Cold War Discussion

What was the Cold War? When did the Cold War begin? Where did it begin? These questions are crucial  for our understanding of what happened since 1945, and gives us a pciture of our contemporary situation.

The Cold War was tension between the the United States and Soviet Union that aoooarently appeared immediately following the end of World WarII. However, the tensions and suspicions began with the 1940 Katyn Massacre of 22,000 Polish officers carried out by the Soviets.  The evidence clearly shown the Soviets committed this atrocity.  The britihs and Americans kept quiet about the information. Instead , they blamed the Germans for this incident. The Germans had the evidence , biu decided not use it for propaganda purposes.

This event triggered tensions between Stalin, Churchill and FDR. Winston Churchill (1874-1964) never trusted Stalin. FDR wanted Soviet involvement to create a two front war against Germany. However, he suspected the Russian push against the Japanese. Thereby, he aligned the United States with Chiang Kai-Shek and the Nationalist Chinese forces. FDR wanted China as an ally border the Soviet Union. That objective was one reason why FDR floated millions to support the Nationalist Chinese.  The President believed, a China alliance would neutralize Stalin’s plans and make him willing to negotiate terms more favorable for US interests.

Stalin argued two world wars devastated the Soviet Union. The Soviets (Stalin argued )needed the Eatsern European nations to become buffer states separating Western Europe from the Soviet Union.  The combination of Stalin’s desires and FDR objectives fueled mistrust between each side. However, an ailing FDR hoped to end the war.  His April 1945 death, left a void filled by Harry Truman (1884-1972). (In 1944, FDR’s Vice-President was Henry Wallace (1888-1865) who promoted helping the Soviets and the region known as Asia Minor create an agricultural powerhouse- was dumped from the ticket.

As President, Truman made several key decisions shaping the Cold War. Truman decided to use the Atomic Bomb against Japan. His reasoning was twofold. The best estimated indicated an expected million American casualties and death would result from an land invasion of Japan. Secondly, the Russian were successfully pushing out the Japanese from several Asian nations. Stalin indicated he would join the US in a land invasion (giving them the foot in the door).Thereby, Truman hoped the bomb would become a visible deterrent. This event and desired results failed .

In fact, many Americans started to fear future conflicts with the Soviets. Moreover, Truman lost faith in Chiang Kai-shekm and in 1949 mainland China became a communist state under the leadership of the Mao. Moreoever, the Soviets produced their first atomic bomb (1949). Later, the Chinese  produced one, and in 1953 the US introduced the hydrogen bomb (a a far more dangerous weapon, and in 1979 the neutron bomb (a weapon that destroys the molecules of living things).

Truman advocated the “containment plan.”  This plan meant the United States would avoid direct warfare with the Soviets, but would meet their forces and proxies anywhere in the world to stop the spread of tCommunism by the Soviets. In turn, the Soviets  practiced the same thing.  This policy explained the US funding for the French in Indochina and our conflict in Vietnam;  and the Korean conflict.

Containment policy allowed both the United States and the Soviet Union to police the world, and created  a new balance of power dictated by the two powers until the 1980s.  The 1953 death of Stalin changed the Soviet direction in combating the Cold War.  A populat cultural war emerged between the two powers. Often this Cold War expressed itself in sports (the Olympics), and space race. Moreover,  each side produced programs of young people extolling their respective visions to the world (The Peace Corps and the Soviet’ Young Pioneers.

Intriguingly, Presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan all advocated a detente with the Soviets (a diplomatic relation leading to cooling of the Cold War.) Both the Soviet and especially Maoist China struggled with economic development.  Simply put, the US’s economic resources actually grew because of the Cold War, while the Russian economy struggled.

By the 1970s and 1980s, a growing resentment to the Soviet and US globalized power started to emeree. The US dependency on oil displayed a vulnerability in the American economic power structure. In the case of Soviets, a protracted war against Afghanistan (1979-1988 ) proved their Vietnam. They lost interest in controlling Eastern Europeans as these nations experienced a renewed sense of nationalism. 

The end of the Cold War was finalized with the 1991 Soviet collapse. This left a global power vaccuum which the United States filled. The ultimate consequence of the Cold War was the United States became dependent upon the need for military pwer to maintain its global presence. In short, when Eisenhower warned of “military industrial complex” (MIC) dominating the US. Could it be our Cold War participation changed the US?

Discussion Topic
focuses on the beginning of the Cold War. Many scholars contended fears about nuclear destruction or communist domination manifested itself in Science Fiction literature and motion pictures made during the 1950s and 1960s. Do you accept that premise? Did the eventual Soviet Union development of the atomic bomb, the Sputnik launch, and the growth of US presence throughout the world further reinforce Cold War fears?

Reference no: EM132069492


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