The speech made by Winston Churchill the wartime British Prime Minister on the 'Iron Curtain' increased the tension of Europe and was also a very important cause of the cold war. He used it to describe the political barrier set up by the Soviet Union along the borders of her satellites in the Eastern Europe. It stretched from the Soviet zone of Germany in the north to Trieste on the Adriatic. To cut off the Satellites from any Western influence, the Soviet Union stopped all free communication between Eastern and Western Europe. The boundaries of the satellites were wired and all trading relations with the west were forbidden. The lowering of the iron curtain only increased the suspicion and hostility between the two blocs, which led to the outbreak of the Cold War.
After the surrender of Germany, the Allies met again at Potsdam in mid -1945. Relations between the Allies continued to worsen. Stalin was told about the atomic bomb. Which gave the Russians a great shock, yet the United States refused to share the secret of this weapon with Soviet ally – this led to an arms race and the Russians started to develop their own, more advanced nuclear weapon in competition with America’s. Throughout the whole Cold War period, the USA developed the nuclear weapon much faster than the USSR. In 1945, the USA had dropped its for atom bomb and by 1952, had developed the hydrogen bombs which are 52 times more powerful than the atom bombs. And, whenever the USA developed a more advanced nuclear weapon, the USSR would develop an equivalent bomb very soon after so both countries became very competitive in the nuclear arms race which caused a great deal of tension between the countries as they both observed each other very closely which also let to the outbreak of the Cold War.
Soviet expansion and its message of communism was a large factor in the Cold War but there are other factors to consider as well such as the ideological differences between the two countries. The Soviet Union had had a communist government since 1917 after the October Revolution. Communists believed that private ownership was wrong. All means of production such as factories, mines, banks and farms should be owned by the states. The common good was more important than individual freedom. They believed that the capital system was not a good system because it did not protect the rights of workers. Communists also looked forward to a worldwide revolution, which would bring communist government to power everywhere.
These communist ideas came into conflict with beliefs held by many Americans and Western Europeans. The United States representing the democratic West, believed in free elections and government according to the wishes of the majority. They highly valued individual freedom, and believed that the greater power states officials had, the less freedom people could enjoy. In their opinion, a dictatorship should be condemned and public ownership was inefficient.
As they had two opposing political systems, it was unlikely that they could co-operation in peacetime. Their temporary co-operation came to an end as soon as their common enemy was defeated. After the war, one side always thought that the other side wanted to attack their way of life, and so both countries wanted to gain as much support from other countries as possible to help spread their cause. The ideological difference made them distrust each other and created a competitive attitude.
America’s “Marshall Plan” (America gave money to rebuild Europe and prevent people wanting communism as an alternative) made Stalin suspicious, as did the Truman Doctrine, which was also seen as unfair by Stalin. This lack of trust and selfishness for their own countries contributed to the built up of the root of the cold war.
At the Yalta Conference, it was agreed that Germany was to be spilt into four zone occupied by USSR, Britain, USA and France and free elections for new government would be held in countries previously occupied in Eastern Europe. Although Churchill and Roosevelt became more worried about the future of the area, they had to accept Soviet demands in return for Stalin's support against Japan. The allies were now suspicious with each other as Stalin wanted to control the Eastern Europe so he did not want free elections to be held and free election is against the ideas of communism. USSR wanted Germany to become a buffer zone; this was against Britain and USA's wishes and thoughts. This wartime agreement enabled the Soviet government to gain dominance over the countries in Eastern Europe in the post-war period. The distrust between the Soviet Union and her allies had also developed in the wartime conferences. Also, Roosevelt did not define what was meant by a sphere of influence – Stalin saw it as total control over the East but the USA only wanted Russia to have an influence. Also Roosevelt allowed Russia to move border into Poland as long as Russia did not interfere with Greece, even though he shouldn’t have bought Greece into the equation.
In conclusion, the Soviet expansion was a major factor of the outbreak of the Cold War and was to a large extent. However this is because of the Soviet’s desire to spread its message of communism mainly as well as its want to occupy land. Fear of communism is the reason why Marshall aid and the Truman Doctrine was introduced which aroused a lot of suspicion and tension between America and Russia and is also one of the reasons America kept its atomic bombs secret from the Russians which led to the arms race. I believe these were the catalyst for the Cold War but they only happened as reaction against the threat of the USSR’s expansion of communism and so if had these events not happened, perhaps wouldn’t have been enough mistrust and suspicion between the two countries to justify the outbreak of the Cold War. Of course, there were other major factors responsible such as that the two super powers were only interested in their own interests, they had many ideological differences and were bound to not get along, they were both involved in the Berlin Blockade and Airlift, both countries should have resolved better at the Summit conferences and communist and Capitalists are totally different. But I believe the expansion of communist Russia was the major cause of the Cold War.
Sion Brooks 13.4