In history, there is a disagreement among historians regarding to when the Cold War began. While most historians dated its origins to the period immediately following World War II, others dispute that it began towards the end of World War I, when tensions between the Russian Empire, the United States and other European countries had already demonstrated the mutual distrust and suspicion between the Western powers and the Soviet Union as a result of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. With these facts in mind, it is rather more agreeable now not to ask “When” the Cold War began, but instead focus on the reasons why, who, and what had cause the Cold War. Two Forces at its Peak: Political Divisions
Prior to the Cold War, the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union had already been aggressive. Although the United States embarked on a famine relief program in the Soviet Union in the early 1920s and American businessmen established commercial ties there during the period of the New Economic Policy (1921-29), the two countries did not establish diplomatic relations until 1933. The USSR and the USA were separated by a huge ideological gap. So the only thing that held the allies together was the need to destroy Hitler’s Nazis. Given their underlying differences – when Hitler was finally defeated in 1945 – a Cold War was perhaps unavoidable. The USA was a capitalist democracy; the USSR was a communist dictatorship. Both sides believed that they held the key to the future happiness of the human race. Neither was conflict new to the two sides. Stalin could not forgive Britain and America for helping the Whites against the Bolsheviks in the Civil Wars (1918-1921), and he believed that they had delayed D-Day in the hope that the Nazis would destroy Russia. In the meantime, Britain and America blamed the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939 for starting the Second World War. Also, the two sides’ aims for Germany were different – Stalin wanted Germany to be ruined by reparations, and he wanted a buffer of friendly states round Russia to prevent a repeat of the Nazi invasion of 1941. Britain and America wanted a democratic and capitalist Germany as a world trading partner, strong enough to stop the spread of Communism westwards.  By that time, the tyrannical, totalitarian nature of Joseph Stalin's regime presented an overwhelming obstacle to friendly relations with the West. The United States prides itself on its heritage of freedom, a refuge for persecuted religious groups, and as a land of liberty. Its guiding principles were the protection of the individual’s life and pursuit of happiness and the establishment of a constitution that embodied the best political idea of modern times, a system of checks and balances so that the president, Congress or parliament and judiciary or Supreme Court shared power, checking each other’s work to guard against dictatorship. From then the Americans have perceived themselves as the leader of the free world and villainous characters such as Stalin embodied all the United States is against off. In the other end, the Soviet government was brutal, outlawing all opposition, banned political parties opposed to the Communist Party, murdered millions and set up a vast prison camp system. In the years 1937-38 alone, Stalin ordered the execution of one million citizens of the Soviet Union. Still the Soviets saw the United States as the oppressor. Despite deep-rooted mistrust, hostility and not wanting to coexist under in one government dominion, in the 1940s, an alliance was forged among them to fight a common enemy, the Nazi Germany. The Nazis had invaded Russia. Eventually the alliance defeated Germany. However, the Soviet Union was not completely satisfied with how its Western Allies had conducted its approach. For instance, the Soviets complained that the Allies took so long to establish an offensive front on Germany’s west flank, leaving them to single-handedly face the offensive front on Germany’s east flank. Tension remained between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies even after the war.  Agreed to Disagree: Diversity in Ideologies and Beliefs
The Tehran Conference, codenamed “Eureka”. From the 28th of November to December 1st 1943, the Tehran Conference was held, a strategy meeting between Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill in the Soviet Embassy in Tehran, Iran and was the first of the World War II conferences. They discussed post war activities and expectations. The most distinguished and significant part of the meeting was for what would come next against powers in Asia and Europe, following the war. The discussions also led to the carrying through of Operation Overlord (Battle of Normandy), the invasion of France in May 1944. Stalin also agreed that the Soviets would declare war on Japan during the Tehran Conference to show a united front between the 3 nations; in response to the declaration of war, Roosevelt would concede to the demands Stalin had for Kurile Islands, and other terms that the countries agreed upon. The Yalta Conference, codenamed “The Argonaut Conference”, held on February 4–11, 1945 for the purpose of discussing Europe's post-war reorganization. The conference convened in the Livadia Palace near Yalta, in the Crimea. They agreed to move ahead in creating a new international peacemaking body, the UN, based on the principles of Atlantic charter. Stalin promised to enter the war against Japan after the surrender of Germany. He also promised free and unfettered elections in Poland and in other Soviet occupied Eastern European countries. They agreed on a charter. The charter created the general assembly, which was made up of all member nations and was expected to function as a town meeting of the world. The charter also set up administrative, judicial, and economic governing bodies. Having concluded the Yalta Conference, the "Big Three" Allied leaders, Franklin Roosevelt (United States), Winston Churchill (Great Britain), and Joseph Stalin (USSR) agreed to meet again. This planned meeting was to be their third gathering. The leaders scheduled a conference in the German town of Potsdam for July but on April 12, Roosevelt died and Vice President Harry S. Truman ascended to the presidency. Even with this conference, there were signs of conflict. The war was still going on, but it was obvious that Hitler was going to be beaten, so the allies met to decide how they would organize Europe after the war. It was easy to agree to bring Nazi war-criminals to trial, admit Russia into the United Nations, and divide Germany into four ‘zones’, occupied by Britain, France, the USA and the USSR. But there was tension about two things: firstly, the kind of governments that would be set up in eastern Europe, particularly Poland (in the end the allies published a Declaration of Liberated Europe agreeing to set up ‘democratic and self-governing countries’ and to ‘the holding of free elections as soon as possible’; the fact that ‘democracy’ and ‘free elections’ meant different things to the two sides was passed over). The second source of conflict – reparations – was postponed by agreeing to set up a commission to look into the matter. The Potsdam Conference, codenamed “Terminal”, was held from July 17 to August 2, 1945 at Cecilienhof, in Potsdam, occupied Germany. This came to an abrupt halt with Churchill's defeat in 1945 general election and was replaced by incoming Prime Minister Clement Attlee and new Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin. The conference decided on the terms of surrender for Japan, to be managed by a council of foreign ministers in charge of peace settlements. The Japanese government would be called on to proclaim unconditional surrender, although Stalin had had word that this would not be acceptable to the Japanese emperor. The Allies agreed that 'it was not intended to enslave Japan' but Japan would be occupied until unconditional surrender was achieved. It was also arranged that Britain, Russia, China, France and America were to be represented in the new peace treaties council and many countries were discussed. “The three Governments consider it desirable that the present anomalous position of Italy, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary and Romania should be terminated by the conclusion of Peace Treaties. They trust that the other interested Allied governments will share these views.” The conference then turned to the fate of Poland, which required the longest debate. Much ground had been covered at the Yalta Conference. Hitler had been defeated. Stalin had recently ordered the non-communist leaders in Poland arrested. So at Potsdam, the tensions below the surface at Yalta – about Eastern Europe and reparations – came out into open disagreement. The Protocols agreed at Potsdam merely repeated the agreements at Yalta, except that Russia was allowed to take reparations from the Soviet Zone, and also 10% of the industrial equipment of the western zones as reparations. The Allies' priority was to disarm Germany. 'In order to eliminate Germany's war potential, the production of arms, ammunition and implements of war as well as all types of aircraft and sea-going ships shall be prohibited and prevented.' Reparations were also agreed, and a trial of major war criminals was planned. Unspoken Propagandas: Fear and Suspicions
Although relatively new in foreign affairs, Truman was significantly more suspicious of Stalin's motives and desires in Eastern Europe than his predecessor. Departing for Potsdam with Secretary of State James Byrnes, Truman hoped to reverse some the concessions that Roosevelt had given Stalin in the name of maintaining Allied unity during the war. This came to an abrupt halt with Churchill's defeat in 1945 general election and was replaced by incoming Prime Minister Clement Attlee. As the conference began, Truman learned of the Trinity Test in New Mexico which signaled the successful completion of the Manhattan Project and the creation of the first atom bomb. Sharing this information with Stalin on July 24, he hoped that the new weapon's existence would strengthen his hand in dealing with the Soviet leader. This failed to impress Stalin as he had learned of the Manhattan Project through his spy network and was aware of its progress. In summary of all these conferences, postwar settlements resulted to Allies approving to give control to the Soviet Union the Eastern Europe for its part in helping to defeat Germany. The Soviets settled to allow the nations of Eastern Europe to choose their own governments in free elections. Stalin only gave in to the condition because he thought that these newly liberated nations would see the Soviet Union as their savior and create their own Communist governments. But when he realized that it was not the case, Stalin deliberately violated the agreement by wiping out all opposition to communism in these nations and setting up his own governments in Eastern Europe, then the Cold War begun. During the war, Stalin had trained eastern European Communists in Russia, and after Potsdam they returned to their own countries and began to take over. They took part in elections, and became government ministers, but then packed the army and police with communists; got non-communists discredited and arrested, and so took total control progressively. By 1946, observers in the west were becoming alarmed. George Kennan, an American embassy official in Moscow, sent a long telegram saying that the Soviets had to be stopped. On 5 March 1946, Winston Churchill gave a speech in Fulton in America in which he said that Eastern Europe was cut off from the free world by an iron curtain, and was subject to Soviet influence - totalitarian control and police governments. The message was so clear that Stalin claimed that Churchill’s speech was a declaration of war. Power Struggle: War Waged Through Indirect Conflict
The U.S.A. and Russia emerged as the two superpowers after the World War II ended. During the war, there was a mutual understanding between the two nations, however began to vanish soon after the war. Conflicts and emotions took over both parties after the agreements from the three conferences were broken. Difference in ideologies and mutual distrust between the two nations led to the beginning of cold war. Both tried to spread their influence and divided the world into two unreceptive groups. The western European countries joined America with the “Truman Doctrine” (A policy of “Containment” or the support of free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures) ideological approach, while the eastern European countries swayed under communist Russia. This was a state of extreme hostility, although no actual war was fought. During this period, both the superpowers formed various military alliances such as NATO, SEATO, CENTO, Warsaw Pact and the Baghdad Pact. This also led to a mad race of weaponry by both the blocs. If the opening conflicts in the Cold War were about Eastern Europe, the first direct confrontation of the Cold War arose out the other source of disagreement between the allies – the treatment of Germany. During 1945-1948, Britain and the USA were trying to restore Germany. In January 1947, they joined their two zones together called Bizonia. On June 1st of 1948, they announced that they wanted to create the new country of West Germany. And on 23rd of June 1948 they introduced a new currency into Bizonia and West Berlin. By contrast, during 1945-1948 Russia had been stripping the factories of East Germany of machinery to take as reparations. Western efforts to restore Germany were seen by Stalin as a direct attack. Berlin, like Germany, was divided into four sectors, but it was deep in the Russian sector of eastern Germany. On 24th of June the Russians stopped all road and rail traffic into Berlin. Stalin said he was defending the East German economy against the new currency, which was ruining it. The western powers said he was trying to starve West Berlin into surrender. Truman ignored General Clay, who wanted to invade East Germany. Instead, for 318 days, the Americans supplied West Berlin by air. More than a quarter of million flights carried 1.5 million tons of supplies. Stalin could have shot down the American planes, but he did not want to cause a hot war either. On 12th of May 1949, he admitted defeat and reopened the borders. In April 1949, the western Allies set up NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) as a defensive alliance against Russia, and in May 1949, America, Britain and France united their zones into the Federal Republic of Germany (West). In October 1949, Stalin set up the German Democratic Republic (East). After the Berlin Blockade, the pattern of foreign relations as a Cold War was set: the USA and the USSR acted as rivals in a competition for world domination. The Korean War was another conflict which was part of the Cold War, and which – although very different in nature from the Berlin Blockade, it was still war without the actual war. In the Korean War, Russia and America fought through other people thus avoided direct armed conflict. Communism was growing in the Far East, as well as in Europe, and after the Second World War both Korea and Vietnam were divided between Communists and non-Communists. The peacemakers solved both problems by simply drawing a line across both countries, giving the northern area to the Communists, and the southern part to the non-Communists. Korean was thus split at the 38th parallel, where it all began. In 1949, Kim II Sung , the leader of North Korea, approached Stalin and Mao Zedong, the leader of China, which had turned Communist in 1949, and persuaded them to allow him to attack South Korea. They easily defeated the South Korean army and by September 1950 had conquered all South Korea apart from a small area around Pusan in the south. Truman was not prepared to see South Korea fall to Communism. Americans at this time held to the “Domino Theory”, the idea that if one country fell to communism the rest would follow. In addition, in April 1950, American foreign policy had changed and become more aggressive. The American National Security Council had issued a report recommending that America abandon containment and start rolling back Communism. But Truman did not attack directly; on 27th of June, he went to the United Nations and persuaded them to oppose the North Korean invasion. The UN forces, led by the American General MacArthur, landed in Pusan and Inchon in September 1950 and by October 1950 had pushed back the North Koreans almost to the Chinese border. At this point, the Chinese got involved, and drove back the Americans. A front line was eventually established around the 38th parallel. Although the war went on for another three years, Truman refused MacArthur’s advice to use the atomic bomb. Russian troops went to help the communists, but they went as advisers and dressed like North Koreans. In this way, Russia and America avoided direct war. In 1953 Ike Eisenhower became the President of America. He brought the Korean War to an end by threatening to use the atomic bomb if China did not stop fighting. The Chinese agree to a truce, which was signed on the 27th July of 1953. After a power struggle in Russia, in 1953 also, Stalin died. He was replaced by Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev declared that the Cold War had to end, and be replaced by peaceful coexistence, and in 1956 he shocked the world by declaring that he wanted to clean-out the communist bloc, because Stalin had been a murderer and a tyrant. But despite these declarations, the Cold War got even worse. Khrushchev was still a devoted communist, what he truly meant by “peaceful coexistence” was just a clear “peaceful competition”. Khrushchev visited countries like Afghanistan and Burma and wooed them by giving economic aid if they supported Russia, and in 1955 he set up the Warsaw Pact (a military alliance of Communist countries) to rival NATO. Russia began an “arms race” (in 1953, Russia developed the hydrogen bomb) and a “space race” with America (in 1957 Russia launched Sputnik, the first satellite, and in 1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first astronaut to orbit the earth). America too was becoming more aggressive. In 1955, NATO set up a West German Army of ½ million men. The Americans used U2 planes to spy on Russia. Inside America, Senator McCarthy led a hunt for communists. Khrushchev truly aggravated the Cold War even more so by criticizing Stalin, he destabilized the Soviet-bloc governments Stalin had set up in Eastern Europe. There were riots in Poland in 1956, and Khrushchev had to send in Russian troops to help the Polish government put them down.  In October 1956, Hungary suffered even worse. Students rioted and smashed statues of Stalin, and Imre Nagy became Prime Minister. From 29th of October to 3rd November of 1956, the new government brought in democracy, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. The Hungarians were encouraged by words of support from America. Finally, Nagy announced that Hungary was going to leave the Warsaw Pact. Khrushchev may have believed in peaceful co-existence, but he was not prepared to allow freedom to the Soviet bloc countries. At dawn on 4 November 1956, 1000 Russian tanks rolled into Budapest and re-established Soviet rule. At the time, it was thought that the Russian had killed 30,000 Hungarians, though it seems that a figure of 4000 is nearer the truth. Nevertheless, Western Europe was horrified, and western leaders became even more determined to stop Communism. As a result, 1955-1963 was the time of greatest tension in the Cold War. Tension lingered high throughout the late 1950s. The America and British presence in West Berlin was a huge problem for the Russians, particularly because of hundreds of thousands Eastern Berliners were fleeing every month into West Berlin, an extreme embarrassment for the Communists along with the large numbers of skilled workers they were losing. A Summit Meeting was arranged in Paris for 14th May of 1960 to discuss Berlin and the arms race. Nine days before the meeting, however, the Soviets shot down an American U2 spy plane. Although they claimed at first it was an off-course weather plane, the Americans had to admit it was a spy plane when the Russians produced the pilot, Gary Powers. As a result, the first thing Khrushchev did at the summit was to demand an apology from President Eisenhower. When Eisenhower refused, Khrushchev went home, and the summit collapsed. It was a very frightening time. If the two sides resorted to all-out nuclear war, their stockpiles of nuclear weapons certainly would wipe out all life on earth. By 1961, nearly 2,000 East Germans were fleeing into the West Berlin day after day. At the Vienna summit of June 1961, Khrushchev again insisted that the Americans leave West Berlin. Kennedy declined. And on the 25th of July, he increased America’s spending on weapons. On the 13th of August, Khrushchev closed the border between East and West Berlin and built a wall. Thus a wall that became a symbol of the Cold War, “The Berlin Wall”. At that time, the Americans were also becoming more hostile. In 1959, the Communist leader, Fidel Castro took power in Cuba. Since it was only a hundred miles away from Florida, this became a huge problem for them as West Berlin was for the Russians. An Unimaginable Thought: The Beginning of the End of Cold War In 1961, the Americans had elected a new president, John F. Kennedy. President JFK promised to get tough on Communism. Initially Kennedy’s efforts to get tough failed. His actions at the Vienna summit had merely caused the Berlin Wall. When Castro made a trade with Russia, the Americans stopped trading with the Cubans. In revenge, Cuba nationalized all American-owned companies. Then in April of 1961, the CIA supported an attempted invasion of Cuba by Anti-Castro Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs, yet it failed miserably, greatly embarrassing Kennedy. Much worse, as a result, in September of 1961 – Castro asked and was publicly promised by Russia weapons to support Cuba against America. On the 14th October of 1962, America got a hold of pictures of nuclear missile base being built on Cuba, taken by an American U2 spy-plane. Advisers of Kennedy’s administration brought to his knowledge that he only has 10 days before Cuba launched its missiles to target America. While the world hopelessly stood on the verge of global nuclear war, for the following fortnight, Kennedy has decided to blockade Cuba in fear of a military strike that would lead to a hot war. The Russian ships thought to be carrying missiles only turned back at the last minute. Majority in the West thought that it could have been the end of the world. Then surprisingly, Khrushchev sent two telegrams with a wish to negotiate. On the 26th of October, the first telegram came upon that offers to dismantle the sites if Kennedy would agree not to invade Cuba. And on the following day, the second telegram demanded that American missile sites in Turkey be dismantled. As all of this is happening, a U2 plane was shot down in Cuba, but Kennedy ignored the incident anyway and publicly agreed not to invade Cuba (also secretly agreed to dismantle the sites in Turkey). Later, with this turn out of events, Khrushchev claimed he won the crisis. At that time however, Kennedy emerged to be as the victor, because the Russians had dismantled the Cuban sites. Not long after, Khrushchev fell from power. After these series of events, both leaders had grown a fright over nuclear war. With these, Kennedy and Khrushchev set up a telephone hotline to talk directly in a crisis. In 1963, they arranged and agreed to a “Nuclear Test Ban Treaty”. Although it took another 27 years, from here, the Cuba crisis manifested the beginning of the end of the Cold War. Perfect Recipe for War: Foreign Policy and Diplomacy
The huge lesson here is to be derived from the wide variety of perspectives and approaches to the study of foreign policy and diplomacy. Two powerful nations with two different agenda, plus greed and fear on hand will surely make a great recipe for war. Reading between the lines of divergence of opinion, conflicting and unyielding ideological ambitions is what surely caused the historic tale of the Cold War to be more complicated. Despite the Cold War’s superfluous tensions and conflicts, the war ended surprisingly unexpected and peacefully. Ideological conflict may explain the origin of the Cold War, but both the Soviets and Americans were aware of how their power might enable them to achieve their ideological goals but it is the limitations of their power that made it impossible for them to reach total victory. Each side struggled within this context of superpower competition to maximize power and influence as a means of achieving an ideologically-driven agenda. In conclusion, most people still don’t want to live with each other, to coexist under one government.
1. McCauley, Martin (2004). Russia, America and the Cold War. Pearson Education Limited. 2. John Gimbel, "On the Implementation of the Potsdam Agreement: An Essay on U.S. Postwar German Policy" Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 87, No. 2. (Jun., 1972), pp. 242-269. 3. Gaddis, John Lewis (1972), The United States and the Origins of the Cold War 1941–1947, Columbia University Press, 4. Klaus Larres and Elizabeth Meehan, 1945, Uneasy Allies,British-German Relations and European Integration Since 5. Roberts, Geoffrey (2006), Stalin's Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939–1953, Yale University Press