Cold War Study Notes Essay Sample

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“Assess the significance of the Truman Doctrine for the origins and development of the cold war”

The Truman Doctrine was significant to the origins and the development of the cold war between 1945 and 1991 as it had many effects on the Ideologies of Communism and Capitalism, the Sphere of Influence and Universalism. Other significant events that helped shape the Cold War were the three big war conferences, which were the Yalta, Tehran and the Potsdam all of which were attended by the big three leaders of the major powers. The Truman doctrine was the first step the United States (US) took to end its long-standing policy of isolationism through embracing global leadership, sparking tension and mistrust between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the US. The US was keen to stop the spread of communism through isolating and containing the spread of communism throughout Western Europe. This concept to stem the spread of communism soon became known as the Domino theory. This Domino Theory concept was one of the major threats to the US and their allied trade partners.

Towards the end of World War 2, the soviet army was in parts of Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland. At the Yalta conference in February of 1945, the three major superpowers, England, USSR and the US, met to discuss post war Nazi Germany. Joseph Stalin representing Soviet Union, President Franklin Roosevelt representing the United States and Prime Minister Winston Churchill representing Great Britain. During the conference Stalin had promised “free and unfettered ” elections in the Soviet occupied Eastern European Countries. The US and Great Britain agreed to this with Roosevelt being more cautious with Stalin’s intentions. Stalin feared, with good reason, free elections in Poland would bring to power Polish leaders who were critical of him and the Soviet Union, as Stalin had been involved in the murder of Polish Nationals, including the Katyn massacre.

So Stalin didn’t do as he promised and never held public elections but instead had his People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs, the secret police and solders eliminate any opposition to the Stalinist regime. When Czechoslovakia, arguably the most pro-Western of all the East European countries in post war Europe as it had formed very close ties with the US, fell behind the Iron Curtain (or fell to communism), Truman realized that Stalin had still been in too much control. Truman believed that the Soviets were growing out the control in terms of putting pressure not only in Czechoslovakia but also Poland. This is when the Truman doctrine began to form, as communism was perceived as a real threat to the US view of democracy.

The Truman doctrine was introduced as a policy by President Truman to contain communism, he believed that if communism were able to gain a foothold in southern Europe then they would quickly take over most of Europe. The main economic arm of this policy became known as the Marshal plan formed by Secretary of State George Marshal, it was an offer from the Unites States that they would provide aid to any country which was not communist in Europe trying to rebuild after World War 2. The Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan was first used to aid Turkey and Greece after Britain was no longer able to support them. President Harry Truman stated in his speech to Congress in March 1947 “I believe we must assist free peoples to work out their destinies in their own way.”

He also believed that he had to “scare the hell” out of Congress to get his message across, when Secretary Marshal added his extension to the doctrine stating that the US would provide economic aid to all nations of devastated Europe was not directed “against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the existence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist.”. The United State congress authorized a $13 Billion Dollar investment, which resulted in an extremely rapid growth of democratic Europe. Belgian economic historian Herman Van der Wee concludes the Marshall Plan was a “great success”: “It gave a new impetus to reconstruction in Western Europe and made a decisive contribution to the renewal of the transport system, the modernization of industrial and agricultural equipment, the resumption of normal production, the raising of productivity, and the facilitating of intra-European trade.”

Some view the Marshal plan, as an indirect way in which the US was able to promote their ideas of democracy over the countries it aided. Through supplying other countries with aid the US was able to win them over. Thus, showing the Truman Doctrine having influence over the origins and development of the Cold War. But some historians believe that there was no need to send $13 Billion dollars to Europe and that it was an attempt for the US to gain control over Western Europe just as the Soviets controlled Eastern Europe. In a review of West Germany’s economy from 1945 to 1951, German analyst Werner Abelshauser concluded that “foreign aid was not crucial in starting the recovery or in keeping it going”. All countries were offered help including the USSR, who refused calling it “dollar imperialism”. The only other major political power in Eastern Europe at the time was the Soviet Union. The relationship between the US and USSR at the end of the war was strained due to broken promises. Their idea of communism was vastly spreading throughout Europe and the US saw it as a threat. The Soviets were able to develop an answer to the Marshal Plan, known as, the Cominform founded in 1947.

The soviets organized trade agreements in there own sphere of influence to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. Europe was now divided into two hostile camps led by the United States and the Soviet Union. Stalin believed that he accepted aid from the US he would loose total control over West Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia who were all very keen to accept the aid.

The Truman doctrine had a major impact in the origins and development of the cold war because it escalated tensions between the US and USSR and set the scene for years to come. Truman set about trying to contain communism with his own Doctrine, which was to support European countries financially and militarily in an attempt to prevent communism from taking control.

Bibliography:

http://history.state.gov/milestones/1945-1952/TrumanDoctrine

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/truman_doctrine.htm

http://hsc.csu.edu.au/modern_history/international_studies/cold_war/3253/origins.htm

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1947truman.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_Plan

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cominform

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domino_theory

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yalta_Conference

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tehran_Conference

http://www.fsmitha.com/h2/ch24cld.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katyn_massacre

[ 1 ]. The Cold War, Edited by Klaus Larres and Ann Lane, Published 2001, Blackwell Publishers [ 2 ]. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/trudoc.asp
[ 3 ]. http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/short-history/truman [ 4 ]. Herman Van der Wee, Prosperity and Upheaval: The World Economy, 1945-1980

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