Becoming a World Power
The Cold War (1945-1991) conquered international relations within a structure of political, economic, and military tension between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Cold War facilitated global leadership by the United States, and provided Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and his successors with an enemy to validate their suppressive regime. The Cold War helped legitimize an unrepresentative government and uphold the Communist Party in the Soviet Union (Kennedy, 1989; Kissinger, 1994).
In addition to its impact on the superpowers, the Cold War caused was responsible for the division of Europe, and, within Europe, Germany. It also facilitated the reconstruction of Germany, Italy, and Japan into the international system following their defeat in World War II. The Third World especially felt the effects of the Cold War, which overlapped with the era of decolonization and national liberation in the Third World.
The emergence of the cold war began with the conception of superpower, which took place as a consequence of the imperial showdown that came to be known as the First World War. It was marked by the conflict between Wilsonism and Leninism in the aftermath of two consequences of the global conflict, the entry of the USA into what had been a largely European affair, and the Russian Revolution, both Nicholas II's autocracy and Kerensky's democratic republic falling before the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks (Kennedy, 1989). From this beginning, Woodrow Wilson spoke out on behalf of the world's greatest power, with maximum publicity. As a consequence of the First World War, the USA became stronger. The Soviet Russian Republic was weakened by the reverses inflicted by Germany and its allies, then by a civil war compounded by foreign intervention (Crockatt, 1995).
World War II was the culmination of a series of events that changed the global distribution of power. Within the previous thirty-five years the world experienced two global wars, two revolutions-the Russian and the Chinese-the collapse of five empires-the Ottoman, the Austro-Hungarian, German, Italian, and Japanese-and the decline of two major imperial systems, the British and the French. The result was the end of the European era and the rise to dominance of two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union (Gates, 1996).
The expansion of Soviet power and influence into central and Eastern Europe alarmed US and Western leaders. The United States and its European allies feared that Soviet domination of Eastern Europe could limit access to needed markets, foodstuffs, and raw materials, as well as pose a security threat to Western Europe (Leffler, 1994).
US leaders began to view the Soviet Union as a foe and to form a foreign policy that focused on containing the spread of Soviet power and communist influence. The Truman Doctrine of March 1947 called for the global containment of communism (Gates, 1996). New government institutions reinforced the shift to a more activist foreign policy. The National Security Act of 1947 established the National Security Council to advise the president on foreign affairs and defense policy; created the Central Intelligence Agency to gather and analyze foreign intelligence and conduct covert operations; and created a Department of Defense to coordinate the activities of the branches of the US armed forces (Crockatt, 1995).
At the end of World War II, the USA became a more complete world power than at the end of the first, while the USSR was devastated a second time. The appearance of weapons capable of massive destruction started an arms race as the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and subsequently other nations sought to develop their own atomic weapons. The United States sought to maintain its lead in atomic capability (Kissinger, 1994). World War II also generated an anti-imperialism, and movements...
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