Origins of the Cold War

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ORIGINS OF THE COLD WAR

In the middle of 20th century, mankind suffered one of the biggest tragedies in its history. The Second World War brought devastation all over the world with almost every country in the world participating in it. Toward its end everybody hoped that this would never happen again and that the political firmament in the following years would be more stable than any time in history. The leaders of the Great Powers met at Yalta, in February, 1945 to achieve peace. But the agreements from this meeting not only failed to provide the expected outcome but also started a controversy between the two greatest powers in the postwar world – USA and the Soviet Union. Both the victorious countries subscribed to different ideologies and had different conceptions on how to impose them. The Cold War was a consequence of a clash between these different ideologies. This paper tries to compare and contrast two articles on the Cold War that give two different perspectives on the events that happened. One is Arthur Schlesinger’s “The Origins of the Cold War”, and the other is Christopher Lasch’s article “The Cold War, Revisited and Revisioned”. These articles represent the same historical events interpreting them through two opposite perspectives – the orthodox American view that states that the Cold War was the “brave and essential response of free men to communist aggression” (Schlesinger, p.477) in Eastern Europe and the revisionist perspective that states that the USA abandoned the policy of collaboration and undertook a course of aggression to expel Russian influence from Eastern Europe. This paper will provide evidence that the Cold War did not result from a Soviet attempt of expansion in Europe. It was just the only possible result from the clash of interests between the two greatest powers after World War II – USA and the Soviet Union – the first one aggressively trying to promote capitalism throughout Europe, and the second one aiming at security after the most disastrous war in world’s history. To begin with I should say that the two articles share the idea that the Cold War was the expected result of the big difference in the structures and ideologies of the two big powers after World War II. They both agree that the Cold War was the inevitable outcome of the clash between American capitalism and Russian communism. In his article, Schlesinger builds his thesis around the belief that the Soviet Union, guided by the principles of Marxist-Leninism, viewed capitalism as inherently antagonistic to Soviet interests. Thus the US progressive efforts to promote capitalism in Eastern European countries made the conflict between the two great powers unavoidable. Schlesinger sees American actions during this period as an attempt to counteract the Russian expansion throughout Europe. On the contrary, Lasch’s article provides different reasons for the conflict. He argues that the Cold War’s main cause was not the attempt of the USA to prevent Soviet expansion in Western Europe, but the US effort to show technological and economical superiority and “force the Soviet Union out of Eastern Europe” (Lasch, p.493). The clash between the two great powers came from the controversial foreign policies these nations adopted. The US followed the universalist view that all nations share a common interest in all affairs of the world, while the Soviet Union supported the idea of “spheres-of-influence”, which stated that each great power should be given predominance within its own area of interest. (Schlesinger, p.479) As Schlesinger argues, “each side felt compelled to adopt policies which the other could not but regard as a threat to the principles of the peace… Each side believed that future international stability depended on the success of its own conception of world order” (Schlesinger, p.481). These facts make it seem that the Cold War was simply unavoidable. At the Yalta meeting at the end of the...
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