This essay explains the developments in the relations between the United States and the Soviet Union during the cold war. The cold war was fueled by the actions of given leaders and the policies that were instituted or formulated by the leadership. This essay discusses how these leaders and policies shaped the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union. By the end of the World War II, The US enjoyed hegemonic powers.
It had the strongest economy estimated to have been roughly half the world’s GNP (Maier 228). The cold war was fueled by mistrust between the USSR and the U.S. At the end of the World War II, USSR was the only power centre that nearly equaled the U.
S. A power imbalance or vacuum had been left by the fall of Germany and Europe was too bruised as to only care about its wounds (Urwin 44). USSR and the U.S were keen on filling the power vacuum (Maier 335). Anchored on antagonistic ideologies, they did all they could to spread their influence all over the world. At the heart of the cold war were two ideologies i.e. capitalism was under the onslaught of communism.
Both capitalists and communists wanted to sway in world affairs in their favor. From the USSR, some of the influential leaders include Stalin, Nikita, Brezhnev and Constantine. Stalin was at the heart of USSR’s expansionist policies. The US had leaders such as Truman. Truman made a wise decision of affirming that geographical position was an important element of struggle rather than challenging the axis in the fight against communism. Truman helped towards economic aid for European nations to save them from communist onslaught. One great post World War economic policy contributions of the U.
S. was the Marshal plan. Others include initiating the Breton woods system and it’s joining the NATO alliance. On the political plane, Lundestand (148) argues that anticommunism dominated U.
S.’s post WWII political policies and campaigns across the world. Due to the cold war, the U.S supported and kept despotic regimes in place. This is clearer when one considers some regimes in Africa or say Spain. Despotic leaders were supported basically because they opposed communism.
In countries like Germany, need to deal with communism was given precedence to the interest to root out Nazism. Compromised elites were allowed to hold powerful offices in post war Germany so as to revive Germany against the onslaught of communism. Economically, U.S.’s economic policies were anchored on understanding that economic freedom anchored on economic growth necessitates other freedoms especially political liberties (Lundestand 152). Therefore, it was expected that when nations prospered economically, they would also stabilize politically.
Economic freedom of individuals or liberal market approaches drove the capitalist while social concern and equality drove the communists. Security policies in both the U.S.
A and the USSR advocated for indirect aggression e.g. economic sabotage, forming of alliances and arms race. The U.S joined the NATO alliance, which provided military security against the destabilizing interests of the socialist USSR. Without the U.S.
there is a high likelihood; Stalin with his expansionist interests could have caused turmoil in Europe. NATO also helped curb intra-rivalries in Europe that traditionally resulted in warfare. The U.S through the marshal plan gave crucial economic aid to Europe. The aid was important in enabling internal processes in Europe and initiatives that enabled trade especially with the U.S. itself. Through other tax stabilizing and opening up to trade initiatives build in and around the Breton woods system, Europe was helped to recover and act as a rebuff to Stalin’s expansionist interests.
Lundestad, Geir, “Empire by Invitation? The United States and Western Europe, 1945- 1952,” in Charles Maier (ed.), The Cold War in Europe: Era of a Divided Continent. New York: Markus Wiener.
1991: pp. 143-65. Maier, Charles.
“The Two Postwar Eras and the Conditions for Stability in Twentieth- Century Western Europe,” American Historical Review, 1981: Vol. 86, No. 2. pp 327-352. Urwin, Derek. “Western Europe since 1945: A Short Political History”.
London: Longmans, Green and Co. Ltd. 1968: pp. 27-50.