Topic 4: The Origins of the Cold War 1945 - 1960

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Topic 4: The Origins of the Cold War 1945 - 1960

Key issue: Why did the USA and the USSR become rivals in the years 1945 - 1949?

  • Ideological differences and their effects

The alliance which held together Britain, the USA and the USSR was based purely on the fact that all three countries had a common enemy - Hitler's Germany. Once their common enemy was defeated, the wartime alliance began to collapse.

As World War II came to an end, the USA and the USSR had emerged from the war as the two superpowers as Britain and France no longer had enough money or strength following the war to exercise real internaitonal leadership.

Unlikely alliance:

There was a clash of ideologies. The USSR was a Communist dictatorship, whilst the USA was a Capitalist democracy. Communism is an ideology believing in state control of the economy and the USSR had a secret police and a one party dictatorship. However, Capitalism was based on the ideas of private property and competition, and the USA claimed to be a land of freedom and had a two-party democracy.

The aims of the USA and USSR also differed. America wanted a democratic and capitalist Germany, which would be a world trading partner. Russia wanted to weaken Germany by reparations and create a buffer zone of friendly states around Russia to prevent a repeat of the Nazi invasion of 1941.

There was a lack of trust between the two countries due to previous events. In the Civil War after the Communists took power in 1917, Britain and the USA helped the enemies of the Communists. Stalin also believed that they had delayed D-Day in the hope that Nazis would destroy Russia. Britain and America blamed the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939 for starting the Second World War. Stalin also refused to join the United Nations for a long time. At the Tehran Conference of 1943, Stalin and Churchill clashed over how much control Stalin would have over eastern European countries. These all led to growing tensions.

Differences between America and Russia:

AmericaRussia 1. The richest country in the world. 1. The biggest country in the world. 2. A democracy with free elections, led by an elected president. 2. A one-party state led by a dictator. There were elections, but you could only vote for the Communist Party. 3. Freedom of speech and belief. 3. State control: censorship, secret police, terror and purges. 4. Capitalism - private ownership and the right to make money. 4. Communism - state ownership of the means of production, and the belief that wealth should be shared. 5. Led by Truman, who believed that Communism was evil. 5. Led by Stalin, who believed that capitalism was evil. 6. Had the atomic bomb- but was scared of Russia's conventional army. 6. Had the biggest army in the world - but was angry that Truman had not warned that he was going to drop the atomic bomb. 7. Feared


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