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The Cold War

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The Cold War is the term used to describe the intense rivalry between the United States and its allies and the Union of Soviet Socialists Republics and its allies. The Soviet Union and its allies were refereed to as the Eastern Bloc and the United States and its allies were referred to as the Western Bloc. The Cold War period lasted from the mid-1940's until the late 1980's. During this period international politics were shaped by this intense rivalry between this two great blocs of power and the political ideologies they represented. The United States and its allies represented democracy and capitalism while the Soviet Union and its allies represented communism. The Cold War was truly a global conflict more so than either of the century's two world wars. (1) The cold war was also the first total war between economic and social systems, an industrial test to destruction. Even though the Cold War Began just after World War II, some of its roots reach back as far as the nineteenth century. Its neighbors have long feared Russia; the giant among the countries in Europe, even when they were allied Russia against a common enemy. This fear Cropped up immediately after Russia, Britain, and other European nations defeated the French Emperor Napoleon in 1812. (2) In 1853 Britain, France and several other European nations went to war with Russia from keeping Russia from expanding into the Middle East. Britain, in fact, took a great deal of its energy during the nineteenth century trying to limit Russian power. (3) By the early twentieth century the United States was also concerned with Russia's power. Although the United States tried to keep out of European disputes, American leaders were concerned about Russia becoming to powerful. They worried that if any nation became powerful enough to dominate the European continent, it would be a threat to the well being of the United States. (4) In the midst of World War I a new element was added to the European and American fear of Russia. In November of 1917 a radical Marxist called the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia overthrowing a democratic government. The United States strongly opposed the Bolshevik regime. The United States was angry that the Bolsheviks pulled Russia out of the War against Germany (WW I), and that it intended to spread its revolution to other countries. (5) During World War II Soviet leader Joseph Stalin reached an agreement with Hitler in which the two countries promised not to attack each other during the war. The Nazi-Soviet pack allowed Hitler to invade Poland and then fight France and Britain without having to worry about the powerful Soviet army. (6) A surprise attack by the Germans on the Soviet Union on June 1941 ended the Nazi-Soviet pact. This drove the Soviet Union to join the allies, but they found no love in the hearts of the United States and Britain. It was only Germany's might and murder policies that held the Grand Alliance together. (7) As the tide turned in favor of the Allies in the eastern theater, the side where the Soviet Union was fighting on, the soviets army was pushing into several Eastern European countries which were formerly allied or controlled by Germany. As the soviets controlled occupied these countries, they were able to control them. The same fear that had arisen in 1812 arose again: Would Russia become so powerful that it, instead of Germany, would threaten to dominate Europe. (8) To avoid this nightmare Britain and the United States invited the Soviet Union to a conference to discuss how to establish a durable peace. The "Big Three" met at Yalta, a resort on the Black Sea shore in the southern part of the Soviet Union. At the final diner at Yalta, hosted by Stalin on February 8, in a toast to Churchill and Stalin, President Roosevelt said he felt "the atmosphere between them was that of a family." (9) Harry Hopkins, one of Roosevelt's closest advisors and his special envoy to other heads of the state said; "we really believed in our hearts that this was the dawn of the new day we had all been praying for." (10) But instead of leading to a real peace, Yalta set the stage for the Cold War. The Cold War was characterized by mutual distrust, suspicion, and misunderstandings by both the United States and its allies and by the Soviet Union and its allies. At times, these characteristics seemed to increase the probability of a third world war. The United States accused the Soviets of trying to spread communism throughout the world and the Soviets accused the United States with practicing imperialism and attempting the revolutionary activity in other countries. During the late 1940's and the early 1950's the cold war became increasingly intense. Both sides were accusing each other of trying to rule the world. Both sides viewed the Cold War as a dispute between right and wrong. They saw every revolt and every international incident as part of the cold war. During 1945 and early in 1946, the Soviet Union cut off nearly all relationships between the west and the occupied territories of Eastern Europe. In March of 1946 Winston Churchill warned that an "iron curtain has been descended across the continent. (11) President Truman Agreed with Churchill. The president was deeply worried and his anxiety increased as the year went by. Soviet pressure on two non-European countries -Iran and Turkey--led to direct American and Soviet Confrontations, but in both cases the soviets backed down. Churchill warned, "Throughout the world, Communist fifth columns are established and work in complete unity and absolute obedience to directives they receive from the communist center." (12) Churchill's prose's called on Americans to face the fact that the agreements reached in the Yalta convention, the very foundation on which the allies came up with the scheme for the post war world, were being nullified. These warnings were accompanied by an American military alliance to present an armed front against communist expansion. In Washington and around the country the speech was widely criticized as "warmongering," an "invitation to war against the Soviet Union." Indeed Stalin called the speech "a declaration of war." (13) In 1946, the Soviet Union organized Communist governments in Bulgaria and Romania. In 1947, Communists took control of Hungary and Poland. In early 1948 Communist took control over Czechoslovakia. These countries came to be known as Soviet satellites. In the United Nations conferences, east and west became enemies. For example in 1946, the United States proposed an international agency to control nuclear energy production and research. The USSR rejected the proposal because they believed that the United States had a lead in nuclear weapons and would have an advantage over the soviets if a war ever broke out between the two nuclear powers. The Soviet Union pictured itself



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