Russia and United States were Allies against the Axis Powers in World War II. It was an unusual relationship due to both countries political beliefs and ideologies. America, which is based on democratic
ideals and Russia ruled by an iron fist was enforced by state controlled oppression. It was for the war that and for the elimination of Hitler’s Nazism that the two came together.
The Cold War was a result of American’s inability to limit the Soviet Union’s growth in Europe. Franklin Roosevelt’s negotiations with Stalin at Yalta marked the beginning of the dictator’s reign into Eastern Europe. Roosevelt insisted on democratic reforms in Eastern Europe, but he was too soft on Stalin because he needed his help in ending the war. Stalin saw this weakness as a go ahead to take over Poland, Finland , Romania, parts of Yugoslavia, as well as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. America’s diplomatic concessions with The Soviet Union was a necessary evil due to the cost of many lives in the war. This relationship even in it’s best form was the ground for future tension as Russia and America clung to their ideologies. Ending the war with nuclear capabilities created a further gap between the U.S. and the Soviets. Out of the destruction of the war, both nations would grow to fear one another. This fear would last for more than 40 years and end in 1990 with the collapse of Communism.
Russia’s philosophical beliefs were far different than America. America was founded on the romantic conception of democratic republicanism and checks of balances. Russia had a history of Czarism and it’s rule remained at the top. After 1917, with the rise of Lenin’s Communist party, government would remain in the heads of still a few powerful leaders at the top. Stalin would control the Soviet Union during World War II . Before the war, Stalin was noted as a brutal man who felt he was inferior and therefore killed off his political enemies as he did in the Great Purge. His leadership consisted of fear and intimidation for which many suffered. No one was able to rise above Stalin and even more so rise against him. Everything was in the hands of the state and very little individualism existed. To the common man, Russia’s governing powers seemed aloof and distant. It was clear that the government was not for the people.
Stalinist communism censored religious thought and was atheistic. Communism censored the arts and instilled in education. Everything was replaced by propaganda for the party and for the whole of the state. Thoughts were controlled and no one dared against the system. Those who thought differently were quickly punished. Everything was given to Joseph Stalin, any trust and hope was given to him and he alone ruled the vast majority of Russia (Lee 81-85).
American’s viewed Communism negatively due to the fact that so many American’s were religious and didn’t take well to atheism and it is also very critical that many Americans were so distrustful of complete government control. This type of thinking created an US-VS-THEM mentality and that need to rid the world of THEM. This thinking brought Americans face to face with Korea and Vietnam and even China.
One of Stalin’s goals was to change the economy and modernize it. He pushed Russia forward from an agrarian society to the mode of heavy industry. A move that would benefit Russia immensely in World War II because war out put would exceed that of Germany after 1941. In the 1930’s Russia collectivized the agricultural system. This created such a disturbance because output was much less and many people starved. The thought was that this would feed the great urban population and industrial base (Lee 61).
The Five Year Plan was supposed to move the Soviet Union into age of heavy industry. They focused less on consumer needs to produce steel, coal and such things like armaments. This produced such a large amount of massive factories and cities in which they produced their goods. Many peasents found jobs in the cities where urban areas swelled. Despite growth in heavy industry, such output prepared the Soviets for the Barbarossa invasion in 1941. Many of the factories moved from cities of siege to the Ural Mountains during the invasion. This showed some strength of efficiency, however, most of the materials needed for the war came from the American Lend-Lease Program. It was an indicator that American efficiency in production far outweighed the Russian economy.
As the war progressed and conferences were held to determine the strategy of the new order of Europe, the psychological impact of who would win want became increasingly apparent. The testing of nuclear missiles was held in secret by the Americans because of their distrust of the Soviets (Grenville 317-318). This was a shift in the American attitude prior to the post wart period. Even when the U.S. bombed Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Truman pointed out to Stalin at Potsdam the implications of what this type of warfare could do. Truman worried that the Soviets would gain their own plans on nuclear warfare. What one has to keep in mind is the fact that at the end of the war, Russia suffered severe lost. 20-24 million people lost their lives, 25 million people were homeless and many homes and factories were destroyed. After 1945, Russia did not gain any more economic support from the U.S. and Stalin did not anticipate it (Grenville 337).
Russian’s diplomatic ties with the West was tied into Stalin’s need to expand his empire. He demanded a western front in west Europe, and in France to relieve military pressure on Europe (Kennan 357). Even though, Churchill delayed this front, FDR assured the public that the front would be in the West. Much of this was appeasement to pacify Stalin so he would not abandon the war. The adoption of a somewhat sympathetic manner was adopted to the Soviet policy of post war growth. Reluctantly, America gave in to so much of Stalin’s demands out of war time emotion and fear of Nazi Aggression (Kennan 359-361).
On a deeply personal level, Stalin did not want to lose in this war. Even though he did not want to be in it and up until Hitler invaded his country, he felt it couldn’t happen to him. As soon as he received word of the invasion, He didn’t believe it. After the neutrality pact of 1939, it may have been impossible in his mind. Stalin’s invasion of Finland may have put out mixed signals to Hitler that Russia was feeling very confident and that it needed to be checked. Molotov’s rejection of joining the Axis confirmed this. In a short time, Stalin was calling fellow Soviets to his side for the Great War and in a speech to his countryman on November 7, 1941, canonized past Russian heroes and told Russians to stand up to Hitler. During all this socialist propaganda did not erode but much of Stalin’s attention was diverted to the war and bringing his country together. Church doors were open again for Stalin, who studied for the priesthood, that his own party message would not be enough to bring people together (Tumarkin 63-64).
This turned out to be a very emotional and draining point for the Soviet citizens for they gave so much for their home. Many women and children went beyond the front lines to defend their homes and built blockades for their defense. The Siege of Leningrad is an example of such horror. Thousands of people starved and or froze to death. People ate cats and dogs and sometimes each other in rare cases. Food was severely rationed and one needed a card to gain it. This Siege lasted for about 600 days. During this time period, Stalin toughened the Red Army to fight back. His philosophy: “Not A Step Back” pushed soldiers to their limits for to run away not only made you a coward but brought you death for desertion. This war took quite a toll on Soviet citizens and it is a war that they will never forget (Tumarkin 71-73).
Reparations had to be made for this mass destruction. Despite, Russian offensives in to the west and the destruction of Berlin, Naturally Soviets would want a piece of Germany even for their own sake of vengeance. It almost seemed acceptable to make big requests after all that happened to them. This was a good chance to gain sympathy so you could get some just rewards. In discussions of post war reparations, Soviet-Western relations balanced out the need to end the war after the Nazi’s were crushed and to build a Europe free from oppression. To this extent is not quite clear how much the U.S. knew of Stalin’s brutality and the suffering of the Soviets and of the peopled conquered by the Soviets. With Roosevelt’s mention of democratic elements in Eastern Europe, Stalin would only let so much freedom continue. In as much as Russia was wronged in the war, Stalin would use the war to get what he wanted and that was control over as much land as possible so that his empire would grow.
The Cold War in a sense would have been impossible to avoid by 1943-1945. It’s roots based on totalitarianism and the separation of ideas and beliefs caused it become a reality. The U.S. in it’s isolation joined the war after the Pearl Harbor attacks but beforehand only giving monetary aid to the British and Soviets. Roosevelt moved slowly in joining the war and it was in his reluctance that U.S. built such a great war time economy and that America emerged as the Victor. In viewing the two leaders of Soviet Russia and The U.S., Roosevelt was more idealistic and his mind was different from the destructive nature of Stalin’s philosophies. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms, Freedom of Want, From of Religion, Freedom of Speech and Freedom Of Fear more or less became large part of the American Psyche. The phrase “ The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” is used over and over again in speeches and is well loved. Roosevelt was loved by his people and he had sympathy for the people who were disconnected and poor .The difference between him and Stalin was that Roosevelt seemed sincere and that Stalin earned his respect through fear. Up until his death, Stalin’s Cult of Personality gave people such mixed reaction and fear. Years later his image was seen as only ruthless. It would this one factor that made many fear Communism and it’s growth. This growth grew out of the tyranny and confusion of Germany and Japan as they invaded the Europe and the Pacific. Possibly the only reason why Russia was never feared during the war was because that country suffered as it did at the hands of Hitler. At that time it was doubtful that outsiders knew how vicious Stalin was. Dealing with Russia’s internal problems was the least of the issues that had to be dealt with at Potsdam and Yalta.
In Yalta, Roosevelt was accused of signing Eastern and Central Europe into Russia’s hands. Both he and Churchill did not meet the requests of Poland’s exile government for international control. No other countries were invited to Yalta to represent themselves nor they notified of what was said. Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia were declared open for democratic reform but yet these countries remained heavily influenced by Communist powers. Other political parties were murdered or persecuted. Soviets agreed to help the U.S. and in return for Sakhalin and Kurline Islands. Many European nations felt betrayed because they felt that the free and democratic countries did not do what they promised to do. Signed treaties did nothing for these states as they became puppets of the Soviet regime.
Going back to 1943, in the Tehran conference, Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill met for the first time and it was agreed to launch Overlord in June of 1944. Stalin was looking for this support. Russia was asked to participate in the war against Japan. The allies would support the partisans in Yugoslavia. The Three Powers would keep in touch with each other to discuss post war and war issues. Nothing is said about Stalin’s reputation during these meetings and it appears that only thing that appears credible is the fact that Russia is a superpower thanks to strength of the Red Army.
At Potsdam, where Germany was divided into four zones and Japan given the ultimatem to surrender that new elected President Truman and Churchill suspect Stalin has ulterior motives. The Atomic bomb is introduced and agreed upon to end the war and Stalin who already has spies discovering this, gives Truman the pat on the back to use it. It is ironic how these men shared so many ideas at these conferences and worked together to end the war became the same ones who started so much fear and distrust. Despite their ideological differences and their aims, they ended two camps of terrorism and in the end, Soviet Russia was just as vicious and tyrannical as the Japanese and the Nazi’s. The U.S. would hunt down and suspect anyone who didn’t support the American way as a trader or a Communist.
It is easy to look at the events and ideas that shaped the Cold War and rely on any fact that represents the truth. There are too many issues to think about and dissect. As stated earlier, the differences in the way the U.S. and Russia approached terrorism and what their aims were after the war explain a lot about how the Cold War ensued. Diplomacy is so complex and important for a state. It is important that a foreign diplomat not be outguessed by the other party. As it was for Stalin and his ambitions, the war opened a door for him. His earlier diplomatic ties with Germany gave him the eastern sector of Poland and when Hitler turned the tables on him, it gave him an excuse to move west and take over parts of Europe. Both Russia and America would meet to gain control over Europe but Stalin would figure out the weaknesses of the U.S. and of Britain and use to his advantage. The framework of foreign diplomacy is such that diplomats try to appease each other for a common cause. It is evident here that the Soviet Union was needed and that the U.S. would support it for those means.
The Iron Curtain was created in 1946. In a speech made by Winston Churchill in Missouri, with Truman by his side, Churchill announced that the Iron Curtain divided the continent and that only strong Anglo-American allies can tear it down. God has willed the Americans the Atomic Bomb. This statement divided the U.S. and the Soviets indefinitely. George Kennan, expert in Russian affairs stated that the Soviets ready to attack and destroy the U.S. was largely a creation of the Western imagination. The Soviet Union became an enemy of the American people and it would be the Truman Doctrine that would aid Greece and Turkey and those who are fighting against dictatorships that subjugate them. This is indicative of the Mythical realities of war where there is a Us versus Them mentality and that the enemy lies and that WE tell the truth. They act on a will of power and we on self defense since we are moral and righteous. The enemies will must be broken and WE must use force. The same theory used on the Nazi’s and Japanese now focused on the Russians bent to teach them a lesson.