University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
To What Extent Can USA and USSR Be Blamed for the Start of the Cold War
To What extent can USA and USSR be blamed for the start of the Cold War? After World War II, a new world order was created as USSR and USA emerged as the two superpowers. There were already existing tensions between these two before the war and the wartime alliance was more out of the need to destroy the common enemy, Germany, rather than out of mutual agreements between these two. It has been argued that the cold war was caused mostly by the USSR because of their Marxism- Leninism ideology and their leader Stalin.
To a large extent according to the Orthodox historians, Marxism- Leninism was responsible for the Cold War as it was an expansionist, aggressive ideology. They expanded under the aim to ‘liberate masses’ from capitalism. This greatly threatened the USA politically as this ‘liberation’ meant a communist takeover in the ‘liberated’ country. Also, the Orthodox historians argue that Stalin showed numerous signs of his unwillingness to co-operate in his dealings with Eastern Europe.
Though Stalin had promised at Yalta to initiate free and fair elections in the Eastern-European states, he went against his word and created communist governments in all the states that were supposed to be freed. In Poland, for example, when the Peasant Party refused to join the ‘Democratic Front’ as demanded by the communists, the leader and other party officials were subjected to harassment and forced to flee. These aggressive acts by the communists made the Cold War inevitable.
Arthur Schlesinger argued, ‘Leninism and Marxism made it impossible for the USSR and USA to co-operate. ’ Gewiss also wrote in his book, ‘Rethinking the Cold War’ that Stalin and the USSR had to be blamed for the Cold War. However, it is also very difficult to attribute the Cold War to the USSR. The Revisionist historians also have placed the blame for the Cold War on USA. The USA did not realize how devastated USSR was from World War II. About 20 million people had been killed, 1,700 cities were destroyed and about 700,000 villages were in ruins.
The USSR’s control of Eastern Europe was mainly because she felt insecure because of her status. However, USA had emerged more economically powerful as she had experienced a wartime boom. The USA knew her economic power and thus used it to finance all her plans. This economic boom she experienced lead to the need to trade to maintain her status. Revisionists argue that the USA was responsible for the Cold War in the fact that she wanted to spread the policy of democracy.
The USA wanted to create a form of ‘dollar imperialism’. Some historians argue that with this new form of imperialism, there was no need to politically take over the country. This can be identified in the Truman doctrine. The USA wanted to contain communism, that is, to stop it from spreading throughout the world. However, this was a very important policy, the ‘policy of containment’, as it marked the official beginning of the Cold War for many.
After Churchill’s famous speech, ‘The Iron Curtain Speech’, he indicated the need of an Anglo-American alliance to put a stop to the communists. This was rather significant as it created quite some suspicion in the USSR. Stalin even recognized ‘The Iron Curtain Speech’ as a declaration of war and he replied to this speech by indicating that Mr. Churchill believed that only English speaking nations had the power to control the world. Revisionists argued that this actually caused Stalin to start formally annexing Eastern Europe.
However, to blame the Cold War on these two nations will not be all too justifiable because of other factors that contribute largely to the Cold War; one of which was fear which consequently lead to each party misinterpreting the other’s actions and reaching out of fear. Post revisionists argue that most of the actions carried out in the Cold War were out of fear. USSR’s need to control Eastern Europe was as a result of her fear of being attacked again as she said that Germany had only been able to attack the USSR because that states around her were not friendly.
The USA misinterpreted USSR’s actions as aggressive and wanting to take over the world. Similarly, when USA introduced the Marshall aid, she did it in order to help Europe to recover from the alarming war loss and also to enable trade with Europe. This aid was interpreted by the USSR as an anti-communism act and consequently rejected this aid for all her satellites. The cold war has many interpretations however, although the USSR and the USA had large roles to play in the development of the Cold War, these attitudes play coupled with other activities that made the Cold War inevitable.