Was Stalin’s Postwar Bellicosity The Principle Cause Of The Breakdown Of U.s.-soviet Relations? - History - Essay

3001 words - 13 pages

2068 Words
Was Stalin’s postwar bellicosity the principle cause of the
breakdown of U.S.-Soviet relations? -
By the end of WWII in 1945 approximately 60 million people had lost their lives and the
global political and economic structures that existed before the war were left in tatters. 1
Europe was devastated and a vast power vacuum existed where before there had been
great European states. A bi-polar world emerged from this devastation, at one end the
capitalist US, propagating global economic freedom and political liberty. At the other was
the Soviet Union, the champion of communism and a totalitarian state favouring planned
economy and isolationism. Even before the end of the war these two great states had 2
been vying for control over the ‘eurasian heartland,’ an area rich in natural resources and
skilled labour, at its heart was Germany. Since the advent of the Cold War three 3
historiographical camps have emerged tackling the issue surrounding its origins. The first
school of thought, orthodoxy, lays the blame firmly at the door of the Soviet Union. Arguing
that all American involvement was the ‘brave and essential response of free men’ to Soviet
aggression and expansionism. Revisionism arose as a response to orthodox writings, 4
arguing that American possession of the nuclear bomb emboldened them into pursuing an
aggressive policy of containment, designed to remove all communist influence from
Robert J. McMahon, The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1
2003) 1
Melvyn P. Leffler and David S. Painter, Origins of the Cold War, An International History (London: 2
Routledge, 1994), 2-5
McMahon, The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction, 83
Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr, ‘Whose Responsibility? The Scholars Debate,’ in The Origins of the 4
Cold War, ed. Thomas G. Patterson (Toronto: D. C. Heath and Co., 1970), 97
eastern Europe and establish capitalist democracies on the Soviet border. Finally post-5
revisionism came to the forefront, recognising that it was not any one states fault. Rather it
was an unfortunate result of domestic restraints, the misunderstanding of motives and a
clash of ideologies that ultimately spiralled dangerously close to nuclear war. This essay
argues in line with with the post-revisionist school of thought whereby blame is not
attributed to any one state. Instead the Cold War was the result of antagonistic behaviour
on both sides as well as fundamental misunderstanding of motives, a clash of ideologies
and domestic limitations to international agency.
In 1946 American diplomat George Kennan sent a telegram to the US secretary of state
outlining his understanding of Russian motives and intentions regarding post war
reconstruction. In this 5500 word telegram he paints a picture of Russia consistent with
public perception of the time; that it was a suspicious, untrustworthy and aggressive state
intent on the immediate expansion of communism into eastern Europe with the long term

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