• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

American economic foreign policy and the origins of the cold war

Extracts from this document...


ALTHOUGH THE COLD WAR came to an end more than a decade ago, historians have yet to reach a consensus on the origins of this conflict. Shortly after the proclamation of the Truman doctrine in 1947, which marked the first official announcement of America's involvement in an antagonistic relationship with the Soviet Union, two major camps with competing explanations on who was to blame for this state-of-affairs emerged. Their views remain among the most hotly debated topics in recent diplomatic history. On the one hand, the orthodox camp maintains that the Cold War was the inevitable response of American policymakers to what were perceived as clear signs of Soviet aggression at the end of the Second World War, especially concerning the formation of a closed communist bloc in Eastern Europe. On the other hand, the revisionist camp contends that Soviet actions were of a purely defensive nature, and, by implication, the creation of a Russian sphere of influence was not the cause of the Cold War, but the result of it. Although many revisionists have divergent views on several important issues, they all draw attention to the role of American economic and ideological factors in the origins of the Cold War. "Leaders of the United States had become convinced, revisionists assert, that survival of the capitalist system at home required the unlimited expansion of American influence overseas."1 The argument of this study draws heavily upon the insights of the revisionist camp, but diverges in several important respects. Economic expansionism was not the prime motive behind American foreign policies in the 1940s, but was part of a larger strategy fundamentally aimed at creating economic security, domestically and internationally, in order to prevent the emergence of similar circumstances to the ones that had caused World War II. Although a cautionary stand must be taken in placing any blame for the emergence of the Cold War, the American course of action can at least be seen to have seriously exacerbated tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States. ...read more.


Moreover, although the multilateralist world economy would yield handsome political and economic dividends for the United States, this would not prevent other countries from participating and making equally striking gains. A strong American economy was also believed to benefit all nations of the world; Secretary of Commerce W. Averell Harriman described the United States as the "financial and economic pivot of the world," articulating the popular view that "economic stagnation in the United States would drag the rest of the world down with us."20 To many political leaders in Washington, this knowledge provided the moral justification for imposing their Weltanschauung on the international economy. The task of restoring the free flow of world trade within a capitalist framework was given to the U.S. State and Treasury Departments.21 The former assumed major responsibility for removing trade barriers by working for a renewal of the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act and by seeking to commit other nations to liberal tariff policies. The Atlantic Conference organized by the State Department in August 1941 moved to implement this policy. In Article III of the Atlantic Charter, Roosevelt and Churchill declared that after the war all people should have the right "to choose the form of government under which they will live." Article IV added the economic side to that principle: all states should enjoy "access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity."22 Conversely, the Treasury Department, under the direction of Henry Morgenthau Jr. and Harry Dexter White, concentrated on reforming the international monetary system by creating mechanisms to stabilize international currencies and to facilitate the flow of capital for reconstruction and development. The Treasury began working on an international financial and monetary conference in late 1941, which culminated in the meeting of delegates from forty-four nations at Bretton Woods on July 1, 1944. The Bretton Woods agreements established the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, commonly known as the World Bank. ...read more.


America's search for peace was unable to accomodate that of the Soviet Union. In this light, the Cold War can be said to have largely evolved from the complex interplay between Washington's multilateralist principles and Moscow's perceived postwar security needs. To Russia, security dictated extraordinary measures to control the political and economic destiny of Eastern Europe. Conversely, to America, the nearly closed Soviet sphere threatened the open and integrated economic order upon which U.S. goals for peace and prosperity rested. As a result, America's security needs demanded not only economic expansion. The "open door" also entailed creating a favorable environment in areas where economic interests as such were rather trivial, as seen in its goals in Eastern Europe. For this reason, U.S. foreign economic policy is to blame for exacerbating tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. American policymakers embarked upon a program that had to force the Soviet Union to accept America's traditional conception of itself and the world. As Williams points out, "American policy offered the Soviet Union but one real option: either acquiesce in American proposals [as the British and French had done] or be confronted with American power and hostility. [...] It was the decision of the United States to employ its new and awesome power in keeping with the traditional open door policy which crystallized the Cold War."35 Even Gaddis, who refutes many of the revisionist arguments, contends that "the belief that Stalin might agree to integrate the Soviet economy with those of the world's leading capitalist nations reflected a fundamental lack of sophistication which pervaded much of Washington's wartime economic planning. To attempt to construct a new world economic order without first resolving the deep political differences which divided the United States and the Soviet Union was na�ve in the extreme."36 The unrealistic nature of the United States foreign economic planning clearly demonstrates the extent to which excessive concentration on lessons of the past could impair efforts to deal with issues of the future. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level International History, 1945-1991 section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level International History, 1945-1991 essays

  1. Free essay

    The development of the international economy in the period 1945-2000 favoured rich countries at ...

    4 star(s)

    For example, the access to DC sugar markets was largely restricted, resulting from preferential treatment toward US sugar growers. Thus, LDCs were prevented from competing in its area of greatest comparative advantage. As natural resource producers, stabilisation of commodity prices can greatly reduce the volatility of the income, unemployment and government revenues in the LDCs.

  2. Superpower Relations 1945-90

    * When Mikhail Gorbachev became Soviet leader, Reagan and Thatcher began to see the end to the Cold War in view. It is better to see the events of these years not as a new Cold War, but the beginning of the end of the old.

  1. To What extent was German Foreign Policy responsible for the outbreak of general European ...

    The Kaiser played an important role in the events leading to the war. He supported the aggressive policy of Weltpolitik; he had after all sacked Bismarck in 1890. He also acted in a very aggressive and often provocative manner over foreign matters.

  2. Who was responsible for the start of the Cold war?

    In it's content he had similarly highlighted the incompatibility of the communist and capitalist systems and therefore it cannot be too surprising that Truman now recognised this as well however, Stalin's reaction to Marshall aid was on of hostility. Many countries within the Soviet sphere of influence that could have

  1. How far do you agree with the view that the development of the Cold ...

    In 1947 Communist groups took over the governments of Poland, Hungary and Romania. By 1948 Communist governments took control of all the Eastern Bloc states. In terms of how much Stalin was to blame of starting the cold war by taking over the eastern bloc states is debatable as Stalin

  2. Origins of the Cold War.

    Reevaluating Cold War Policy A series of events at end of 1949 propelled cold war in new direction as Soviets announced that they had tested their first atomic bomb, and the Chiang Kai-Shek nationalist government collapsed and was replaced by a communist extension of Soviets.

  1. While surfing the channels on TV you might hear a lot of news about ...

    And this has been going on all over. I'm not going to run through the list but it's, if you want to understand it, it's consistent. It's a consistent picture. It's described in words. It's revealed in practice for 20 years. There is no reason not to take it seriously.

  2. How far do you agree with the view that the origins of the Cold ...

    These represented differing models for the conduct of international relations and the seeds of the future conflict were planted in the hostility generated between these two conflicting views, which guided foreign policy for the USA, and the USSR for years up to and after 1945-46.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work