James Rees

Explain the origins of the Cold War.

Germany’s defeat in World War Two was inevitable by the beginning of 1945. The Soviet Union’s army of 12 million soldiers had taken control of Poland and was preparing to cross the border into pre-war Germany and to attack Berlin. However on February 3rd 1945, the Red army was ordered to stop progressing for one week. From February 4th until February 11th 1945, the Presidents of the United States (Franklin Roosevelt) and the Soviet Union  (Joseph Stalin) and the Prime Minister of Great Britain (Winston Churchill) met in the Russian city of Yalta, located on the Crimean southern shore of the Black Sea, to determine how World War Two should be finished. The famous meeting of the “Big Three” would also sow many of the seeds that would eventually develop into the Cold War.

Many important decisions were made at Yalta, most notably the            re-establishing and giving back independence to the countries, which had been conquered and destroyed by Nazi Germany. At the end of World War Two, most Western nations wanted to re-establish the liberated states of Eastern Europe as democratic states with capitalist economies. However the Soviet Union dictator, Joseph Stalin believed that the Soviet Union had the right to control Eastern Europe. Stalin had argued that since the Soviet Union had twice been invaded by Germany in less than twenty-five years, it was necessary for him to protect his country through the creation of Eastern European Communist buffer states, controlled by the Soviet Union and protecting it at the same time. However, ultimately Stalin agreed to the wishes of Roosevelt and Churchill.

        To the genuine surprise of Roosevelt and Churchill, Stalin failed to keep his promise to allow the countries of Eastern Europe to have independent and democratically elected government. Stalin prevented popular elections in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria by forcing permanent Communist governments on each country and suppressing any support for democracy. The international response against Stalin was small, America, busy in its war against Japan, did not wish to upset the USSR and risk losing a very powerful ally and the countries taken over by the Soviet Union lacked the military resources to combat Stalin’s huge army which extended across Eastern Europe.

In May 1945, Nazi Germany surrendered and on July 25th, 1945, the “Big Three” (1) met again in the German city of Potsdam to discuss the fate of Germany. The Soviet Union, wanted to use German industry to rebuild their economy, but the United States knew that the Soviet economy was in a state of near-collapse. The Soviet Union had lost at least 20 million souls during the war alone and tens of millions more during Stalin's decade of purge trials. The industrialization that Stalin had promised and delivered to his people with the Five Year Plans had been destroyed. American President Truman realized this and felt confident that the United States was in the stronger bargaining position. He assumed that the Soviets would have to come to the United States for economic aid but in the spring of 1945, the American Congress had decided to stop any Lend-Lease for any post-war reconstruction in Soviet Union. This marked an obvious shift in policy for under the ; the United States had shipped enormous quantities of war material to the Soviets. Such a move resulted in the first obvious sign of growing hostility between the world’s last two remaining superpowers.

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The huge impact of America’s atomic attack on Japan, in August 1945, on the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union was undeniable. It demonstrated the superiority of the United States over the Soviets. Such a massive demonstration of American military superiority created fear in Stalin’s government. The Soviet response was to increase its military spending and push towards developing its own nuclear technology, which only helped to fuel huge competition between the two nations and deepening tension.

Another cause of the cold war revolved around Soviet expert . In 1946, Kennan sent an 8000-word telegram, known as ...

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