Origins of the Cold War

Topics: Cold War, World War II, Soviet Union Pages: 9 (2675 words) Published: February 16, 2007
The origins of the Cold War lie in the differences between the systems of both the United States and the Soviet Union. It is an interplay between ideology and pragmatic power politics, and the creation of tension and mistrust which had been evident since the Russian Revolution. During World War II differences were put aside, but the problems reappeared, and it was a changing post-war world.

There are three major common explanations for the origins of the Cold War: traditional, revisionist, and post-revisionist . Until the 1960s, most historians believed that the Cold War was the direct result of Stalin's aggressive Soviet expansionism, that the Soviets were to blame.

According to Michael Hart (1986), '...the Cold War was caused by the military expansionism of Stalin and his successors. The American response... was basically a defensive reaction. As long as Soviet leaders clung to their dream of imposing Communism on the world, the West had no way (other than surrender) of ending the conflict. When a Soviet leader appeared who was willing to abandon that goal, the seemingly interminable Cold War soon melted away.'

Revisionist historians tend to regard the outbreak of the Cold War as a result of American hostility or, as diplomatic incompetence. This revisionist approach reached its height during the Vietnam War when many people suggested that America was 'as bad as Russia'. One of the most extreme revisionists was Gabriel Kelko, who wrote The Limits of Power: The World and United States Foreign Policy in 1972. One reviewer of his books says that 'he devoted his entire professional life to blaming the United States for the Cold War'. In his book Kelko suggested that Truman should have given Stalin the atomic bomb in 1945 and claimed that Russia treated Poland well in 1945. He also blamed South Korea for the Korean War of 1950-3.

Later historians sometimes called post-revisionist see factors from both the USA and the Soviet Union to blame for the Cold War. Traditional and revisionist accounts of the Cold War have been seen as reflections of each other, each seeing the major power perceived, as being at fault of its plan to rule the world. The post-revisionist view is a more rational because it lacks the emotion that the other views have. Most historians that support either the traditional view or the revisionist view have been influenced, and lack the ability to make clear judgement. Through the post-revisionist view it is possible to see how a lack of communication and understanding precipitated the Cold War (Ringer, 2000, p249).

According to John Lewis Gaddis (1972), 'The Cold War grew out of a complicated interaction of external and internal developments inside both the United States and the Soviet Union. The external situation-circumstances beyond the control of either power-left Americans and Russians facing one another across prostrated Europe at the end of World War II. Internal influences in the Soviet Union-the search for security, the role ideology, massive post-war reconstruction needs, the personality of Stalin-together with those in the United States-the ideal of self-determination, fear of communism, the illusion of omnipotence fostered by American economic strength and the atomic bomb-made the resulting confrontation a hostile one. Leaders of both superpowers sought peace, but in doing so yielded to considerations which, while they did not precipitate war, made a resolution of differences impossible.'

The 'roots of hostility' stretch back as far as World War I, and the Russian Revolutions that took place, in 1917. The United States reacted with fear and apprehension, as they could not accept that a country could exist with economic and political principles that were so drastically opposed to democracy and industrial capitalism. Throughout the 1920's the 'Red Scare" had become a strong American reality. The new Russian leader Stalin always knew that inevitably conflict between the Soviet Union...


Bibliography: James Fitzgerald(1995), The Cold War and Beyond. Thomas Nelson, Australia
Dr John Pimlott and Andian Mather (1987), Conflict in the 2oth Century-The Cold War, Franklin Watts, Great Britain
Online book: Blunden, 1993, Volume 2 Part II, Stalinism:Its Origins &Future, www.werple.net.au/~andy/bs/index.htm
Peter Calvocoressi (1971), World Politics Since 1945-2nd Edition, Longman, Great Britain.
John Lewis Gaddis (1972), The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, Columbia University Press, New York
'Why did the USA and USSR become rivals in the period 1945 to 1949? ',(http://www.johndclare.net/cold_war1_answer.htm)
Walter LaFeber (1971), The Origins of the Cold War 1941-1947, John Wiley & Sons, USA
Annotation: This book provides information from two scholars, each with their own distinctive view
Morton A. Kaplan(1976), The Life and Death of the Cold War, Nelson-Hall, USA
Annotation: Revisionist approach, which addresses neo-Marxist explanations on the U.S
Ron Ringer(2000). Modern History. Pascal Press, Glebe
Annotation: Good overall summary of the cold war, and presents both sides of the issue
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