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Who was responsible for the Cold War?

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Introduction

Who was responsible for the Cold War? The slave frees himself when, of all the relations of private property, he abolishes only the relation of slavery and thereby becomes a proletarian; the proletarian can free himself only by abolishing private property in general. (Engels, Principles of Communism) Private property was the original source of freedom. It still is its main bulwark. (Walter Lippmann) The 'Cold War' was an; economic, political, and ideological clash between two superpowers. The above quotes illustrate the fundamental differences between the beliefs of Western capitalists and 'Eastern' Communists, differences that dictated forty five years of competition and one-one-upmanship in the international arena. To understand why the Cold War took place and therefore who was responsible not only do the events that played out in the early 20th century need to be considered but also the inherent philosophy behind each 'bloc' and the driving forces on each side. This essay aims to assess the different historical view points that have developed since the 1950's including; the orthodox view, the revisionist view, and the post-revisionist view. Ultimately however the revisionist view point, that the United States and her Western allies were to blame for the Cold War, is the one that seems to be the most justified. The orthodox view is that the Soviet Union was mostly to blame for the Cold War. In 'Origins of the Cold War' for instance Arthur Schlesinger attributes much of the blame to the "sinister dynamics of a totalitarian society and the madness of Stalin" (October 1967, pp.49-50). ...read more.

Middle

Instead however Britain and France engaged in a campaign against the fledgling state and the rest of the Western allies fought the Red Army in the Russian Civil War. This not only made it clear to the Bolsheviks that the capitalist countries were determined to destroy their society from the off-set but also stood as a point of contention and hypocrisy when the United States and Western Europe criticised the USSR for intervening in the conflicts of its neighbours. Perhaps the most important dimension of the Cold War was the arms race. According to Revisionists this was triggered by the United States in 1945 when it dropped the A bomb on Hiroshima. Harry Elmer Barnes wrote in a publication submitted to the National Review in 1958 (Hiroshima: Assault on a Beaten Foe) that "the major reason for dropping the (Atomic) bomb was a saber-rattling gesture to the Russians against whom we were already preparing the Cold War." For the Revisionists the US decision to drop the A bomb epitomises their quest to be 'one step ahead' of the USSR and to assert their authority on the USSR, and therefore that as the main aggressors in the Cold War the USA was mainly responsible for it. The USSR was however also guilty of 'one-one-upmanship'. It created and tested its first nuclear weapon in 1949 largely through its spies in the Manhattan Project. It also massively increased tensions in the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. ...read more.

Conclusion

The USSR would always 'ignore' American calls for democracy in Eastern Europe as it felt the need to create a secure sphere of influence, and the USA would always ignore many more pragmatic policy routes in order to fulfil its economic aims in Europe and Asia. These motivations formed the basis for each nations decisions in the 1940's. In conclusion then Cold War was mostly the fault of the West and in particular the United States. There was a genuine and real lack of 'Realpolitik' in US foreign policy, as reflected in the way in which Truman treated the Russian foreign minister Molotov and the Russian administration in general. Ian Grey summarises the arrogance and unhelpful position of the USA with the following quote: "Harry Truman made his decision to lay down the law to an ally which had contributed more in blood and agony to the common cause than we had - and about Poland, an area through which the Soviet Union had been invaded three times since 1914..." (The First Fifty Years, 1967). The USA was focused on increasing its economic stature by exporting its own form of free trade capitalism to countries all around the world and by 'containing' its economic opponents, namely communism. This mindset 'enabled' the US administration to ignore the Soviet's fear and resulting need for Eastern European security and caused them to intervene right across the world (both economically with Marshall Aid and militarily with the Truman Doctrine and the Vietnam War), causing the Cold War. ...read more.

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