A second, somewhat more problematic, argument for the thesis of avoidability consists of the extent to which Russian leaders appeared ready to abide by at least some agreements made during the war. Key, here, is the understanding reached by Stalin and Churchill during the fall of 1944 on the division of Europe into spheres of influence. According to that understanding, Russia was to dominate Romania, have a powerful voice over Bulgaria, and share influence in other Eastern European countries, while Britain and America were to control Greece. By most accounts, that understanding was implemented. Russia refused to intervene on behalf of communist insurgency in Greece. While retaining rigid control over Romania, she provided at least a "fig-leaf of democratic procedure"—sufficient to satisfy the British. For two years the USSR permitted the election of noncommunist or coalition regimes in both Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The Finns, meanwhile, were permitted to choose a noncommunist government and to practice Western-style democracy as long as their country maintained a friendly foreign policy toward their neighbor on the east. Indeed, to this day, Finland remains an example of what might have evolved had earlier wartime understandings on both sides been allowed to continue.
What then went wrong? First, it seems clear that both sides perceived the other as breaking agreements that they thought had been made. By signing a separate peace settlement with the Lublin Poles, imprisoning the sixteen members of the Polish underground, and imposing—without regard for democratic appearances—total hegemony on Poland, the Soviets had broken the spirit, if not the letter, of the Yalta accords. Similarly, they blatantly violated the agreement made by both powers to withdraw from Iran once the war was over, thus precipitating the first direct threat of military confrontation during the Cold War. In their attitude toward Eastern Europe, reparations, and peaceful cooperation with the West, the Soviets exhibited increasing rigidity and suspicion after April 1945. On the other hand, Stalin had good reason to accuse the United States of reneging on compacts made during the war. After at least tacitly accepting Russia's right to a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, the West seemed suddenly to change positions and insist on Western-style democracies and economies. As the historian Robert Daliek has shown, Roosevelt and Churchill gave every indication at Tehran and Yalta that they acknowledged the Soviet's need to have friendly governments in Eastern Europe. Roosevelt seemed to care primarily about securing token or cosmetic concessions toward democratic processes while accepting the substance of Russian domination. Instead, misunderstanding developed over the meaning of the Yalta accords, Truman confronted Molotov with demands that the Soviets saw as inconsistent with prior understandings, and mutual suspicion rather than cooperation assumed dominance in relations between the two superpowers.
It is this area of misperception and misunderstanding that historians have focused on recently as most critical to the emergence of the Cold War. Presumably, neither side had a master plan of how to proceed once the war ended. Stalin's ambitions, according to recent scholarship, were ill-defined, or at least amenable to modification depending on America's posture. The United States, in turn, gave mixed signals, with Roosevelt implying to every group his agreement with their point of view, yet ultimately keeping his personal intentions secret. If, in fact, both sides could have agreed to a sphere-of-influence policy—albeit with some modifications to satisfy American political opinion—there could perhaps have been a foundation for continued accommodation. Clearly, the United States intended to retain control over its sphere of influence, particularly in Greece, Italy, and Turkey. Moreover, the United States insisted on retaining total domination over the Western hemisphere, consistent with the philosophy of the Monroe Doctrine. If the Soviets had been allowed similar control over their sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, there might have existed a basis for compromise. As John McCloy asked at the time, "[why was it necessary] to have our cake and eat it too? . . . To be free to operate under this regional arrangement in South America and at the same time intervene promptly in Europe." If the United States and Russia had both acknowledged the spheres of influence implicit in their wartime agreements, perhaps a different pattern of relationships might have emerged in the postwar world.
The fact that such a pattern did not emerge raises two issues, at least from an American perspective. The first is whether different leaders or advisors might have achieved different foreign policy results. Some historians believe that Roosevelt, with his subtlety and skill, would have found a way to promote collaboration with the Russians, whereas Truman, with his short temper, inexperience, and insecurity, blundered into unnecessary and harmful confrontations. Clearly, Roosevelt himself—just before his death—was becoming more and more concerned about Soviet intransigence and aggression. Nevertheless, he had always believed that through personal pressure and influence, he could find a way to persaude "uncle Joe." On the basis of what evidence we have, there seems good reason to believe that the Russians did place enormous trust in FDR. Perhaps—just perhaps—Roosevelt could have found a way to talk "practical arithmetic" with Stalin rather than algebra and discover a common ground. Certainly, if recent historians are correct in seeing the Cold War as caused by both Stalin's undefined ambitions and America's failure to communicate effectively and consistently its view on where it would draw the line with the Russians, then Roosevelt's long history of interaction with the Soviets would presumably have placed him in a better position to negotiate than the inexperienced Truman.
The second issue is more complicated, speaking to a political problem which beset both Roosevelt and Truman—namely, the ability of an American president to formulate and win support for a foreign policy on the basis of national self-interest rather than moral purity. At some point in the past, an American diplomat wrote in 1967:
[T]here crept into the ideas of Americans about foreign policy ... a histrionic note, ... a desire to appear as something greater perhaps than one actually was. ... It was inconceivable that any war in which we were involved could be less than momentous and decisive for the future of humanity. ... As each war ended, ... we took appeal to universalistic, Utopian ideals, related not to the specifics of national interest but to legalistic and moralistic concepts that seemed better to accord with the pretentious significance we had attached to our war effort.
As a consequence, the diplomat went on, it became difficult to pursue a policy not defined by the language of "angels or devils," "heroes" or "blackguards."
Clearly, Roosevelt faced such a dilemma in proceeding to mobilize American support for intervention in the war against Nazism. And Truman encountered the same difficulty in seeking to define a policy with which to meet Soviet postwar objectives. Both presidents, of course, participated in and reflected the political culture that constrained their options. Potentially at least, Roosevelt seemed intent on fudging the difference between self-interest and moralism. He perceived one set of objectives as consistent with reaching an accommodation with the Soviets, and another set of goals as consistent with retaining popular support for his diplomacy at home. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that he planned—in a very Machiavellian way—to use rhetoric and appearances as a means of disguising his true intention: to pursue a strategy of self-interest. It seems less clear that Truman had either the subtlety or the wish to follow a similarly Machiavellian course. But if he had, the way might have been opened to quite a different—albeit politically risky— series of policies.
None of this, of course, would have guaranteed the absence of conflict in Eastern Europe, Iran, or Turkey. Nor could any action of an American president—however much rooted in self-interest—have obviated the personal and political threat posed by Stalinist tyranny and ruthlessness, particularly if Stalin himself had chosen, for whatever reason, to act out his most aggressive and paranoid instincts. But if a sphere-of-influence agreement had been possible, there is some reason to think—in light of initial Soviet acceptance of Western-style governments in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Finland—that the iron curtain might not have descended in the way that it did. In all historical sequences, one action builds on another. Thus, steps toward cooperation rather than confrontation might have created a momentum, a frame of reference and a basis of mutual trust, that could have made unnecessary the total ideological bipolarization that evolved by 1948. In short, if the primary goals of each superpower had been acknowledged and implemented—security for the Russians, some measure of pluralism in Eastern European countries for the United States, and economic interchange between the two blocs—it seems conceivable that the world might have avoided the stupidity, the fear, and the hysteria of the Cold War.
As it was, of course, very little of the above scenario did take place. After the confrontation in Iran, the Soviet declaration of a five-year plan, Churchill's Fulton, Missouri, speech, and the breakdown of negotiations on an American loan, confrontation between the two superpowers seemed irrevocable. It is difficult to imagine that the momentum building toward the Cold War could have been reversed after the winter and spring of 1946. Thereafter, events assumed an almost inexorable momentum, with both sides using moralistic rhetoric and ideological denunciation to pillory the other. In the United States it became incumbent on the president—in order to secure domestic political support—to defend the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan in universalistic, moral terms. Thus, we became engaged, not in an effort to assure jobs and security, but in a holy war against evil. Stalin, in turn, gave full vent to his crusade to eliminate any vestige of free thought or national independence in Eastern Europe. Reinhold Niebuhr might have been speaking for both sides when he said in 1948, "we cannot afford any more compromises. We will have to stand at every point in our far flung lines."
The tragedy, of course, was that such a policy offered no room for intelligence or flexibility. If the battle in the world was between good and evil, believers and nonbelievers, anyone who questioned the wisdom of established policy risked dismissal as a traitor or worse. In the Soviet Union the Gulag Archipelago of concentration camps and executions was the price of failing to conform to the party line. But the United States paid a price as well. An ideological frame of reference had emerged through which all other information was filtered. The mentality of the Cold War shaped everything, defining issues according to moralistic assumptions, regardless of objective reality. It had been George Kennan's telegram in February 1946 that helped to provide the intellectual basis for this frame of reference by portraying the Soviet Union as "a political force committed fanatically" to confrontation with the United States and domination of the world. It was also George Kennan twenty years later who so searchingly criticized those who insisted on seeing foreign policy as a battle of angels and devils, heroes and blackguards. And ironically, it was Kennan yet again who declared in the 1970s that "the image of a Stalinist Russia, poised and yearning to attack the west, . . . was largely a product of the western imagination."
But for more than a generation, that image would shape American life and world politics. The price was astronomical—and perhaps— avoidable.
Chapter 2: The Cold War Chronology.
2.1 The War Years.
Whatever tensions existed before the war, conflicts over military and diplomatic issues during the war proved sufficiently grave to cause additional mistrust. Two countries that in the past had shared almost no common ground now found themselves intimately tied to each other, with little foundation of mutual confidence on which to build. The problems that resulted clustered in two areas: (1) how much aid the West would provide to alleviate the disproportionate burden borne by the Soviet Union in fighting the war; and (2) how to resolve the dilemmas of making peace, occupying conquered territory, and defining postwar responsibilities. Inevitably, each issue became inextricably bound to the others, posing problems of statecraft and good faith that perhaps went beyond the capacity of any mortal to solve.
The central issue dividing the allies involved how much support the United States and Britain would offer to mitigate, then relieve, the devastation being sustained by the Soviet people. Stated bluntly, the Soviet Union bore the massive share of Nazi aggression. The statistics alone are overwhelming. Soviet deaths totaled more than 18 million during the war—sixty times the three hundred thousand lives lost by the United States. Seventy thousand Soviet villages were destroyed, $128 billion dollars worth of property leveled to the ground. Leningrad, the crown jewel of Russia's cities, symbolized the suffering experienced at the hands of the Nazis. Filled with art and beautiful architecture, the former capital of Russia came under siege by German armies almost immediately after the invasion of the Soviet Union. When the attack began, the city boasted a population of 3 million citizens. At the end, only 600,000 remained. There was no food, no fuel, no hope. More than a million starved, and some survived by resorting to cannibalism. Yet the city endured, the Nazis were repelled, and the victory that came with survival helped launch the campaign that would ultimately crush Hitler's tyranny.
Such suffering provided the backdrop for a bitter controversy over whether the United States and Britain were doing enough to assume their own just share of the fight. Roosevelt understood that Russia's battle was America's. "The Russian armies are killing more Axis personnel and destroying more Axis materiel," he wrote General Douglas MacArthur in 1942, "than all the other twenty-five United Nations put together." As soon as the Germans invaded Russia, the president ordered that lend-lease material be made immediately available to the Soviet Union, instructing his personal aide to get $22 million worth of supplies on their way by July 25—one month after the German invasion. Roosevelt knew that, unless the Soviets were helped quickly, they would be forced out of the war, leaving the United States in an untenable position. "If [only] the Russians could hold the Germans until October 1," the president said. At a Cabinet meeting early in August, Roosevelt declared himself "sick and tired of hearing . . . what was on order"; he wanted to hear only "what was on the water." Roosevelt's commitment to lend-lease reflected his deep conviction that aid to the Soviets was both the most effective way of combating German aggression and the strongest means of building a basis of trust with Stalin in order to facilitate postwar cooperation. "I do not want to be in the same position as the English," Roosevelt told his Secretary of the Treasury in 1942. "The English promised the Russians two divisions. They failed. They promised them to help in the Caucasus. They failed. Every promise the English have made to the Russians, they have fallen down on. . . . The only reason we stand so well ... is that up to date we have kept our promises." Over and over again Roosevelt intervened directly and personally to expedite the shipment of supplies. "Please get out the list and please, with my full authority, use a heavy hand," he told one assistant. "Act as a burr under the saddle and get things moving!"
But even Roosevelt's personal involvement could not end the problems that kept developing around the lend-lease program. Inevitably, bureaucratic tangles delayed shipment of necessary supplies. Furthermore, German submarine assaults sank thousands of tons of weaponry. In just one month in 1942, twenty-three of thirty-seven merchant vessels on their way to the Soviet Union were destroyed, forcing a cancellation of shipments to Murmansk. Indeed, until late summer of 1942, the Allies lost more ships in submarine attacks than they were able to build.
Above all, old suspicions continued to creep into the ongoing process of negotiating and distributing lend-lease supplies. Americans who had learned during the purges to regard Stalin as "a sort of unwashed Genghis Khan with blood dripping from his fingertips" could not believe that he had changed his colors overnight and was now to be viewed as a gentle friend. Many Americans believed that they were saving the Soviet Union with their supplies, without recognizing the extent of Soviet suffering or appreciating the fact that the Russians were helping to save American lives by their sacrifice on the battlefield. Soviet officials, in turn, believed that their American counterparts overseeing the shipments were not necessarily doing all that they might to implement the promises made by the president. Americans expected gratitude. Russians expected supplies. Both expectations were justified, yet the conflict reflected the extent to which underlying distrust continued to poison the prospect of cooperation. "Frankly," FDR told one subordinate, "if I was a Russian, I would feel that I had been given the runaround in the United States." Yet with equal justification, Americans resented Soviet ingratitude. "The Russian authorities seem to want to cover up the fact that they are receiving outside help," American Ambassador Standley told a Moscow press conference in March 1943. "Apparently they want their people to believe that the Red Army is fighting this war alone." Clearly, the battle against Nazi Germany was not the only conflict taking place.
Yet the disputes over lend-lease proved minor compared to the issue of a second front—what one historian has called "the acid test of Anglo-American intentions." However much help the United States could provide in the way of war materiel, the decisive form of relief that Stalin sought was the actual involvement of American and British soldiers in Western Europe. Only such an invasion could significantly relieve the pressure of massive German divisions on the eastern front. During the years 1941-44, fewer than 10 percent of Germany's troops were in the west, while nearly three hundred divisions were committed to conquering Russia. If the Soviet Union was to survive, and the Allies to secure victory, it was imperative that American and British troops force a diversion of German troops to the west and help make possible the pincer movement from east and west that would eventually annihilate the fascist foe.
Roosevelt understood this all too well. Indeed, he appears to have wished nothing more than the most rapid possible development of the second front. In part, he saw such action as the only means to deflect a Soviet push for acceptance of Russia's pre-World War II territorial acquisitions, particularly in the Baltic states and Finland. Such acquisitions would not only be contrary to the Atlantic Charter and America's commitment to self-determination; they would also undermine the prospect of securing political support in America for international postwar cooperation. Hence, Roosevelt hoped to postpone, until victory was achieved, any final decisions on issues of territory. Shrewdly, the president understood that meeting Soviet demands for direct military assistance through a second front would offer the most effective answer to Russia's territorial aspirations.
Roosevelt had read the Soviet attitude correctly. In 1942, Soviet foreign minister Molotov readily agreed to withdraw his territorial demands in deference to U.S. concerns because the second front was so much more decisive an issue. When Molotov asked whether the Allies could undertake a second front operation that would draw off forty German divisions from the eastern front, the president replied that it could and that it would. Roosevelt cabled Churchill that he was "more anxious than ever" for a cross-channel attack in August 1942 so that Molotov would be able to "carry back some real results of his mission and give a favorable report to Stalin." At the end of their 1942 meeting, Roosevelt pledged to Molotov-and through him to Stalin-that a second front would be established that year. The president then proceeded to mobilize his own military advisors to develop plans for such an attack.
But Roosevelt could not deliver. Massive logistical and production problems obstructed any possibility of invading Western Europe on the timetable Roosevelt had promised. As a result, despite Roosevelt's own best intentions and the commitment of his military staff, he could not implement his desire to proceed. In addition, Roosevelt repeatedly encountered objections from Churchill and the British military establishment, still traumatized by the memory of the bloodletting that had occurred in the trench fighting of World War I. For Churchill, engagement of the Nazis in North Africa and then through the "soft underbelly" of Europe-Sicily and Italy-offered a better prospect for success. Hence, after promising Stalin a second front in August 1942, Roosevelt had to withdraw the pledge and ask for delay of the second front until the spring of 1943. When that date arrived, he was forced to pull back yet again for political and logistical reasons. By the time D-Day finally dawned on June 6, 1944, the Western Allies had broken their promise on the single most critical military issue of the war three times. On each occasion, there had been ample reason for the delay, but given the continued heavy burden placed on the Soviet Union, it was perhaps understandable that some Russian leaders viewed America's delay on the second front question with suspicion, sarcasm, and anger. When D-Day arrived, Stalin acknowledged the operation to be one of the greatest military ventures of human history. Still, the squabbles that preceded D-Day contributed substantially to the suspicions and tension that already existed between the two nations.
Another broad area of conflict emerged over who would control occupied areas once the war ended? How would peace be negotiated? The principles of the Atlantic Charter presumed establishment of democratic, freely elected, and representative governments in every area won back from the Nazis. If universalism were to prevail, each country liberated from Germany would have the opportunity to determine its own political structure through democratic means that would ensure representation of all factions of the body politic. If "sphere of influence" policies were implemented, by contrast, the major powers would dictate such decisions in a manner consistent with their own self-interest. Ultimately, this issue would become the decisive point of confrontation during the Cold War, reflecting the different state systems and political values of the Soviets and Americans; but even in the midst of the fighting, the Allies found themselves in major disagreement, sowing seeds of distrust that boded ill for the future. Since no plans were established in advance on how to deal with these issues, they were handled on a case by case basis, in each instance reinforcing the suspicions already present between the Soviet Union and the West.
Notwithstanding the Atlantic Charter, Britain and the United States proceeded on a de facto basis to implement policies at variance with universalism. Thus, for example, General Dwight Eisenhower was authorized to reach an accommodation with Admiral Darlan in North Africa as a means of avoiding an extended military campaign to defeat the Vichy, pro-fascist collaborators who controlled that area. From the perspective of military necessity and the preservation of life, it made sense to compromise one's ideals in such a situation. Yet the precedent inevitably raised problems with regard to allied efforts to secure self-determination elsewhere.
The issue arose again during the Allied invasion of Italy. There, too, concern with expediting military victory and securing political stability caused Britain and the United States to negotiate with the fascist Badoglio regime. "We cannot be put into a position," Churchill said, "where our two armies are doing all the fighting but Russians have a veto." Yet Stalin bitterly resented being excluded from participation in the Italian negotiations. The Soviet Union protested vigorously the failure to establish a tripartite commission to conduct all occupation negotiations. It was time, Stalin said, to stop viewing Russia as "a passive third observer. ... It is impossible to tolerate such a situation any longer." In the end, Britain and the United States offered the token concession of giving the Soviets an innocuous role on the advisory commission dealing with Italy, but the primary result of the Italian experience was to reemphasize a crucial political reality: when push came to shove, those who exercised military control in an immediate situation would also exercise political control over any occupation regime.
The shoe was on the other foot when it came to Western desires to have a voice over Soviet actions in the Balkan states, particularly Romania. By not giving Russia an opportunity to participate in the Italian surrender, the West-in effect-helped legitimize Russia's desire to proceed unilaterally in Eastern Europe. Although both Churchill and Roosevelt were "acutely conscious of the great importance of the Balkan situation" and wished to "take advantage of" any opportunity to exercise influence in that area, the simple fact was that Soviet troops were in control. Churchill-and privately Roosevelt as well-accepted the consequences. "The occupying forces had the power in the area where their arms were present," Roosevelt noted, "and each knew that the other could not force things to an issue." But the contradiction between the stated idealistic aims of the war effort and such realpolitik would come back to haunt the prospect for postwar collaboration, particularly in the areas of Poland and other east European countries.
Moments of conflict, of course, took place within the context of day-to-day cooperation in meeting immediate wartime needs. Sometimes, such cooperation seemed deep and genuine enough to provide a basis for overcoming suspicion and conflict of interest. At the Moscow foreign ministers conference in the fall of 1943, the Soviets proved responsive to U.S. concerns. Reassured that there would indeed be a second front in Europe in 1944, the Russians strongly endorsed a postwar international organization to preserve the peace. More important, they indicated they would join the war against Japan as soon as Germany was defeated, and appeared willing to accept the Chiang Kaishek government in China as a major participant in world politics. In some ways, these were a series of quid pro quos. In exchange for the second front, Russia had made concessions on issues of critical importance to Britain and the United States. Nevertheless, the results were encouraging. FDR reported that the conference had created "a psychology of ... excellent feeling." Instead of being "cluttered with suspicion," the discussions had occurred in an atmosphere that "was amazingly good."
The same spirit continued at the first meeting of Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt in Tehran during November and early December 1943. Committed to winning Stalin as a friend, FDR stayed at the Soviet Embassy, met privately with Stalin, aligned himself with the Soviet leader against Churchill on a number of issues, and even went so far as to taunt Churchill "about his Britishness, about John Bull," in an effort to forge an informal "anti-imperial" alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union. A spirit of cooperation prevailed, with the wartime leaders agreeing that the Big Four would have the power to police any postwar settlements (clearly consistent with Stalin's commitment to a "sphere of influence" approach), reaffirming plans for a joint military effort against Japan, and even—after much difficulty—appearing to find a common approach to the difficulties of Poland and Eastern Europe. When it was all over, FDR told the American people: "I got along fine with Marshall Stalin ... I believe he is truly representative of the heart and soul of Russia; and I believe that we are going to get along very well with him and the Russian people—very well indeed." When pressed on what kind of a person the Soviet leader was, Roosevelt responded:
"I would call him something like me, ... a realist."
The final conference of Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt at Yalta in February 1945 appeared at the time to carry forward the partnership, although in retrospect it would become clear that the facade of unity was built on a foundation of misperceptions rooted in the different values, priorities, and political ground rules of the two societies. Stalin seemed to recognize Roosevelt's need to present postwar plans—for domestic political reasons—as consistent with democratic, universalistic principles. Roosevelt, in turn, appreciated Stalin's need for friendly governments on his borders. The three leaders agreed on concrete plans for Soviet participation in the Japanese war, and Stalin reiterated his support for a coalition government in China with Chiang Kaishek assuming a position of leadership. Although some of Roosevelt's aides were skeptical of the agreements made, most came back confident that they had succeeded in laying a basis for continued partnership. As Harry Hopkins later recalled, "we really believed in our hearts that this was the dawn of the new day we had all been praying for. The Russians have proved that they can be reasonable and far-seeing and there wasn't any doubt in the minds of the president or any of us that we could live with them and get along with them peacefully for as far into the future as any of us could imagine."
In fact, two disquietingly different perceptions of the Soviet Union existed as the war drew to an end. Some Washington officials believed that the mystery of Russia was no mystery at all, simply a reflection of a national history in which suspicion of outsiders was natural, given repeated invasions from Western Europe and rampant hostility toward communism on the part of Western powers. Former Ambassador to Moscow Joseph Davies believed that the way to cut through that suspicion was to adopt "the simple approach of assuming that what they say, they mean." On the basis of his personal negotiations with the Russians, presidential aide Harry Hopkins shared the same confidence.
The majority of well-informed Americans, however, endorsed the opposite position. It was folly, one newspaper correspondent wrote, "to prettify Stalin, whose internal homicide record is even longer than Hitler's." Hitler and Stalin were two of the same breed, former Ambassador to Russia William Bullitt insisted. Each wanted to spread his power "to the ends of the earth. Stalin, like Hitler, will not stop. He can only be stopped." According to Bullitt, any alternative view implied "a conversion of Stalin as striking as the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus." Senator Robert Taft agreed. It made no sense, he insisted, to base U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union "on the delightful theory that Mr. Stalin in the end will turn out to have an angelic nature." Drawing on the historical precedents of the purge trials and traditional American hostility to communism, totalitarianism, and Stalin, those who held this point of view saw little hope of compromise. "There is as little difference between communism and fascism," Monsignor Fulton J. Sheen said, "as there is between burglary and larceny." The only appropriate response was force. Instead of "leaning over backward to be nice to the descendents of Genghis Khan," General George Patton suggested, "[we] should dictate to them and do it now and in no uncertain terms." Within such a frame of reference, the lessons of history and of ideological incompatibility seemed to permit no possibility of compromise.
But Roosevelt clearly felt that there was a third way, a path of mutual accommodation that would sustain and nourish the prospects of postwar partnership without ignoring the realities of geopolitics. The choice in his mind was clear. "We shall have to take the responsibility for world collaboration," he told Congress, "or we shall have to bear the responsibility for another world conflict." President Roosevelt was neither politically naive nor stupid. Even though committed to the Atlantic Charter's ideals of self-determination and territorial integrity, he recognized the legitimate need of the Soviet Union for national security. For him, the process of politics—informed by thirty-five years of skilled practice—involved striking a deal that both sides could live with. Roosevelt acknowledged the brutality, the callousness, the tyranny of the Soviet system. Indeed, in 1940 he had called Russia as absolute a dictatorship as existed anywhere. But that did not mean a solution was impossible, or that one should withdraw from the struggle to find a basis for world peace. As he was fond of saying about negotiations with Russia, "it is permitted to walk with the devil until the bridge is crossed."
The problem was that, as Roosevelt defined the task of finding a path of accommodation, it rested solely on his shoulders. The president possessed an almost mystical confidence in his own capacity to break through policy differences based on economic structures and political systems, and to develop a personal relationship of trust that would transcend impersonal forces of division. "I know you will not mind my being brutally frank when I tell you," he wrote Churchill in 1942, "[that] I think I can personally handle Stalin better than either your Foreign Office or my State Department. Stalin hates the guts of all your top people. He thinks he likes me better, and I hope he will continue to do so." Notwithstanding the seeming naivete of such statements, Roosevelt appeared right, in at least this one regard. The Soviets did seem to place their faith in him, perhaps thinking that American foreign policy was as much a product of one man's decisions as their own. Roosevelt evidently thought the same way, telling Bullitt, in one of their early foreign policy discussions, "it's my responsibility and not yours; and I'm going to play my hunch."
The tragedy, of course, was that the man who perceived that fostering world peace was his own personal responsibility never lived to carry out his vision. Long in declining health, suffering from advanced arteriosclerosis and a serious cardiac problem, he had gone to Warm Springs, Georgia, to recover from the ordeal of Yalta and the congressional session. On April 12, Roosevelt suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage and died. As word spread across the country, the stricken look on people's faces told those who had not yet heard the news the awful dimensions of what had happened. "He was the only president I ever knew," one woman said. In London, Churchill declared that he felt as if he had suffered a physical blow. Stalin greeted the American ambassador in silence, holding his hand for thirty seconds. The leader of the world's greatest democracy would not live to see the victory he had striven so hard to achieve.
2.2 The Truman Doctrine.
Few people were less prepared for the challenge of becoming president. Although well-read in history, Truman's experience in foreign policy was minimal. His most famous comment on diplomacy had been a statement to a reporter in 1941 that "if we see that Germany is winning [the war] we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany and that way let them kill as many as possible, although I don't want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances." As vice-president, Truman had been excluded from all foreign policy discussions. He knew nothing about the Manhattan Project. The new president, Henry Stimson noted, labored under the "terrific handicap of coming into... an office where the threads of information were so multitudinous that only long previous familiarity could allow him to control them." More to the point were Truman's own comments: "They didn't tell me anything about what was going on. . . . Everybody around here that should know anything about foreign affairs is out." Faced with burdens sufficiently awesome to intimidate any individual, Truman had to act quickly on a succession of national security questions, aided only by his native intelligence and a no-nonsense attitude reflected in the now-famous slogan that adorned his desk: "The Buck Stops Here."
Truman's dilemma was compounded by the extent to which Roosevelt had acted" as his own secretary of state, sharing with almost no one his plans for the postwar period. Roosevelt placed little trust in the State Department's bureaucracy, disagreed with the suspicion exhibited toward Russia by most foreign service officers, and for the most part appeared to believe that he alone held the secret formula for accommodation with the Soviets. Ultimately that formula presumed the willingness of the Russian leadership "to give the Government of Poland [and other Eastern European countries] an external appearance of independence [italics added]," in the words of Roosevelt's aide Admiral William Leahy. In the month before his death, FDR had evidently begun to question that presumption, becoming increasingly concerned about Soviet behavior. Had he lived, he may well have adopted a significantly tougher position toward Stalin than he had taken previously. Yet in his last communication with Churchill, Roosevelt was still urging the British prime minister to "minimize the Soviet problem as much as possible . . . because these problems, in one form or another, seem to arrive everyday and most of them straighten out." If Stalin's intentions still remained difficult to fathom so too did Roosevelt's. And now Truman was in charge, with neither Roosevelt's experience to inform him, nor a clear sense of Roosevelt's perceptions to offer him direction.
Without being able to analyze at leisure all the complex information that was relevant, Truman solicited the best advice he could from those who were most knowledgeable about foreign relations. Hurrying back from Moscow, Averell Harriman sought the president's ear, lobbying intensively with White House and State Department officials for his position that "irreconcilable differences" separated the Soviet Union and the United States, with the Russians seeking "the extension of the Soviet system with secret police, [and] extinction of freedom of speech" everywhere they could. Earlier, Harriman had been well disposed toward the Soviet leadership, enthusiastically endorsing Russian interest in a postwar loan and advocating cooperation wherever possible. But now Harriman perceived a hardening of Soviet attitudes and a more aggressive posture toward control over Eastern Europe. The Russians had just signed a separate peace treaty with the Lublin (pro-Soviet) Poles, and after offering safe passage to sixteen pro-Western representatives of the Polish resistance to conduct discussions about a government of national unity, had suddenly arrested the sixteen and held them incommunicado. America's previous policy of generosity toward the Soviets had been "misinterpreted in Moscow," Harriman believed, leading the Russians to think they had carte blanche to proceed as they wished. In Harriman's view, the Soviets were engaged in a "barbarian invasion of Europe." Whether or not Roosevelt would have accepted Harriman's analysis, to Truman the ambassador's words made eminent sense. The international situation was like a poker game, Truman told one friend, and he was not going to let Stalin beat him.
Just ten days after taking office, Truman had the opportunity to play his own hand with Molotov. The Soviet foreign minister had been sent by Stalin to attend the first U.N. conference in San Francisco both as a gesture to Roosevelt's memory and as a means of sizing up the new president. In a private conversation with former Ambassador to Moscow Joseph Davies, Molotov expressed his concern that "full information" about Russian-U.S. relations might have died with FDR and that "differences of interpretation and possible complications [might] arise which would not occur if Roosevelt lived." Himself worried that Truman might make "snap judgments," Davies urged Molotov to explain fully Soviet policies vis-a-vis Poland and Eastern Europe in order to avoid future conflict.
Truman implemented the same no-nonsense approach when it came to decisions about the atomic bomb. Astonishingly, it was not until the day after Truman's meeting with Molotov that he was first briefed about the bomb. By that time, $2 billion had already been spent on what Stimson called "the most terrible weapon ever known in human history." Immediately, Truman grasped the significance of the information. "I can't tell you what this is," he told his secretary, "but if it works, and pray God it does, it will save many American lives." Here was a weapon that might not only bring the war to a swift conclusion, but also provide a critical lever of influence in all postwar relations. As James Byrnes told the president, the bomb would "put us in a position to dictate our own terms at the end of the war."
In the years subsequent to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, historians have debated the wisdom of America's being the first nation to use such a horrible weapon of destruction and have questioned the motivation leading up to that decision. Those who defend the action point to ferocious Japanese resistance at Okinawa and Iwo Jima, and the likelihood of even greater loss of life if an invasion of Japan became necessary. Support for such a position comes even from some Japanese. "If the military had its way," one military expert in Japan has said, "we would have fought until all 80 million Japanese were dead. Only the atomic bomb saved me. Not me alone, but many Japanese. . . ." Those morally repulsed by the incineration of human flesh that resulted from the A-bomb, on the other hand, doubt the necessity of dropping it, citing later U.S. intelligence surveys which concluded that "Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated." Distinguished military leaders such as Dwight Eisenhower later opposed use of the bomb. "First, the Japanese were ready to surrender, and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing," Eisenhower noted. "Second, I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon." In light of such statements, some have asked why there was no effort to communicate the horror of the bomb to America's adversaries either through a demonstration explosion or an ultimatum. Others have questioned whether the bomb would have been used on non-Asians, although the fire-bombing of Dresden claimed more victims than Hiroshima. Perhaps most seriously, some have charged that the bomb was used primarily to intimidate the Soviet Union rather than to secure victory over Japan.
Although revulsion at America's deployment of atomic weapons is understandable, it now appears that no one in the inner circles of American military and political power ever seriously entertained the possibility of not using the bomb. As Henry Stimson later recalled, "it was our common objective, throughout the war, to be the first to produce an atomic weapon and use it. ... At no time, from 1941 to 1945, did I ever hear it suggested by the president, or by any other responsible member of the government, that atomic energy should not be used in the war." As historians Martin Sherwin and Barton Bernstein have shown, the momentum behind the Manhattan Project was such that no one ever debated the underlying assumption that, once perfected, nuclear weapons would be used. General George Marshall told the British, as well as Truman and Stimson, that a land invasion of Japan would cause casualties ranging from five hundred thousand to more than a million American troops. Any president who refused to use atomic weapons in the face of such projections could logically be accused of needlessly sacrificing American lives. Moreover, the enemy was the same nation that had unleashed a wanton and brutal attack on Pearl Harbor. As Truman later explained to a journalist, "When you deal with a beast, you have to treat him as a beast." Although many of the scientists who had seen the first explosion of the bomb in New Mexico were in awe of its destructive potential and hoped to find some way to avoid its use in war, the idea of a demonstration met with skepticism. Only one or two bombs existed. What if, in a demonstration, they failed to detonate? Thus, as horrible as it may seem in retrospect, no one ever seriously doubted the necessity of dropping the bomb on Japan once the weapon was perfected.
On the Russian issue, however, there now seems little doubt that administration officials thought long and hard about the bomb's impact on postwar relations with the Soviet Union. Faced with what seemed to be the growing intransigence of the Soviet Union toward virtually all postwar questions, Truman and his advisors concluded that possession of the weapon would give the United States unprecedented leverage to push Russia toward a more accommodating position. Senator Edwin Johnson stated the equation crassly, but clearly. "God Almighty in his infinite wisdom," the Senator said, "[has] dropped the atomic bomb in our lap ... [now] with vision and guts and plenty of atomic bombs, . . . [the U.S. can] compel mankind to adopt a policy of lasting peace ... or be burned to a crisp." Stating the same argument with more sophistication prior to Hiroshima, Stimson told Truman that the bomb might well "force a favorable settlement of Eastern European questions with the Russians." Truman agreed. If the weapon worked, he noted, "I'll certainly have a hammer on those boys."
Use of the bomb as a diplomatic lever played a pivotal role in Truman's preparation for his first meeting with Stalin at Potsdam. Not only would the conference address such critical questions as Eastern Europe, Germany, and Russia's involvement in the war against Japan;
It would also provide a crucial opportunity for America to drive home with forcefulness its foreign policy beliefs about future relationships with Russia. Stimson and other advisors urged the president to hold off on any confrontation with Stalin until the bomb was ready. "Over any such tangled wave of problems," Stimson noted, "the bomb's secret will be dominant. ... It seems a terrible thing to gamble with such big stakes and diplomacy without having your master card in your hand." Although Truman could not delay the meeting because of a prior commitment to hold it in July, the president was well aware of the bomb's significance. Already noted for his brusque and assertive manner, Truman suddenly took on new confidence in the midst of the Potsdam negotiations when word arrived that the bomb had successfully been tested. "He was a changed man," Churchill noted. "He told the Russians just where they got on and off and generally bossed the whole meeting." Now, the agenda was changed. Russian involvement in the Japanese war no longer seemed so important. Moreover, the United States had as a bargaining chip the most powerful weapon ever unleashed. Three days later, Truman walked up to Stalin and casually told him that the United States had "perfected a very powerful explosive, which we're going to use against the Japanese." No mention was made of sharing information about the bomb, or of future cooperation to avoid an arms race.
Yet the very nature of the new weapon proved a mixed blessing, making it as much a source of provocation as of diplomatic leverage. Strategic bombing surveys throughout the war had shown that mass bombings, far from demoralizing the enemy, often redoubled his commitment to resist. An American monopoly on atomic weapons would, in all likelihood, have the same effect on the Russians, a proud people. As Stalin told an American diplomat later, "the nuclear weapon is something with which you frighten people [who have] weak nerves." Yet if the war had proven anything, it was that Russian nerves were remarkably strong. Rather than intimidate the Soviets, Dean Acheson pointed out, it was more likely that evidence of Anglo-American cooperation in the Manhattan Project would seem to them "unanswerable evidence of ... a combination against them. ... It is impossible that a government as powerful and power conscious as the Soviet government could fail to react vigorously to the situation. It must and will exert every energy to restore the loss of power which the situation has produced."
In fact, news of the bomb's development simply widened the gulf further between the superpowers, highlighting the mistrust that existed between them, with sources of antagonism increasing far faster than efforts at cooperation. On May 11, two days after Germany surrendered—and two weeks after the Truman-Molotov confrontation—America had abruptly terminated all lend-lease shipments to the Soviet Union that were not directly related to the war against Japan. Washington even ordered ships in the mid-Atlantic to turn around. The action had been taken largely in rigid bureaucratic compliance with a new law governing lend-lease just enacted by Congress, but Truman had been warned of the need to handle the matter in a way that was sensitive to Soviet pride. Instead, he signed the termination order without even reading it. Although eventually some shipments were resumed, the damage had been done. The action was "brutal," Stalin later told Harry Hopkins, implemented in a "scornful and abrupt manner." Had the United States consulted Russia about the issue "frankly" and on "a friendly basis," the Soviet dictator said, "much could have been done"; but if the action "was designed as pressure on the Russians in order to soften them up, then it was a fundamental mistake."
Russian behavior through these months, on the other hand, offered little encouragement for the belief that friendship and cooperation ranked high on the Soviet agenda. In addition to violating the spirit of the Yalta accords by jailing the sixteen members of the Polish underground and signing a separate peace treaty with the Lublin Poles, Stalin seemed more intent on reviving and validating his reputation as architect of the purges than as one who wished to collaborate in spreading democracy. He jailed thousands of Russian POWs returning from German prison camps, as if their very presence on foreign soil had made them enemies of the Russian state. One veteran was imprisoned because he had accepted a present from a British comrade in arms, another for making a critical comment about Stalin in a letter. Even Molotov's wife was sent to Siberia. In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of minority nationalities in the Soviet Union were removed forcibly from their homelands when they protested the attempted obliteration of their ancient identities. Some Westerners speculated that Stalin was clinically psychotic, so paranoid about the erosion of his control over the Russian people that he would do anything to close Soviet borders and prevent the Russian people from getting a taste of what life in a more open society would be like. Winston Churchill, for example, wondered whether Stalin might not be more fearful of Western friendship than of Western hostility, since greater cooperation with the noncommunist world could well lead to a dismantling of the rigid totalitarian control he previously had exerted. For those American diplomats who were veterans of service in Moscow before the war, Soviet actions and attitudes seemed all too reminiscent of the viselike terror they remembered from the worst days of the 1930s.
When Truman, Stalin, and Churchill met in Potsdam in July 1945, these suspicions were temporarily papered over, but no progress was made on untying the Gordian knots that plagued the wartime alliance. Truman sought to improve the Allies' postwar settlement with Italy, hoping to align that country more closely with the West. Stalin agreed on the condition that changes favorable to the Soviets be approved for Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Finland. When Truman replied that there had been no free elections in those countries, Stalin retorted that there had been none in Italy either. On the issue of general reparations the three powers agreed to treat each occupation zone separately. As a result, one problem was solved, but in the process the future division of Germany was almost assured. The tone of the discussions was clearly not friendly. Truman raised the issue of the infamous Katyn massacre, where Soviet troops killed thousands of Polish soldiers and bulldozed them into a common grave. When Truman asked Stalin directly what had happened to the Polish officers, the Soviet dictator responded: "they went away." After Churchill insisted that an iron fence had come down around British representatives in Romania, Stalin dismissed the charges as "all fairy tales." No major conflicts were resolved, and the key problems of reparation amounts, four-power control over Germany, the future of Eastern Europe, and the structure of any permanent peace settlement were simply referred to the Council of Foreign Ministers. There, not surprisingly, they festered, while the pace toward confrontation accelerated.
The first six months of 1946 represented a staccato series of Cold War events, accompanied by increasingly inflammatory rhetoric. In direct violation of a wartime agreement that all allied forces would leave Iran within six months of the war's end, Russia continued its military occupation of the oil-rich region of Azerbaijan. Responding to the Iranian threat, the United States demanded a U.N. condemnation of the Soviet presence in Azerbaijan and, when Russian tanks were seen entering the area, prepared for a direct confrontation. "Now we will give it to them with both barrels," James Byrnes declared. Unless the United States stood firm, one State Department official warned, "Azerbaijan [will] prove to [be] the first shot fired in the Third World War." Faced with such clear-cut determination, the Soviets ultimately withdrew from Iran.
Yet the tensions between the two powers continued to mount. In early February, Stalin issued what Supreme Court Justice William Douglas called the "Declaration of World War III," insisting that war was inevitable as long as capitalism survived and calling for massive sacrifice at home. A month later Winston Churchill—with Truman at his side—responded at Fulton, Missouri, declaring that "from Stetting in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the [European] continent." Claiming that "God has willed" the United States and Britain to hold a monopoly over atomic weapons, Churchill called for a "fraternal association of the English speaking people" against their common foes. Although Truman made no public statement, privately he had told Byrnes in January: "I'm tired of babying the Soviets. They [must be] faced with an iron fist and strong language. . . . Only one language do they understand—how many divisions have you?" Stalin, meanwhile, charged Britain and the United States with repressing democratic insurgents in Greece, declaring that it was the western Allies, not the Soviet Union, that endangered world peace. "When Mr. Churchill calls for a new war," Molotov told a foreign ministers' meeting in May, "and makes militant speeches on two continents, he represents the worst of twentieth-century imperialism."
During the spring and summer, clashes occurred on virtually all the major issues of the Cold War. After having told the Soviet Union that the State Department had "lost" its $6 billion loan request made in January 1945, the United States offered a $1 billion loan in the spring of 1946 as long as the Soviet Union agreed to join the World Bank and accept the credit procedures and controls of that body. Not surprisingly, the Russians refused, announcing instead a new five-year plan that would promote economic self-sufficiency. Almost paranoid about keeping Westerners out of Russia, Stalin had evidently concluded that participation in a Western-run financial consortium was too serious a threat to his own total authority. "Control of their border areas," the historian Walter LaFeber has noted, "was worth more to the Russians than a billion, or even ten billion dollars." A year earlier the response might have been different. But 1946 was a "year of cement," with little if any willingness to accept flexibility. In Germany, meanwhile, the Russians rejected a Western proposal for unifying the country and instead determined to build up their own zone. The United States reciprocated by declaring it would no longer cooperate with Russia by removing reparations from the west to the east. The actions guaranteed a permanent split of Germany and coincided with American plans to rebuild the West German economy.
The culminating breakdown of U.S.-Soviet relations came over the failure to secure agreement on the international control of atomic energy. After Potsdam, some American policymakers had urged the president to take a new approach on sharing such control with the Soviet Union. The atom bomb, Henry Stimson warned Truman in the fall of 1945, would dominate America's relations with Russia. "If we fail to approach them now and continue to negotiate with . . . this weapon rather ostentatiously on our hip, their suspicions and their distrust of our purposes and motives will increase." Echoing the same them, Dr. Harold Urey, a leading atomic scientist, told the Senate that by making and storing atomic weapons, "we are guilty of beginning the arms race." Furthermore, there was an inherent problem with the "gun on our hip" approach. As the scientist Vannevar Bush noted, "there is no powder in the gun, [nor] could [it] be drawn," unless the United States were willing to deploy the A-bomb to settle diplomatic disputes. Recognizing this, Truman set Dean Acheson and David Lilienthal to work in the winter of 1945—46 to prepare a plan for international control.
But by the time the American proposal had been completed, much of the damage in Soviet-American relations seemed irreparable. Although the Truman plan envisioned ultimate sharing of international control, it left the United States with an atomic monopoly—and in a dominant position—until the very last stage. The Soviets would have no veto power over inspections or sanctions, and even at the end of the process, the United States would control the majority of votes within the body responsible for developing peaceful uses of atomic energy inside the Soviet Union. When the Russians asked to negotiate about the specifics of the plan, they were told they must either accept the entire package or nothing at all. In the context of Soviet-American relations in 1946, the result was predictable—the genie of the atomic arms race would remain outside the bottle.
Not all influential Americans were "pleased by the growing polarization. Averell Harriman, who a year earlier had been in the forefront of those demanding a hard-line position from Truman, now pulled back somewhat. "We must recognize that we occupy the same planet as the Russians," he said, "and whether we like it or not, disagreeable as they may be, we have to find some method of getting along." The columnist Walter Lippmann, deeply concerned about the direction of events, wondered whether the inexperience and personal predilections of some of America's negotiators might not be part of the problem. Nor were all the signs negative. After his initial confrontation with Molotov, Truman appeared to have second thoughts, sending Harry Hopkins to Moscow to attempt to find some common ground with Stalin on Poland and Eastern Europe. The Russians, in turn, had not been totally aggressive. They withdrew from Hungary after free elections in that country had led to the establishment of a noncommunist regime. Czechoslovakia was also governed by a coalition government with a Western-style parliament. The British, at least, announced themselves satisfied with the election process in Bulgaria. Even in Romania, some concessions were made to include elements more favorably disposed to the West. The Russians finally backed down in Iran—under considerable pressure—and would do so again in a dispute over the Turkish straits in the late summer of 1946.
Still, the events of 1946 had the cumulative effect of creating an aura of inevitability about bipolar confrontation in the world. The preponderance of energy in each country seemed committed to the side of suspicion and hostility rather than mutual accommodation. If Stalin's February prediction of inevitable war between capitalism and communism embodied in its purest form Russia's jaundiced perception of relations between the two countries, an eight-thousand-word telegram from George Kennan to the State Department articulated the dominant frame of reference within which Soviet actions would be perceived by U.S. officials. Perhaps the preeminent expert on the Soviets, and a veteran of service in Moscow in the thirties as well as the forties, Kennan had been asked to prepare an analysis of Stalin's speech. Responding in words intended to command attention to Washington, Kennan declared that the United States was confronted with a "political force committed fanatically to the belief that [with the] United States there can be no permanent modus vivendi, that it is desirable and necessary that the internal harmony of our society be broken if Soviet power is to be secure." According' to Kennan, the Russians truly believed the world to be divided permanently into capitalist and socialist camps, with the Soviet Union dedicated to "ever new heights of military power" even as it sought to subvert its enemies through an "underground operating directorate of world communism." The analysis was frightening, confirming the fears of those most disturbed by the Soviet system's denial of human rights and hardline posture toward Western demands for free elections and open borders in occupied Europe.
Almost immediately, the Kennan telegram became required reading for the entire diplomatic and military establishment in Washington.
2.3 The Marshall Plan.
The chief virtue of the plan Marshall and his aides were Grafting was its fusion of these political and economic concerns. As Truman told a Baylor University audience in March 1947, "peace, freedom, and world trade are indivisible. . . . We must not go through the '3os again." Since free enterprise was seen as the foundation for democracy and prosperity, helping European economies would both assure friendly governments abroad and additional jobs at home. To accomplish that ^ goal, however, the United States would need to give economic aid directly rather than through the United Nations, since only under those circumstances would American control be assured. Ideally, the Marshall Plan would provide an economic arm to the political strategy embodied —in the Truman Doctrine. Moreover, if presented as a program in which even Eastern European countries could participate, it would provide, at last potentially, a means of including pro-Soviet countries and breaking Stalin's political and economic domination over Eastern Europe.
On that basis, Marshall dramatically announced his proposal at Harvard University's commencement on June 5, 1947. "Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine," Marshall said, "but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos. Its purpose should be revival of a working economy. Any government that is willing to assist in the task of recovery will find full cooperation ... on the part of the United States government." Responding, French Foreign Minister George Bidault invited officials throughout Europe, including the Soviet Union, to attend a conference in Paris to draw up a plan of action. Poland and Czechoslovakia expressed interest, and Molotov himself came to Paris with eighty-nine aides.
Rather than inaugurate a new era of cooperation, however, the next few days simply reaffirmed how far polarization had already extended. Molotov urged that each country present its own needs independently to the United States. Western European countries, on the other hand, insisted that all the countries cooperate in a joint proposal for American consideration. Since the entire concept presumed extensive sharing of economic data on each country's resources and liabilities, as well as Western control over how the aid would be expended, the Soviets angrily walked out of the deliberations. In fact, the United States never believed that the Russians would participate in the project, knowing that it was a violation of every Soviet precept to open their economic records to examination and control by capitalist outsiders. Furthermore, U.S. strategy was premised on a major rebuilding of German industry—something profoundly threatening to the Russians. Ideally, Americans viewed a thriving Germany as the foundation for revitalizing the economies of all Western European countries, and providing the key to prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic. To a remarkable extent, that was precisely the result of the Marshall Plan. Understandably, such a prospect frightened the Soviets, but the consequence was to further the split between East and West, and in particular, to undercut the possibility of promoting further cooperation with countries like Hungary and Czechoslovakia.
In the weeks and months after the Russians left Paris, the final pieces of the Cold War were set in place. Shortly after the Soviet departure from Paris the Russians announced the creation of a series of bilateral trade agreements called the "Molotov Plan," designed to link Eastern bloc countries and provide a Soviet answer to the Marshall Plan. Within the same week the Russians created a new Communist Information Bureau (Cominform), including representatives from the major Western European communist parties, to serve as a vehicle for imposing Stalinist control on anyone who might consider deviating from the party line. Speaking at the Cominform meeting in August, Andre Zhdanov issued the Soviet Union's rebuttal to the Truman Doctrine. The United States, he charged, was organizing the countries of the Near East, Western Europe, and South America into an alliance committed to the destruction of communism. Now, he said, the "new democracies" of Eastern Europe—plus their allies in developing countries—must form a counter bloc. The world would thus be made up of "two camps," each ideologically, politically, and, to a growing extent, militarily defined by its opposition to the other.
To assure that no one misunderstood, Russia moved quickly to impose a steel-like grip on Eastern Europe. In August 1947 the Soviets purged all left-wing, anticommunist leaders from Hungary and then rigged elections to assure a pro-Soviet regime there. Six months later, in February 1948, Stalin moved on Czechoslovakia as well, insisting on the abolition of independent parties and sending Soviet troops to the Czech border to back up Soviet demands for an all new communist government. After Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk either jumped or was pushed from a window in Prague, the last vestige of resistance faded. "We are [now] faced with exactly the same situation . . . Britain and France faced in 1938-39 with Hitler," Truman wrote. The Czech coup coincided with overwhelming approval of the Marshall Plan by the American Congress. Two weeks later, on March 5, General Lucius Clay sent his telegram from Germany warning of imminent war with Russia. Shortly thereafter, Truman called on Congress to implement Universal Military Training for all Americans. (The plan was never put in place.) By the end of the month Russia had instituted a year-long blockade of all supplies to Berlin in protest against the West's decision to unify her occupation zones in Germany and institute currency reform. Before the end of spring, the Brussels Pact had brought together the major powers of Western Europe in a mutual defense pact that a year later would provide the basis for NATO. If the Truman Doctrine, in Bernard Baruch's words, had been "a declaration of ideological or religious war," the Marshall Plan, the Molotov Plan, and subsequent developments in Eastern Europe represented the economic, political, and military demarcations that would define the terrain on which the war would be fought. The Cold War had begun.
Chapter 3: The Role of Cold War in American History and Diplomacy.
3.1 Declaration of the Cold War.
In late February 1947, a British official journeyed to the State Department to inform Dean Acheson that the crushing burden of Britain's economic crisis prevented her from any longer accepting responsibility for the economic and military stability of Greece and Turkey. The message, Secretary of State George Marshall noted, "was tantamount to British abdication from the Middle East, with obvious implications as to their successor." Conceivably, America could have responded quietly, continuing the steady stream of financial support already going into the area. Despite aid to the insurgents from Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, the war going on in Greece was primarily a civil struggle, with the British side viewed by many as reactionary in its politics. But instead, Truman administration officials seized the moment as the occasion for a dramatic new commitment to fight communism. In their view, Greece and Turkey could well hold the key to the future of Europe itself. Hence they decided to ask Congress for $400 million in military and economic aid. In the process, the administration publicly defined postwar diplomacy, for the first time, as a universal conflict between the forces of good and the forces of evil.
Truman portrayed the issue as he did, at least in part, because his aides had failed to convince Congressmen about the merits of the case on grounds of self-interest alone. Americans were concerned about the Middle East for many reasons—preservation of political stability, guarantee of access to mineral resources, a need to assure a prosperous market for American goods. Early drafts of speeches on the issue had focused specifically on economic questions. America could not afford, one advisor noted, to allow Greece and similar areas to "spiral downward into economic anarchy." But such arguments, another advisor noted, "made the whole thing sound like an investment prospectus." Indeed, when Secretary of State Marshall used such arguments of self-interest with Congressmen, his words fell on deaf ears, particularly given the commitment of Republicans to cut government spending to the bone. It was at that moment. Dean Acheson recalled, that "in desperation I whispered to [Marshall] a request to speak. This was my crisis. For a week I had nurtured it."
When Acheson took the floor, he transformed the atmosphere in the room. The issue, he declared, was the effort by Russian communism to seize dominance over three continents, and encircle and capture Western Europe. "Like apples in a barrel infected by the corruption of one rotten one, the corruption of Greece would infect Iran and alter the Middle East . . . Africa . . . Italy and France." The struggle was ultimate, Acheson concluded. "Not since Rome and Carthage has there been such a polarization of power on this earth. . . . We and we alone are in a position to break up" the Soviet quest for world domination. Suddenly, the Congressmen sat up and took notice. That argument, Senator Arthur Vandenberg told the president, would be successful. If Truman wanted his program of aid to be approved, he would—like Acheson—have to "scare hell" out of the American people.
By the time Truman came before Congress on March 12, the issue was no longer whether the United States should extend economic aid to Greece and Turkey on a basis of self-interest, but rather whether America was willing to sanction the spread of tyrannical communism everywhere in the world. Facing the same dilemma Roosevelt had confronted during the 1930S in his effort to get Americans ready for war, Truman sensed that only if the issues were posed as directly related to the nation's fundamental moral concern—not just self-interest— would there be a possibility of winning political support. Hence, as Truman defined the question, the world had to choose "between alternative ways of life." One option was "free," based on "representative government, free elections, guarantees of individual liberty, and freedom of speech and religion." The other option was "tyranny," based on "terror and oppression, a controlled press and radio, . . . and a suppression of personal freedoms." Given a choice between freedom and totalitarianism, Truman concluded, "it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities."
Drawing on the "worst case" scenario implicit in Kennan's telegram, Truman, in effect, had presented the issue of American-Soviet relations as one of pure ideological and moral conflict. There were some who criticized him. Senator Robert Taft, for example, wondered whether, if the United States took responsibility for Greece and Turkey, Americans could object to the Russians continuing their domination over Eastern Europe. Secretary of State Marshall was disturbed at "the extent to which the anticommunist element of the speech was stressed." And George Kennan, concerned over how his views had been used, protested against the president's strident tone. But Truman and Acheson had understood the importance of defining the issue on grounds of patriotism and moral principle. If the heart of the question was the universal struggle of freedom against tryanny—not taking sides in a civil war— who could object to what the government proposed? It was, Senator Arthur Vandenberg noted, "almost like a presidential request for a declaration of war. . . . There is precious little we can do except say yes." By mid-May, Truman's aid package had passed Congress overwhelmingly.
On the same day the Truman Doctrine received final approval, George Marshall and his aides at the State Department were busy shaping what Truman would call the second half of the same walnut— the Marshall Plan of massive economic support to rebuild Western Europe. Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium—all were devastated by the war, their cities lying in rubble, their industrial base gutted. It was difficult to know if they could survive, yet the lessons of World War I suggested that political democracy and stability depended on the presence of a healthy and thriving economic order. Already American officials were concerned that Italy—and perhaps France—would succumb to the political appeal of native communists and become victims of what William Bullitt had called the "red amoeba" spreading all across Europe. Furthermore, America's selfish economic interests demanded strong trading partners in Western Europe. "No nation in modern times," Assistant Secretary of State Will Clayton had said, "can long expect to enjoy a rising standard of living without increased foreign trade." America imported from Europe only half of what it exported, and Western Europe was quickly running out of dollars to pay for American goods. If some form of massive support to reconstruct Europe's economy were not developed, economic decay there would spread, unemployment in America would increase, and political instability could well lead to communist takeovers of hitherto "friendly" counties.
3.2 Cold War Issues.
Although historians have debated for years the cause of the Cold War, virtually everyone agrees that it developed around five major issues:
Poland, the structure of governments in other Eastern European countries, the future of Germany, economic reconstruction of Europe, and international policies toward the atomic bomb and atomic energy. All of these intersected, so that within a few months, it became almost impossible to separate one from the other as they interacted to shape the emergence of a bipolar world. Each issue in its own way also reflected the underlying confusion and conflict surrounding the competing doctrines of "universalist" versus "sphere-of-influence" diplomacy. Examination of these fundamental questions is essential if we are to comprehend how and why the tragedy of the Cold War evolved during the three years after Germany's defeat.
Poland constituted the most intractable and profound dilemma facing Soviet-U.S. relations. As Secretary of State Edward Stettinius observed in 1945, Poland was "the big apple in the barrel." Unfortunately, it also symbolized, for both sides, everything that the war had been fought for. From a Soviet perspective, Poland represented the quintessence of Russia's national security needs. On three occasions, Poland had served as the avenue for devastating invasions of Russian territory. It was imperative, given Russian history, that Poland be governed by a regime supportive of the Soviet Union. But Poland also represented, both in fact and in symbol, everything for which the Western Allies had fought. Britain and France had declared war on Germany in September 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland, thus honoring their mutual defense pact with that victimized country. It seemed unthinkable that one could wage war for six years and end up with another totalitarian country in control of Poland. Surely if the Atlantic Charter signified anything, it required defending the right of the Polish people to determine their own destiny. The presence of 7 million Polish-American voters offered a constant, if unnecessary, reminder that such issues of self-determination could not be dismissed lightly. Thus, the first issue confronting the Allies in building a postwar world would also be one on which compromise was virtually impossible, at least without incredible diplomatic delicacy, political subtlety, and profound appreciation, by each ally, of the other's needs and priorities.
Roosevelt appears to have understood the tortuous path he would have to travel in order to find a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Given his own commitment to the Atlantic Charter, rooted in both domestic political reasons and personal conviction, he recognized the need to advocate an independent and democratic government for the Polish people. "Poland must be reconstituted a great nation," he told the country during the 1944 election. Yet the president also repeatedly acknowledged that the Russians must have a "friendly" government in Warsaw. Somehow, Roosevelt hoped to find a way to subordinate these two conflicting positions to the higher priority of postwar peace. "The President," Harry Hopkins said in 1943, "did not intend to go to the Peace Conference and bargain with Poland or the other small states; as far as Poland is concerned, the important thing [was] to set it up in a way that [would] help maintain the peace of the world."
The issue was first joined at the Tehran conference. There, Churchill and Roosevelt endorsed Stalin's position that Poland's eastern border, for security reasons, should be moved to the west. As Roosevelt had earlier explained to the ambassador from the Polish government-in-exile in London, it was folly to expect the United States and Britain "to declare war on Joe Stalin over a boundary dispute." On the other hand, Roosevelt urged Stalin to be flexible, citing his own need for the Polish vote in the 1944 presidential election and the importance of establishing cooperation between the London Poles and the Lublin government-in-exile situated in Moscow. Roosevelt had been willing to make a major concession to Russia's security needs by accepting the Soviet definition of Poland's new boundaries. But he also expected some consideration of his own political dilemma and of the principles of the Atlantic Charter.
Such consideration appeared to be forthcoming in the summer of 1944 when Stalin agreed to meet the prime minister of the London-Polish government and "to mediate" between the two opposing governments-in-exile. But hopes for such a compromise were quickly crushed as Soviet troops failed to aid the Warsaw Polish resistance when it rose in massive rebellion against German occupation forces in hopes of linking up with advancing Soviet forces. The Warsaw Poles generally supported the London government-in-exile. As Red Army troops moved to just six miles outside of Warsaw, the Warsaw Poles rose en masse against their Nazi oppressors. Yet when they did so, the Soviets callously rejected all pleas for help. For eight weeks they even refused to permit American planes to land on Soviet soil after airlifting supplies to the beleaguered Warsaw rebels. By the time the rebellion ended, 250,000 people had become casualties, with the backbone of the pro-London resistance movement brutally crushed. Although some Americans, then and later, accepted Soviet claims that logistical problems had prevented any assistance being offered, most Americans endorsed the more cynical conclusion that Stalin had found a convenient way to annihilate a large part of his Polish opposition and facilitate acquisition of a pro-Soviet regime. As Ambassador Averell Harriman cabled at the time, Russian actions were based on "ruthless political considerations."
By the time of the Yalta conference, the Red Army occupied Poland, leaving Roosevelt little room to maneuver. When one American diplomat urged the president to force Russia to agree to Polish independence, Roosevelt responded: "Do you want me to go to war with Russia?" With Stalin having already granted diplomatic recognition to the Lublin regime, Roosevelt could only hope that the Soviets would accept enough modification of the status quo to provide the appearance of representative democracy. Spheres of influence were a reality, FDR told seven senators, because "the occupying forces [have] the power in the areas where their arms are present." All America could do was to use her influence "to ameliorate the situation."
Nevertheless, Roosevelt played what cards he had with skill. "Most Poles," he told Stalin, "want to save face. ... It would make it easier for me at home if the Soviet government could give something to Poland." A government of national unity, Roosevelt declared, would facilitate public acceptance in the United States of full American participation in postwar arrangements. "Our people at home look with a critical eye on what they consider a disagreement between us. ... They, in effect, say that if we cannot get a meeting of minds now . . . how can we get an understanding on even more vital things in the future?" Although Stalin's immediate response was to declare that Poland was "not only a question of honor for Russia, but one of life and death," he finally agreed that some reorganization of the Lublin regime could take place to ensure broader representation of all Poles.
In the end, the Big Three papered over their differences at Yalta by agreeing to a Declaration on Liberated Europe that committed the Allies to help liberated peoples resolve their problems through democratic means and advocated the holding of free elections. Although Roosevelt's aide Admiral William Leahy told him that the report on Poland was "so elastic that the Russians can stretch it all the way from Yalta to Washington without ever technically breaking it," Roosevelt believed that he had done the best he could under the circumstances. From the beginning, Roosevelt had recognized, on a de facto basis at least, that Poland was part of Russia's sphere of influence and must remain so. He could only hope that Stalin would now show equal recognition of the U.S. need to have concessions that would give the appearance, at least, of implementing the Atlantic Charter.
The same basic dilemmas, of course, occurred with regard to the structure of postwar governments in all of Eastern Europe. As early as 1943, Roosevelt had made clear to Stalin at Tehran that he was willing to have the Baltic states controlled by the Soviets. His only request, the president told Stalin, was for some public commitment to future elections in order to satisfy his constituents at home for whom "the big issues . . . would be the question of referendum and the right of self-determination." The exchange with Stalin accurately reflected Roosevelt's position over time.
Significantly, Roosevelt even sanctioned Churchill's efforts to divide Europe into spheres of influence. With Roosevelt's approval, Churchill journeyed to Moscow in the fall of 1944. Sitting across the table from Stalin, Churchill proposed that Russia exercise 90 percent predominance in Romania, 75 percent in Bulgaria, and 50 percent control, together with Britain, in Yugoslavia and Hungary, while the United States and Great Britain would exercise 90 percent predominance in Greece. After extended discussion and some hard bargaining, the deal was made. (Poland was not even included in Churchill's percentages, suggesting that he was acknowledging Soviet control there.) At the time, Churchill suggested that the arrangements be expressed "in diplomatic terms [without use of] the phrase 'dividing into spheres,' because the Americans might be shocked." But in fact, as Robert Daliek has shown in his superb study of Roosevelt's diplomacy, the American president accepted the arrangement. "I am most pleased to know," FDR wrote Churchill, "you are reaching a meeting of your two minds as to international policies." To Harriman he cabled: "My active interest at the present time in the Balkan area is that such steps as are practicable should be taken to insure against the Balkans getting us into a future international war." At no time did Roosevelt protest the British-Soviet agreement.
In the case of Eastern Europe generally, even more so than in Poland, it seemed clear that Roosevelt, on a de facto basis, was prepared to live with spheres-of-influence diplomacy. Nevertheless, he remained constantly sensitive to the political peril he faced at home on the issue. As Congressman John Dingell stated in a public warning in August 1943, "We Americans are not sacrificing, fighting, and dying to make permanent and more powerful the communistic government of Russia and to make Joseph Stalin a dictator over the liberated countries of Europe." Such sentiments were widespread. Indeed, it was concern over such opinions that led Roosevelt to urge the Russians to be sensitive to American political concerns. In Eastern Europe for the most part, as in Poland, the key question was whether the United States could somehow find a way to acknowledge spheres of influence, but within a context of universalist principles, so that the American people would not feel that the Atlantic Charter had been betrayed.
The future of Germany represented a third critical point of conflict. For emotional as well as political reasons, it was imperative that steps be taken to prevent Germany from ever again waging war. In FDR's words, "We have got to be tough with Germany, and I mean the German people not just the Nazis. We either have to castrate the German people or you have got to treat them in such a manner so they can't just go on reproducing people who want to continue the way they have in the past." Consistent with that position, Roosevelt had agreed with Stalin at Tehran on the need for destroying a strong Germany by dividing the country into several sectors, "as small and weak as possible."
Still operating on that premise, Roosevelt endorsed Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau's plan to eliminate all industry from Germany and convert the country into a pastoral landscape of small farms. Not only would such a plan destroy any future war-making power, it would also reassure the Soviet Union of its own security. "Russia feared we and the British were going to try to make a soft peace with Germany and build her up as a possible future counter-weight against Russia," Morgenthau said. His plan would avoid that, and simultaneously implement Roosevelt's insistence that "every person in Germany should realize that this time Germany is a defeated nation." Hence, in September 1944, Churchill and Roosevelt approved the broad outlines of the Morgenthau plan as their policy for Germany.
Within weeks, however, the harsh policy of pastoralization came unglued. From a Soviet perspective, there was the problem of how Russia could exact the reparations she needed from a country with no industrial base. American policymakers, in turn, objected that a Germany without industrial capacity would prove unable to support herself, placing the entire burden for maintaining the populace on the Allies. Rumors spread that the Morgenthau plan was stiffening German resistance on the western front. American business interests, moreover, suggested the importance of retaining German industry as a key to postwar commerce and trade.
As a result, Allied policy toward Germany became a shambles. "No one wants to make Germany a wholly agricultural nation again," Roosevelt insisted. "No one wants 'complete eradication of German industrial production capacity in the Ruhr and the Saar.' " Confused about how to proceed, Roosevelt—in effect—adopted a policy of no policy. "I dislike making detailed plans for a country which we do not yet occupy," he said. When Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt met for the last time in Yalta, this failure to plan prevented a decisive course of action. The Russians insisted on German reparations of $20 billion, half of which would go to the Soviet Union. Although FDR accepted Stalin's figure as a basis for discussion, the British and Americans deferred any settlement of the issue, fearing that they would be left with the sole responsibility for feeding and housing the German people. The only agreement that could be reached was to refer the issue to a new tripartite commission. Thus, at just the moment when consensus on a policy to deal with their common enemy was most urgent, the Allies found themselves empty handed, allowing conflict and misunderstanding over another central question to join the already existing problems over Eastern Europe.
Directly related to each of these issues, particularly the German question, was the problem of postwar economic reconstruction. The issue seemed particularly important to those Americans concerned about the postwar economy in the United States. Almost every business and political leader feared resumption of mass unemployment once the war ended. Only the development of new markets, extensive trade, and worldwide economic cooperation could prevent such an eventuality. "The capitalistic system is essentially an international system," one official declared. "If it cannot function internationally, it will break down completely." The Atlantic Charter had taken such a viewpoint into account when it declared that all states should enjoy access, on equal terms, to "the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity."
To promote these objectives, the United States took the initiative at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in 1944 by creating a World Bank with a capitalization of $7.6 billion and the International Monetary Fund with a capitalization of $7.3 billion. The two organizations would provide funds for rebuilding Europe, as well as for stabilizing world currency. Since the United States was the major contributor, it would exercise decisive control over how the money was spent. The premise underlying both organizations was that a stable world required healthy economies based on free trade.
Attitudes toward economic reconstruction had direct import for postwar policies toward Germany and Eastern Europe. It would be difficult to have a stable European economy without a significant industrial base in Germany. Pastoral countries of small farms rarely possessed the wherewithal to become customers of large capitalist enterprises. On the other hand, a prosperous German economy, coupled with access to markets in Eastern and Western Europe, offered the prospect of avoiding a recurrence of depression and guaranteed a significant American presence in European politics as well. Beyond this, of course, it was thought that if democracy was to survive, as it had not after 1918, countries needed a thriving economy.
Significantly, economic aid also offered the opportunity either to enhance or diminish America's ties to the Soviet Union. Averell Harriman, the American ambassador to Moscow after October 1943, had engaged in extensive business dealings with the Soviet Union during the 1920S and believed firmly in the policy of providing American assistance to rebuild the Soviet economy. Such aid, Harriman argued, "would be in the self-interest of the United States" because it would help keep Americans at work producing goods needed by the Russians. Just as important, it would provide "one of the most effective weapons to avoid the development of a sphere of influence of the Soviet Union over eastern Europe and the Balkans."
Proceeding on these assumptions, Harriman urged the Russians to apply for American aid. They did so, initially, in December 1943 with a request for a $1 billion loan at an interest rate of one-half of 1 percent, then again in January 1945 with a request for a $6 billion loan at an interest rate of 2.25 percent. Throughout this period, American officials appeared to encourage the Soviet initiative. Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau had come up with his own plan for a $10 billion loan at 2 percent interest. When Chamber of Commerce head Eric Johnson visited Moscow, Stalin told him: "I like to do business with American businessmen. You fellows know what you want. Your word is good, and, best of all, you stay in office a long time—just like we do over here." So enthusiastic were some State Department officials about postwar economic arrangements that they predicted exports of as much as $1 billion a year to Russia. Molotov and Mikoyan encouraged such optimism, with the Soviets promising "a voluminous and stable market such as no other customer would ever [offer]."
As the European war drew to a close, however, the American attitude shifted from one of eager encouragement to skeptical detachment. Harriman and his aides in Moscow perceived a toughening of the Soviet position on numerous issues, including Poland and Eastern Europe. Hence, they urged the United States to clamp down on lend-lease and exact specific concessions from the Russians in return for any ongoing aid. Only if the Soviets "played the international game with us in accordance with our standards," Harriman declared, should the United States offer assistance. By April 1945, Harriman had moved to an even more hard-line position. "We must clearly recognize," he said, "that the Soviet program is the establishment of totalitarianism, ending personal liberty and democracy." A week later he urged the State Department to view the Soviet loan request with great suspicion. "Our basic interest," he cabled, "might better be served by increasing our trade with other parts of the world rather than giving preference to the Soviet Union as a source of supply."
Congress and the American people, meanwhile, seemed to be turning against postwar economic aid. A public opinion poll in December 1944 showed that 70 percent of the American people believed the Allies should repay their lend-lease debt in full. Taking up the cry for fiscal restraint, Senator Arthur Vandenberg told a friend: "We have a rich country, but it is not rich enough to permit us to support the world." Fearful about postwar recession and the possibility that American funds would be used for purposes it did not approve, Congress placed severe constraints on continuation of any lend-lease support once the war was over and indicated that any request for a postwar loan would encounter profound skepticism.
Roosevelt's response, in the face of such attitudes, was once again to procrastinate. Throughout the entire war he had ardently espoused a generous and flexible lend-lease policy toward the Soviet Union. For the most part, FDR appeared to endorse Secretary Morgenthau's attitude that "to get the Russians to do something [we] should ... do it nice. . . . Don't drive such a hard bargain that when you come through it does not taste good." Consistent with that attitude, he had rejected Harriman's advice to demand quid pro quos for American lend-lease. Economic aid, he declared, did not "constitute a bargaining weapon of any strength," particularly since curtailing lend-lease would harm the United States as much as it would injure the Russians. Nevertheless, Roosevelt accepted a policy of postponement on any discussion of postwar economic arrangements. "I think it's very important," the president declared, "that we hold back and don't give [Stalin] any promise until we get what we want." Clearly, the amount of American aid to the Soviet Union—and the attitude which accompanied that aid— could be decisive to the future of American-Soviet relations. Yet in this—as in so many other issues—Roosevelt gave little hint of the ultimate direction he would take, creating one more dimension of uncertainty amidst the gathering confusion that surrounded postwar international arrangements.
The final issue around which the Cold War revolved was that of the atomic bomb. Development of nuclear weapons not only placed in human hands the power to destroy all civilization, but presented as well the critical question of how such weapons would be used, who would control them, and what possibilities existed for harnessing the incalculable energy of the atom for the purpose of international peace and cooperation rather than destruction. No issue, ultimately, would be more important for human survival. On the other hand, the very nature of having to build the A-bomb in a world threatened by Hitler's madness mandated a secrecy that seriously impeded, from the beginning, the prospects for cooperation and international control.
The divisive potential of the bomb became evident as soon as Albert Einstein disclosed to Roosevelt the frightening information that physicists had the capacity to split the atom. Knowing that German scientists were also pursuing the same quest, Roosevelt immediately ordered a crash program of research and development on the bomb, soon dubbed the "Manhattan Project." British scientists embarked on a similar effort, collaborating with their American colleagues. The bomb, one British official noted, "would be a terrific factor in the postwar world . . . giving an absolute control to whatever country possessed the secret." Although American advisors urged "restricted interchange" of atomic energy information, Churchill demanded and got full cooperation. If the British and the Americans worked together, however, what of the Soviet Union once it became an ally?
In a decision fraught with significance for the future, Roosevelt and Churchill agreed in Quebec in August 1943 to a "full exchange of information" about the bomb with "[neither] of us [to] communicate any information about [the bomb] to third parties except by mutual consent." The decision ensured Britain's future interests as a world power and guaranteed maximum secrecy; but it did so in a manner that would almost inevitably provoke Russian suspicion about the intentions of her two major allies.
The implications of the decision were challenged just one month later when Neils Bohr, a nuclear physicist who had escaped from Nazi-occupied Denmark, approached Roosevelt (indirectly through Felix Frankfurter) with the proposal that the British and Americans include Russia in their plans. Adopting a typically Rooseveltian stance, the president both encouraged Bohr to believe that he was "most eager to explore" the possibility of cooperation and almost simultaneously reaffirmed his commitment to an exclusive British-American monopoly over atomic information. Meeting personally with Bohr on August 26, 1944, Roosevelt agreed that "contact with the Soviet Union should be tried along the lines that [you have] suggested." Yet in the meantime, Roosevelt and Churchill had signed a new agreement to control available supplies of uranium and had authorized surveillance of Bohr "to insure that he is responsible for no leakage of information, particularly to the Russians." Evidently, Roosevelt hoped to keep open the possibility of cooperating with the Soviets—assuming that Bohr would somehow communicate this to the Russians—while retaining, until the moment was right, an exclusive relationship with Britain. Implicit in Roosevelt's posture was the notion that sharing atomic information might be a quid pro quo for future Soviet concessions. On the surface, such an argument made sense. Yet it presumed that the two sides were operating on the same set of assumptions and perceptions—clearly not a very safe presumption. In this, as in so many other matters, Roosevelt appears to have wanted to retain all options until the end. Indeed, a meeting to discuss the sharing of atomic information was scheduled for the day FDR was to return from Warm Springs, Georgia. The meeting never took place, leaving one more pivotal issue of contention unresolved as the war drew to a close.
Given the nature of the personalities and the nations involved, it was perhaps not surprising that, as the war drew to an end, virtually none of the critical issues on the agenda of postwar relationships had been resolved. Preferring to postpone decisions rather than to confront the full dimension of the conflicts that existed, FDR evidently hoped that his own political genius, plus the exigencies of postwar conditions, would pave the way for a mutual accommodation that would somehow satisfy both America's commitment to a world of free trade and democratic rule, and the Soviet Union's obsession with national security and safely defined spheres of influence. The Russians, in turn, also appeared content to wait, in the meantime working militarily to secure maximum leverage for achieving their sphere-of-influence goals. What neither leader nor nation realized, perhaps, was that in their delay and scheming they were adding fuel to the fire of suspicion that clearly existed between them and possibly missing the only opportunity that might occur to forge the basis for mutual accommodation and coexistence.
For nearly half a century, the country had functioned within a political world shaped by the Cold War and controlled by a passionate anticommunism that used the Kremlin as its primary foil. Not only did the Cold War define America's stance in the world, dictating foreign policy choices from Southeast Asia to Latin-America; it defined the contours of domestic politics as well. No group could secure legitimacy for its political ideas if they were critical of American foreign policy, sympathetic in any way to "socialism," or vulnerable to being dismissed as "leftist" or as "soft on communism." From national health insurance to day care centers for children, domestic policies suffered from the crippling paralysis created by a national fixation with the Soviet Union.
Now, it seemed likely that the Cold War would no longer exist as the pivot around which all American politics revolved. However much politicians were unaccustomed to talking about anything without anti-communism as a reference point, it now seemed that they would have to look afresh at problems long since put aside because they could not be dealt with in a world controlled by Cold War alliances.
In some ways, America seemed to face the greatest moment of possibility in all of postwar history as the decade of the 1990s began. So much positive change had already occurred in the years since World War II—the material progress, the victories against discrimination, the new horizons that had opened for education and creativity. But so much remained to be done as well in a country where homelessness, poverty, and drug addiction reflected the abiding strength that barriers of race, class, and gender retained in blocking people's quest for a decent life.
Cold War - is the term used to describe the intense rivalry that developed after World War II between groups of Communist and non-Communist nations/ On one side were the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and its Communist allies, often referred to as the Eastern bloc. On the other side were the United States and its democratic allies, usually referred to as the Western bloc. The struggle was called the Cold War because it did not actually lead to fighting, or "hot" war, on a wide scale.
Iron Curtain - was the popular phrase, which Churchill made to refer to Soviet barriers against the West. Behind these barriers, the USSR steadily expanded its power.
Marshall Plan - encouraged European nations to work together for economic recovery after World War II (1939-1945) / In June 1947, the United States agreed to administer aid to Europe in the countries would meet to decide what they needed/ The official name of the plane was the European Recovery Program. It is called the Marshall Plane because Secretary of the State George C. Marshall first suggested it.
Potsdam Conference -was the last meeting among the Leaders of Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States, during World War II. The conference was held at Potsdam, Germany, near Berlin. It opened in July 17, 1945, about two months after Germany's defeat in the war. Present at the opening were U.S. President Harry S. Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and the Soviet Premier Josef Stalin.
Yalta Conference - was one of the most important meetings of key Allied Leaders during World War II. These Leaders were President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain, and Premier Josef Stalin of the Soviet Union. Their countries became known as the "Big Three". The conference took place at Yalta, a famous Black Sea resort in the Crimea, from Feb. 4 to 11, 1945. Through the years decisions made there regarding divisions in Europe have stirred bitter debates.
The reference list.
- William H. Chafe
"The Unfinished Journey: America since World War II" New York Oxford, Oxford University press, 1991.
- David Caute "The Great Fear", 1978
- Michael Belknap "Cold War Political Justice", 1977
- Allen D. Harper "The politics of Loyalty", 1959
- Robert Griffin "The politics of Fear", 1970
- James Wechler "The Age Suspicion" 1980
- Alistair Cooke "A Generation on Trial", 1950
- An outline of American History
- World Book
- Henry Borovik "Cold War", 1997