How and why did the Cold War start so soon? Historian interpretations

  • Created by: jessica7
  • Created on: 02-05-20 10:21

A war of Soviet aggression

Malcolm Pearce & Geoffrey Stewart

  • "In February 1948, democracy in Czechoslovakia was snuffed out."
  • "In June 1948 the Soviet Union blocked access by the allies to Berlin, a breach of all previous agreements."
  • "The USA had a monopoly of atomic weapons, an act which the Soviets could not forget."

Additional supporting evidence

  • 1948: Soviets established full control in Czechoslovakia. Already taken over in Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria & Romania.
  • Behaviour of Soviet troops was often brutal.
  • Soviets used last minute entry into the war against Japan.
  • Stalin was seen as the new Hitler. His behaviour was perceived as untrustworthy & aggressive. 
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Understandable Soviet defensiveness

Michael Lynch

  • "Despite its victory over Germany...the Soviet Union felt more vulnerable at any time since the Revolution."
  • "The strain of total war had exhausted the economy; this was one reason why Stalin was so adamant at Yalta on the issue of German reparations."
  • "His fear was the construction of the atomic bomb."
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Both sides equally culpable

Martin McCauley

  • "It was almost inevitable that Russia and America, given their Utopianism, would contruct empires. The number of countries in their respective zones of imperial influence would be used as benchmarks to determine which was gaining the upper hand."
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The importance of the Second World War

  • WW2 meant the US emerged as an economic powerhouse producing 50% of the world's goods & services.
  • It also emerged as a military powerhouse with a navy of 70,000 vessel.
  • The war wrecked the old balance of power & alliances. It left the USA and the USSR as two significant powers. However, the USSR was an incomplete superpower due to war losses, relative economic backwardness, a smaller navy & no atomic weapons.
  • The war brought an end to isolationism - the US would no longer ignore events beyond its borders. 
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The personality of Stalin

John Lewis Gaddis

  • Gaddis argues that as long as Stalin was alive, the Colw War was inevitable.

Additional supporting evidence

  • Stalin did not have a capacity for compromise in domestic or foreign policy. 
  • Roosevelt saw Stalin as an ordinary politician, however Stalin simply was not flexible. 
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The role of the United States

Harry Hopkins, Roosevelt's adviser, said in 1945:

  • "I think we have the most important business in the world. And that is this - to do everything in our domestic power to foster and encourage democractic government throughout the world...We believe our dynamic democracy is the best in the world."

Additional supporting evidence:

  • US wanted open markets, self-determination & democracy.
  • Dollar diplomacy & atomic diplomacy were clear attempts to mould a post war Europe which reflected US values. 
  • Truman exploited the Soviet threat as he wanted the US to take a forceful role in the world. His stance of getting tough in 1946, worsened relations.
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Lack of understanding on both sides

Thomas G Patterson

  • "The confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union derived from differing post war needs, ideology, style and power of the two rivals and drew on an historical legacy of frosty relations. Each saw the other, in mirror image, as the world's bully."

Additional supporting evidence:

  • American policy makers underestimated Soviet anxiety & the psychological impact of Soviet war losses.
  • Americans were inclined to see Soviet foreign policy as ideologically driven so were more suspicious than they would be if they were dealing with another democracy.
  • The USSR did not grasp that in a democract, the President had to respond to voters & opposition parties.
  • Stalin also refused to see how his behaviour in Eastern Europe dismayed the West. 
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