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How far do you agree with the view that the development of the cold war in the period 1945-50 was a result of Stalins foreign policy?

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Francesc Gaya Mesquida

How far do you agree with the view that the development of the cold war in the period 1945-50 was a result of Stalin’s foreign policy?

The Cold War began in a series of events from the conferences of the Big Three in 1943-45 to the complex events of the post-war era, in which both sides contributed. In any case, the Cold War began because the U.S. would not allow the Soviets a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, and because the Soviets took a series of aggressive actions to expand their areas of control and influence all over the World.
What the USA did not understand that made USSR’s policy so aggressive and seem so tough is that the Soviet foreign policy was marked by the heavy losses, not only military but also in population, which the USSR had during the Second World War. Whole cities were destroyed to rubble and thousands of acres of cultivating land were converted to waste. So the USSR desired to make their borders secure by creating their own sphere of influence with friendly governments, yes it was a way of spreading communism, but it was firstly a security measure.
The USA as expressed by George Kennan in his “long telegram”: “and they [USSR] have learned to seek security only in patient but deadly struggle for total destruction of rival powers, never in compacts and compromises with it” so we can see how exaggerated was the US view of the soviet will of protection. The US was also starting a bad era, the change of president after the fructuous Yalta conference, in which Truman succeeded the deceased Roosevelt, marked a very heavy change in US foreign policy. Truman was heavily anti-communist and adopted a new “iron fist” attitude to the USSR. Truman was never very friendly with the USSR; he even spoke to them the “language of a Missouri mule driver” which did not make the soviet foreign minister Molotov very happy at all. Relations with the two countries were reaching a new low, and it was made worse by the series of strange soviet actions in Eastern Europe.
During the years 1945-47 the Soviet Red Army was stationed in large parts of Eastern Europe. Given the political and military vacuum that existed after the Nazi defeat, the Red Army was placed to exert influence in Eastern Europe. Its precens was a source of much anxiety for the west, which realised that it provided Stalin with a powerful weapon by which he could stamp his policies on the region. The fact that nearly all Eastern Europe was now under the military rule of the USSR made the USA very nervous indeed, their policy of containment of communism was being challenged and the could not bear the existence of communist troops in newly liberated countries. Pro-communist governments were placed in Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Albania. Stalin had gained control of what he considered to be a legitimate sphere of influence for the USSR. To the US this development was viewed differently. Stalin has failed to keep his promise to hold free elections in Eastern Europe. The US government was suspicious of Stalin’s intentions and was worried that there was a serious threat of Soviet expansion across Europe. Adding gasoline to the fire came Churchill and his “Iron Curtain” speech which marked the limits of the free world. The US government agreed with him totally but secretly, and the USSR accused him of a warmonger, relations between the east and the west came to a new low. So here yes the USSR was being very risky with their foreign policy and with the so called “sphere of influence” they did not hold free elections when needed and they were forcing governments down, but they were basically doing it for home security something the USA failed to see and misunderstood.
The USA foreign policy did not do much to help recuperate the relations with the east when it launched the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall plan. These two were designed after seeing the threat that the USSR posed on the poor, destroyed and hungry European countries. The US believed that poor countries were the perfect breeding ground for communism and they could not let this happen therefore president Truman adopted the Truman Doctrine which was of economic and financial aid to any country who asked for it, the USSR saw it as Americanisation of Europe and dependency on the US dollar and also establishing anti-communist countries on its border. Also we have to consider the Marshall plan issued by Secretary of State George Marshall, which after a visit to the western European countries and after seeing the total destruction and emporishment of those countries and following the Truman Doctrine, decided to issue the Marshall Plan which would put 17 Billion dollars in aid to any country which demanded it under certain conditions. To make sure the USSR or any of it’s “dominated” countries could not apply for it, the plan demanded to let the US see all the financial statements and have some of a say in it’s future spending, this way no communist country would apply for it, again the USSR thought that the US was creating anti-communist and dollar dependant countries. This was also misperception of the USSR and hysteria by Stalin and his ministers. Very importantly too, the US policy in that era was very marked by the “red scare” that Senator McCarthy implemented in the minds of nearly all the Americans. There was a wave of trails of supposedly communist people, and to avoid any accusation, the US government had to be tough on communism therefore Truman would make no concessions on them. This made the cold war very important to the US and made the relations even colder.
A response to the USA’s Marshall plan and Truman Doctrine was the soviet COMECON, an organisation set up to coordinate the economies of the communist countries, the problem was that it only gave 500 million dollars compared to the billion offered to every country by the US. Also the Cominform was set up which coordinated communist parties thought Europe. This was seen as more expansionism by the USSR because for example France had a very powerful communist party which was most surely being fomented by the USSR. This was more soviet foreign policy which affected the relations very deeply; this had resulted in a division of Europe more entrenched. Lastly on USSR’s foreign policy was the Berlin Blockade of 1948-49 which was a result of USA foreign policy because Stalin saw as a threat the newly created West Germany after the unification of the three allied zones and the introduction of a new strong German coin, the Deutsche Mark. Stalin’s view of what was happening in Germany was of a strong Germany which the allies hoped would be powerful enough to be a threat to the USSR, but what really was happening was a reconstruction of new markets for the allies so that they could get more money out of the construction of Germany, with the USA as main benefiter. So what Stalin did was to cut the road and sea links to the allied zones in Berlin with the hope that the allies would surrender these zones, but what happened was an extension of the Truman Doctrine, the president of the US wanted to avoid another type of appeasement so the allies started a very costly and risky operation of airlifting the supplies to the allied zones. This continued for over a year until Stalin obliged to see defeat opened the links to Berlin. Also the Berlin airlift helped to create the NATO which was an organisation that excluded communism and therefore again made the cold war more charged with tension, and the Berlin Blockade was a clear sign to the allies, that Stalin would challenged them to achieve his aim of world domination and would not stop, the allies could not see that the USSR was willing to avoid future enemy penetration in its borderland, that was difficult to see because the USSR had the biggest army in the world, 2 million soldiers and therefore the US could not see why Stalin was worried.
In conclusion not only was it the USSR’s foreign policy, but it was a reaction to USA’s foreign policy and misinterpretation of the actions by the USSR and the USA. I believe that the whole start of the Cold War was a full misinterpretation by both superpowers, because once the USSR developed the a-bomb in 1949, the USA was appalled and could not believe what they knew and saw in the USSR a natural enemy which would destroy them at any opportunity, what they did not see is that they also had the a-bomb and that if the USSR made a nuclear strike they would retaliate and both countries would be obliterated. What I mean with all this is that they were overreacting, both superpowers, and that both foreign policies were adding tension to the cold war.

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