When Hitler launched his invasion of the Soviet Union on 22nd June 1941, the Second World War was transformed. The USSR was now on the same side of Britain trying to defeat Nazi Germany. When Japan bombed Pearl Harbour in December 1941, the USA joined the war and thus, by the end of 1941, the USSR, Britain and America were allies. Pervious hostility was temporarily forgotten until the defeat of their common enemy. This alliance was seen as a ‘marriage of convenience’, only formed to defeat Germany. It soon collapsed after the end of the war, which proved there was no real desire to keep it going.
There is some reason to believe that the USA was responsible for the collapse. For example, America was an anti-communist country and seriously believed in the ‘domino theory’ – if one country becomes communist, the other surrounding countries will soon follow, therefore greatly affecting America’s trading partners. Truman, the president of the US 1945-1953, being a strict anti-communist himself, took no persuading to believe that the Soviet Union wanted to spread communist ideology into Europe at a time when Europe was at its most vulnerable. In March 1947, he put forward the Truman Doctrine which caused a dramatic change in US foreign policy: “It must be the policy of the US to support free peoples who are resisting subjugation by armed minorities or outside pressure”. The USA were personally assuming the role of the ‘police force of the world’ to stop the spread of communism.
Some people believe that America completely misinterpreted Stalin’s (leader of the Soviet Union) motives. Did Stalin really want to spread communism throughout Europe, or did he just want to create a ‘buffer zone’ to protect his country? The USSR has already been invaded twice by Germany and Stalin obviously didn’t want that to happen again any time soon, therefore created a barrier that would make it incredibly difficult for someone to invade his country.
Months after the Truman Doctrine, America was offering something they called Marshall Aid to the countries in Europe devastated by the Second World War. This furthered the divisions between East and West. Earnest Bevan was quoted describing Marshall Aid as “A lifeline to sinking men” and Churchill even called it “the most unselfish act in history”. Even though the total money given to counties was $17 billion, many people see it as a gain for America and it was only trying to protect its economic and political interests in Europe. In the long run, American has a huge benefit from this as they now have gained multiple trading partners and it is now less likely that they will fall to communism. The Soviet Union’s response to this was COMECON, in which Stalin offered aid to communist countries to help them recover from the effects of WWII. But, the Soviet Union lacked the financial strength America had and the attempt to set up a communist rival led to bankruptcy and ruin. Another factor which backs up the idea that the USA always intended to protect and expand its economic interests and influence in Europe was the introduction of the Deutschmark in West Berlin, 23rd June 1948. Because of the division in Germany, America wanted to build a stable and common currency on their side of Berlin, which indeed did strengthen German economy. Stalin thought this undermined his power in Germany, therefore angered him and caused him to retaliate.
There were also significant influences on the USA’s leadership, which further served to demonise the Soviet Union. The Kennan Long telegram was a significant influence, which came out on the 22nd February 1946. This caused the US’s policy towards the USSR would assume a global perspective rather than a purely European one because of the analysis Kennan presented on the motives of Soviet foreign policy. This made Truman even more convinced that he needed to do something…