Table of Contents
United States of America and Russia are two sprawling nations which have had an interesting relationship. Their relationship is influenced by an estranged battle or difference in ideologies, politics and economic policies. For many years, the two countries have had a cautious cooperation and a hostile superpower rivalry. In fact, their rivalry can be traced back from 1890s when Russia sought to colonize parts of East Asia to boost its industrial sector while US wanted an open competition for markets. In 1960, there was the Cuban missile crisis that made the two countries have dangerous confrontations that almost led them to a verge of war. Another major factor that prevents the two superpowers from reaching a mutual agreement is the differences in their political systems. America runs a capitalist system of government while Russia is based on communism. In the year 1922, Russia together with other countries such as Ukraine, Belorussia, and the Transcaucasian federation formed the Soviet Union or the USSR. One of the primary goals of the Soviet Union was to make all countries in the world adopt communism as their system of government. USA was vehemently opposed to it and the difference created the basis of the cold war. However, there are instances where the two countries were forced to put their differences aside and form alliances. For instance, during the World War II the two countries came together with a common agenda of conquering Nazi Germany. Unfortunately, the relationship did not last; the cold war began which was marked by East-West competition for influence, arms race, tension, and military-political alliances which created their present-day tensions.
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USSR and US Alliances
In the year 1939, the Soviet Union had become the largest nation in the world occupying 6.6 million square miles. It had achieved this by conquering Poland, Finland, Romania, and the Baltic Republics. These actions did not resonate well with the Americans, particularly the then incumbent President namely Franklin Roosevelt who condemned it and referred to it as dictatorship (“Giangreco”). In 940, Nazi Germany defeated France, and the event made Roosevelt realize that Nazi was a threat to the world peace more than the Soviet Union. Surprisingly, he confessed that he would ally with USSR to control the increasing aggression of the Germans. Soon after, diplomatic process was started to improve relations between the two countries. The negotiations were spearheaded by then Secretary of State Sumer Welles and Constantine Oumansky who was the USSR Ambassador. Unfortunately, the two sides did not reconcile their differences because the US failed to recognize the new Soviet Union borders.
Auspiciously, America lifted the ban on Soviet’s exports in January 1941. Still in the same year, during the Congressional debate, Roosevelt withdrew attempts that were meant to prevent USSR from receiving U.S. assistance. The U.S. supported the Soviets through the Lend-Lease Act of March 1941which was the most notable sign of wartime cooperation. In fact, under the program, the USSR received over $11billion worth of war materials. More support came from a nonprofit organization namely U.S. Russian War Relief and the Red Cross. Interestingly, during this time, the two countries were in good terms and the Russian leader was once quoted saying that the Lend-Lease program was Franklin Roosevelt’s significant achievements that led to a successful defeat of Nazi Germany.
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In June 1941, Nazi Germany announced its intentions to invade the Soviet Union. Russia and America were forced to form an alliance where Roosevelt started by sending his trust aid to Moscow in order to assess the military capability. Later the trusted aid namely Harry Hopkins advised the Roosevelt to support the Soviets in the battle. An ally was formed in 1941, and the Americans together with its allies such as the British started coordinating with the Soviets. During the battle, the two sides disagreed on opening a second front in the West (“Giangreco”). At the same time, the Soviets were struggling in the Eastern front while fighting against the Nazis. The Soviets pleaded with the British to invade France but Roosevelt’s promise to attack through the second front was delayed. The USSR suffered staggering casualties that saw over 20 million dead, but they still managed to withstand the German’s military strength. After two years, the U. S. and British came in, and the three allies managed to defeat Nazi Germany. Later, America attacked Japan using two devastating atomic bombs and the Soviets attempt to invade Northeast China led to the end of the Second World War.
Why the USSR Communist System of Government Repelled the US
After the Second World War, USSR and the U.S. appeared as the only superpowers on earth. USSR had experienced major significant loses during the WWII, and it developed a strategy which involved bringing people together so that they can improve the welfare of the state as well as make their societies more stable. This led to the birth of communism which was strongly feared by the Americans because they thought it would create labor problems (“Revelations from the Russian Archives”). Additionally, communism advocated for ownership of capital by the general population and the Americans thought that it posed a threat to the private owners. In the Capitalist form of government run by the Americans, an elite class of individuals owns all business, factories, banks, land, and corporations. These individuals control the politics of the country where they sponsor candidates or fund their campaigns so that they may run the state on their behalf. Therefore, the U.S. feared if such a system were adopted in the country, the wealthy individuals would lose a significant amount of wealth and also disrupt the already established economic system.
Markedly, since the two nations appeared as the only viable empires on earth, they established a mission to dominate Europe. The Americans strategically created a Marshall Plan which was meant to aid Western European countries to attain economic recovery. Unfortunately, the Russians took it as an attempt by the Americans to dominate the European markets (“The United States, the Soviet Union”). Interestingly, during this time, USSR was engaging in operation to expand the communist structure of government which the U.S. took as a risk to the democratic world. The Soviets intention was to expand its territories, alter the Central-eastern European borders and create a new Eastern communism bloc.
The USSR attempt to make countries adopt communism as their way of governance made their relationship with the U.S. to deteriorate. On the other hand, the Americans created a policy of containment which was designed to control the spread of communism to new countries (“Hass”). In fact, one of the major factors that made the Americans repel the communist form of government is that they perceived that if more countries adopted the system and its ideologies, they may emulate USSR’s rebellious nature and pose as a threat to their national security as well as national interests.
US – Russia Relationship During the Cold War
Way before the start of the Second World War, the Americans were always concerned about the Russians communism and the leadership style of Joseph Stalin which was marked by totalitarianism and violation of human rights. On the other hand, the Russians were bitter about the Americans due to their refusal to accept USSR as a legitimate part of the international community. Additionally, when the two superpowers had allied during the WWII to fight the Nazis, the Americans delayed to attack through the second front which made the Russian experience significant casualties (“Revelations from the Russian Archives”). Therefore, when the cold war ended; the two countries emerged victoriously and as the most powerful in the world. Unfortunately, their past grievances developed a substantial mutual distrust between the two parties. Moreover, after the Second World War, the Soviet Union attempts to expand their territory towards Eastern Europe made the U.S. think that the Russians would control the world in future.
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In the year 1946, a diplomat namely George Kennan developed a counter strategy which argued that the most effective way to deal with the Russians was to be patient with them but employ intensive containment of their expansive attempts. The incumbent President Harry Truman embraced the strategy. It was also adopted by the Congress as an American policy to support people and countries that resisted suppression from external forces. In the containment strategy, one of the recommendations was to develop powerful military equipment so that military force is used to control communist expansion. The U.S. decided to develop more sophisticated atomic weapons which resulted in an arms race between the two superpowers. Surprisingly, the Russians tested their first atomic bomb, and in retaliatory remarks, President Truman said the Americans would be developing a hydrogen bomb which is more destructive.
In 1952, the Americans tested the first Hydrogen bomb on the Marshall Islands which created a lot of fear due to its destructive nature. The Soviets followed suit and the tests conducted by the two rival countries infected the atmosphere with dangerous radioactive materials which made people in the two countries together with their allies change their domestic life. They were forced to build bomb shelters and train on defense mechanisms in case of a bomb attack. Around the year 1957, the Soviets and the Americans started another dramatic arena which involved space exploration competition. Each nation wanted to appear as the most advanced in terms of technology and to prove each system of government was more superior to the other.
In 1957, the Russians sent their first artificial satellite which was placed on the earth’s orbit while the Americans launched their own in the following year. After two years, the Soviets sent their first man into space while the Americans decided to outdo them by making the first man to set foot on the moon. Later in 1960, the two countries almost went into a brink of war during the Cuban missile crisis which came to a stalemate after a diplomatic intervention. However, when President Richard Nixon came into power, he introduced a new approach which involved the use of diplomacy rather than the military to control the spread of communism. He made the United Nations recognize Chinese communist government. Later, he signed a treaty namely “Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty” which banned the manufacture of nuclear weapons. The development eased tension between the two countries and put on hold the decades-old threats of the arms race.
Undertakings in Russia During the Cold war that Changed US view of Russia
In the aftermath of WWII, Joseph Stalin appeared as one of the most powerful individuals in the world. Since the effectiveness of the British Empire had weakened, Stalin was aware that there was a less likelihood of engaging in a war with the Americans. However, he secretly engaged in a mission to make the Soviet Union acquire nuclear weapons. Although he was aware that use of nuclear weapons in war would cause significant damages to the world, he oversaw the development of an atomic bomb. In 1949, the atomic bomb was tested successfully in Kazakhstan. These actions by Stalin made the American change their perspective towards the Russians (“U.S. – Soviet Alliance”). The Americans realized that the Russians had become their major rivals since they had also acquired the capacity to build weapons of mass destruction. Additionally, the Russians decided to double their number of soldiers from three million to six million.
The advancement of the Soviets in military equipment and number of infantry made the Americans perceive that they intended to force nations around the globe to adopt the communist system of government. Therefore, the U.S. began pushing its interests across the world and creating air force basis in strategic countries. Additionally, the Americans ensured that regimes that acquired power across Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America were their associates, and they played a huge role in funding their campaigns. This way, the Russians were unable to dominate or spread their ideology of communism.
How and Why the Events Created the Present day Tensions
After the Second World War, many Russians felt that the western countries particularly the United States had excluded them from Europe and the rest of the world. That created a lot of bitterness and anxiety in Russia. Therefore, Russians feel that the Americans are the cause of their current economic problems (“Anderson”). The distrust that developed during the WWII also in the present day tensions where the Americans delayed to attack the Nazis through the second front which made the Russians experience staggering casualties. Due to this, the Russians are always against the Americans and they presently try to use every opportunity to embarrass or undermine them.
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In 1990, when Russia was weak, the U.S. took advantage and engaged in activities that made the Soviet Union split. In fact, those countries that changed their system of government from communism to capitalism were strongly supported by the American government. These actions led to the fall of the Soviet Union. Given this, the Russians felt that the U.S. had meddled in their political affairs and their recent actions where the Russians interfered with the American election proved that they were on a revenge mission (“Hill”). Additionally, After the WWII, the Americans tarnished the image of the Russian leader Joseph Stalin by claiming that he was evil, his leadership was dictatorial and worse than that of Hitler. The Americans also imposed trade sanctions on Russia which affected their economy and made it rely on oil and gas. Therefore, currently, the Russians try to spread dissonance and confusion in America, oppose their policies and create a strained relationship without genuine ideological confrontations.
Issues that Still Cause Tensions Between Russia and America
One of the issues that still cause tension in the America and Russian relationship is dominance. Due to their difference in government structures, The Americans support free markets and democracy while Russians advocate for collectivism. Therefore, the two sides are always willing to influence as many countries as possible around the world and make them feel their system of government is the best. For instance, in the current conflict between Russia and America over Syria, Russia is using the opportunity a comeback in the world stage to consolidate its position as a major player in the global affairs.
Another issue that creates conflict is foreign policies. Both countries have unique foreign policies and interests which they seek to protect. For instance, the U.S. is aware of its oil and gas energy needs and that of its allies; therefore, it is concerned about any disruptions in the world market that could threaten the domestic markets (“U.S. – Soviet Alliance”). This makes the Americans engage in intensive measures that enhance an open global oil market. Additionally, the U.S. is wary about the spread of totalitarian regimes or communism which is practiced by Russia. They claim they structure of government is undemocratic and violates human rights.
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Why the two Countries could not form a Functioning Relationship during the Cold War
Since America and Russia always had different systems of government, after the Second World War each country wanted to prove to the world that its system was the best. This resulted in fierce competition and show of economic and military power. The two countries engaged in an arms race where each country wanted to outshine or embarrass the other.
Therefore, attempts to persuade countries to follow their system created conflicts in their relationship. In fact, the Americans condemned the Russian regime and imposed trade sanctions through the United Nations to affect its economy (“Anderson”). Additionally, during the WWII distrust developed between the two countries when the Americans delayed attacking the Germans which made the Russians experience significant casualties where millions of people died.
Over the years, Russia and the U.S. always had a strained relationship which is caused by their differences in politics, ideologies, and politics. Interestingly, they some sometimes form alliances whenever they want to satisfy their interests, but they always engage in cautious cooperation. One of the notable alliances is during WWII when they came together to fight the Germans. Unfortunately, when the war ended, rifts had developed their relationship because they both had emerged as the only superpowers and each wanted to control the world. These actions resulted in a cold war that lasted for over two decades. During this time, the Americans managed to influence the split of the Soviet Union. It was a great achievement for the Americans because they took USSR as a threat to democracy and global stability. These developments made the Russians bitter because they felt the Americans had meddled with their politics which created rivalry and conflicts of interests that have loomed till to date.
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- Anderson, J. “New American-Russian Conflict: A Confrontation Beyond Cold War. Moderndiplomacy. 2018. moderndiplomacy.eu/2018/03/17/new-american-russian-conflict-a-confrontation-beyond-cold-war. Accessed on 10th June 2018.
- Giangreco, D. & Griffin, R. Background on Conflict with USSR. Harry S. Truman Presidential Libray & Museum, 1988. https://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/BERLIN_A/BOC.HTM Accessed on 10th June 2018
- Hill, F. “The United States and Russia in Central Asia: Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran” Brookings. 2002. www.brookings.edu/on-the-record/the-united-states-and-russia-in-central-asia-uzbekistan-tajikistan-afghanistan-pakistan-and-iran Accessed on 10th June 2018
- Haass. R. U.S.-“Russian Relations in the Post-Post-Cold War World” U.S. DEPARTMENT of STATE. 2002. https://2001-2009.state.gov/s/p/rem/10643.htm
- Revelations from the Russian Archives. Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/archives/sovi.html Accessed on 10th June 2018
- The United States, the Soviet Union, and the End of World War II. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE. 2009. https://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/ho/pubs/fs/46345.htm
- U.S. – Soviet Alliance, 1941-1945. OFFICE OF THE HISTORIAN. https://history.state.gov/milestones/1937-1945/us-soviet