The Cold War

21. "An unnatural alliance that was bound to fall apart after the defeat of the common enemy." To what extent does this statement explain the origin of the Cold War?

Camilla Burkot
Intro/Background Info:

  • - WWII in Europe ended with Russian and American troops meeting in Berlin, marking the close of Nazi rule in Germany
  • - While footage of these meetings shows apparently jovial and friendly men, the diplomatic/political relationship between these two nations soon became less than amiable
  • - The US and USSR worked together during the war to defeat the Axis, particularly at crucial conferences such as Yalta and Potsdam (1945), but each had prewar grievances and differing ideologies that unsurprisingly resulted in their split and development of the Cold War

Thesis: The statement above accurately explains the origin of the Cold War. Both the US and USSR had underlying grievances against each other that could be set aside to defeat Nazi Germany, but ultimately were irreconcilable.

I. Prewar US-USSR relationship

  • a. Historical animosity existed as early as the USSR existed:
    • i. Western hostility to the Russian Revolution (1917, overthrow of the czars – official beginning of Bolshevik Russia)
    • ii. Western intervention in the Russian civil war (1918-1920) on behalf of the White Army (non-Bolsheviks)
  • b. Nevertheless, in 1933, diplomatic relations were established between US and USSR – seemed to be an improvement
  • c. Sudden about-face at the start of WWII with the Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact (1939)
  • d. US and USSR only became cautiously allied when Hitler broke this Pact in 1941 with the invasion of Western Russia

II. War-related US Grievances against USSR

  • a. US and Britain both were wary of Stalin as he agreed to cooperate with Hitler from August 1939 to June 1941
    • i. The US was particularly irritated by the fact that the USSR did not join the war against Japan (right next door to Russia) until the war was almost over
  • b. US emphasized the amount of aid dedicated to the USSR through lend-lease ($11billion), with the insinuation that the USSR was not grateful enough
  • c. The US government disapproved of Communism and the theory of spreading revolution, which of course was a potential threat to American capitalism

III. USSR Grievances against US/Allies

  • a. Immediately before the war, the Western powers engaged in appeasement and refusal to cooperate with each other against Hitler
    • i. The USSR suspected the West intentionally wanted Hitler to turn toward the east (toward the USSR)
  • b. Soviets bore most of the brunt of Hitler’s army
    • i. Soviets resented the Western Allies’ delay in opening a second front to divert Hitler until summer 1944 (invasion of Normandy)
    • ii. The Soviets had by far the most casualties – over 10million
    • iii. The $11billion in lend-lease aid was only 10% of total Russian expenditures, and only arrived after the battle of Stalingrad (Aug 1942 to Feb 1943) which was the turning point of the war on the eastern front
  • c. US, Britain, Canada withheld information about the development of the atomic bomb (which Soviets knew about through espionage)
    • i. Stalin particularly distrusted Truman because of this
    • ii. This point was particularly contentious, and made the USSR very eager to develop atomic weapons of their own, fueling the arms race

IV. Postwar Plans for the World

  • a. The visions that the US and the USSR held for the future differed dramatically:
  • b. US:
    • i. Rebuild Europe and European markets for American goods (the Marshall Plan)
    • ii. Reunite Germany
  • c. USSR:
    • i. Rebuild Europe in a socialist/communist fashion, using Russia as a model
    • ii. Control Eastern Europe to balance US influence in Western Europe
    • iii. Keep Germany divided and weak


  • - While their differing postwar plans were the immediate cause of a split between the US and USSR, the accumulation of grievances between the two would preclude any long-lasting alliance
  • - Because both emerged as superpowers of such radically different beliefs, they were virtually destined to find themselves on a collision course – the Cold War

Topic 5, #21
“An unnatural alliance that was bound to fall apart after the defeat of the common enemy.” To what extent does this statement explain the origin of the Cold War?

Introduction: Crisis, while bad, is an undeniably a uniting factor. Crises bring together people, friends or enemies and unite them against a common enemy. However, the results following the defeat of that enemy are widely varied. In World War II, the US and Soviet Union united in order to defeat Germany. The end of that alliance spawned the Cold War, and was the beginning of friction between the US and Soviet Union for various reasons.

II. US side
- The US was always uncomfortable with communist nations, but was forced to work with the Soviet Union to avoid destruction by Germany. To a certain extent, this was the equivalent of choosing the lesser of two evils
- Therefore, the US did not particularly like/get along with the Soviet Union prior to the war, so naturally that had no reason to drastically change during the war
- The war provided somewhat of an inside look at the Soviet Union for the US, and they did not necessarily like what they saw in terms for the future
- Also, the US felt that the Soviet Union was possibly in position to spread communism, something the US strongly opposed
- So essentially, the war was an awakening to the US that the Soviet Union, while helpful in this confrontation, could possibly be a severe problem later, and needed to be dealt with on some level. The alliance was unntatural, and it paved the way for the problems to come
III. Soviet Union side
- The Soviets also knew they needed help during the war, but has always felt threatened by capitalist powers trying to retake it, ever since the revolution that catapulted the communists into power.
- Towards the end of the war, tension began between the two powers, for several reasons; the US hiding certain information from the Soviets, the Soviets using espionage to find it out anyway (the US discovery of the atomic bomb, for example).
- The conferences toward the end of the war (Yalta, Potsdam…) showed the seeds of tension being sowed among the two countries, as shown by their differing opinions on post war plans. These disagreements while allied simply added to the tension already present, and helped begin the Cold War as soon as the uniting factor was no longer present.

I. Introduction
World War II saw the alliance of two unlikely nations: the United States and the Soviet Union. Before they were allied during World War II, tension and hostility existed between the United States and Soviet Union because of their conflicting ideologies. However, when Germany broke the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression pact and invaded the USSR the two nations were united around a common enemy. Despite their alliance during WWII, it is no surprise the suppressed tensions resurfaced after Germany’s defeat.
II. Body
a. Because the USSR had been allied with Germany, the United States was very suspicious of them
b. The United States was involved with the Russian Civil War fighting against the Bolsheviks
c. Stalin was a very suspicious man, all through their alliance he believed the US had subversive motives
d. Espionage revealed the US’s development of atomic weapons, which increased distrust between the nations
e. The USSR and the US met in Berlin to end the war, but they had very different plans for post-war Germany. This fueled conflict.
i. USSR wanted Germany weak and debilitated because they had suffered so much damage during the war
ii. The US wanted Germany strong again as to not damage the world economy
III. Conclusion
a. Although they were allied during the Second World War, ultimately the ideological differences between the US and the USSR escalated into the cold war. The tensions of the imminent Cold War can be seen in the countries’ interactions during Potsdam and Yalta.

I. Introduction – The United States and the Soviet Union joined in an alliance of convenience because they shared the same enemies during World War II. However, once the war drew to a close, their differences became more obvious and conflicts arose based on the imperialistic policies and fear of each country. The alliance was certainly bound to fall apart once Germany and Japan were defeated.
II. World War II/End of World War II – defeat of Hitler and Japan
a. Yalta and Potsdam
i. Created agreements that were not followed (concerning free elections in Poland, etc.)
b. Once the war was over, they no longer needed assistance from each other
III. Imperialism – a common policy of both countries that resulted in them becoming further divided
a. Soviets were expanding (mostly eastern Europe and Asia)
i. They wanted a buffer zone
i. U.S. believed they were trying to create a world-wide revolution
b. Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan
i. Attempt to aid the growth of European economies
ii. Also spread American practices (to keep Europe from becoming completely communist)
c. “Iron Curtain”
i. Europe divided into two separate economies: Atlantic and Soviet Union
IV. Fear – they both knew the strengths of the other, causing them to become afraid of the actions the other might take
a. Difference in ideologies
b. Each country believed the other was being aggressive
c. Arms race
i. Each knew that the other had atomic weapons – the threat was always present
V. Conclusion

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