Who caused the cold war? Focus; the role of each personality in contributing to the cold warTime frame: 1945 to 1952Cold war- period of intense tension and mistrust, leading to competition and confrontations.
Stand: both Stalin and Truman contributed to the cold war.
The key personalities that contributed to the cold war are namely Stalin and Truman,both in office in US and USSR respectively. both were responsible as their personalities and level of experiences contributed to their policies made, which heightened tensions and thus caused the cold war.
Personality traits like Stalin’s paranoia gave rise to his expansionist policy, which hardline Truman viewed as aggression and tried to counter it in the Truman Doctrine and Marshall plan. Truman’s low level of experience in dealing with Stalin also increased tensions and led to the cold war.
Stalin was aggressive and protective of the USSR as he was a true hardline communist and believed that Russia had to stay strongly communist. However, the USSR was invaded thrice in no more than a century and also suffered civil war and intervention from anti-communist forces from 1918 to 1920, when communism as an ideology was at infancy.
These anti-communist forces comprised of the West when they helped the Whites during the Bolshevik Revolution. From this, Stalin believed that the West wanted to destroy communism before communism became stronger. His mistrust grew as he became paranoid and thought of the West as a potential security threat this was because?? This prompted his embarking on salami tactics ( an expansionist policy) so that Communism would remain strong in Eastern Europe.
Gradually the Russians began to systematically interfere in the countries in Eastern Europe to set up pro-communist governments, in countries like Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Albania and Romania. Stalin felt that his actions were justified for the defense of communism, and that salami tactics were absolutely necessary. He did not realize that his actions had frightened the West. What he failed to consider was that the west was not interested in destroying communism but was looking more towards post war cooperation. The west showed this through the decisions made at the post-war conferences when Russia was allowed to take reparations from Germany and it was allowed to benefit from the loans from the west, known as the Lend Lease. His paranoia in embarking on the expansionist policy ( comprising Salami tactics) when juxtaposed with Truman’s hardline views, only served to heighten suspicion and tensions, leading to the Cold war.
Similarly, Truman became suspicious of the USSR’s intent towards eastern Europe. He was a hardline president who stood firmly against Communism, and was intolerant of the needs of the USSR . Truman saw Stalin’s actions as a breach of the Declaration of Eastern Europe where Stalin had promised to allow countries like Poland free elections but failed to do so, instead carrying out the reverse and forcing communist governments in these countries through rigged electionsTruman, with his hardline view that communism was bad, viewed Stalin’s moves as being remarkably similar to Hitler’s salami tactics, and that the USSR was embarking on aggression. In addition he felt that if he did not stop Stalin, Stalin would think that Eastern Europe was his for the taking, and capitalism would perish. This in turn led to the formation of the Truman Doctrine and Marshall plan which would serve to increase tensions (elaborated below)Secondly, the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan.
The West formulated the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall plan to contain communism in Greece and Turkey. Communists were trying to overthrow the monarchy but british troops who restored the monarchy in the past were feeling the strain of supporting it against the communists. The british prime minister appealed to the USA and Truman announced that it would ” support free peoples who are resisting subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressure’ and Greece received massive amounts of aid and the communists were defeated. The funds of the Truman doctrine were obtained through Congress where Truman portrayed the situation in Greece and Turkey as part of the global communist threat. Truman’s low level of experience prevented him from realizing that Stalin would see the Truman doctrine as an attempt to subvert them. In other words, he did not deal with stalin before, and did not see that his portrayal was excessively confrontational and would serve to heighten Stalin’s paranoia and escalate his mistrust towards the West.
Similarly, the Marshall plan was formulated to facilitate economic recovery in Eastern Europe. By September, 16 nations had drawn up a joint plan for using American aid and in total over 13000 million dollars of Marshall Aid was given to western European countries. However, the west did not consider the impact that the Marshall plan would have on how the USSR viewed them. Truman’s low level of experience with dealing with the Stalin prevented him from seeing that the Stalin was sensitive about USSR’s economic status (Stalin refused to ratify the the Bretton Woods agreement so that the West would not realize how economically weak the USSR was in 1945. The Bretton woods agreement was a system to acquire international currency stabilization which required foreign access to sensitive economic data. Stalin viewed the policy as ‘dollar imperialism” and as a blatant American device for gaining control of western Europe, and made all Russian states reject the offer.
The Truman doctrine and the Marshall plan would eventually prompt Stalin( along with his paranoia) to come up with the Cominform and the Comecon which served to unify all Eastern European satellite states. Truman’s low level of experience in coming up with the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall plan, when juxtaposed with Stalin’s paranoia, fueled further consolidation of power by Stalin, which escalated tensions on both the USA and the USSR and caused the Cold war.
Richard Crockett, the fifty years war: The United States and the Soviet Union in World Politics, 1945-1991Gaddis, John Lewis. We now know: Rethinking Cold war History. US: Oxford University Press.