Prof. Thomas Boogaart
October 8, 2014
Throughout the 20th century, humanity has witnessed monumental historical events. From the great depression, to the devastation of two world wars, to the Holocaust, all the way to the creation of a superweapon. However, The Cold War was a different and unique concept on its own. So unique, that humanity has entered a new chapter never discovered before. Throughout history, there was always conflict, but never before has a conflict of this magnitude and potential mutual destruction ever been observed before. “Human history is highly nonlinear and unpredictable” (Michael Shermer). Mr. Shermer’s quote is highly relevant in the Cold War, because at its height, both the United States and the Soviet Union were unpredictable in their actions, and the fate of civilization rested in their hands. Historians look back and ask: Why did the Cold War happen? Did the West and the East strive for world domination? Was the Cold War a clash between different ideologies? Nevertheless, the question that must be asked is: given the circumstances at the time, was the Cold War inevitable, or could it be avoided? With regards to that question, this essay aims to explore how the Cold War was doomed to occur as a result of the ever increasing mistrust and miscommunication between the leaders, the growing hostility amid each country’s own ideology, and last but not least, the desire to become the stronger nation. First and foremost, miscommunication between the Allied leaders became more frequent after the fall of the Third Reich, where they began to discuss various topics. However, there was also miscommunication and empty promises made during the war, such as when President Roosevelt convinced the Soviets that Germany would be fighting on the French front in 1942. Germany did not fight a two-front war until D-Day in 1944, two years after what was promised, at which point the Soviets had fought in the Battle of Stalingrad and Siege of Leningrad, in which both battles resulted in at least five million casualties on the Soviet side alone. Interestingly, there wasn’t as much tension during the war than after, since the Allies had one common ennemy and goal. In any case, those empty promises were not forgotten by Stalin, but instead were the seeds sown to the hardships lying ahead. “Stalin did not like or trust either man... thus he artfully planned to use the Tehran meeting to divide Roosevelt and Churchill and to solidify gains for the Soviets.”1 Stalin was many things, paranoid was among them. He refused to trust either Churchill or Roosevelt, and cared only to further his own interests, as it was seen in the Tehran conference. An example of his selfish behaviour can be noted when Stalin demanded enormous reparations from Germany, despite Roosevelt’s best attempts to dissuade him. Josef Stalin was hot-headed and wanted everything he asked for. His lack of diplomacy and lack of awarness to his surroundings frustrated the Western leaders, who wanted to see progress being made within Germany and other countries destroyed by the war. Stalinism would later affect future leaders, notably Kruschev and Gorbachev, and with Stalin’s death, came the frition between the Western Capitalist ideology againt the Soviet Communist ideology. Essentially, at its most basic core, the Cold War was a standoff between two ideologies; Communism and Capitalism. Each had their own unique system, societal norms, advantages and disatvantages. And each ideology tried to limit the influence of the other ideology throughout the world. For example, the Soviet govenement installed the Iron Curtain, which halted any advances that the West may have made to increase its Capitalist influence, as well as stop any unwanted people from snooping around. After World War II, communism began gaining power and fame throughout Europe, despite the worries of Americans: “Communist parties in Western Europe had so much popular support that in...
Bibliography: Furst, Juliane. "Conclusion: Late Stalinism in Historical Perspective." In Late Stalinist Russia society between reconstruction and reinvention. London: Routledge, 2006. 271.
Folsom, Burton W., and Anita Folsom. "Courting Stalin." In FDR goes to war: how expanded executive power, spiraling national debt, and restricted civil liberties shaped wartime America. New York: Threshold Editions, 2011. 238.
Craig, Campbell, and Sergey Radchenko. "Responding to Hiroshima and Nagasaki." In The atomic bomb and the origins of the Cold War. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008. 119.
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