Assess the view that Truman was more responsible than Stalin for the outbreak and development of the Cold War in the years 1945 – 1949. Focus: Origins/Causes of the CW, 1945 - 1949
Assumption: Both were responsible, but who was more responsible? Was Truman really more responsible than Stalin? Criteria : “responsible” – whose actions had greater impact? Whose actions more expansionistic? Which player had a strong position? Who was truly to blame? Evidence:
Policies and motives of SPs in the immediate post-WWII context action-reaction sequence of events between superpowers
While there is no doubt that both Truman and Stalin, leaders of the US and USSR respectively, had an important role in the outbreak and subsequent development of the Cold War, Truman was more to blame and at fault than Stalin.
While there is no doubt that both Truman and Stalin, leaders of the US and USSR respectively, had an important role in the outbreak and subsequent development of the Cold War, it can be argued that Truman was more to blame and at fault than Stalin. Truman’s actions, such as the misinterpretation of Soviet intentions and changes in American foreign policy, would trigger an action-reaction sequence of events and the division of Europe into two opposing blocs which were fuelled by tensions between the rival powers, fundamental characteristics of the Cold War.
Firstly, the motivations and conditions of post-World War II USA, which were vastly different from that of the USSR, played a role in the changes in American foreign policies towards Europe. Right after World War II, USA’s economy was booming with the residue of the World War II, as the economy had grown significantly during the war. This was a complete opposite of the state of the USSR after the war, with the Soviet economy in bad shape and the country devastated. Expansionism was actually the last thing on Stalin’s mind, with his top concerns being the rebuilding of the Soviet Union and ensuring the security of the USSR. On the other hand, the USA had needed to expand its market to Europe to ensure that their economic growth could not be sustained in America. Containment, the governing principle of American foreign policy towards the USSR during the Cold War, would motivate Truman to implement the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan, actions that would also continue to drive the subsequent actions taken by the USA and USSR. Truman’s motivations were expansionistic, looking for open markets to sustain the US’s economic growth, while Stalin’s motivations were purely defensive and not seeking to spread communism, like the US had misinterpreted it to be. This can be seen in the Iran and Turkey crises. During the Iranian crisis, Stalin became acutely aware of the importance of oil to national security, one of his most important concerns in the post-World War II period. This resulted in the Soviets not withdrawing its troops 6 months later than agreed. Iran had to appeal to the UN, which was heavily backed up by the US. Upon this appeal, Stalin immediately backed down. A similar situation in Turkey occurred during the Turkish Straits Crisis of 1946, when the Soviet Union acted violently when their demands were rejected and would only back down in the presence of the US. This indicated that Stalin did not want a confrontation to occur between USSR and USA. Therefore, in this aspect, Truman is more at fault for the outbreak of Cold War and development of it than Stalin had, as Truman’s actions were definitely more expansionistic than defensive while Stalin remained reluctant to enter any kind of confrontation with the US. The perceived Soviet expansion by the US also played a part in the outbreak of the Cold War, in that Truman was convinced of Stalin’s anti-west sentiments. Events, such as during the Moscow Speech, where Stalin declared that “The world was now in 2 camps, communism vs capitalism … they were destined to come to blows”. This...
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