David I. Mc Williams – Views

 

Can it be argued that the outbreak of the cold war was inevitable post – 1945?

The dates and specific causes of the Cold War are debatable as the climate of suspicion and mistrust spread from Europe to Asia and worldwide spanning over four decades. Tensions can be seen to date back to the political ideology, which sparked the Russian revolution in 1917, which predicted a communist revolution of the people leading to socialism in the west. The element of suspicion and fear intensified as the ideological division between east and west widened.

British hostility towards Russia was amplified when, although “Nazi ideology regarded Russians (and Slavs more generally) – as well as Jews, who come still higher on their hate list – as subhuman”1. The Molotov – Ribbetrop Pact named after each states foreign ministers was signed between Russia and Germany in 1939. The Pact opened trade routes, which fed Germany with arms and industrial equipment while agreeing on mutual non-aggression. The signing in Moscow in august 1939 included a secret protocol, which would divide the eastern European countries and give Stalin a buffer zone against the west through communist Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland. “In one view, the soviet rulers were deliberately seeking to provoke war in Europe; in another, they were determined at any rate to keep out of the war themselves”2.

The treaty became null and void as Germany invaded Russia in June 1941 and “politically, the Nazis saw communists as their most bitter enemies, and so Communist Party Members and Jews were killed in cold blood”3. Russia suffered major structural damage and loss of life with 20 million dead and 4.7 million houses destroyed in both rural and urban areas.

On December 7th 1941 following the United States introduction into the war after Pearl Harbour, further mistrust of the western powers by Stalin, after in late 1942 Britain and the United States had still failed to open a second front against Hitler. Stalin believed that the western leaders had stalled their offensive against Germany in order to bring communist Russia to her knees.

The differing ideologies within the allied powers caused mistrust and suspicion as Russia and the United States harboured conflicting aims for the direction of Eastern Europe following the end of the war. In the United States a capitalist liberal democracy that was wary of the east wished to support democratic elections in central and Eastern Europe in order to promote capitalism. This would widen the United States sphere of influence, create stability and open the eastern bloc to trade links with the United States and the rest of Europe. This stability in the region would be based on economic security through trade and commerce. The Americans were worried that Russian influence in the region and the spread of communism was a direct threat to the advancement of capitalism and the re-building of Europe.

Stalin had come to power in a country which was just recovering from the disasters of war and revolution, a basically agricultural country with a great potential, but lagging behind much of the developed world”4. Political and social ideology “which the Soviet authorities promote, [is] a developed and systemized form of the writings of Marx, Engles and Lenin, is known as Marxism – Leninism”5, which Stalin was adapting to form his own brand of Marxism – Leninism – Stalinism in order to rebuild the country. “The restructuring of the Soviet Union in the 1930’s had of course been achieved at the cost of enormous suffering but since then, it seemed, Stalin had softened the nature of Soviet socialism”6, which saw the threat of capitalism from the west as a major security threat.

The Molotov – Ribbetrop pact was not broken by the U.S.S.R and Stalin still maintained that Russian security was at the forefront of his ambitions for eastern and central Europe. A buffer zone of friendly states would give Russia border security and segregation from the western powers, which Russia deemed as a threat to communism in the east.

The cold war was not just bread from conflicting ideologies but of conflicting aims as Russia and the United States sought to gain social and political control over their respective spheres of influence. These conflicting aims were apparent after post-war peace conferences in Tehran in 1943 and Yalta in February 1945. The three main leaders of the Allied forces – Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin met in Tehran to discuss military strategy and the progress of the war. Both Britain and America assured Stalin that a further offensive would be launched in the east to aid Russia in her war efforts. Stalin agreed and the offensive was stalled leaving Russia shut out by the western powers. Stalin enacted his own method of border security on June 6th 1944, D-day, as he deliberately allowed 200,000 poles to be massacred as he halted his troops gaining Russian dominance in Poland, which had been the corridor of attack, by the Nazi’s.

Yugoslavia was one of the countries, which had suffered the most from the destruction of the Second World War7 and “in Yugoslavia, Tito’s partisans had by 1945 prevailed in bitter civil war which had accompanied their struggle against the Germans”8.

When the Yalta conference was held in the Black Sea resort “Britain was weakened and over-stretched by the war, and the economic and military predominance of the United States was increasingly evident”9. In the old Tsars summer residence the divisions between Russian aims and that of Churchill and Roosevelt were evident as Stalin and Roosevelt dominated with Churchill in support of the American position and the capitalist ideology of the west. The discussion over how Germany was going to be divided up after the war was talked at length as “a German invasion of Russia, not any mere shifting of the balance in Germany’s favour, was their nightmare”10. Stalin did not want Germany being a passageway through Europe, opening the door to capitalism in the east. Stalin’s aim was to keep Germany economically and politically weak in order to sustain security in the region. In contrast, the United states wished to reinstate Germany as the hub of Europe, rebuilding it into a stable centre for capitalist expansion, an economically stable and productive Germany would prevent a financial crash and the depressions faced after the first world war.

Reparations for Russia as well as the other eastern bloc victims of Nazi destruction were also on the agenda for discussion at the Yalta conference, a figure of 20 billion US Dollars worth of goods and equipment was to be paid over a period of several years. This final compromise also led to the discussions over the dissection of Germany after the war by the super powers.

The German question was to become a major factor in the perpetuation of the cold war and by the end of the Yalta Conference “a united Germany became a prize which neither the U.S.S.R nor the western allies could concede to the other”11.

In the years 1940 to 1944, industrial expansion in the United States rose at a faster pace – over 15 per cent a year – than at any period before or since”12 and following the surrender of Germany in May 1945 the Allies met again at Potsdam near Berlin in July 1945 where “Stalin pointed out that twice in recent history Russia had been invaded by Germany through Poland, and Russian security now demanded that she be made into an effective buffer by being Russian – dominated”13. The changes in the leadership of the west made a significant impact on the tone of the conference as Harry s. Truman replaced the deceased President Roosevelt in April and Churchill lost the British General Election in the early stages of discussion and was replaced by Clement Atlee. Prime Minister Atlee played second fiddle as Stalin and Truman set out their stall. Truman was suspicious of Stalin and regarded him as no more than a bully with the goal of world domination and the spread of communism.

On July 10th 1945 the United States tested their first nuclear bomb in New Mexico as “the weapons chief designer J. Robert Oppenheimer recalled some lines from the Hindu religious epic The Bhagavad Gita,’ Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds, waiting the hour that ripens to their doom”14. When Truman informed Stalin of the United States new Warhead, Stalin merely replied,” Good, I hope the United States will use it” and on August 6th 1945 B-29 bombers dropped an Atom bomb on Hiroshima killing approximately 100,000 civilians and killing many more by radiation poisoning over the course of the next decade and beyond. On august 9th the United States dropped a Plutonium implosion bomb on Nagasaki and Japan promptly surrendered on August 10th 1945.

The re-shaping of Europe post-war was heavily influenced by the conflicting ideologies and aim’s of the two strongest victorious nations of the Second World War, the U.S.A and the U.S.S.R. “The communist takeovers, or, to use their terminology, the socialist revolutions, had brought the working class to power. However, that class was seldom in the majority and so, according to Marxist laws, it had to establish the means for consolidating and perpetuating its authority: the Socialist State”15.

The existence of nuclear weapons influenced the relationship between the United States and Russia during this period and saw the promotion of each countries agenda as the balance of power shifted16. The United States promoted their capitalist agenda with the intention of creating a liberal international system based on free trade. This would see the creation of a trading and economic community. America, unscathed by the war was now producing 50 per cent of the world’s industrial goods and looked to create institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which would enable easy transfer of the devalued European currency into Dollars in order to purchase goods from the United States. This was the basis for the Atlantic Charter, which defined the western objective for Europe drafted during the early stages of the Second World War.

Tensions between the U.S.S.R and the United States heightened as the Truman Doctrine made it clear that there was a clear choice between democracy and totalitarianism, in reality the choice between western capitalism and eastern communism. United States Congress approved 400 million Dollars to assist in the rebuilding of Greece and Turkey and the model of containment through capital aid was used as a vehicle for economic expansion in Europe. The Marshal Plan aided this economic policy in 1947. The distribution of 12 billion Dollars throughout Europe was designed to achieve unification and the rebuilding of infrastructure and effectively gaining the support of countries through financial aid and drawing them into the capitalist sphere of influence. States under Russian influence “were forbidden to receive American aid under the Marshal Plan which Stalin feared would lead to American interference”17.

The countries of East – Central Europe became more Stalinist and the division of Europe more rigid from 1948”18 as the Cold War conflict was not simply a clash of ideologies but competition of interests19. “Until 1948, Mao Tse – tung’s success was an inconvenience to Stalin’s policy of realpolitik partnership with the west but the Cold War changed his mind”20. The outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 was a vehicle for the spread of communism21. As the Cold War intensified, Stalin looked to the eastern bloc buffer zone. Germany was the thorn in his side.

The conflicting aims of Russia and the west led to the division of Germany. The Russians wished to keep Germany weak and under the Russian influence by absorbing it into the Iron Curtain. America’s goal was primarily to reinstate Germany as the capitalist centre of Europe, which made Germany and more importantly Berlin one of the main focal points of the Cold War. Berlin was the gap in the Iron Curtain. Berlin, divided into specific zones along the same lines as the rest of Germany with each zone controlled by each of the Allied powers. Stalin saw Berlin as the gateway for migration from East to West as a sixth of the population migrated eastward between 1945 and 1961. The western method of control and stabilisation, the Deutchmark, was introduced in West Germany and West Berlin in June 1948, which “symbolised the determination of the U.S.A and the UK to create a West German State”22. This was followed by the formation of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) in August in 1949 and two months later Stalin created the German Democratic Republic (GDR)23.

The inevitability of the Cold War after Korean and Chinese revolutions and the formation of NATO as well as Russia developing her own Atomic bomb in 1949 led to a school of thought that this nuclear age24 “represented a new and quite different method for regulating international anarchy”25. The Soviet Union controlled the leaders of the Warsaw pact26 and planned for a “wartime strength of 3 million troops by 1953”27. The potential for a better life was perpetuated by western propaganda and enticed the most ambitious to defect from the east as the Cold War dominated the foreign policy of the two powers to emerge from the Second World War.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Michael Sheehan, The Balance Of Power – History & Theory, Routledge, 1996, London-UK, ISBN 0-415-11931-6.

Stephen White, The U.S.S.R. Portrait of a super-power, Blackie & Sons Ltd, 1978, Glasgow-UK, ISBN 0-216-90485-4.

Wilfred Loth, The Crucial Issues of Early Cold War: the German question from Stalin to Khrushchev: The meaning of new documents, Routledge, Cold War History, Vol. 10, No. 2, May 2010.

Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin; The Court of the Red Tsar, Phoenix, 2004, London-UK, ISBN-13 978-0-7538-1766-7.

Martin McCauley, The Soviet Union 1917-1991(Second Edition), Longman, 1993, London-Uk, ISBN 0582-01323-2.

David Williamson, Berlin: The Flash-Point of the Cold War 1948-1989, History Review, December 2003.

P.D. Allan, A History of the 20th Century World; Russia and Eastern Europe, Edward Arnold Publishers, 1983, London-UK, ISBN 0-7131-0680-8.

Archie Brown, The Rise & Fall of Communism, Published by Vintage, 2010, GB, ISBN 9781845950675.

Geoffrey Barraclough, An Introduction to Contemporary History, Penguin Books, 1990, London-UK, ISBN 13579108642.

R.J. Crampton, Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century-ansd after(Second Edition), Routledge, 1994, London-UK, ISBN 978-0-415-16423-8.

Paul Kennedy, The Rise And Fall Of The Great Powers: Economic change and military conflict from 1500 to 2000, FontanaPress, 1989, London-UK, ISBN 0-00-686052-4.

A.J.P. Taylor, The Origins Of The Second World War, Penguin Books, 1991, London-UK, ISBN-13: 978-0-140-13672-2.

BA History & Politics, 035967.

1 Archie Brown, The Rise & Fall of Communism, Published by Vintage, 2010, GB, ISBN 9781845950675, Pp138.

2 A.J.P. Taylor, The Origins Of The Second World War, Penguin Books, 1991, London-UK, ISBN-13: 978-0-140-13672-2, Pp 282.

3 Archie Brown, The Rise & Fall of Communism, Published by Vintage, 2010, GB, ISBN 9781845950675, Pp 138.

4 P.D. Allan, A History of the 20th Century World; Russia and Eastern Europe, Edward Arnold Publishers, 1983, London-UK, ISBN 0-7131-0680-8, Pp 95.

5 Stephen White, The U.S.S.R. Portrait of a super-power, Blackie & Sons Ltd, 1978, Glasgow-UK, ISBN 0-216-90485-4, Pp12.

6 R.J. Crampton, Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century-ansd after(Second Edition), Routledge, 1994, London-UK, ISBN 978-0-415-16423-8, Pp 213.

7 Archie Brown, The Rise & Fall of Communism, Published by Vintage, 2010, GB, ISBN 9781845950675, Pp 151.

8 Archie Brown, The Rise & Fall of Communism, Published by Vintage, 2010, GB, ISBN 9781845950675, Pp 151.

9 Archie Brown, The Rise & Fall of Communism, Published by Vintage, 2010, GB, ISBN 9781845950675, Pp 161.

10 A.J.P. Taylor, The Origins Of The Second World War, Penguin Books, 1991, London-UK, ISBN-13: 978-0-140-13672-2, Pp 300.

11 David Williamson, Berlin: The Flash-Point of the Cold War 1948-1989, History Review, December 2003.

12 Paul Kennedy, The Rise And Fall Of The Great Powers: Economic change and military conflict from 1500 to 2000, FontanaPress, 1989, London-UK, ISBN 0-00-686052-4, Pp 460.

13 P.D. Allan, A History of the 20th Century World; Russia and Eastern Europe, Edward Arnold Publishers, 1983, London-UK, ISBN 0-7131-0680-8, Pp 89.

14 Michael Sheehan, The Balance Of Power – History & Theory, Routledge, 1996, London-UK, ISBN 0-415-11931-6, Pp171.

15 R.J. Crampton, Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century-ansd after(Second Edition), Routledge, 1994, London-UK, ISBN 978-0-415-16423-8, Pp 241.

16 Michael Sheehan, The Balance Of Power – History & Theory, Routledge, 1996, London-UK, ISBN 0-415-11931-6, Pp172.

17 P.D. Allan, A History of the 20th Century World; Russia and Eastern Europe, Edward Arnold Publishers, 1983, London-UK, ISBN 0-7131-0680-8, Pp 91.

18 Archie Brown, The Rise & Fall of Communism, Published by Vintage, 2010, GB, ISBN 9781845950675, Pp 176.

19 Geoffrey Barraclough, An Introduction to Contemporary History, Penguin Books, 1990, London-UK, ISBN 13579108642, Pp 199.

20 Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin; The Court of the Red Tsar, Phoenix, 2004, London-UK, ISBN-13 978-0-7538-1766-7, Pp 604.

21 Martin McCauley, The Soviet Union 1917-1991(Second Edition), Longman, 1993, London-Uk, ISBN 0582-01323-2, Pp 204.

22 David Williamson, Berlin: The Flash-Point of the Cold War 1948-1989, History Review, December 2003.

23 David Williamson, Berlin: The Flash-Point of the Cold War 1948-1989, History Review, December 2003.

24 Martin McCauley, The Soviet Union 1917-1991(Second Edition), Longman, 1993, London-Uk, ISBN 0582-01323-2, Pp 204.

25 Michael Sheehan, The Balance Of Power – History & Theory, Routledge, 1996, London-UK, ISBN 0-415-11931-6, Pp170.

26 Stephen White, The U.S.S.R. Portrait of a super-power, Blackie & Sons Ltd, 1978, Glasgow-UK, ISBN 0-216-90485-4, Pp68.

27 Wilfred Loth, The Crucial Issues of Early Cold War: the German question from Stalin to Khrushchev: The meaning of new documents, Routledge, Cold War History, Vol. 10, No. 2, May 2010, Pp 229-245.

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