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How far was Truman personally responsible for the development of the Cold War?

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Introduction

How far was Truman personally responsible for the development of the Cold War in Europe to 1949? The Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939 and Potsdam of 1945 had left the Soviets looking less than trustworthy in the eyes of the Americans. However, the East was not solely to blame. Leading up to 1949, many events seemed to impair Truman's public image. The Iron Curtain Speech in 1946 was the first open attack on communism. From here, the West had two reasons to continue an attack. Firstly, their expectations of a counter attack from Eastern Europe, especially since the atomic bomb had been showcased for all to see (and steal) in 1945. Secondly, after an open attack, they had to follow up with evidence, and subsequently prepare themselves for the worst case scenario. Now that growing communism posed a threat to vital US interests, Truman was struck with the prospect of the US standing alone against a hostile world. Since the new Republican Congress seemed determined to stand by their policy of isolationism, Truman argued that this would be giving ammunition to communist propaganda and appeasing the opposition would be repeating the conditions of the 1930s. He also claimed that failure to defend Greece and Turkey from this threat could lead other countries 'to fall like apples in a barrel infected by one rotten one'. ...read more.

Middle

Stalin hoped that this way he could isolate a position of strength to negotiate from and simultaneously change West Germans opinion about the extent of the US's will and ability to aid them. However, Truman did not back down. Adopting the British idea of an airlift, 2.3 million tons of goods to feed and provide Berlin were flown in from June 1948 to May 1949 when Stalin finally backed down. By this time Stalin realised his plan had backfired, bringing about the very things he sought to avert. West German opinion had consolidated against him. The creation of NATO in April 1949 was a continuation of the Truman Doctrine, serving to ensure a stable, strong democracy in Europe. In conjunction with NATO other structures were born based on the experience of the Marshall Plan and, with US encouragement, the process of Europe's assimilation began. It was amidst these political conditions that a West German state was founded in May 1949. If the Cold War did not begin before the Truman Doctrine, it is likely the events after it were highly significant in causing friction or triggering an actual start. Traditional historians are of the view that the imposition of aggressive Soviet expansionism on an unwilling Eastern Europe catapulted the balance of power into a Cold war. Revisionist historians argue that the Cold war was an inevitable result of conflicting American and Russian interests, that US policy of containment as expressed in the Truman Doctrine was at least equally responsible, if not more so, than Soviet seizure of Poland and other states. ...read more.

Conclusion

After all, the USSR was equally deserving of aid because of their joint effort and losses in World War II. Nevertheless, it was a counteract-balance situation where if the West pushed, the USSR would counter. In addition to this, misperceptions were a feature of Cold War reasoning, and both sides underestimated the others' genuine apprehension. In conclusion, I feel that there have been many incidences that could have sparked off a war at any time, but the point is it did not. At this time, it wasn't a Cold War as such, but more tension, and build up of future events to come. Each side expected a level of muscle flexing. At any time, threat of termination was countered with a defensive act that would ultimately lead back to the equilibrium that suited them both. However, I feel that it wasn't until the development of the atomic bomb by the Russians in 1949 that lead to the beginnings of the Cold War. America no longer had the upper hand, and fear of 'meeting their match' may have been a short term cause for the declaration of the NSC-68, which took a more aggressive view on communism. It looked to 'roll-back' communism, 'enforcing' that they were successful. This in my opinion, is the beginning of the Cold War, and it was the Truman Doctrine (as well as other key events) that simply speeded up the arrival of the conflict in the 1940s. ...read more.

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