In your view, what were some key causes of the Cold War? Remember to back your opinions with facts from the reading.
World War II left the world weak, confused, wrecked and simply devastated. There were millions of refugees who walked hundreds or thousands of miles to return to their homes only to find a wasteland. There was a shortage of food in which “100 mill in Europe still lived on fewer than 1,500 calories a day”. Governments rationed food without which many of their citizens would have starved. The supply of coal had vastly decreased, and what was available could not be transported. Many countries, such as France and Great Britain who had built empires after World War I, had now become divided. The citizens themselves had now become divided, since many saw their neighbor side with the Nazi’s or not, which seemed like a betrayal, and thus created trust issues. “Nations had to do much more than deliver food and rebuild economic infrastructures; they had to restore- or create- government authority, functioning bureaucracies, and legitimate legal systems. They also had to rebuild bonds of trust and civility among citizens, steering a course between demands for justice on the one hand, and the overwhelming desire to bury memories of the past on the other”.
Two countries emerged from World War II as the leaders and/or superpowers the United States and the Soviet Union. Both these superpowers had very different ideologies, therefore rivalries, hence why this time between them is referred to as the Cold War. The United States believed in capitalism, while Soviet Union believed in communism. World War II divided Europe, in this the Soviet Union occupied Eastern Europe, and the United States occupied Western Europe. The United States and Soviet Union became the go to for assistance for all the new formed territories seeking independence.
As World War II was coming to an end the major powers at the time, Great Britain, United States and the Soviet Union were deciding how to manage the new territories having been created. The negotiations at Tehran and Yalta Conference occurred as an early post-war meeting among the allied leaders which included Franklin D Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin. The purpose was to discuss how to reorganize Europe after the war. Stalin wanted to maintain political, economic and military control of the territories they helped liberate, when the allied countries did not agree, the Soviets became “suspicious, defensive and aggressive.” A second meeting called the Potsdam Conference occurred between these Allied leaders, which included Harry S. Truman (FDR had passed away), Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin to discuss how to lead the world post-war. It was at this meeting that Stalin was made aware of the American atomic weapons program (Manhattan Project) and that the Americans had indeed developed the world’s first atomic bomb. This was the pinnacle of the divide between the United States and the Soviet Union. Stalin was a paranoid authoritarian and did not trust anyone and deemed everyone “home or abroad as a potential threat or enemy of the state”. The Soviet Union, not to be out done, especially under the leadership of Stalin, also developed nuclear weapons, referred to as the nuclear arms race. Both countries had so much mistrust in each other, that oddly it was these weapons that prevented them from destroying each other simply due to fear of a nuclear war.
In conclusion, the key causes of the Cold War was multifold. I have highlighted above, everything from the wasteland that was peoples homes pre-war, to lack of food supply, poverty, economic instability, mistrust in thy neighbor by citizens, the newly created territories which wanted independence and turned for assistance to two countries with very different ideologies, and both wanted to maintain the role of superpower. In reflection it was the two conferences which obviously did not go well since it sowed mistrust and greater tension from promises not kept (western allies reneged on promise to allow Soviet Union to keep those territories it helped liberate), and by telling your opposing country you have a nuclear bomb.
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