In the aftermath of World War 2, the European countries such as Great Britain, France and Germany emerged weakened both militarily and economically. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union and the United States emerged as unrivaled superpowers, both keen to make most of their advantage. Although the Soviets and the Americans fought together in the war, the defeat of Germany had made them set their sights on each other. Lack of a common enemy, increasing public pressure, and drastically different ideologies eventually led to arms race that was later known as the Cold War.
During the war, the two superpowers contented themselves with fighting Germany and maintained an allied stance. However, immediately after the fall of Germany, both sides scrambled to gain the most out of their victory, especially the Soviets, who had taken more losses than all the other countries combined. As there was no country left that was powerful enough to either stop them or distract them, they began viewing each other with hostility. With Great Britain too weak to deter the Soviets, the only obstacle that remained was America. Although Germany was partitioned between them, Japan was wholly occupied by the Americans, but that was only the beginning of the problems between the two.
Having bested their enemies in the war, both the American and Soviet people found new nationalist pride in being the “victors.” Therefore the leaders of both countries had to maintain their dominance to satisfy their people or risk being overthrown. In the United States, the isolationist policy was no longer reasonable for the public, and with a massive army, expanding influence around the globe both militarily and economically was only the natural course of action.
For Soviet Union, its heavy losses taken in during the war has also prompted it to take a more aggressive stance. In Stalin’s reply to Churchill, Stalin specifically mentioned the fact that Churchill had been voted out in favor of the Labor party. Both superpowers were eager to display their strength, including the production of the atomic bomb, which had shocked the world with its performance on the unfortunate Japanese cities. Hence it was imperative for the leaders of the two superpowers to take such actions and stay in favor.
With both powers expanding their spheres of influence, it was no surprise that these two superpowers would clash. This problem was made worse with the radically different ideologies the two governments possessed. As a result, there was no middle ground; countries were bound to alienate either country regardless of their choice of government. Both Great Britain and the United States were “alarmed” at the rapid expansion of communism, which obviously threatened their own influence, hence leading to the Iron Curtain speech. The United States and the Soviets both competed with each other in supporting revolution in strategically important areas.
As a result, it was inevitable that these two countries should come into conflict with each other, starting the Cold War with decades of proxy wars and arms races.