The Origins of the USA's Globalism


An Overview

A divided Europe alarmed the USA. Report to Truman emphasised the importance of the restoration of stable conditions in Europe. There was no clear indication that the USA regarded Europe as the springboard to develop their global power role. What it was interested in, was expanding its economic interests GLOBALLY. International stability would be achieved through cooperations based on the collective idea to preserve peace. Thus, power based on military strength would no longer be relevant and USA could exploit its economic influency freely. 

This changed post-war. There was a power vacuum in Europe after the war - America seemed to be most powerful. It could either retreat to isolationism or project its power on a global scale. This was influenced by the Long Telegram...

1 of 10

George Kennan's Long Telegram: Feb 1946

Stalin had demanded Soviet military bases to be placed in Turkey. Truman saw this as Russia needing to be controlled and not babied. Kennan sent a lengthly dispatch to Truman - seminal in shaping US policy towards the Soviet Union - would assume a global perspective rather than a purely European one because of the analysis Kennan presented on the motives of Soviet foreign policy.

According to Kennan the Soviets wanted:

  • To undermine political and strategic potential of major Western Powers.
  • Weaken power and influence of Western powers over colonial peoples and take over once independence is achieved.
  • To set major powers against eachother.
  • Police power 

Kennan argued the USA must be prepared to threaten the use of force and ensure unity amongst its allies - needed to be proactive in Europe and world. 'X' article - called for containment of Russian expansionist tendencies. Kennan's analysis was founded on the conclusion that Soviet foreign policy was aggressive and ideologically driven - Truman percieved this as a threat to US security. This called for a clearly defined foreign policy framework - provided in the Truman Doctrine. 

2 of 10

The Truman Doctrine: Containment

Reinforced with the Iron Curtain speech. Stalin responds in 1946, that American foreign policy was based on imperialism and striving for world supremacy - seen through its economic assistance to Europe - the American policy was specifically anti-Soviet. Each felt the other was expansionist and a global threat. The USA was the dominant world economy and it intended to use this power as part of its foreign policy. SU had succeeded in in establishing the beginnings of national security through its buffer zone.The catalyst that triggered the Truman Doctrine was events in Europe. Stalin had agreed that Greece should remain within the Western sphere of influence; civil war had broken out with communists when Greece was liberated- Britain could no longer support the anti-communists economically in Feb 1947. It appealed to the USA to assume financial burden - ironically Stalin hadnt been supporting the communists in Greece and had no intention to in the future because it would not be communist under the control of Moscow. Truman Doctrine direct attack to USSR - support peoples resisting attempted subjugation - freedom from political oppression - the Doctrine institutionalised the division that would be apparent and enforced via Marshall Aid. Moreover, Truman did not turn to the UN because he was convinced SU would veto any intervention. Trumans motives: to keep the Soviet Union from aiding the Greek communist movement? Designed to protect democracy- response to Soviet aggressive political, strategic and ideological expansionism. Developing global power by presenting itself as protector of the enemy - making states dependent on it militarily and economically. Truman needed to demonise the Soviet Union in order to justify his aim of protecting the USA's vital national interests and Make USSR feel threatened by America's power. 

3 of 10

The Marshall Plan June 1947

Clayton concluded that if the European economy failed, domestically disastrous for USA - but this was exaggerated. Marshall Aid - our policy is not directed against any country - working economy in the world - free institutions can exist - otherwise encounter the opposition of the US. Conditions of recieving aid: had to be spent on importing goods from the USA, recipients required to share info with the USA = thus benefitting US economy and reliance from Europe. A stable European bloc would be created which would reinforce the idea of containment. Many historians have argued that the Marshall Plan contributed significantly to creation of European Economic Community from 1957. USA concerned about political and economic stability in Europe - particularly in France and Italy.  Soviets felt the aid was to undermine their sphere of influence. The plan accelerated the division of Europe. If the Eastern Bloc states (some of which were not yet fully communist) accepted aid - they would resort to market economies and degree of integration with West and thus drawn into the capitalist sphere. 

In July 1947, SU walked out of the tripartite Paris Conference and established Cominform as a retaliation - co ordinating the bloc. Stalin prevented any of the bloc from recieving Marshall Aid and tightened control over the satellite states. Marshall plan simply accelerated the division of Europe and undermined the possibility of international relations being based on cooperation. Soviet Foreign Minister accuses USA of renouncing principles of international collaboration. What motivated the Truman Doctrine was enshrined in the Marshall Plan. 

4 of 10

The Berlin Blockade June 1948-May 1949

Immediate causal factor seemed to be an economic issue - one of the most dangerous crisis in Europe since end of war. By 23 June 1948, the newly created Deutschmark had been introduced into West Berlin.

The next day, all road and rail links to the western zones and to West Berlin through the Soviet zone were blocked by the Soviet Union. Bevin, of Britain, argued that the Soviet Union's ultimate aim was to spread communism across the whole of Germany and their pressure to oust the Western powers from West Berlin was the first step in this process. At the very least, a retreat from Berlin would hand a propaganda victory to the Soviet Union and illustrate that the first challenge to containment in Europe had succeeded. Bevin was adamant that the allies must not use military force. If they withdrew, their position in Europe would be threatened. The allies then used the air corridors to send supplies to their zones.

In May 1949, Stalin ended the blockade. His aim had been to stop the creation of a separate West German state and he had failed. The policy of containment had proved a success and by 1949, Europe was finally divided as was Germany - into 2 separate states although the poltical realities was that neither was truly independent but 'pawns' of East and West. 

The blockade reinforced America's certainity that it had to consolidate its relationship with Europe. 

5 of 10

Germany and NATO

Konrad Adenauer, first chancellor of the FRG won support of the West. Reintegration was also supported by the USA who saw a strong West Germany as a safeguard against communism, whilst reliance on the West would prevent German Nationalism again. First important step in this was made when allowed the FRG to join the Council of Europe and become full member in 1951. Also represented in the OEEC.

NATO APRIL 1949: Strong perception in the USA that Europe should contribute to its own defence. Seen already in the Western European Union in 1948 - signalled to the USA that they should take a more proactive role in developing a strong regional defence system = NATO. USA saw it needed to make a bigger, Atlantic alliance rather than just a European one in order to have real influence = POLITICAL DEFENCE SYSTEM. Early stages were concerned that the SU was a poltical, rather than a military threat. Thus, USA needed direct influence in the area- without whihc the region would be easy prey for communism, or even neutrality. Sends a message to SU of USA's determination to not accept any further expansionism. Soviet Union objects to NATO on the grounds that it contradicted the principles of UN. Why would such an alliance be needed if the US was fully commited to international cooperation? NATO became military when SU test its first atomic bomb - shift of raison detre. French rejection of General Treaty recognising soverignity of FRG and strengthening it in August 1954. Way opened for West Germany rearmament when admitted to Western European Union - becomes member of NATO in May 1955. In retaliation, USSR recognises soverignity of GDR and integrates into Warsaw Pact.

6 of 10

The Korean War 1950-3

In 1949, Chinese communists succeed. SU ambivalent about how close a relationship it should form with the Chinese - initially Mao was warm towards Stalin and left with technological and military assistance. Stalin regarded the SU above the China, and to be used for influence in the Far East. The possibility of the USA forming a rapproachment with China had been greatly reduced by China's alliance with the Soviet Union. 

In June 1950 - communist N.Korea invades S.Korea. Many assumed that this was encouraged by Stalin. Modern research shows that Stalin supported Kim Il Sung's plans. Stalin had to be seen to be proactive in promoting Communism in the Far East or undermine his credibility in the face of Chinese influence. Truman admin react immediately by going in under the UN. Indicated to the USA that the Pacific and Far East were vulnerable to communist expansionism - keen to show USA's role, as policeman to USSR as global villain. Plus, the Pacific and Far East presented economic possibilities and any communism in the area would have undermined that. MacArthur makes mistake of going beyond the 38th parallel, taking the war to China. Truman recalls him - any invasion of China would have shifted the balance of foreign policy away from containment. Stalin's death accelarates end to war and Eisenhower secures ceasefire - restoring border. 

7 of 10

International Significance of Korea War.

War seemed to confirm perception of the rise of monolithic communism. Sino-Soviet alliance showed growth of communism, although US government was not wholy convinced on the alliance and saw poss. of using China to weaken communism in future. Victory for containment- spread of communism halted, which reinforced the USA's commitment to the policy = pronounced presence in Asia. NATO now made sense in Asia. The war showed the threat of communism globally, not just in Europe. American military power was expanded in West Germany and Europe. 

Further complication came for USSR as China's growing confidence on the international scene through its central role in Korea - after all USSR was indirectly involved. China increasingly viewed itself as arbiter of communist influence in Asia, not Soviets. Relationship between China/Russia undermined and would have profound significance later as China strengthen its status as a global superpower to come. 

In 1953, the principle features of the Cold War were in place and would determine the nature of international relations to come. The Cold War had been globalised AND militarised! International alliance system had been established as basis of bipolar division.  Crisis further heightened by the technological context - nuclear tech advancing rapidly - arms race.

8 of 10

USA as a Superpower

RELATIONSHIP WITH BRITAIN: Europe vulnerable - power vacuum and could not be quickly filled given the economic weakness, To large extent the USA did not want Europe to develop as a reigonal force independent of US influence. Britain represented a politically stable state - and the driving force in the relationship. Britain needed the USA to contribute to its security but did not want this relationship to force Britain into the role of a second-rate power dependent on the USA. The relationship became one of mutual support - USA needed Britain and its role in Europe just as Britain needed USA to reinforce its own international status. 

ECONOMIC AND MILITARY POWER: USA had economic wealth - as European ones were destroyed after the war - thus their economy was unchallengeable. Capacity of the government to inject money into  the US economy was strengthened through war profiteering. The economic prosperity the war had brought to the USA could be preserved by ensuring the USA expanded its global economic influence. By establishing a situation where Western states became dependent on USA for their protection, they became locked into an economic relationship. USA had means to deploy large military forces on a global scale - nuclear capability. NSC-68 defence policy increasing defence and underlines USA's approach to Cold War. No return to isolationism or appeasement. USA to adopt a militaristic stance and use its military power to support containment - foundation of its confrontational nature. 

9 of 10


  • How far did the North Korean invasion of South Korea increase the globalisation of the Cold War?
  • 'A Cold War was necessary if the USA was to become a global superpower.' How valid is this assessment of the motives which underpinned America's foreign policy between 1945-53?
  • 'The main outcome of the Korean War appeared to be a victory for containment.' Assess the validity of this view. 
10 of 10


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all Cold War resources »