Communism had always posed a threat to the interest of the U.S. and their attitudes towards the U.S.S.R. had proved they had not entertained the idea of communism much. But it was not until February 1946 did it all come out and the U.S.A began to act towards containing communism. The policy of containment meant the U.S. actively prevented the psreading of communism.There were several ways with which the U.S. tried to contain communism some of which were futile and others effective. However, for every move the U.S. made the U.S.S.R. had a retaliation.
One way with which the U.S. tried to contain communism was with the use of the atomic bomb. The dropping of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima was a method that was used to bring the war between the Japanese to a quick end with few loss of American lives. Described by Truman as ” the greatest thing in history” the bomb had a very devastating effect taking up to 70 000 lives. After that another bomb was dropped in Nagasaki, this was particularly to impress Stalin and scare him if possible. However this was to blow up in Truman’s face. Stalin feeling that it was an insult that he was never informed of such a weapon by his allies was not impressed and also became more suspicious of the U.S. And the fact that he was also denied the islands in the far east since he had nothing to do with the defeating of Japan also irritated him more.
Truman’s attempts did not work instead Stalin sought a production of his very own atomic bomb, and alhough it was initially predicted the Soviet Union would get the bomb within 10 years, mysteriously the bomb was in the hands of the Soviets a lot sooner than that, they had it within 4 years. So Truman had nothing against Stalin now. This was one of the unsuccessful means of containing communism because it rather increased the already existing tensions between both countries during the cold war. And because it was a suspicious thing that the U.S.S.R. got the bomb so soon and the U.S. neglected to mention the weapon to the U.S.S.R. suspicion between both countries increased and the gulf between the countries expanded further.
Another way in which the U.S. tried to contain communism was through propaganda. The methods through which communism was extending its influence throughout eastern Europe was blatantly unprofessional. The method was given the name ‘salami tactics’ where by countries in eastern Europe fell one by one into the influence of communism. For example, Czechoslovakia was the last democratic country in eastern Europe until 1948. The elections were coming up in May but because the communist were blamed for the country not receiving the Marshall aid the communist party was expected to do badly. However, before the election there was a coup d’etat where the police force took over and removed every non-communist personnel from office. In February, representatives of opposing parties were removed and Jan Masaryk the foreign minister who opposed communism personally mysteriously “fell out” of the window during the coup.
The Czech communists took over with little blood shed and with no help from the Soviet Union. These was how the communist parties took over in other countries, by dissolving opposing parties and killing their leaders. This was the method that was used in east European countries such as Poland in 1947,Bulgaria also in 1947, in Romania and Albania, 8 countries in total were taken over using the ‘salami tactics’.and the only response the U.S. could give to this was verbal abuse. They simply, verbally condemned the acts which were committed and were hoping that the U.S.S.R would perhaps feel guilty and digress but unfortunately that did not work at all. This method of containment was perhaps the weakest of all mehods because the U.S.A. in no way showed any opposition to the methods used. This could be assumed as slacking in the part of the U.S. to containing communism.
The most successful was the combination of policies, that is, Marshall plan and the ‘iron fist’ policy. The iron fist was a result of the long telegram of February 1946 by George Kennan,deputy chief of mission in the U.S. embassy in Moscow. The telegram though it was lenghty simply said the Soviet Union was “neurotic”. He saw them as aggressive and insecure and concluded that there should be no compromise with the Soviet Union. Another factor that added to the development of the ‘iron fist’ approach was that the U.S. were not prepared to make the same mistake that was made by the British. The Britains had a policy of appeasement with Nazi-Germany. They had negotiations with Hitler and gave him whatever he requested for as long as it was seen as “reasonable” but the appeasement only encouraged Hitler to ask for more and soon there was an outbreak of war in 1939.
Truman and other politicians agreed that they did not want the same thing to happen with the U.S.S.R. so therefore the ‘iron fist’ approach was justified where by Truman refused totally to negotiate with the U.S.S.R. The Marshall plan also was another technique used. George Marshall was the new U.S. secretary of state and he had travelled through western Europe and was disheartened by the devastation he saw and was shocked by the economic crisis of the region. When he came back, he suggested that america invest in the economy of Europe, he argued that as America was a marketing economy Europe would have been a good consumer base but if there was no way for Europe to be able to afford their goods then no profit would be made and the economy of the U.S. would suffer. Therefore investment in the European economy was the solution. Though he asked for 17 million dollars, he was granted 13 million and so this money was distributed through out western Europe.
Ofcourse the U.S.S.R. reacted negatively to this and also formed the comecon which organised economic assisstance to the countries of eastern Europe. But unfortunately this was no match for the Marshall plan. Added to this, in Germany, the Yalta and Potsdam agreements had stipulated that Germany be divided into two buffer zones. The western zone was to be under the supervision of the western powers while the eastern zone was under the U.S.S.R. However, in the eastern region, the U.S.S.R. continued taking reparations from Germany because of the damages of world war 2 where as, The U.S. kept putting money into the western zone. Soon it became obvious that the western zone was flourishing compared to the eastern zone. This caused the Berlin blockade of 1948-49.
The U.S.S.R.’s attempt to divide the eastern zone from the western zone. But this was where the Marshall plan and the iron fist came into play. Truman through the approach of the iron fist refused to give into these manouvres of the U.S.S.R. And with the money from the Marshall plan, the west were able to supply aid to Berliners, they flew food and supplies to them through the Berlin airlift and they were able to provide to over 2 million Berliners. The result of this was that Stalin had to give in and brought down the Berlin blockade by May 1949. A successful combination of the ‘iron fist’ approach and Marshall plan, the west were able to gain an initiative giving the situation that happened in czechoslovakia and other east European countries.
Another successful means of containing communism was the Truman doctrine.In February 1947, the British warned the U.S. that they could not keep their troops in Greece any longer which they had been in since 1944. But after the second world war, the British government began to feel the effect in their economy as they owed 3000 million pounds. This scared Truman because he believed communism was taking over and so by March 1947 he issued the Truman doctrine that specified that any country that had a democratically elected government and was fighting off communism would be given militarial support. And so with this, support from America was given to Greece and the communists were defeated. Stalin, however saw this as “U.S. imperalism” although he had no retaliation for this because in the first place, he had kept an agreement with Churchill that Greece was an area of British influence. None the less, the U.S. were still able to fight off communism in Greece.
These were some of the ways the U.S. had contained communism or tried to.Through militarial means, that is the Truman doctrine and financial mean such as the Marshall plan. And also through propaganda, when they tried belittle the communists because of their use of ‘salami tactics’. They also tried the use of terror which was the A-bomb but that proved unsuccessful. Like some of the techniques used and on the other hand, others were quite successful indeed.
Courtney from Study Moose
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