The Causes of the Cold War and the American Point of View

Facharbeit (Schule), 2001

13 Seiten, Note: 1

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I. Introduction

II. The Cold War
1. What was/is the cold war?
2. The Causes of the Cold War
A. America and Soviets had different beliefs and goals.
B. Yalta Conference
C. Creating fear with demonstrating superiority of the American military with the Atom bomb.
D. Creation of the Iron Curtain in order to gain British power in Western Europe
3. From the American point of view
A. The goals of the American’s were:
a. to defeat Western Europe
b. to contain Soviet or communist expansion
c. to prevent nuclear war
B. The Cold war at home
a. the people feared communism
b. Anti-Soviet propaganda was published
c. Hollywood makes propaganda
C. The arms and space race between the Americans and Soviets
4. Economic and social changes in America
5. The Cold War Cost
A. Who won the Cold War?
B. Who lost the Cold War?
C. How much they spent.

III. The Conclusion

The Cold War

With the fall of the Berlin Wall, “the paramount symbol of the Cold War and the division of Europe,” a new era began. The German unification in 1990 accelerated the Soviet’s political and military withdrawal from Europe and finally its collapse. Yet, ten years ago nobody could imagine a world without daily news reports about the “global competition between two ideologies: the Free World, led by the United States, and the Communist World, led by the Soviet Union”. The era of the Cold War did not end in just one night; it is a process that is not yet finished. It also affected each nation differently; the United States mostly western Europe profited from it, whereas Eastern Europe and Asia still have adjustment problems. These changes affected the United States of America in three ways: political, economical, and social.

What was/is the Cold War?

“The term “Cold War” is just the fancy name for what a free society would have called World War III. Just think about it! All the hot little wars from Angola to Zairewith stops along the way in Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea, Nicaragua and a few dozen other countries where the battles of the late 20th century have been fought between soldiers backed by the Capitalist and Socialist teams. Do the math and add up the casualties for these “little” wars fought in scattered theaters and you can start to see the size of this war, where the primary antagonists dared not fight each other directly on each other’s homeland. (Scratching that itch Cold War, n. p.)

After World War II, the victors divided the spoils of what was left of the axis, and somewhere along the way decided to only indirectly militarily engage each-other on the soils of third-party-countries; all the while aiming nuclear fire power at each other’s throats to leave little more than cinder and giant cockroaches of anyone. Imagine what would happen if someone was crazy enough to push the button.

Who started the cold war anyway? To some degree, how one answers this question is first determined by how one views World War II, or for that matter, how one views the causes of the end of the Great Depression in America. To no small degree, America’s involvement in WWII helped it avoid dealing with the problems of the Great Depression, the degree to which it kept to this wartime path after the war in the cold war period can be shown to go hand in hand with this economic strategy. As to who started the Cold War, I guess you could see it as both the Soviets and Americans starting it up as soon as the European hot war cooled down. You could look at Lenin’s statements about the need to obliterate Capitalism off the face of the earth before socialism could take hold… or you could look at the long and rich history of America’s anti-labor policies. “It doesn’t really matter where you look, both sides were ready for this one… and one might assume that the basic labor issues beneath this Cold War fight are far from solved.” (Scratching that itch Cold War, n. p.)

The Causes of the Cold War:

To understand why the Cold War era was such a dangerous time for both sides, you have to look back to its causes. During the war, the Soviet Union and the nations of the West had cooperated to defeat Nazi Germany. By 1945, however, the wartime alliance was crumbling. The beliefs of communism in the East and the beliefs of capitalism in the west created different goals for the two superpowers in the postwar period. “Indirect military conflict, and direct competition in the arenas of military and nuclear supremacy, economics, diplomacy, culture, sports, space exploration, and political theory reflected the struggle”. Historians today see the Yalta Conference as the starting point of the Cold War. The Main purpose of Yalta was the re-establishment of the nations conquered and destroyed by Germany. “It represented the high-water mark of Allied wartime collaboration”(Cold War-An illustrated History, 13). When the “Big Three” met at the former palace of Czar Nicholas on the Crimea, Stalin’s army had reached the Oder River and was ready to attack Berlin. The allied forces under General Eisenhower were still west of the Rhine River. However, during the conference, February 4 - 11 1945, the Russian Army was ordered to hold its position for one week. “To avoid chaos and oversee recovery, in the treaty signed on February 11th, 1945, the leaders temporarily divided Germany into four occupation zones, with Soviet troops in the east, British in the northwest, Americans in the southwest, and French in a small zone in the west.”(The Reunification of Germany, 11). But furthermore, Stalin agreed to join “unquestionably” the war against Japan.

After returning home, Roosevelt was harshly criticized by the public in 1945, when the terms of this agreement became public information. He was being accused of a sell-out at Yalta, of giving away Eastern Europe to Stalin. Roosevelt, however, thought open issues would be handled further by the United Nations. He also needed Stalin’s support in the war against Japan. Surprisingly, Stalin did not keep his promises; “Roosevelt watched with growing alarm as the Soviet Union moved systematically to establish pro-Communist governments in one Eastern European nation after another and as Stalin refused to make the changes in Poland that the president believed he had promised. But Roosevelt did not abandon hope. Still believing the differences could be settled, he left Washington early in the spring for a vacation at his retreat in Warm Springs, Georgia. There he suffered a sudden, massive stroke and died. “The United States was still engaged in a war in the Pacific and was neither able nor willing to engage in a new conflict in Europe”. (American History-a survey, 970). In the summer of 1945 the News of the atom bomb transformed the American position. The US military had been planning for an invasion of Japan, to take place some time between November 1945 and March 1946. Now that the Americans had the atom bomb they hoped the war would end before the Soviets became too embroiled in it, or involved in the occupation of Japan. Stalin, who knew about the bomb through spies, ordered Molotov to speed up the Soviet bomb project. (Cold War-An illustrated history, 20). The political demonstration of the superiority of the American military created fear in Russian government. The response was Soviet militarization and a push towards nuclear technology. The final player of the Cold War and its two distinct blocks was Winston Churchill’s Britain. Churchill favored the creation of the “iron curtain” in order to gain British power in Western Europe. His support of the American-Russian division increased the separation of Europe and the intensity of the Cold War. The interior and exterior battleground was made, and for the next 46 years, the United States and Russia would fight a war of nerves without any casualties. (CNN Cold War Homepage, n. p.)

From the American point of view

The goals of the American’s:

Before entering these battlegrounds America’s goals were “defend Western Europe, contain Soviet or communist expansion, prevent/deter nuclear war.” (Fact sheet n.p.). When John F. Kennedy became President in 1961, he said: “Let every nation know that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” In the postwar era, the US sought to contain communism, extend civil rights, and ensure economic prosperity. (World History, 858).

After it was obvious that both nations weren’t able to work together anymore and that the Soviet Union was out to get the secret of nuclear technology, America feared anything which had to do with Communism. This era, “the Cold War at home” was later known as McCarthyism. Actually, it was the second time in American history, when people were accused of being Communists and taken to trial, or those newspapers were censored. These “Communist witch hunts” led to unsubstantiated attacks on innocent people across the nation and in many different industries. During this time a lot of AntiSoviet propaganda was published. This propaganda was made to make Americans aware of Communist infiltration. Hollywood followed this line, producing many films portraying bad Russians. (CNN Cold War Homepage, n. p.)

The arms and space race between the Americans and Soviets:

Besides the Hunt of Communists, there was another event going on, the most visible part of the Cold War, - the arms race, and simultaneously, the space race. The race was based on the following “three ideas. One: both nations have enough weapons to destroy the other; two: both nations can detect a first strike before it arrives, and three: both nations are able to respond adequately before they are hit by the first strike. Both nations waged an increasingly intense struggle for world leadership. Whenever one side appeared to be gaining the upper hand in the Cold War, the other would respond with new programs and policies. “For four decades, the superpowers spent fantastic sums to develop new weapons. They invested bombers, missiles, and submarines to launch these terrifying weapons of mass destruction. Soon, the global balance of power became, in Churchill’s phrase, a balance of power” (World History, 813). The spread of ominous new weapons would more than once raise the specter of global destruction. Both nations tried to decrease their responding time, in case of a nuclear strike, by first placing missiles “as close as possible”, whereas the United States attempted to install launching facilities in Turkey, the Soviet Union tried to do so on the island of Cuba. Realizing that permanent facilities would be too dangerous, “the second best solution came with the invention of the SLBM, or submarine launched ballistic missile.” Submarines are easily able to come close to the hostile shore, without being detected. Yet, “SLBMs were a very dangerous weapon because they created the possibility of nuclear victory.” The third way to shorten the responding times was the way of detection.” Spy planes were the first to perform this very dangerous task of detecting “missile sites within” Soviet borders. After a U - 2 plane was shot down over Soviet territory, causing an international scandal, another solution had to be found: Space. “The space race was a messy time for America. The objective of the entire era was to find the next frontier and conquer it before the other country. What started out as a project of scientists turned quickly into a battle between politicians”. When Sputnik, the first satellite, was orbiting the earth in 1957, the Soviet Union showed her lead and the possibility of spying undetected from space (Cold War Homepage, n. p.). Soon spy planes were no longer needed as photographic equipment, because satellites were able to read license plates on cars. Yet, the space race continued with Yuri Gargarin being the first human in the orbit by 1961. Treated like a national hero in the Soviet Union, his success “slapped the pride of America Square in the face.” JFK reacted by announcing that the United States would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. With the successful landing of Apollo 11 on the moon, the United States “took the lead”. Shortly after this great accomplishment, the push for exploration died. (Cold War - An illustrated History, 289)

Economic and social changes in America:

With the fall of the Berlin Wall, about ten years ago, America entered the longest consecutive era of economic growth and prosperity. One of the reasons for this development is the opportunity for American investors overseas to state businesses in former Eastern European nations, and, ironically, in Russia as well. A huge new market, lacking high-quality consumer products, over decades, is waiting to be served. The other reason for America’s increasing economy is the technical revolution. The economic power the United States has should be used wisely, because any significant disturbance could cause a serious crisis, as America experienced in 1929.

Another important impact on the U.S. society was social change, which came along with the fall of the Berlin Wall. The biggest advance was in communication, as people were now able to talk to relatives or friends whom they were not permitted to talk or write to for decades. Freeing Eastern Europe from Communism brought major changes in the human rights issue. The social impact on the average American citizen was not overwhelming; however, the prosperity caused by it changed the lifestyle and attitude of Americans.

The Cold War Cost:

Who won the Cold War?

The Cold War decades were a boom time for the American defense industry. The billions spent each year to develop and produce modern weapons not only helped protect the nation, but also boosted its economy. The Cold War was a welfare program for the capitalist’s military industrial complex. But the Cold War was also important in terms of technology. The competitive nature of the Cold War fueled creativity among scientists and inventors, from the hang glider, to the microwave oven. But where would we be today in terms of technology without the push from the Cold War? (CNN-Cold war homepage, n.p.)

Who lost the Cold War?

Take a look at the US’s National Debt and you can see we all lost. Take a look at what happened to the standard of living of the average Russian in the last 25 years and you can see they lost too-and of course now that the Capitalism has come to the former CCCP, their standard living has increased. Right? Wrong. (Scratch That Itch Cold War, n.p.)

The Cold war was an insane spending race where the first world and the second world held guns to each others heads and fought each other on the battle field of the third world. Albert Einstein once said: “The men who possess real power in this country have no intention of ending the cold war.” Thirty-five years later, they are still at it, making money while the nation itself declines to eleventh place in the world, per capita income, to forty-sixth, and so on, until in 1985 we found ourselves close to two trillion dollars in debt”. (Scratching that itch Cold War, n. p.)

How much they spent:

Once Social Security is factored out of the budget, defense and defense-related expenditures account for close to 90 percent of the money wasted. The United States and the Soviet Union equipped themselves with thousands more nuclear missiles than were needed for self-defense, or to deter the other. These weapons cost the superpowers trillions of dollars; much of this money could have been diverted to other social need. One estimate shows that some $8 trillion ($8,000,000,000,000) was spent, worldwide, on nuclear and other weapons between 1945 and 1996. 50% of the Soviet national product was spent on defense, arms and the armed forces, depriving the Soviet people of a better life. Also, continuing cost will be that for cleaning up weapons-related nuclear pollution. Estimates of what this will cost in the United States range from $100 billion to $400 billion. In Russia and the old U.S.S.R., the problem is intractable; they simply will not be able to deal with it. Above and beyond the dollar cost is the cost in human lives. (The Cold war Cost, n.p.)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

While the Cold War dominated the world for almost half a century, an entire generation in both blocs grew up hating the other side. Today we take for granted what astonished us then: We assume, far more easily than we should, that the process that began with the opening of the Berlin Wall and ended with the Soviet Union’s essentially peaceful breakup could only have happened in the way that it did. (East-West tension defined the Cold War, But its Legacy is the Victory of Hope over Fear, n. p.)

Work Cited Page

Cold War Fact sheet, The Cold War Homepage, 1998


Cayton, Andrew; Elisabeth Israels Perry; Linda Reed and Allan M. Winkler.

America-Pathway to the Present. New Jersey, Prentice Hall Inc., 2000

Gaddis, John Lewis. East-West tension defined the Cold War, But its Legacy is the Victory of Hope over Fear. U.S. News, 1999

Gaynor Ellis, Elisabeth and Anthony Esler. Word History-Connections to Today. New Jersey, Prentice Hall Inc., 1999

Isaacs, Jeremy and Taylor Downing. Cold War-An Illustrated History. Little, Brown & Company, 1998.

Pounds, Norman J. G. Divided Germany and Berlin. Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Company, 1962.

Stokes, Gale. The Walls Came Tumbling Down. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Woelfel, Scott. CNN Cold War - Epilogue: What the Cold War cost., September 1998, <> Yancey, Diane. The Reunification of Germany. San Diego: Lucent Books, Inc., 1994 Johnson, Rod. Scratching that itch Cold War. Cambridge.

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Chart. U.S. Defense Spending, 1940-1960. America-

Pathway to the Present. New Jersey, Prentice Hall Inc., 2000.

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The Causes of the Cold War and the American Point of View
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Verena Fleissig (Autor), 2001, The Causes of the Cold War and the American Point of View, München, GRIN Verlag,


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