Table of Contents
The cold war refers to a geopolitical tension that succeeded the Second World War between the western and the eastern blocs. Soon after the end of the Second World War, the United States and the Soviet Union that had fought the war as allies encountered immense mistrust that led to diplomatic conflicts. The Soviet Union colluded with numerous satellite states in an attempt to advance the spread of communism across the world while the United States strengthened its relationship with her North Atlantic Trade Organization (NATO) colleagues to protect democracy and capitalism. Conflicts of national interests between the United States and the Soviet Union caused and sustained the cold war that lasted from 1947 to 1991.
The announcement of the Truman Doctrine March 12, 1947, marked the beginning of the cold war. The doctrine also embodied American interests and the extent that the Truman administration would reach to protect the interests. In the speech, the president outlined American interests and the strategies he would employ to protect them. He thus urged the Congress to support the ideas, a development that would later cause the longest diplomatic conflict between the country and the Soviet Union. In the doctrine, the president promised to contain the influence of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe (Hampton, Steve and Sarah 1990, 99- 212). The administration would offer financial and economic aid to eastern European countries that faced the greatest threat from the Soviet Union, “I believe that our help should be primarily through economic and financial aid which is essential to economic stability and orderly political processes” (Truman 1947). The countries included Greece and Turkey.
The speech and the subsequent roll out of the expansive Truman Doctrine demonstrated the American fear of communism. Communism is a unique political and economy theory that advocates for a class war resulting in an economy in which the state owns all the property. Citizens thus work and earn a salary depending on the uniqueness of their needs and abilities. The spread of communism to different parts of the world including Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and South America threatened both democracy and capitalism. The United States which a capitalist economy had relied on new markets to grow its market. The American economy relied on international trade that would enable it to grow its markets by importing labor and raw materials while exporting both human resource and finished products to different markets throughout the world.
Similarly, the United States disliked Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union. Stalin was a tyrant who led a bloodthirsty government that thrived on extrajudicial murders and abuse of human rights. President Truman feared that the growing influence of Stalin across the world through the spread of communism would see the rise of other tyrants who would thrive of abuse of human rights. The president said, “We cannot allow changes in the status quo in violation of the Charter of the United Nations by such methods as coercion, or by such subterfuges as political infiltration” (Truman 1947). The cold war was therefore an opportunity to mitigate the Stalin’s growing influence. The American government would employ necessary strategies to limit Stalin’s influence key among which was the formation of strategic alliances.
The Soviet Union under the leadership of Joseph Stalin also had numerous fears and dislikes for the United States, a feature that sustained their unique policies in the cold war. First, the Soviet Union disliked capitalism. The country had developed an elaborate system of communism that provided Stalin with immense powers over his people and territories. He enjoyed a large and strong economy.
Stalin planned to advance his influence across the world by exporting communism to different parts of the world. Stalin targeted Greece and Turkey and strategic locations that would help spread communism across Europe. He, therefore, formed treaties of mutual assistance in the eastern bloc. The Soviet Union would later spearhead the formation of the Warsaw Pact in 1955. The pact was a treaty of cooperation, mutual assistance, and friendship that the Soviet Union formed with numerous satellite states.
The Soviet Union had immense fear for a possible attack by the United States. After running a successful coalition during the Second World War, the Soviet Union experienced the military might and power of the United States. Joseph Stalin and the subsequent regimes in the country had a perpetual fear of a possible attack by the United States. American had made significant investments in mechanizing its military.
The investments paid off with the invention of the atomic bomb. The dropping of the bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two leading Japanese cities at the height of the Second World War was a major source of fear (Dwight 1953, 59). The Soviet Union thus ran a secretive government after severing diplomatic ties with the United States and other western powers. The secrecy that surrounded security and defense policies and operations by the two countries fueled the cold war since both country remained afraid of the other based on the lack of knowledge about the dealings of the other.
The cold war had immense effects that also mirrored the national interests of the two leading warring factions. The Truman Doctrine for example became the American foreign policy document. The doctrine outlined the country’s strategies of advancing its diplomatic relations. The United States promised immense financial aids to its oversea allies. Some of the key beneficiaries of the financial aid included Greece and Turkey.
Furthermore, the United States launched an aggressive diplomatic campaign in an attempt to secure the highest number of allies in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. The campaign prioritized offering economic and financial aid to friendly countries. Countries like the Philippines, South Korea and Vietnam benefited from the new foreign policy as the United States strived to limit the spread of communism across the world.
The Cold war also had immense ramifications back at home in the United States. The United States prided itself in being a model democracy, one that respected the liberties of the people. The country had an elaborate bill of rights that protect basic human rights and dignity. However, the country was also a model of human indignity through the prevalence of racism. The United States therefore needed to improve its image to ensure that it reflected the true ideals of democracy.
President Truman thus formed the Commission on Civil Rights to secure the rights of every American with special interests on African Americans among other minorities who had suffered extensive human rights abuses (Borstelmann 2001, 78). The commission outlined the areas that had the highest manifestation of deprivation of human rights. The areas included the widespread police brutality, housing, employment and elections. The president promised to address the issues to help create a cohesive country. The cold war thus marked the beginning of a united country that embodied respect of human rights.
Another equally important effect of the cold war was the formation of allies. The United States launched an expansive foreign policy campaign that included forming regional bodies to protect American interests. The country for example had similar interests with most European countries that had formed the western bloc (Sheehan 2003, 99). In 1949, the United States led the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Summarily, the cold war was all about conflicts of national interests. The Soviet Union and the United States, the two leading nations at the time had different interests that they sought to advance. The countries formulated policies designed to advance the interests thereby fueling the war. The United States wanted to expand democracy and capitalism. The two were critical to the development of the country. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, sought to expand communism, which had led to the rise of Joseph Stalin, a powerful tyrant. Communism thus presented him with a chance to grow his influence across the world. The resulting conflict caused and sustained the war, which manifested itself in unique policies, and proxy wars.
- Borstelmann, Thomas, The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena, (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2001).
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Atoms for Peace,” Speech before the United Nations General Assembly, New York City, New York (December 8, 1953). Available online via Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library http://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/research/online_documents/atoms_for_peace/Binder13.pdf
- Hampton Henry, Steve Fayer, and Sarah Flynn, Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s Through the 1980s (New York: Bantam Books, 1990)
- NSC 68: United States Objectives and Programs for National Security (April 14, 1950). Available online via Truman Library, http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/coldwar/documents/pdf/10-1.pdf.
- Sheehan, Sean, The Cold War, (North Mankato, Minn: Smart Apple Media, 2003).
- Truman, S. Harry, “The Truman Doctrine”, American Rhetoric, (delivered 12 March 1947 before a Joint Session of Congress). Accessed on August 1, 2017 from http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/harrystrumantrumandoctrine.html