Because of this insecure mindset, Stalin sought to secure a friendly and neutralized western or “buffer zone”. “‘The war is not as in the past, whosoever occupies a territory also imposes his own social system....It cannot be otherwise,’” Stalin said to the Yugoslav communist Milovian Djilas in 1945 (Gaddis 5). Stalin planned to establish friendly satellite governments in all Soviet conquered countries, which threatened the western powers.
The United States had a mindset of greatness and aloofness. This outlook differed from the Soviet attitude mainly because the United States stood apart from Europe and its problems. America had never been attacked on its native soil and, when WWII was finished most Americans felt that they had saved China, rescued the Allies and made Russia able to push the Germans out of their country and then to conquer them. Americans expected gratitude for and cooperation with their ideals (Feis 3).
The United States’ and the USSR’s positions sharply differed and the Soviet Union became nervous when it was forced, by America’s brash actions, to be defensive. “The cultural gap between American and Soviet leaders contributed to the emerging Cold War. American negotiators acted as if the mere recitation of their legal and moral rights ought to produce the results they desired” (Kissinger 438). Because of the differing attitudes, the “secure Europe” was not created in the opinion of both nations. Each country caused the tensions that arose from their differing positions.
The Soviet Union and the United States also had differing aims. After the collapse of the Nazis, a power vacuum was left over. This led to the disintegration of the alliance between the USSR and America (Kissenger 423, 424). Soviet Russia wanted to achieve complete protection because of recurring invasions. The only way that Stalin saw to do this was to acquire territory for a buffer zone: “The behavior of Russia under the Communists had been Russian behavior rather than communist behavior....There has been the same effort to achieve security by expanding the Russia space, by constantly pushing back the menacing presence of the foreigners across the Russian borders” (Halle 11). In each nation of the buffer zone, Stalin wanted Communist-friendly governments. He set up these governments in Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Zone of Germany. These countries came to be known as the Eastern Bloc (Warren 39). At the Potsdam Conference that met in July of 1945, the Allied leaders met to decide the fate of Germany. There, Churchill, Attlee, and Truman accused Stalin of doing just this, setting up puppet governments. When the two sides could not reach a decision about Germany, the Western Powers decided to work without the Soviets and created a West Germany and a section of Germany under Stalin’s control (Sherman 18,23). The conflict at the Potsdam conference added to tensions hugely.
The paragraph above would support the Orthodox view, but the Atlantic Charter and the Truman Doctrine characterize the aims of the United States and other western nations. The Atlantic Charter unified democratic nations against fascist rule. While Western nations accepted this charter, Soviet Russia did not. President Truman addressed Congress on March 12, 1947, “One way of life is based upon the will of the majority, and is distinguished by free institutions, representative government, free elections, guarantees of individual liberty, freedom of speech and religion, and freedom from political oppression. The second way of life is based upon the will of a minority forcibly imposed upon the majority. It relies upon terror and oppression, a controlled press and radio; fixed elections, and the suppression of personal freedoms. I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures” (Avalon). The first “way of life” is democracy, and the second is communism. Truman is saying that it is the United States’ duty to help those oppressed by Communism and to control the spread of it. This is an obvious threat to the USSR to not spread its control any more than it already has. The Atlantic Charter and Truman Doctrine could be used to support the Revisionist viewpoint. Both nations had differing aims and views, which is support for the Post-Revisionist view that both nations were responsible for the Cold War.
The United States and Soviet Russia acted on these aims differently. Stalin and the USSR wanted to expand its communist influence. With their troops in much of Europe, this goal was relatively easy to attain. Stalin also wanted to annex Germany and expand into Asia. He tried to do this by instigating strikes and social unrest in those areas (McCauley 9-11). Given this, the USSR’s most important goal was to create a buffer zone between them and Western Europe. They installed communist governments controlled by Soviet troops in Eastern Europe and also in Asia and the Pacific. Examples include the Soviets role in the Chinese Civil War by supporting the Communist Party, which directly opposed America who was supporting the Nationalist Party (Warren 51-66). The USSR also supported the Communists in North Korea during the Korean War, fighting once again against the Americans (Warren 67-80).
The United States also acted upon its aims. America’s Marshall Plan was a proposal that was issued on June 5, 1947 stating, “it is logical to expect that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economical in the world” (Halsall). As a result of this plan, the United States sent money to central and eastern European countries in order to improve conditions and stimulate economic growth in order to lessen Communism’s appeal. Each country worked towards their aims with the full awareness that the other country was doing the opposite. Thus, both countries were responsible for the Cold War, supporting the Post-Revisionist view.
Finally, Soviet Russia and America had differing ideological views. Solely on their different forms of government, tensions rose. America’s democracy wanted to attain security in a way that opposed violence, while Stalin wanted to achieve security by threats and intimidation (Gaddis). The governments were also quite different. The USSR’s was a communist republic and autocracy while the United States was a capitalist democracy. Both countries adhered very strictly to their government’s principles leading to further tensions, supporting the Post-Revisionist thesis.
With a plethora of evidence supporting both the Orthodox and the Revisionist views, the only thesis that still holds true is the Post-Revisionist. Both the Soviet Union and the United States purposely aggravated each other. Though during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, it was not easy to decide if one or both countries were responsible for the war, it is easy to conclude now that both the United States and Soviet Russia were to blame for starting the Cold War.
Here's what a teacher thought of this essay
It is evident that the author has done a great deal of reading and quotations are well selected, but not always well explained. The author covers the different explanations for the Cold War well and shows understanding of the different schools of thought but could have included more evidence to justify their Post-Revisionist stance and extended their conclusion. 4 out of 5 stars.