Everest Haxhi: How Did the Cold War Begin?
E merkure, 20.01.2010, 10:49 PM
How Did the Cold War Begin?
By Everest Haxhi
The collapse of communism in Soviet Union and in all eastern European countries that have been effected from communist propaganda followed by installation of totalitarian regimes, was the last part of the Cold War drama. Benjamin Fisher (1999), explains that this four-decade East-West conflict “unfolded in three acts between 1989 and 1991”, was consuming more the Soviet union and its satellites, that could not compete any more with western countries. Their political systems were inefficient to offer a stable economical growth, and paranoia of the communist leaders and their isolationist’s views brought exhaustion to people’s patience. The first act of the drama was played by soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, showing elements of a moderate policy toward West. To insure his credo in establishing better relations, he made some major steps:
“To convince the West, and above all the new administration in Washington, of his sincerity, Gorbachev had made major concessions on arms control, withdrawn Soviet troops from Afghanistan, pledged to reduce Soviet ground forces by half a million, and rejected class warfare in favor of "pan-human values" as the basis of Soviet foreign policy. Initially skeptical because of past disappointments with détente, President George Bush and his foreign policy team gradually convinced themselves that Gorbachev was ready for dialogue and compromise. They set a high price for cooperation, however, and were gratefully surprised to find that the Soviets were willing to pay it.”(Fisher, November 1999. P.3)
The second act began in late 1989 (Fisher, 99) with the revolution of all Eastern-European countries, former Soviet satellites, followed by collapse of communist regimes on these countries. It has been argued that it was a peaceful revolution except Romania, but the researcher first hand experience in Albania demonstrates that the last atrocities performed by falling regimes could have been compared with a wounded beast that was having hard time dying without bloodshed. The third and final act was the fall of the Soviet Empire (1991), and the independence of the USSR (CCCP) Republics that found themselves sovereign countries from the moment that the Soviet flag was replaced by the Russian one, flying over Kremlin in the Christmas Day, 1991. With the Soviet Union ceasing to exist by 31 December, 1991, the Cold War was officially over (Fisher, 1999).
This period of history characterized by tension and a clear bipolar system ended in 1991, but how did the Cold War begin? There are three main issues to be discussed in order to better answer the question; first, the historical events after WWII that necessitated the creation of the bipolar system initiating the Cold War, second, the establishment of theories that supported the change of the US foreign policy in redesigning the US National interests, and third, the hunt for the soviets spies in Western countries.
The objective evaluation of historical events in the last part of World War II is vital in understanding the necessity of changing attitude toward Stalin and the Soviet Union. After the Hitler’s attempt to conquer Russia failed, WWII got another direction for Germany and its leader plans. German forces started to retrieve and coordination of ally forces made harder the advancement and containment of occupy territories. Soviet leader Stalin, ordered the Red Army to quickly seize the territories left by Germans, and spread propaganda that the Red Army and soviets, could have been perceived as liberators. Stalin plans were far behind Roosevelt idealism that dreamed for a Russia-American post-war world that according to Gaddis, “…Roosevelt Grand Design encompassed for more than simple military collaboration with the Soviet Union to defeat Germany — cooperation with Russia would also be vital to ensure the postwar peace” (1998). Stalin behavior during the WWII has gone through controversies, and his foreign policy did not have a main line of action. After Hitler declare war four days after Pearl Harbor, the Soviet Union and the United States became formal allies, but Stalin has gone further in his relations with Hitler. In August 1939, Stalin has signed with Hitler the Non-Aggression pact with a secret agenda between them.
“The Non- Aggression Pact of 1939 was signed in August with a secret agenda between Stalin and Hitler. In the public's eye, it was a shock to see two old enemies shake hands, but the secret agenda consisted of Eastern Europe. Soviet Union would have the Baltic states of Eastern Europe as long as she remained true to the Pact whereas Germany would have Western Europe. Now a war was inevitable with Russia in a neutral corner as it seen from a public's point of view. One month later, the Germans invade Poland and Russia takes her piece: the Baltic States. (Bullock, 1999. pp. 617-619)
This pact compromises what is believed “contribution” of the Red Army in “liberating” countries of East Europe, and had showed the real intentions of Stalin in creating a large area of influence in Balkans, in order to be used after war as a shield against western allies. It has been argued that Roosevelt was not completely aware of Stalin’s future threat in the postwar environment. He saw him as major contributor in the Russian front, allowing western countries to prepare the final offensive against German forces.
Roosevelt at the time also was encouraging the pro Russian propaganda, and in a press conference in 1942, he spoke about big contribution of the Red Army in killing Axis personnel and destroying Axis materials in greater number than all western allies have done so far (Gaddis, 1998). One thing was certain that cultural differences, language, and ideology drastically separated the United States from the Soviet Union. According to Gaddis, President Roosevelt “had no illusions about the nature’s of Stalin regime, which he regarded as no less rigid a dictatorship than Hitler’s” (1998), but he believed that Russian totalitarian regime was less dangerous than the German’s one, because The Soviet Union had not sought world conquest through military means.
In a debate about WWII between Gorge W. Bush and Vladimir Putin, during their presidencies, the Russian leader tried to defend the old thesis of “The Great Patriotic War”, declaring that Russian people not only defended their country, but also they liberated eleven European countries. (Buchanan, 2009) President Bush did not accept that. "As we mark a victory of six decades ago, we are mindful of a paradox," he said:
“For much of Eastern and Central Europe, victory brought the iron rule of another empire. V - E Day marked the end of fascism, but it did not end the oppression. The agreement in Yalta followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable. ... The captivity of millions in Central and Eastern Europe will be remembered as one of the greatest wrongs in history.” (George W. Bush. 2005)
Patrick J. Buchanan carefully analyzing the WWII events raises a meaningful question; “If the West went to war to stop Hitler from dominating Eastern and Central Europe, and Eastern and Central Europe ended up under a tyranny even more odious, did Western Civilization win the war? (2009) The answer is No, the Western civilization allowing Stalin’s hegemony in East and Central Europe contributed to a postwar conflict, making the Cold War inevitable.
The official permission to dominate Eastern European countries Stalin claimed “liberated”, was given to him by Western allies in February 1945, in Yalta Conference. Great Britain and United States were aware of Stalin controversies, but the promise of a Soviet contribution in founding of United Nations deceived them, also making them optimistic for a postwar cooperation. Yalta agreement is considered a betrayal, but who betrayed whom? Churchill and Roosevelt knew Stalin better he knew himself. Why they conceded to him the hegemony over Eastern and Central European countries that suffered later their worst nightmares?
“To ascertain whether Moscow truly liberated those lands, we might survey the sons and daughters of the generation that survived liberation by a Red Army that pillaged, raped and murdered its way westward across Europe. As at Katyn Forest, that army eradicated the real heroes who fought to retain the national and Christian character of their countries.” (Buchanan. 2005)
At the Potsdam Conference in July-August 1945, President Truman congratulating Stalin on the successes of the Red Army, successes that had brought Soviet power to Berlin in the heart of Europe, was replied by him that Czar Alexander has reached Paris (Nesbit, 1988). Stalin’s intentions were clear. The curtain iron was tailored and ready to be used, against western values, western’s call for freedom, and against all the attempts to oppose Stalin oppressions and tyranny.
The installation of pro-soviet regimes in Albania, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Yugoslavia by 1948, initiated the western response, necessitating drastic changes in their foreign policy with Soviet Union.
The $400 million President Truman asked to the US Congress as aid to Greece and Turkey in March, 1947 was the first step of what became later the “Truman Doctrine”, a well designed plan to financially and militarily help the countries threatened by communism. This may be considered as the first reaction to Stalin’s intents and official beginning of the Cold War. Truman doctrine effectively succeeded in stopping the spread of communism in Turkey and Greece that could have been fatal for these countries’ future, and could have strongly effected the entire region.
“Harry Truman was the first American president to fight the Cold War. Probably the most important, certainly the most forgotten, and surely the most controversial, was the decision to concentrate on the European theater, rather than the Pacific. Avoiding a two front war has long been a fundamental strategic choice. Germany during the 20th Century was bedeviled by two front wars, and the Allies gave preference to the European theater [where the Soviet Union was engaged with Germany] over the Pacific theater [where the Soviets remained at peace with Japan]. Truman was in a sense re-affirming the geographical preferences of the struggle against the Axis in his priorities in the struggle against Communism.” (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/cold_war.htm)
The Soviet Union right after World War II started to dominate not only what was given to them in Yalta. An economically weak Western Europe was a target of Soviet plans in increasing Communist Parties popularities on Western European countries. The Soviet increase of hegemony in U.S. allies because of their economical weaknesses necessitated a quick response in creating a barrier to Stalin intentions.
The role of United State in the postwar world was vital, not only for the countries threatened by the spread of the communism, but also for western European countries that have suffered major damages in economy, infrastructure and health care. Britain, France, Holland, Belgium were relying in American help to rebuild their countries destroyed by war. With events and the advancement of Soviets in Central Europe, The United States designed a plan to help its western European allies in rebuilding their economies and infrastructure, in order to strengthen their positions, being able to actively form a new alliance against communism. Germany and Italy postwar Governments were also relying on United States help insuring the endurance of pro American policies in their countries. The improvement of the economical situation in Western Europe was also necessary in the declining of popularity of communist movements that dangerously were building metastasis throughout these countries.
In April 1948 was announced the Marshall Plan, providing financial and economic assistance to the nations of Western Europe. This strengthened the economies and governments of countries in Western Europe, which better responded to postwar challenges, but the main issue was the future of Germany especially when Stalin ordered the blockade of all surface transport in West Berlin in 1948. Stalin orders were the official beginning of Cold War for the Soviet Union, clearly designing two main powers engaged in a War for hegemony.
“In June 1948 the Soviets blocked all ways into the western part of Berlin, Germany. President Truman quickly ordered military planes to fly coal, food, and medicine to the city. The planes kept coming, sometimes landing every few minutes, for more than a year. The United States received help from Britain and France. Together, they provided almost 2.5 million tons of supplies on about 280,000 flights. Gradually there was a massive build up of an airlift of supplies into that city through until September 1949, although the blockade was officially lifted in May 1949.” (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/cold_war.htm)
The economical help was not enough in enduring the U.S. hegemony over the Western Europe. The western countries needed a joint military capability to respond to the Soviet threats. With the United States lead in 1949, Britain, Canada, France, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Iceland, and Portugal succeeded in the formation of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).
With NATO was also born the Federal Republic of Germany as a strong indicator of the beginning of a new East-West conflict. The division of Germany indicated also the inefficiency of western countries policies in preventing Stalin sick mind, and his successors to dominate and terrorize for four decades Central and Eastern Europe, raising the number of victims three times greater than what were killed by Hitler during the war.
Haftendorn, analyzing the debates and events surrounding Germany's accession to NATO 50 years ago, has stated that “When signed in April 1949, the Washington Treaty was a traditional alliance agreement in which the 12 NATO Allies promised to take adequate measures in the event of attack against any member by an external enemy” (2005), but the Soviet response was immediate. Pushing their satellites with their pro-soviet regimes they created in 1955, in Warszawa, Poland the NATO counterweight called the Warszawa Pact. The Warszawa Pact was a military alliance among Soviet Union, Albania, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Democratic Republic of Germany. With creation of two military organizations standing in front of each other, and ready to pull the trigger, the Cold War got the missing element; the international outlook.
Truman request to Congress for help for Turkey and Greece started officially the action policy against Soviet threat, but the Containment theory framed by G. Kennan in 1946 in his article “The Sources of Soviet Conduct”, built the fundamentals of the U.S. postwar foreign policy. Kennan’s ideas in this article, also called “article X” because of its anonymous publication in Foreign Affair Journal in 1947, brought attention about Soviet expansive intentions. Kennan wrote that United States policy toward the Soviet Union “…must be that of a long-term, patient, but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies”. As stated by the Timeline of U.S. Diplomatic History;
“Kennan called for countering Soviet pressure against the free institutions of the Western world through the adroit and vigilant application of counter-force at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points, corresponding to the shifts and maneuvers of Soviet policy. Such a policy, Kennan predicted, would promote tendencies which must eventually find their outlet in either the break-up or the gradual mellowing of Soviet power." (Department of State, Office of the Historian. Retrieved 2009-06-18)
George F. Kennan experience in United States embassy in Moscow before and during the war helped him understand the real profile of the Soviet Union and its paranoiac leader. He constantly wrote to President Roosevelt, making him aware of Stalin expansionist ideas and his dream of restoring the “Great Russian Empire”. Only after Stalin started to take actions in practically imposing its tyrannous dominium in Eastern and Central Europe, Washington realized that the predictions of Kennan were accurate. From his bed, gravely ill, just weeks later from Yalta Conference President Roosevelt privately expressed his misgivings about relations with the Soviet Union: “We can’t do business with Stalin. He has broken every one of the promises made in Yalta” (Knight, 2006). Is this a repentance or self-criticism? That was the late World War II controversy, and mystery.
The Cold War fundamentals existed in the intense Western antagonism toward communism, although, as Knight said, this antagonism “…had become more muted during the World War II” (2006). The Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact was the indicator of an unstable policy toward West, but not the only one. Stalin’s actions against Western countries, necessitating the beginning of the Cold War, were proved by another controversy; the Igor Gouzenko affair. Gouzenko was a cipher clerk at the Soviet Embassy in Canada. After defecting The Soviet Union, Gouzenko, being also a former intelligence officer, offered stolen secret documents to FBI about the soviet spies’ activities in western countries. The United States, Canada, and Britain started to take drastic measures to reduce the impact of soviet hidden agents, and to design a clear course of action toward the Soviet Union. Gouzenko’s testimony given to the FBI in presence of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, in 1945 created perplexities, and started the hunt for soviet spies in high levels of politics. According to Knight that has carefully analyzed Gouzenko’s affair, Stalin’s program in spying western countries had begun in 1942;
“Unbeknownst to the Western allies, Stalin had in fact initiated a program to develop the atomic bomb in late 1942, while his country was still deep in the struggle against Hitler. As part of this program, the Soviets had begun an ambitious effort, coordinated by NKVD chief Lavrentii Beria, to steal Western atomic secrets. Thanks to their recruitment of Klaus Fuchs, a German-born British scientist, the Soviets had even managed to learn some details about the American atomic program at Los Alamos ( the so-called Manhattan Project), where Fuchs had been employed since 1944.” (Knight, 2006. p. 8)
Igor Gouzenko affair had showed once more that Cold War was inevitable. From the historical events of late World War II to the controversies of Stalin paranoiac behavior, the Western countries failed in preventing a larger conflict that for four decades took more lives that the war itself. Their failure due to their encompassing naivety in trusting on of the biggest criminals in the world history like Stalin, necessitated measurements in containing the Soviet expansion toward West. The Truman Doctrine, Marshall Plan in Europe, and the Containment theory of Kennan framed the United States national interests and foreign policy, by officially starting the Cold War. United States played a leading role in shaping the attitude of western countries toward the postwar threats, and practically contributed and succeeded in the creation of successful alliances in Western Europe.
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