- Origins of the Cold War
- The GI Bill
- African Americans, women, and the GI Bill
- The baby boom
- The growth of suburbia
- The dark side of suburbia
- Start of the Cold War - The Yalta Conference and containment
- Start of the Cold War - The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan
- Start of the Cold War - The Berlin airlift and the creation of NATO
- The postwar era, 1945-1950
Learn how the end of World War II contributed to the rise of the Cold War.
- The Cold War was a struggle for world dominance between the capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union.
- At the Yalta Conference, the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and France agreed to split Germany into four zones of occupation after the war.
- The US ambassador in Moscow warned that the Soviet Union desired to expand throughout the world and prescribed the "containment" of communism as the chief US foreign policy strategy.
What was the Cold War?
The Cold War was a global conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union, lasting from 1947 to 1991, over which of the two superpowers would hold economic and ideological sway over the world. It's called the Cold War because no actual military engagement took place between the United States and the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). Instead, fighting took place in proxy wars conducted in "third-world" countries.
The United States and USSR clashed over their economic and political philosophies. As a capitalist, democratic nation, the US sought to promote free elections and free markets. As a communist, totalitarian state, the USSR sought to ensure the security of its borders and the political dominance of the Communist party.
The Yalta Conference and the end of World War II
The United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union worked together to win World War II, but their relationship was tense and fraught from the beginning. The Soviet Union originally had signed a Non-Aggression Pact with Nazi Germany in 1939; the USSR only entered the war on the side of the Allies when Hitler double-crossed Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and invaded Russia in 1941. This proved to be a fatal mistake for Hitler: the Russians eventually stalled his invasion and overtook all of the territory the Nazis had conquered in Eastern Europe.
Before the war's end, the leaders of the Allied powers met at the Russian resort town of Yalta to plan for the future after Hitler's defeat. At this Yalta Conference, they could not agree on much, but they did agree that any remnant of Nazi power had to be stamped out of Germany. To this end, they agreed to divide Germany, as well as the city of Berlin, into four zones, each of which would be occupied by one of the major Allied powers (the "Big Four"): France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union.
Photograph depicting Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin seated together outdoors during the Yalta Conference.
As the war moved into its final stages in mid-1945, suspicion flared between the United States and the Soviet Union. The terrifying new power of the atomic bomb, which the United States dropped on Japan in August, made the Soviets justifiably nervous. The United States also didn't endear itself to Russia when it abruptly cut off all military and financial aid to the Soviet Union upon the war's conclusion, at a time when Russian citizens dearly needed the help. For its part, the Soviet Union was sending clear signals that it did not intend to give up the territory it had gained from the Nazis, including stalling on its promises to remove troops from oil-rich regions in the Middle East and to allow free elections in conquered Poland.
The "Long Telegram" and containment
Amid this tense atmosphere, George F. Kennan, who was the deputy chief of the American Embassy in Moscow, sent a dire warning to the US government. In a Long Telegram sent to the US Secretary of State in 1946, Kennan warned that the Soviets believed that "there could be no peaceful coexistence" between communists and capitalists, and that the Soviets desired the relentless expansion not only of their own borders but of communism writ large.
Kennan advised the US government that the only way to handle relations with the Soviet Union was to pursue a vigorous policy of containment: blocking the advance of both Soviet power and communism everywhere in the world.
The US government adopted Kennan's ideas for containment, which became the cornerstone of American foreign policy in the twentieth century.
What do you think?
Is "Cold War" really an appropriate name for the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union? In what ways was the Cold War actually a hot war?
Do you think it would have been possible for the United States and the Soviet Union to coexist peacefully in the postwar era, or was conflict destined to arise between them?
Do you think that George F. Kennan was right in his assessment of the Soviet Union, or was he exaggerating the risk posed by communism?
Want to join the conversation?
- I am wondering why some people don't like capitalism. The alternative is communism which time and time again has been shown to be the worst type of government and economy.(2 votes)
- It is important to note that there has never been a completely capitalist or communist country in history. Most countries strike a balance between private and public ownership, because there are some areas that history has shown to be too critical to leave to market volatility (i.e. water treatment, police, firefighters, infrastructure, healthcare, etc.). No "communist" country has ever progressed past the dictatorship of the proletariat either. If you read communist theories the final stage sounds a lot like how heaven is supposed to operate in the Judeo-Christian tradition. At the end of the day capitalism and communism are loaded words confused and misused by history. Money is just a flow of energy and how each of us chooses to spend it builds the world we have. If you want to change something, start changing how you spend your money.(26 votes)
- Do you think that George F. Kennan was right in his assessment of the Soviet Union, or was he exaggerating the risk posed by communism?(11 votes)
- Do you think it would have been possible for the United States and the Soviet Union to coexist peacefully in the postwar era, or was conflict destined to arise between them?(7 votes)
- I don't think so. The Soviet Union and the United States had already disliked each other for a while. While they banded together to defeat Hitler, it was only a matter of time before they went back to fighting.(2 votes)
- y was it called "the cold war"(3 votes)
- Because neither the Americans or Russians attacked each other in fear that they would destroy a bunch of stuff with nuclear bombs. It was "Cold" because neither side won, let alone attacked. It was like the war was frozen in time.(7 votes)
- In the third paragraph, what makes nations turn against each other?(3 votes)
- As the war moved into its final stages in mid-1945, suspicion flared between the United States and the Soviet Union. The terrifying new power of the atomic bomb, which the United States dropped on Japan in August, made the Soviets justifiably nervous.(2 votes)
- when did the Yalta Conference happen?(3 votes)
- Why do people call Socialism, Communism? The concept created by Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels was an ideal society that can't be made possible. Communism is the elimination of government regulation and elimination of all borders, everyone lives in communes etc. Though Communism is the third phase that hasn't been reached yet, is it right to say that Socialism is Communism?(3 votes)
- It was easier for haters to combine things, and then condemn people who belong to the "acceptable" part (socialism) with those of the "detestable" part (communism) and hate them all. Communism pretty well collapsed of its own internal contradictions in about 1990.(2 votes)
- I've read in textbooks that Stalin was paranoid and extremely overcautious when dealing with other countries, so how come he allowed a US ambassador in the USSR? Was there a Soviet ambassador in the USA?(1 vote)
- Nations, even rivals and enemy nations, need to be able to communicate with each other. Ambassadors and their attendant staffs facilitate that action. Even when the USA had no ambassador in Cuba (from when Eisenhower was president through the second term of President Obama), the two nations communicated via embassies of other nations. As for there being a Soviet Ambassador in the USA during the Stalin years, Yes, since 1933.(4 votes)
- What is the classification for a third world country that has been heavily influenced by the U.S?(1 vote)
- Most third-world countries that were supported by the US were sadly nationalist, authoritarian regimes; some even totalitarian!
A few notable examples are Chiang Ki Shek leader of the Kuomintang, a nationalist group in China, whose opponents were the CCP( Communist Party of China ). The Kuomintang have been accused of killing millions of their fellow country-men in the deadly Chinese Civil War. They were propped up, armed, funded and supported by the USA and their allies as part of the Cold War.
Another example is Syngman Rhee in South Korea, he mercilessly slaughtered millions of Koreans who he "suspected" of being Communists during the Korean War. His Northern counter-part Kim Il Sung also slaughtered an equal number of people accused of being nationalists.
There's also Batista in Cuba, who was a ruthless dictator who was very authoritarian and nationalistic. He was fully supported by the US government.
The Cold War never came to direct confrontation between the USA and the USSR. But they most certainly caused great misery to people living in zones of each others infulence or support.(4 votes)
- Is there a difference between the Soviet Union and The USSR, or are they used interchangeably?(2 votes)