Lula Teunissen, 11H 07/05/07
Who was more to blame for the beginning of the Cold War, the USA or the USSR?
Despite uniting together as allies to defeat Fascism during WWII, the USA and the USSR had been suspicious of each other ever since Russia had become a communist country, and by 1947 they had become involved in a ‘Cold War’. This meant that no actual fighting would take place, as both countries realised that with the development of the atomic bomb a war similar to previous ones would wipe out all or most of humankind. Instead the two countries engaged in a power struggle in which each tried to out-do the other by building up forces, producing propaganda and trying to gain support in neutral countries. There was no declaration of war between the two countries but it became apparent that they each resented the other and both wanted to be the world’s dominant superpower.
Despite the alliance between the USA and the USSR there had been distrust, even during the war, as Stalin felt that the USA and Britain wanted most of the fighting to take place in Russia, so that Russia would be weaker when the war was over. Roosevelt strengthened Stalin’s distrust at the Yalta conference by not clearly defining what was meant by a sphere of influence. This meant that Stalin believed he had total control over the East, whilst Roosevelt only wanted Russia to have an influence.
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However Roosevelt was not the only one to cause suspicion at Yalta. Stalin insisted that the Russian border should be moved into Poland, despite the uncertainty of Roosevelt. Russia took over the government in countries that were freed from German control, as well as setting up a communist government in Poland, which went against the terms that had been agreed at Yalta.
However it can be said that Roosevelt was partly to blame as he allowed Stalin to move the border into Poland as long as Russia did not interfere with Greece. This was a mistake as Greece was another issue that should not have been brought up, and by doing so Roosevelt failed to make clear to Stalin his views on Europe, giving Stalin an inaccurate interpretation of the situation.
The USA also added to the tension by refusing to share the secret of the first atomic bomb with the USSR, even though it had been shared with Britain. This suggested to Stalin that the USA did not consider Russia to be a trustworthy ally, which increased the distrust that led to the Cold war.
When Truman became President tension with the USSR increased even more, as Truman was more anti-Communist and held greater suspicion of Stalin than Roosevelt had. In order to stop the spread of Communism Truman introduced the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. These involved America sending money and supplies in order to rebuild Europe, and halt the popularity of Communism. Stalin saw this as unfair, and it added to his (not inaccurate) belief that the USA was not content to remain side by side with the USSR and intended to oppose Communism in Europe. This decreased Stalin’s trust in the USA even further, and fuelled the tension of the Cold war.
However Truman claimed that he was simply trying to help Europe recover from the damage it had suffered. It can be said that it was Stalin’s paranoia of Truman’s motives for the Marshall Plan and Truman Doctrine that were to blame for adding to the tension of the Cold War, rather than the Marshall Plan and Truman Doctrine themselves. This is supported by the fact that Russia was offered Marshall aid, suggesting that America was offering genuine help to all countries, not just trying to gain allies.
The USSR responded to the Marshall Plan and Truman Doctrine by setting up Cominform and Comecon in order to co-ordinate Communist governments and industries, and exclude the West. The USA felt threatened by this decision, even though it had been triggered by the American introduction of the Marshall Plan and Truman Doctrine. The fact that both the USA and the USSR were now both involved in aiding their respective halves of Europe (The USA helping the West with the Marshall Plan and Truman Doctrine, and the USSR using Cominform and Comecon to support the East). The way the USSR chose to respond to the USA offering aid to Western Europe meant that a clear division was appearing in Europe, making the Cold War bigger and tensions stronger. However this does not necessarily mean that the USSR was to blame for this, as the USA goaded the USSR into forming Cominform and Comecon, by offering aid. Yet this may not have been intended to angry Stalin, meaning that the USA was not actually to blame, as Truman did not realise how much his actions would increase the unease of the Cold War.
Much of what caused the Cold War was the not completely the fault of the USA or the USSR, it was very much that either both of them were to blame, or neither of them. Despite the wartime alliance the Cold War was practically inevitable due to the vast differences in political idealism between the USA and the USSR. During WWII they had the common aim of defeating a mutual enemy, Nazi Germany, but when the war ended they had very little in common. Both were prosperous, particularly compared to European countries, which meant each wanted to be the world’s dominant superpower, which was bound to create hostility. Each was only concerned with their own interests, which differed greatly, and created tension when they tried to work together to reach an agreement, for example at Yalta and Potsdam. The tension was not even a new occurrence, but had existed for a long time before WWII, America had refused to enter WWI on the allies side whilst Russia was still fighting. As the Cold War unfolded in the late 1940s each side created suspicion with every move, which caused the opposing side to respond, creating more suspicion, which triggered a response, and so on.
In conclusion, neither the USA nor the USSR was more to blame for the beginning of the Cold War, it was created out of tensions that existed before WWII, and returned once the two countries had no reason to be allies. They were both suspicious of each other due to their very different political systems, and the suspicion grew with every action taken. Neither country did any one thing that triggered the start of the Cold War, instead it grew from mutual hostility and differences, and flourished due to mistrust between the leaders of the USA and USSR, and each country’s need for self-protection.