2. The Cold War resulted from inevitable tensions building between the USA and the USSR. These existed in many forms, from the attitudes of their respective leaders to distrust created by political decisions, from as back as 1917. The build up of the latter over the years has a cumulative impact in deteriorating the relations between the two countries. Another key factor in the inevitability of the Cold War is the presence of both countries as super powers following the destructive second world war. As the only powers with any pertinent capabilities left, it is arguable that a power struggle between the two was inevitable.
Fear and paranoia caused by this and the threats of one and other is another dominant factor in the escalation of pressure. This was heightened by the movement of the USSR through Europe, and the advancement of arms technology. The attitudes and ideologies of both countries is key to their foundation and therefore the most evident in creating strain between the two powers. The ideology of a country, especially that of a super power plays a large role in influencing and giving context to policy making and therefore in turn the relations between countries.
Ideology gives guidance to policy makers by clarifying at a basic level what is right, and that any different has the potential to be dangerous. This is particularly true in the case of the Cold War due to the polar opposite ideologies taken by each country. ‘Anyone who doesn’t recognize that the great struggle of our time is an ideological one is not looking this question squarely in the face. ‘ Dulles. This impact on foreign policy, also exists domestically through the portrayal of respective countries. For example the role of the media helped to intensify ideology, particularly within the USA. Give me liberty or give me death. ‘ is a famous quote that reflects the aggressive approach that is created by media hype and ideological rivalry.
The same was also thought of the USSR. Dulles believed that the ideological writings of Marx, Lenin and Stalin made Soviet intentions ‘knowable’ (2, page 137) and stressed that ideology was a major determinant of Soviet policy (2, page 136). This stress on ideology lead to the ‘peak danger’ concept, that the USSR would attack as soon as they knew they would succeed. One example of foreign policy seeking o counteract ideologies directly is the Truman Doctrine in 1948 following the Soviet Blockade of Berlin, which was a policy of containment in order to limit the influence of communism to only areas already in the control of the Soviets. Another example is Stalin’s approval of the invasion of South Korea, in order to spread the influence of communism, following the communist victory in China in 1949 (1, page 542). as well as the Brezhnev doctrine that highlighted that alliances existed in correlation to their ideologies above any other factor (1, page 544).
Another prominent factor, as mentioned previously is through their existence as a bi-hegemony. Following the end of the second world war, many countries were left with depleted capabilities. Not only in terms of military force, but also politically weakened and economically exhausted. This left the USSR and the USA as the two most prominent powers. Following a realist perspective, it is entirely inevitable that a conflict would arise between the two in a struggle for a balance of power. ‘Bipolar periods would have relatively frequent but not very severe wars, and this is precisely the kind of wars that characterized the cold war bipolar era. ‘ (3, page 298). ‘Despite being enhanced by their previously existing tension and conflicting ideologies, the advancement of arms was considered a key representative of where the power lay and hence shows the balance of power changing up to and throughout the cold war. Following the successful testing of a plutonium bomb in 1945 in New Mexico, Truman used this as ‘leverage at Potsdam’.
The US refused to share any information with the Soviets, and were the only power with nuclear weapons until 1949 when the Soviets tested their first nuclear weapon. As a result the posed a greater threat, and tensions rose. As weapons advanced on both sides, for example the MIRVED and MX missiles, neutron weapons, the hydrogen bomb and eventually the atomic bomb, it was clear that a stalemate would arise where both states had the power to act. On a smaller scale, this was mimicked by the space race which began in 1955. This saw a race for the first artificial satellite and the first human in space.
This was crucial from a propaganda side domestically, as well as to decrease confidence of the opposition by proving that they had become more advanced scientifically. Kennedy justified the race as vital to national security, which shows how suspenseful the race had become in its impact for the Cold War. As well as this, economically the two ideologies held very contrasting approaches. While capitalism is based around profit and competition, communism supports the idea of a state where the government controls economic activity.
These factors highlight the issues conflicting ideologies prove on both a political and economical level. This is supported by the idea of imperialism that suggests that maintaining a world of unbalanced ‘economic, cultural and territorial relationships’ is surely based on ‘domination and subordination. ‘ ‘The theory of imperialism suggested that war was inevitable. ‘ (4, page 47) One issue that led to the deterioration of the relationship between these two states is frequent causes for distrust. ‘Mistrust may prevent states from co-operating on arms control’ (5, page 10).
The repetitive nature of these events led to increase tension and a gradual build up to some form of response. This highlights the nature of the Cold War itself, in that a gradual, smaller scaled but more frequent wars, such as conflicts in Afghanistan, Korea and Panama throughout the course of the Cold War. However the causes for the increased pressure between the USA and the USSR goes back at least as far as the first world war, when the USA gave help to the whites during the Russian Revolution in 1917.
Following this aid, the USA refused to recognize the new Soviet government, especially after they promoted the destruction of capitalism. This relates back to the conflict over ideologies and demonstrates from an early time that the USA had no issue with taking military action in order to reduce the influence of communism. This confrontation also set a base level of tensions between the two states, which would only grow under the strain of two world wars. Following this that added to the distrust and tension between the two was the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939.
As a result of Stalin being increasingly scared of a German invasion, he signed the pact in order to reduce the chance of invasion or at least buy more time to prepare. This led to the invasion of Poland by both Germany and the USSR from each side and the annexation of several Eastern European countries, including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. This attempt to carve up Europe and the collaboration between the Soviets and Germany was a direct act against the West, a defiance of any good will left between the two and therefore multiplied tensions.
It also served as both a useful source of propaganda to confirm the underhanded behavior of the Soviets. As a result relations grew worse and worse as the collective acts grew. This is clearly seen and amplified by several occurrences during the Cold War. Such as the Korean war in 1950, the Warsaw pact intervention in 1968, and through to the Panama conflict in 1989. These events stress how the cumulative impact of tension grew worse in the build up to and during the Cold War which made the conflict inevitable and complicated to bring a close to.
This is also seen through immediate conflicts, such as the Truman Doctrine mentioned earlier. Another example is the Marshall Plan in June 1947. This saw the USA sending over economic aid to help weaker European countries to rebuild, but also to attempt to reduce the influence of the USSR over them. This sought to prove a point in the balance of power between the two states, as well act part of the policy of containment of communism. This was highlighted by the USSR refusing to accept for themselves and for East Germany as well, and stood as a direct defiance of US actions.
Russia sought to undermine the USA, if not only a small scale. ‘The Marshall Plan was a successfully managed case of eroding US superiority. ‘ (6, page 2). Smaller scale acts also had a cumulative impact in increasing the ill will. For example the USA failing to give the USSR information on troop movements, as well as sometimes lying about their plans in order to protect themselves. Although this may have seen necessary to the USA, it is easy to see how it could have destroyed any lingering trust between these two states. Several of these immediate factor originated as peace time conferences, for example Potsdam.
The build up of aggression, despite the focus being drawn to important post World War Two matters, verifies the level of animosity and the inevitability of the Cold War. A key aspect of the increase in tension existed not only through direct resistance between the two, but also that every dominant act one states took lead to heightened fear and paranoia for the other state. This highlights the combination of both the balance of power, which is a delicate issue in any bipolar period, and the mistrustful nature of both states. While the uspicion between them is completely logical through evidence given at a large number of encounters they shared, it created a multiplier effect or a ‘conflict spiral’ (5, page 27) in both tension and strength of reaction. Through this escalation it is entirely inevitable that it would result in a war, but more specifically of the precise nature of the Cold War. It had minimum levels of combat, and seemed to be fought most through outright political actions, such as the Marshall plan, and propaganda. The former was based around responding to the other state but was only seen to aggregate the problems.
Meanwhile the latter emphasizes the role that both ideology and domestic politics play in policy making, especially in times of crisis. Therefore through domestically created pressure, as well as relations that stood to deteriorate with every meeting the USA and USSR had it should be said that some form of war was entirely unavoidable. The essence of the war was gradual and cumulative, as well as represented through proxy wars. This is also an unavoidable feature, due to the nature in which the tension build up similarly, through cumulative proxy events, held indirectly between the two.