Why the iron curtain descended: origins and causes of the cold war
Name of University: The West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences Subject:Political Science
Date of Submission:1st October, 2012.
“Why the Iron curtain descended”: A study into the origins and causes of the cold war
On April 16, 1947, Bernard Baruch, former advisor to former U.S. Presidents, Harry Truman and Woodrow Wilson came up with the term ‘Cold War’ to describe the breakdown in relations between the two superpowers at the time-the United States of America and the Soviet Union.Historian Walter Lippman, his friend used it in the New York herald Tribune-which marked it’s introduction in popular media.This mutual antagonism between the two nations manifested itself, not in all-out war but in attacks through economic sanctions, proxy wars, the building of alliances propaganda warfare, enmeshed in an overarching principle of non-cooperation.In this context, before delving into the causes, which this essay seeks to do, it is imperative to note that the fact that the two superpowers fought on the same side during World War II was nothing but a ‘marriage of convenience,’ where they were united against the common enemy rather than on grounds of a common cause. The suspicions, ensuing due to the differences in ideology and motives on the global scale had not been occluded by any means, merely erased for the time being. ‘THE BREAKDOWN OF ‘THE MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE’
To fully understand the origins of the Cold War and the breakdown in relations,it is necessary for us to consider the Yalta, Potsdam and Tehran conferences that occurred towards the dying stages of the Second World War. The Tehran Conference held in 1943 was attended by Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin and even though, the leaders went to Tehran with different goals in mind, the quintessential objective, which was to open a second front against Germany, was achieved.The ‘big three’ met again in Yalta in February, 1945. Relations again seemed cordial and the three leaders agreed on various key points, such as the formation of the United Nations, punishment of the Nazi war criminals, the division of Germany and Berlin into four zones, the holding of free elections in Eastern Europe. Yet, there were perilous signs foreshadowing the origin of the Cold War as the three disagreed about what was to be done about Poland. Stalin’s demand that the Soviet Union should be given all land east of the Oder-Neisse Line was not taken too favorably by the other two leaders. When they met at Potsdam again in July 1945, relations were not so amicable. Various changes had taken place in the international stage since Yalta. Firstly, the Soviet Union’s Red Army had taken control of the Baltic States under the pretext of liberating them. Secondly, both the United States and Great Britain had different leaders representing them. Attlee replaced Churchill and Truman replaced Roosevelt. Both the new leaders were far more suspicious of Stalin and his ‘red agenda’ than their predecessors had been. Fourthly, the Americans had already tested an atom bomb on July 16, 1945. While Stalin was informed of this development at the conference, the motive behind the Manhatten Project was a manifestation of the suspicion the leaders harbored towards the Communist as they wanted to ensure that Japan was invaded by them and not the Soviet Union.Truman also disagreed with Stalin’s request for a ‘Soviet sphere of influence’ and kept on pressing for free elections in the liberated states of Eastern Europe, which Stalin objected to on grounds of Soviet security. The expansion of the USSR east of the Oder-Neisse line in Poland remained a topic of dispute. The setting up of a government in Poland that recognized all three powers, termed as a ‘Provisional Government of National Unity’ (also...