Cold War- What why and Who’s responsible?October 26, 2018
“ Nobody intends to erect a wall”, Walter Ulbricht was heard saying on June 15, 1961. Two months after this quote, the Berlin wall was a physical reality, erected from ground zero, brick by brick, making the virtual dissection of Germany a physical reality.
Was it then, the cold war’s origin? Or was it the time US planted two missiles in Turkey and USSR responded by plating two missiles in America’s backyard i.e. Cuba. The world, as it watched with heart racing and clouded in fear, was on brink of the 3rd World war. Was it the time when the cold war started? Do we completely understand what a cold war is? How did it end? Or did it?
Historians have called it the cold war, as there was no armed confrontation, unlike the two great wars. It began after the second war ended in 1945. The cold war was an era of cutthroat competition in Economy, Science and Tech and Politics, among the two superpowers, namely the USA and USSR. After the surrender of Japan, in 1945, the world was supposed to be at peace, rebuilding itself brick by brick. It did build itself along with a wall in the heart of Germany. Germany got divided, so was the world, in communist bloc and capitalist bloc.
The three factors, which strengthened the cold war every day were, the local factors, fear of domino effect and mutual suspicion. As world war was coming close to an end, the suspicion kept on growing between USSR and USA. Henry Truman succeeded Roosevelt and he was more suspicious of Stalin and his policies. Therefore he didn’t take Stalin into account while he ordered the nuking of Japan. On the other hand, Churchill was made aware of this plan. Truman also refused to share territories acquired from Japan with USSR. On another hand, Stalin made a statement, where he said that peaceful coexistence with west without a victory over capitalism is impossible. Though the great war ended, the war between USSR and USA was fueling up. The suspicion reached its greatest height when U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy accusing USSR of every single thing, giving rise to McCarthyism.
The fear of Domino effect or the chain reaction effect added further fire to the heightened tension between capitalists and communists. The capitalists feared that once a country falls for communism, another country will fall too, thus leading to a chain reaction, where the entire world would be under communism. This fear threatened the very existence of capitalists in the US and led them to participate in a number of wars, Vietnam being the most famous one. It was out of this fear that the US kept its eyes closed toward gross human right violations dictators such as PolPot in Cambodia.
Lastly, local factors, the clash of interest of classes were also responsible for this conflict radiating outwards. The workers supported communism but the owners intended on benefiting themselves by keeping their properties and industries with them. They feared that communism will lead to the loss of political and economic powers. This led to clashes, civil wars and thus US and USSR were able to intervene so frequently, either in the name of supporting the revolution or saving democracy.
Once set in motion, the rage was unstoppable. The differences between US and USSR set in motion a never-ending race for military strength and ally formation. The race slowed down with the disintegration of USSR, but is still going on.
A student of history often asks himself who was responsible? The traditional view, led by western writers has been to blame Stalin for spreading communism and destroying capitalism. They justify intervention in the Korean war and the formation of NATO as an act of saving democracies. However, a revisionist view sees US support for brutal dictators as an offensive step and policies of Truman as an invitation for Russian hostility. A neutral view sees US policies as exploitative of circumstances and Stalin as an opportunist, without an aim for communism. I suppose both the superpowers were equally responsible.