Origins of the Cold War Essay

Submitted By Cammy147
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The Cold War refers to a time of tension between the world’s two foremost superpowers following the defeat of Nazi Germany and the end of World War Two. WW2 is generally considered to have started in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. America was initially hesitant to become embroiled in European conflicts and intervention was not popular domestically after the First World War. Once the surprise attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 had been carried out by the Japanese the non-interventionist stance disappeared and America, now aligned with Britain, declared war on Japan and subsequently Germany and Italy. In 1941 Harry Truman, who would later become American President after Franklin Roosevelt passed away, made his feelings of dislike clear for both the Russians and the Germans during their conflict: “If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible, although I don't want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances. Neither of them thinks anything of their pledged word.” (Harry Truman, 24 June 1941) This also gives an insight into the kind of mistrust and attitudes that America had towards Russia which would become prominent later in Revisionist versions of events and was a basis for ill feeling to grow between the two nations. Despite Russia - and neighbouring countries they had helped become Communist before forming a Soviet Union with in 1922 following the successful Bolshevik revolution - having vastly differing ideologies and styles of governance with the United States and Great Britain a series of meetings were held between the three allied leaders who had joined forces to defeat Nazi Germany. These meetings were held throughout WW2 with two of the most famous being held at Yalta and Potsdam. By late 1944 – early 1945 the allies knew they were going to win the war; the conference at Yalta from the 4th to 11th February 1945 was to discuss the war and how events should proceed after impending victory. Winston Churchill was representing Great Britain, Josef Stalin the Soviet Union and Franklin Roosevelt the USA. Although the trio disagreed on a lot of issues, such as the reparations Russia was to receive from Germany, agreements were made that a United Nations Organisation should be made to deal with future international disputes in a more diplomatic manner and that the eastern European countries surrounding the Soviet Union should be ‘friendly’. The Soviets also promised free elections in all the nations liberated from Nazi Germany.
The Potsdam conference was held several months later but saw only one of the original leaders of the three that had met at Yalta return. Roosevelt had died so Harry Truman took his place and Churchill was replaced after a couple of days by Clement Atlee as the Conservatives were defeated in the UK elections by a landslide margin to the Labour party. The new dynamic seemed to produce even less unity than amongst the original three, not helped by the fact that America were not being upfront with how they intended to end matters with the Japanese. They were aware that they were going to drop an atomic bomb to force surrender but had not informed the Soviets fully, stating only they had developed a ‘powerful bomb’ which increased mistrust and bad feelings between the two nations. The fact that they had such advanced weaponry over the Soviets also meant that they were less willing to listen to Stalin’s demands. How Germany should be divided and controlled was also discussed at this meeting and the reparations Russia was to receive from Germany. Truman was also aggrieved by the fact Stalin had formed a communist government in Poland, breaking his earlier agreement at the Yalta conference that there would be free elections. This would also have reinforced Truman’s earlier view that the Russians could not be trusted.

According to the Orthodox interpretation of the origins of the Cold War the