Tuesday, 21st 2018
There is a growing tendency of regarding the cold war as an ideological, geopolitical, and economic struggle that shook the world. The available evidence seems to point out that there was a struggle between two world major ideologies namely, the Capitalism and Communism. It commenced in 1948 shortly after the end of the Second World War and the cold war lasted up until the Soviet Union was disbanded on December 26 of 1991. What made the Cold War unique was the fact that it was fabricated by continuous rivalry between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R which played out among counties which were former allies during WWII as well as countries receiving economic assistance from either. Certainly, conflict arose in the biggest cities in the world from subtle espionage that led to violent combat in parts of the tropical jungles of the Vietnam. This escapade featured some of the newly developed nuclear-armed submarines carefully moving submerged in the oceans to technological advancement in regards to satellite surveillance in space. It existed almost in every aspect of human life starting with the Berlin Wall and extending into the arts, commerce, family life and politics; it was a well-established divide between the supporters of the capitalism and communism. This resulted in a colossal confrontation that was on a global scale never before seen in history. But more than this, it is perhaps inconsistencies in this kind of study in regards to history which goes to underline the necessity of treating human past as a single unit rather than segmenting it amongst different disciplines. The sperate perspectives of competing nationalisms are often the cause of bias while assessing this issue, however, this paper argues that nationalism itself is to blame for the start of the cold war, instigated by the Berlin blockade and subsequent Berlin airlift.
In a recent paper (Davis, Lynn Etheridge) stated that among the earliest causes of the Cold War came directly from some certain comments which were made public. This was the work of the British leader Winston Churchill. There was a famous speech which was made on March 5th 1946 which supposedly sparked the anti-Communism notion at that point in time. What some people regard as anti-Communism some historians decipher as fear. Fear of Stalin’s communism: As a result of Stalin, moments after the invasion of Berlin, he went ahead with plans to establish domination over the entirety of Eastern Europe. America, wanting to intervene, established an economic counterattack famously known as the Marshall Plan. In short: it was a generous offer to provide monetary aid in a general effort to rebuild and reconstruct Western Europe, which of course had been laid waste by the recent and most destructive war in ever seen. It was a unique war for another reason: it was predicated by the breakdown of the first international League of Nations and preceded by the United Nations. The First and Second World War indicate that there was a general lack of commitment to the spirit of internationalism (Herken, 2014). The effort of the older established body known as the League of Nations was labeled weak. This was after it showed impunity by lacking the capacity to fill the void. Clearly, there was some level of uncertainty as perhaps the strong and powerful international body that was the work of Woodrow Wilson, required a stronger grip in establishing peace by ensuring that the world superpowers are far from tearing each other apart. Clearly, the League of Nations was not enough and in light of the recently catastrophic developments Franklin Roosevelt saw it fit to create the United Nations; an extension of a wartime alliance between all those fighting the Axis. Roosevelt even included the soon to be bitter rivals: The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. .
Superpowers at War
The Cold War was at its peak during the period between1948 to 1953. In this given period the Soviets managed to unsuccessfully blockade their part of Berlin as well as engage with Americans in a number of proxy wars. The reason the Americans engaged in these wars was to stop the spread of communism. The reasons as to why the Soviets were so eager to spread their authority throughout the world was to gain the support of as many countries as possible to aid the USSR in defending against the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949. Simply this was a military command that was unified with the common purpose of containing the existing developments of the Communist/Soviet influence in Europe (Kuniholm, 2014). Other deadly completions during the cold war were often shows of power; the Soviets testing of their atomic bomb warhead leveling the playing field between Soviet and American nuclear technology; and before that the several American testings, coupled with America’s refusal to share nuclear secrets causing Stalin to become extremely paranoid. Else-where, communist powers continue to grow as the Maoists, originating from mainland China came to power. A conflict also arose during this period which has lasted until today. North Korea was in support of the communists and decided to invade South Korea, who received support from the US. These two great powers struggled for influence and control over the world and were the strongest nations in terms of power, thus they were named superpowers.
Cold War Conflicts
There was much tension present up until 1953 but relaxed slightly after the death of the longest-serving Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin in that same year. However, nothing changed and the standoff still existed. There was a regrouping of the unified military organization among the Soviet bloc states. As a result, there was the development of the Warsaw Pact that was enacted in 1955 and the area west of Germany was later admitted to being part of NATO. There was another stage of Cold War which commenced in 1958 lasting up until 1962. It looks as though the US were competing with the Soviets to develop some intercontinental ballistic missiles. Those were troubling times as Soviets were secretly installing a missile site in Cuba and this was a direct threat to the US as this meant that they could be able to launch nuclear missiles at US cities. This led to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 that went to extremes as both countries almost went to war before an agreement to put an end to the missile threat. What is learned from the Cuban missile crisis is that neither the Soviets nor the US was willing to use nuclear missiles due to fear of retaliation by their counterparts. The two states went ahead to sign the Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty which was done in 1963. This pact established that there would be no above the ground nuclear tests. However, this worked in favor of the Soviets as they vow never to be humiliated by having inferior weapons. Although these major and seriously deadly events, they are not the cause or start of the cold war but rather skirmishes within it.
The Berlin Wall
This wall was a symbol of the Cold war division that separated East Germany from West Germany as well as Eastern and Western Europe. In an attempt to cross the Berlin wall, an estimated 5000 individuals managed as they attempted to flee to safety on the other side. There were an estimated 5000 individuals who were captured and about 191 more individuals who died in the process of crossing this wall (Dalby, 2016). Later on, Eastern Germany communist ties was stripped of its control as a wave of democratization was rippling over Europe. Eventually the wall would come down, spurred on by Ronald Reagan famously declaring to Gorbachev: ‘Tear down this wall!’. It would come down 4 years later, to the tune of David Hasselhoff famously singing his hit single: Looking for freedom. The borders of the country were opened and a flood of humanity poured across the boarders from the Eastern Germany to the West. This is why the wall was present in the first place: to stop Eastern German Nationals from fleeing to the West. The primary reason as to why the two states where on the necks of each other were the different ideologies which they did not see eye to eye on especially on in matters of their economy and their governments. The Soviet Union was comprised of the communist countries. Based on this model the country is able to control the production and manufacture of resources (Miller, 2015). The type of leadership displayed by the Communists is authoritarian and often devolves into dictatorship where its citizens were told where to work as well as where they are to live. On the other hand, the United States had a much different approach. The US is based on a capitalist system where people are able to choose where they work and business is in control of how goods and services are manufactured. What sparked up the cold war was after WWII the Soviets had control over nearly Eastern Europe (Cooper, (Ed.) 2016). The regions which were under the control of the Soviets were half of Germany and its capital Berlin. Together with the French and the British the US was on the other side in control of West Germany and controlled West Berlin. In the June of 1948, the Soviets embarked on a mission to block all the rail and roads that were leading to West Berlin. Stalin had a much different idea of how Germany should be treated; as opposed to the U.S. who wanted to avoid the mistakes of the Treaty of Versailles by rebuilding Germany into a trading partner; Stalin wanted Germany destroyed and began dismantling eastern German manufacturing and, equally importantly to him, he set about absorbing their national identity into that of communist austerity. The east Berliners and west Berliners were to close for Stalin’s comfort, too capable of passing between borders and exchanging information and ideas. Ideas which would infect his vision of communist nationalism throughout eastern Europe. This led first a small fence and eventually a brick wall. Since this was still not enough to stop western influence, as well as a new west German currency, marking the beginning of a capitalist nationhood for the west Germans. Stalin began the blockade on June 24th 1948 and lasted until may 12th 1949. In response the US, Britain, and France airlifted their supplies in a move called the Berlin Airlift which humiliated the soviets and served as a major economic victory for Capitalism and its ability to deliver the goods, literally.
Impact of ideological differences on decision-making
US President Harry Truman, as the leader of a capitalist nation dealing with the spread of Communism; quickly expanding across Eastern Europe: the best way of dealing with it was containment. After the blockade at the Berlin, resources had to be taken to West Europe and there was the introduction of Marshall Aid by the US (McCauley, 2015). In short, this was the process of offering to deliver economic assistance including, machinery, food, expertise, construction material, and money. This was in a bid to be in good terms with the countries in Europe that could be easily taken over by the communist activists. This led to further divisions as the ideological difference between these two states was cemented.
Capitalism vs. Communism
Clearly, the two political and economic systems that were used by the USSR were completely different from the one that was being used by the US. The incompatibility was attributed to the act that capitalist state the economy was in full control of the individual will people, while the communist approach was rather a different construct. Power was established at the center of the government which was under the control of the ruling communist party. Communism was not popular with people in capitalist countries as the resources of the economy and the society was also often under the control of authoritarian dictatorships (Gause, 2014). The two sides did not share the same vision of what a nation should be and this brought about the Cold War that was competition for dominance by the capitalists who were repressing the spread of communism throughout the world and the communists who wanted to one-up their hated capitalist rivals and establish the validity of the brand of nationalism.
The impact of World War Two
One major reason for the fallout between the Soviets and US was the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact back in 1939. The events that transpired during this time made sure to further the divide that existed between the two counties. Most of the allies of Stalin were completely uncertain of the loyalty he had after he established his loyalty and ties to Hitler and then switch to side with the Allies. Stalin was completely disappointed and made angry as a result of the USA and Britain reluctance in opening a ‘Second front’ against the German forces which were tearing Western Europe apart (Cooper, (Ed.) 2016). The resulting delay made Stalin believe that British forces, as well as US forces, deliberately withdrew to leave the Soviets to fight Germany alone such that the two countries will remain weakened. As a result, the Soviet leader decided to seek further security in his territory in the future. His intention for the spread of communism was solely for the creation of a geographical buffer of likeminded nation-states that would be much more friendly than capitalist nations. Capitalists opposed to this notion, they rejected the idea fighting with every strength they had to limit communism. There were other disagreements which came to life at the Allies’ wartime conferences in Yalta as well as Potsdam but all disagreements erupted because they had differing points of view over how the rest of Eastern Europe was to be restructured and administered.
This paper initiated a discussion to explore how the Cold War came into existence. There was a struggle between two world superpowers and their ideologies, namely the Communist USSR and the Capitalist US. It commenced with the Berlin Blockade and Subsequent Berlin Airdrop (1948-49) due to the competing nationalism of the USSR and US, not competition between Communism and Capitalism, but each other’s authority to be a nation as well as national pride. The Berlin Airdrop, as well as the larger Marshall plan, were efforts to humiliate the Soviets and in doing do, invalidate Communist authority to nationhood. Like-wise the space race was an opportunity for each nation to publicly show off and out do the other. Capitalism or Communism are both engines of the nation, instead it was the Nationalism of both superpowers; their desire for like-minded nation state allies and lastly; mutual goal of neutralizing each other’s national authority by way of de-legitimizing each other’s ideologies, which drove the cold war.
Davis, Lynn Etheridge. The Cold War Begins: Soviet-American Conflict Over East Europe. Princeton University Press, 2015.
Herken, G. (2014). The Winning Weapon: The Atomic Bomb in the Cold War, 1945-1950. Princeton University Press.
Kuniholm, B. R. (2014). The origins of the Cold War in the Near East: Great power conflict and diplomacy in Iran, Turkey, and Greece. Princeton University Press.
Dalby, S. (2016). Creating the second cold war: The discourse of politics. Bloomsbury Publishing.
Miller, D. (2015). The Cold War: A Military History. Macmillan.
McCauley, M. (2015). Origins of the Cold War 1941-1949. Routledge.
Cooper, A. F. (Ed.). (2016). Niche diplomacy: Middle powers after the Cold War. Springer.
Gause, F. G. (2014). Beyond sectarianism: The new Middle East cold war. Brookings Doha Center Analysis Paper, 11, 1-27.