examples of Russians being devastated by attacks from their western border such as the Napoleonic attack of 1812 and the especially brutal attack by Germany during WWII. These humiliating attacks left a permanent impression on Russian mentality that can be observed through their national sentiment. Because of this mindset, Stalin sought to secure a friendly and neutralized western border and the Soviet occupation of half of Europe after WWII presented itself as the perfect time to act on these aspirations. "'The war is not as in the past,' Stalin himself explained to the Yugoslav communist Milovian Djilas in 1945, 'whosoever occupies a territory also imposes his own social system....It cannot be otherwise'" (Gaddis). As demonstrated by this quotation, Stalin planned to install friendly satellite governments in all Soviet subjugated nations, which, as he knew, threatened the western powers' presence and authority. Therefore it could be said that the Soviet plan caused the Cold War, which would defend the Orthodox view. The United States, conversely, had an attitude of greatness and an outlook of omnipresence. This outlook differed from the Soviet attitude mainly because the United States stood apart from Europe and its problems, had never been attacked on its native soil and because: When [WWII] was done there rested spirits of most Americans the belief that they had saved China, rescued the beleaguered European democracies and enabled the Russians to withstand, and presently conquer, the German invaders. They expected appreciation and cooperation in the service of their ideals which the war had deemed to have proved were best. (Feis 3)These two bipolar positions sharply differed and therefore anxieties arose when the Soviet Union was forced, by Washington's overconfident actions, to be defensive. "The cultural gap between American and Soviet leaders contributed to the emerging Cold War. American negotiators acted as if the mere recitation of their legal and moral rights ought to produce the results they desired" (Kissinger 438). These points support the Revisionist view. Both in diplomatic historian Herbert Feis' From Trust to Terror: The Onset of the Cold War 1945-1950 and Hungarian professor of history John Lukacs' A History of the Cold War, there is ample evidence that these divergent attitudes exhibited by each country prevented the other from establishing what they perceived as a secure position in Europe. In short, they forced the other country to be on the defensive and thus, they lashed out at each other. These tantrums can be seen in Europe, the Middle East and other places. There is plenty of sound support for both the Revisionist and Orthodox views and therefore, because of this evidence, the Post-Revisionist standpoint is the historically correct assessment of 'blame.' Each country, not just one or the other, caused the tensions that arose from the differing attitudes.

Another fundamental difference between the Soviet Union and the United States was the bipolar aims of each nation. Because of these differing attitudes, both the Soviet Union and the United States had several objectives to achieve after the Central Powers were neutralized during WWII and when the two agendas conflicted, tensions arose: The collapse of Nazi Germany and the need to fill the resulting power vacuum led to the disintegration of the wartime partnership [between the United States and the Soviet Union]. The purposes of the allies were simply too divergent. Churchill sought to prevent the Soviet Union from dominating Central Europe. Stalin wanted to be paid in territorial coin for Soviet military victories and heroic suffering of the Russian people. The new President, Harry S. Truman, initially strove to continue Roosevelt's legacy of holding the alliance together. (Kissinger 424)

As demonstrated above, the ambitions of the two prominent world powers after WWII were extremely different. Soviet Russia wanted to achieve security because of repeated attacks and the only way that Stalin saw to do this was to acquire territory: "The behaviour of Russia under the Communists had been Russian behaviour rather than communist behaviour....There has been the same effort to achieve security by expanding the Russia space, by constantly pushing back the menacing presence of the foreigners across the Russian borders" (Halle 11). Because of the Soviet feelings of insecurity and paranoia, Stalin wanted one thing: the acquisition of territory with Communists-friendly governments in each 'acquired' nation. Another thing that complicated relations was Stalin's mistrustful nature. "National security had come to mean personal security, and [Stalin] saw so many threats to it that he had already resorted to murder on a mass scale in order to remove all conceivable challengers to his regime" (Gaddis). Both Stalin and the Russian people felt vulnerable and especially weak on their western front from repeated surprise invasions launched against them. As a result, Stalin wanted to secure his country, to establish a 'buffer zone' against the poisonous capitalist countries to the west a crawl back into the sheltered nook that the Kremlin was. Therefore, one could deduce that Russian intensions caused the Cold War because Stalin was acting while well aware that his actions would contrast with those of America, which supports the Orthodox viewpoint. However, the United States and other western countries also had their own aims. These aims can be observed by analyzing 'The Atlantic Charter' and 'The Truman Doctrine.' Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt signed 'The Atlantic Charter' on August 14,1941. While still early in the war, it was later adopted by the United Nations and remains, to this day, a cornerstone of civilization. The western powers would "seek no aggrandizement.... respect the rights of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live....bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations....[and seek] the abandonment of the use of force" (Avalon). The Charter was basically a statement that unified the Western democracies against any right-wing fascist government. It was a precursor to Truman's policy of containment because it set democracy liberty against fascist domination and this turned out to be a central theme during the Cold War. The Cold War resulted from the western countries accepting and embracing these principles and the Soviets and eastern bloc countries not doing this. Truman's speech, called his doctrine because it outlined his plan, addressed Congress on March 12, 1947. "One way of life is based upon the will of the majority...guarantees of individual liberty...and freedom from political oppression. The second way of life is based upon terror and oppression...fixed elections...and the suppression of personal freedom" (Halsall). Truman went on to ask for hundreds of millions of dollars to be sent to Greece, Turkey and other countries in danger of falling to Communism. Truman, in a roundabout way, declared that the United States vowed to contain the spread of Communism all over the world he also piercingly contrasts Communism with Democracy to intensify the hatred and recoil that he wants his audience to feel towards Communism in order to attain the affirming public opinion that he needs to carry out his plan. Through the signing and recitation of these documents it was as if the United States government was drawing a line in the sand and forcing the Soviets into a corner. If they should exceed their dictated borders, as they did in Korea and more so in the Middle East, then they would be punished. Through these threats and confining measures, one could make a worthy argument supporting the Revisionist viewpoint. The divergent attitudes brought about divergent aims after WWII. When examining these aims, there is ample evidence supporting both the Revisionist and Orthodox views and thus, the Post- Revisionist view is the most appropriate one.

Both the United States and Soviet Russia acted on these aims and outlooks in different ways. The Soviet Union was in a perfect position to act on its aims to secure Europe because its troops occupied half of it. The German attack forced the Soviet Union into a tactical alliance with the Western Powers but Stalin always sought to expand his influence by using indigenous communists and the Red Army. Not content with eastern and south-eastern Europe, the USSR attempted to draw the whole of Germany into Soviet orbit and by fomenting strikes and social unrest in western and southern Europe and Asia sought to expand communist influence in those regions as well. (McCauley 9) Moscow's foremost aim after WWII was securing its western border and in order to do this Stalin needed to ensure that friendly governments, and only authority truly friendly to communists, governed all countries adjacent to the Soviet Union. Thus, he required that all neighboring nations had communist, or extremely left wing, governments installed in them. The Soviet troops in eastern Europe only needed to lightly influence the war-torn governments for them to show communist allegiance. The security-driven aims of the Soviet Union are not only present in Europe but also in Asia and the Pacific. Examples of Soviet expansion include Soviet support of Communists in China and also in North Korea. Their involvement in the Chinese Civil War is a clear example of them setting themselves against the American's because the Soviets funded the Communist movement in full knowledge that the Americans were similarly supporting the Nationalists. The Soviets, if not directly but in a roundabout way, also supported the North Korean forces as they launched their offensive against the South Koreans and sparked the Korean War, that candidly positioned Communist forces against those supporting Democracy. The Soviets supported these movements fully knowing that it would disturb the western objectives there and, although later in the 'war,' these events, and others, were responsible for escalating the Cold War to a near nuclear WWIII in some cases. These points support the Orthodox view. The United States also acted upon its ambitions and overall attitude. The clearest act on the objectives of the United States was 'The Marshall Plan.' This proposal was issued on June 5, 1947 and stated that "it is logical to expect that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economical health in the world" (Halsall), and as a result millions of dollars were sent to Germany and other central and south- eastern European countries to 'encourage' them to adopt democracy and avoid communism. This taunting and economical war for people waged by the United States against the Soviet Union is support for the Revisionist view. Each country committed these acts in full knowledge that the other was doing the opposite, and thus the tensions that arose from the incompatibility of these actions are the fault of neither the United States nor Soviet Russia alone, as the supporters of the Revisionist and Orthodox viewpoints believe, but instead, the United States and the Soviet Union were at fault for beginning the Cold War.

The final fundamental difference that existed between Washington and Moscow was the immensely different ideologies that each of the powers subscribed to. Based solely on the fact that the Soviet Union and the United States had different forms of governments many tensions arose. The Western democracies sought a form of security that would reject violence or the threat of it: security was to be a collective good, not a benefit denied to some in order to provide it to others. Stalin saw things very differently: security came only by intimidating or eliminating potential challengers....The events of 1917-18 created a symbolic basis for conflict between communism and capitalism by setting the self-proclaimed objectives of the United States and Soviet Russia against one another in a most fundamental way. (Gaddis)The most evident dogmatic divergence is the forms of government that each country was administered by. The Soviet Union was a communist republic and an autocracy, ruled by a man who had killed more of his own countrymen than Hitler. "While mistrust and hostility of Western capitalism had been subdued during the war, the basic belief that by nature it must be rapacious and aggressive lingered deep in Soviet thought---ready to sprout and grow into hideous accusations when quarrels arose" (Feis 5). Conversely, the United States was directed by a capitalist democracy and was recently governed by one of the most liberal Presidents in the history of the nation. As demonstrated informer Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's Diplomacy, there are a myriad of examples of conflicts that arose between these two powers based solely or mostly on ideological differences such as the tensions that developed at the Potsdam Conference. The strict adherence to their respective doctrines in the knowledge that the other abhorred it is further evidence that both nations caused the diplomatic tensions, supporting the Post-Revisionist viewpoint.

When examining the pre-WWII and WWII circumstances of both the United States and the Soviet Union, it becomes evident that the elemental canon of each country conflicted. The three most prominent fundamental differences are bipolar outlooks, aspirations and dogmas. When examining documents, there is a plethora of evidence supporting both the Revisionist and the Orthodox viewpoints, and because of this evidence the Post-Revisionist position is the accurate assessment of blame. Both the Soviet Union and the United States purposely aggravated each other and prevented each other from obtaining any sort of secure standing both in the international and domestic sense. When examining these activities years after they happened, it is easy to conclude that both the United States and Soviet Russia were culpable for starting the Cold War. However, during the tense years, such as the Korean and Vietnam Wars, this inference was not as easily made. Thus, those belonging to the Revisionist and Orthodox tenets only need to look at the Cold War overall to gain the perspective necessary to gage an educated proposal for blame and not just focus on isolated events. Again referring back to the quotation by Eisenhower, we must always remember those immortal words and learn from past mistakes and realize that communication and diplomacy are the supreme exemplars of brotherhood and unity, more so that paranoia and arms races will ever be. We must never repeat the mistakes of the past and never again utter Churchill's famous words of the 'iron curtain' to report on international events: From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent....If the western democracies stand together in strict adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter, their influence for furthering these principles will be immense and no one is likely to molest them. If, however, they become divided or falter in their duty, and if these all-important years are allowed to slip away, then indeed catastrophe may overwhelm us all. (Halsall)
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