What was 'containment', and to what extent did the US and UK work together to implement it?
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11. What was 'containment', and to what extent did the US and UK work together to implement it? The Cold War, the confrontation between America and the Soviet Union, each supported by their allies, dominated world politics from 1945 to 1991. The USSR was politically and economically the opposite of almost everything America and Britain stood for. Nevertheless, the Second World War and the threat of Nazism brought the two sides together in a marriage of convenience in order to defeat Hitler. In fact, Franklin D. Roosevelt liked to cite an old Balkan proverb from time to time during the Second World War 'to explain the use of questionable allies to achieve unquestionable objectives: "My children, it is permitted you in time of grave danger walk with the devil until you have crossed the bridge."' Once that aim had been achieved the basis of their co-operation had disappeared. Furthermore, the issues which confronted the allies at the end of the war were complex - the future of Germany and Poland, the fate of the other liberated countries in Eastern Europe, reparations, the foundation of the United Nations, the control and use of atomic technology- and both sides had very different ideas about the post-war world. As each side recognised the other as their ideological enemy, it was inevitable that they approached each other with deep suspicion. From the misunderstandings and disagreements came the breakdown of trust and co-operation on which Europe's restructuring depended: it was clear that each side had a different vision of post-war Europe and these two views were incompatible. Rapidly the wartime alliance disintegrated into a war of words- accusation and counter-accusation -soon to be backed up by the threat of military action. This was the Cold War; an armed stand-off between political and economic systems, each side convinced of the evils of the other and each side confident of economic and ideological victory. Containment was the doctrine which was to define and form the basis of American foreign policy.
Moreover, Bevin believed that it was only Britain who stood between Russian control of the eastern Mediterranean, the Dardanelle's and the Middle East. Churchill tried to stir the American's into action with a speech that he made at Fulton, Missouri, USA in March 1946. In this speech, he claimed that 'from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent'. Declaring that the Russians were fixed on an indefinite and unspecified extension pf their power and dogma, he called for a western alliance which would stand firm against the communist threat, for 'if... they become divided or falter in their duty, and if all these important years are allowed to slip away, then indeed catastrophe may overwhelm us all.' However, Anglo-American relations were strained by the abrupt ending of Lend-Lease and by the unfavourable terms insisted on for the American loan in 1945. Many American's were hostile to Britain's empire and continued to view Britain as a serious trade rival. This was a reason for the lack of enthusiasm for Britain's anti-communist stand in Greece. Nevertheless, these tensions did not stop Bevin from telling the Americans in February 1947 that Britain's weak economic position made it impossible for her to continue the struggle in Greece. If they wanted Greece and Turkey safe from communism, they would basically have to do it themselves. Truman responded with what became known as the Truman Doctrine: the USA would 'support free peoples who are resisting subjugation by armed minorities or armed pressures.' Greece immediately received massive amounts of arms and other supplies and by 1949 the communists were defeated . Turkey which also seemed under threat, received aid worth about $60 million. This is the first sign of the British and Americans working together, despite their differences, purely for the cause of blocking the further spread of communism, in turn implementing containment.
The war left Korea ravaged and broken and still divided on the 38th parallel; the situation remains that way today - the last remaining Cold War boundary. In essence, Britain proved again that it worked together with the US to implement containment, in fact it played a role in ensuring that the policy of containment did not transform into one of 'rollback'. However, when it came to the Cuban missile crisis, the US was working alone to implement containment. During the crisis, Britain was unable to play any useful role. The crisis of 1962 is often seen as the moment when the world came closest to nuclear obliteration. The crisis occurred when Kennedy demanded the removal of Russian missiles from Cuba, less than 100 miles from the American coast. The two powers seemed to be on the verge of nuclear war, but common sense prevailed and Krushchev agreed to remove the missiles. As for the Vietnam war, the America were once again fighting alone against communism and the possibility of its further growth in Asia. The American decision to support the un-elected south Vietnamese government was to result in humiliation and defeat for the US. In conclusion, containment was a policy adopted by the US during the Cold War that aimed to prevent any further communist takeovers. Both the USSR and the USA gathered allies around them. For the USA, the UK was an ally that worked with them to implement the American policy of containment. There were some occasions however when the British did nothing - the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam war. But without the help of the British, west Berlin may have been forced to become communist and south Korea might also have been unable to fight off the communists. Additionally, the USA may have been involved in a large scale nuclear war against China. Thus, one can argue that to a certain extent the UK and the US did work together to implement containment during the cold war.
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