Explain howideological differences between United States and Soviet Union contributed to the start of the cold war?
According to Florence Elliot and Michael Summerskill Cold war can be described as “a state of tension between countries in which each side adopts policies designed to strengthen itself and weaken the others, falling short of actual hot war”.1 The Cold War is the situation in which the international environment is characterised by persistent tension and conflicts between the free world (democracy) and the communist camp (communism) in general and between United States and Soviet Union in particular. This war had a negative impact on almost every aspect of international life that is national defence, economic growth, diplomacy and especially ideology. This ideological difference between USA and USSR dates back to the era of the Russian Revolution in 1917, but exacerbated after the Second World War. The Second World War and the bombing of Japan by the USA further deepened the differences.
Communism which was originally founded by Karl Marx, said that everything should be owned by the government and then divided up equally among the people. Not only was the Soviet Union communist, they were totalitarian dictatorship, meaning thereby that the entire powers were vested in one ruler. They also were hesitant to give their people the fundamental freedoms. On the other hand the United States was capitalist which meant that people could own land and businesses and compete among themselves. There was also a democracy, which meant it was the people who had a say by electing their rulers. They gave people the three main freedoms that is press, election and that of speech.
In Communism, the community or society solely owns the resources or the means of production. On the other hand, in capitalism, the resources or the means of production lies with a private owner. Same is case for sharing of profit as well.
Capitalism is a self-regulated economic system; communism is a government run economy. For Communists, the society is above individuals. But for capitalists, individual freedom is above the state or society. Such differences arose to the stage when the communist party in Russia took control with Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The USA and Britain were worried that the same thing might not happen in their country. Thus they started helping, the side against communism.
The western powers were afraid of the Soviet Union propaganda against Capitalism all over the world. Both ideologies were opposing in nature. The Communist advocated the liquidation of Capitalism as the final end of Socialist revolution while on the other hand the capitalist countries regarded communism as a degraded materialism. That would lead to the destruction of human value of liberty and property.2There seems no compromise on both side and the conflicts continued.
The beginning of the cold war is linked to the Potsdam conference, in the summer of the 1945. The intention of the meeting was to discuss the realignment of the post-war Europe. However, discussions broke down into threats, both agreed on the division of Berlin but the soviet under the leadership of Stalin wanted to acquire Poland as a buffer state against future attacks but president Trumann rejected his demands, citing the right of Self-determination in the case of Poland. Then again at Yalta Conference a number of agreements were reached between the two but Poland remained the burning issue.
The Truman doctrine and Marshall Plan further widened these differences. The intention of the United States was made clear with the Truman Doctrine, Which was an American foreign policy and its stated purpose was to counter Soviet geopolitical expansion during the Cold War. It was first announced to Congress on March12, 1947, when President Harry S .Truman asked, in a special joint session of congress, for $400 million for economic assistance to Greece and Turkey to help them resist soviet inspired aggression3 Then Marshall Plan was propounded by United States according to which USA would welcome the initiatives and cooperation of the European countries in an economic programme of self-help combined with American assistance. USA set up Economic Cooperation Administration to channelize billions of dollars to the nations of Europe to revitalise their economy
The USSR consolidated its control over the states of the Eastern Bloc, while the United States began a strategy of global containment to challenge Soviet power, extending military and financial aid to the countries of Western Europe. This battle of ideologies result an increased national security, diplomatic tension and proxy war between the two powerful nations.
The Berlin blockade, creation of NATO, the Chinese civil war and the outbreak of the Korean War further escalated the cold war. The competition for influence in various part of the world create more crisis such as the Suez canal, the Berlin crisis of 1961, the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, and the Vietnam war (1955-75). The tussle and tension stretch his hands to the Poland and Romania and then finally to the soviet afghan war.
The United States and Britain merged their western German occupation zones into ‘Bizonia’, later “Trizonia” with the addition of France’s zone. Under the Marshall plan they also providing add to the western zone. In response Stalin instituted the Berlin Blockade (1948-1949), one of the first major crises of the Cold War, preventing food, materials and supplies from arriving in West Berlin. The United States and other countries began the massive “Berlin airlift”, supplying West Berlin with food and other provisions. In May 1949, Stalin backed down and lifted the blockade.
The Chinese Civil War was a war fought between the Kuomintang (KMT)-led government of the Republic of China and the Communist Party of China (CPC).The communist won against the US backed Kuomintang (KMT) Nationalist government and KMT government was retreated to the island of Taiwan. This was considered as a major victory for the communist and major setback for the US.
The Korean War was a war between North Korea and South Korea. China and the Soviet Union supported North Korea and United States was on the other hand to support South Korea.On 25 June, 1950 the war began, when North Korea invaded South Korea following a series of clashes along the border. United States as the principal force, United Nations also came to the aid of South Korea. China came to the aid of North Korea, and the Soviet Union also gave some assistance to the North Korea.
The Suez Canal issue, the Vietnam War and the cubic missile crisis also saw the involvement of US on one hand and USSR on the other hand. Every single event led to more tension between the two different ideology holders.
The cold war dragged his feet to Afghanistan where the soviets were defeated badly by the Afghan Mujahedeen and USSR was disintegrated. The only super power remains on the world map were the USA and the cold war met with its end.
It is clear from the above discussion that the Ideological differences between two super powers led them to Cold war. Though Cold War was not an actual utter war which used military but more of a rivalry expressed through military coalitions, strategic conventional force deployments, a nuclear arms race, espionage, proxy wars, propaganda, and technological competition. This ‘war’ was fought mostly in satellite areas. It was about military pomposity and the expansion of ideology on either side.
Mahajan, V.D. International Relation Since 1900. NewDelhi: Chand and company, 1991.
Allan Nevins, Henery Steele Commager, A Pocket History of the Unites States.Simon and Schuster, 1968.
1 V.D Mahajan, International Relations since 1900, 400.
2 V.D Mahajan, International Relations since 1900, 404.
3 Glenn p. Hastedt, American Foreign Policy: Past, Present andFuture,14.