As of December 31, 2014, I retired from full-time teaching in Humboldt State University's Department of History. While this website will remain online, it is no longer maintained.
History 111 - Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer
The Cold War in the International Arena
Today, we leave our discussion of the two so-called "hot wars" of the 20th Century - World War I and World War II. For the next two weeks we will discuss the international and domestic effects
of the so called "Cold War" era. Broadly speaking,
this period can be divided into 2 phases:
- From 1945 to 1960 - when foreign policy was shaped by U.S./Soviet tensions that led to the rise of anti-communist policies in the international arena. The primary topics under discussion will be American and Soviet actions that led to
the Cold War and significant Cold War events that occurred in the international
- From 1945-1960 - when domestic policy by shaped by U.S./Soviet tensions that led to the rise of anti-communist hysteria at home.
As we will see, each of these two phases included both cold and hot wars and these international crises, in turn, greatly influenced the domestic affairs of the United States.
The Cold War in the International Arena
- To define the term Cold War and explain its various phases.
- To examine the Soviet and American actions that led to the Cold War.
- To study the significant foreign events of the first Cold War phase:
the Berlin Blockade and Airlift, NATO, Chinese Civil War, the Korean
Conflict, and the Cuban Missle Crisis.
- To understand the buildup of what became known as the military industrial complex.
Discussion Goal #1: Defining the Cold War
Within just one year after the end of WWII, the world's two most powerful nations - the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. - emerged as arch-adversaries, and in so doing, they shaped the postwar order.
- The US saw the Soviet Union as a ruthless, imperialist, and totalitarian power whose goal was to destroy democracy and encourage a global Communist revolution through an aggressive policy of expansion.
- The USSR saw the US as an ruthless, imperialist power whose goal was to destroy communism and encourage the growth of a capitalist world order shaped by its own economic interests.
Thus, began the Cold War - but just what was the Cold War?
Common Belief - The Cold War was the postwar economic and ideological
global rivalry between the United States and the Soviets during which each
side fought - without engaging in declared military warfare - to reshape
the world to conform to its own image. Both sides used all their
resources - short of a declared war against each other - to keep the other side from achieving its postwar
In reality - During the 45 year-period of the Cold War, the Americans
and Russians were involved in dozens of "hot wars" around the globe (Korea,
Cuba, Vietnam, El Salvador, Honduras, etc.) But because these were
not wars in which the U.S. and Soviets were officially at war with one
another, each nation could use the Cold War rhetoric to justify their involvement
Thus, the Cold War witnessed a political, social, economic, and
military rivalry between the U.S. and the Soviet Union - a rivalry that
dramatically affected American foreign policy as well as American domestic
policy. Or as Eric Foner tells us, the Cold War "was a world wide struggle over the future of freedom."
Discussion Goal #2: Soviet and U.S. Actions contributing to the Cold War
Soviet Actions Contributing to the Cold
Soviet control over Poland, Bulgaria, Rumania, and Hungary and the subsequent denial of political and civil freedoms within these nations (early 1946)
Stalin's "inevitability" of future wars thesis - a statement that future wars were inevitable with the West because of "present capitalist conditions" (Feb. 1946)
Stalin's order that satellite nations end trade with Western nations (mid-46)
Soviet refusal to halt work on nuclear weapons (June 46)
Molotov Plan - the USSR's version of the Marshall Plan - which was created to provide aid to rebuild the countries in Eastern Europe that were politically and economically aligned to the Soviet Union
Soviet overthrow of Czech government and installation of communist government
American Actions Contributing to the Cold War
- Policy of Containment (1947) - In January 1947, George Kennan - U.S. Ambassador to the USSR - submitted a report to the U.S. Defense Secretary using the word "containment" for the first time: "The main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies." Containment - the idea of containing Communism in the countries where it existed and doing everything possible to keep it from spreading elsewhere - created a "us versus them" theme that divided the world into democratic versus Communist governments.
- Truman Doctrine (March 1947). Pledged the US to contain
communism in Europe and elsewhere and impelled the US to support any nation
with both military and economic aid if its stability was threatened by communism or the Soviet Union.
The Truman Doctrine became the foundation of the president's foreign policy and placed the U.S. in the role of global policeman. As Foner reminds us, the Truman Doctrine "set a precedent for American assistance to anticommunist regimes throughout the world, no matter how undemocratic, and for the creation of a set of global military alliances directed against the Soviet Union." (Give Me Liberty, p. 781; 2nd edition, p. 844)
- American interests in Greece and Turkey (March 1947). The British had been propping up an anti-communist government in Greece for years. In February 1947, Britain informed the U.S. that it could no longer afford such aid and that it intended to withdraw from Greece. In August 1945, the Soviets began a series of naval maneuvers in the Black Sea and dispatched troops to the Balkans. Truman, invoking the Truman Doctrine, concluded that without U.S. intervention, Greece, Turkey, and the entire oil-rich Middle East would fall under Soviet control - i.e., the domino theory.
- On March 12, Truman appeared before Congress and declared that the preservation of peace and freedom for all American depended on containing communism - and protecting Greece was the start.
- Congress appropriated $400 million in aid to Greece and Turkey which helped the monarchy and the military to crush the rebel Communist movement.
- And how did Truman convince Congress and the American people? Senate leader Arthur Vandenburg told him he would have to "scare the hell" out of the American people.
- Marshall Plan (June 1947). Designed by General George Marshall who became Truman's Secretary of State, the Marshall Plan pledged economic aid to help rebuild war-torn Europe. After several meetings with Stalin, Marshall became convinced that a weak, starving, disheartened Europe was precisely what Stalin wanted because it would offer the best recruitment for communism. The Marshall Plan's primary goal was to stop any communist
electoral bids for power in northern and western Europe while, at the same
time, promoting democracy and capitalism through the economic renewal of Europe. Sixteen nations signed the Marshall Plan and consequently, industrial production in those nations rose by 200% between 1947-52.
The Marshall Plan thus became the cornerstone of the US use of economic policy to contain communism.
- Those nations entered into a multilateral economic agreement with the U.S. that would build a viable capitalist economy in Western Europe. While the Plan was costly at first - taking 12% of the entire federal budget the first year - it proved effective in the long run by meeting American foreign policy goal of creating a capitalist Europe and revitalizing Western Europe
- Industrial production in the European nations rose 200% between 1947-1952.
- National Security Act (July 1947). The NSA laid the foundation
for expanded military forces and surveillance agencies within the federal
government and was the first step in the creation of permanent, large-scale military spending as the basic stimulus for economic growth in America (the military industrial complex.) The goal was to keep the nation in a ready state of preparedness for war. It became the first program of peacetime military preparedness in US history.
- Created the Department of Defense and National Security Council to administer
and coordinate defense policies and advise the president.
- Replaced the War Department with the new Department of Defense, led by
a single secretary with cabinet-level status that supervised a united armed
force - army, navy, air force.
- Established the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) devoted to collecting
political, military, and economic information for security purposes throughout
the world. Such information was classified - secret from both Congress
and the public.
- Became the basic stimulus for economic growth in the U.S.
- Before WWII, about 900,000 civilians worked for the federal government with about 10% engaged in security work.
- By the beginning of the Cold War, nearly 4 million people were on the federal payroll with 75% working for national security agencies.
- The Pentagon, which opened in 1943, was the largest office building in the world and housed 35,000 people. When the State Dept. consolidated its various divisions in 1961, it moved into an 8-story structure covering an area the size of 4 city blocks.
Discussion Goal #3: Discuss the Significant Foreign Events of the First Cold
- The Berlin Blockade and Airlift - April 1948-May 1949. In connection with the Marshall Plan, the US also sought to rebuild and integrate the western zones of Germany into a united nation compatible with US political and economic interests. Within a year after the introduction of the Marshall Plan, the US and Britain introduced a common currency in the western zones.
In response, in June, 1948, Stalin denied rail and highway entry into Berlin, hoping that the West would abandon its effort to reunite Germany or face loss of Berlin.
- Thus began a massive airlift of food, fuel, and supplies for the 10,000 troops and 2 million civilians in Berlin. A fleet of 52 C-54s and 80 C-47s began making two daily round-trip flights to Berlin, carrying 2500 tons every 24 hours.
- Within a few months, the daily airlift increased to 7000 tons.
- In May 1949, the Soviets ended the blockade - thus clearing the way for the Western powers to merge their occupation zones into a single nation - West Germany.
- Newsreels of Berlin Blockade at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GoIL9gVonQ and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-UNWkbQk7Q&feature=related
- The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) - April 1949. Ten western European nations, the U.S., and Canada formed a military alliance declaring that "an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against all of them." Thus, the U.S. entered its first peacetime military alliance.
- Congress authorized $1.3 billion for military assistance to NATO countries and by 1952, 80% of all U.S. assistance to Europe was military. Since the creation of NATO in 1949, it has added new nations seven times.
- In response, the Russians formed the Warsaw Pact in 1955 - a mutual defense treaty between 8 communist states of Central and Eastern Europe in existence during the Cold War. On 25 February 1991, the Warsaw Pact was declared disbanded at a meeting of defense and foreign ministers from Pact countries meeting in Hungary. When looking at the two maps below, can you notice an inconsistency in the member nations?
- The Iron Curtain - May 1949. One of the first things NATO did occurred in May 1949 when it created the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), which joined NATO in 1955.
- Chinese Civil War, Communist Victory, and the Sino-Soviet Alliance - February 1946-February 1950
- At Yalta, it was agreed that the Russians would be allowed to dominate in Northeast Asia and the Americans would control the Pacific, including Japan. China lay between the Soviet and American spheres of influence.
- After the war, the US moved quickly to consolidate its spheres of influence.
- General MacArthur supervised the transition of Japan into a constitutional demoncarcy, shaped along Western lines. Communists were barred from all government posts.
- The Japanese renounced war in their new constitution and agreed to rely on American forces to protect their security.
- Meanwhile, the Chinese civil war had been waging since the 1940s between the Nationalist Chinese of Chiang Kai-Shek in the South and the Communist forces of Mao Tse-tung in the North. During WWII, the two sides had come together just enough to fight Japan.
- By Feb. 1946, a civil war was in full swing. Despite efforts of some Americans to get U.S. involved militarily, we limited ourselves to financial commitment ($3 billion) to the Nationalists - who eventually lost in 1949 and fled to Formosa/Taiwan.
- In October, 1949, Mao declared the creation of the communist People's Republic of China - known as "Red China" in the US. Truman decided not to reocgnize China, bowing to pressure within Congress that he was "soft on communism." Instead, we recognized Taiwan as the formal government of China.
- The 1950 Sino-Soviet alliance signaled a problem for the West. Mao and Stalin signed a mutual friendship pact to scare the US into thinking that the two powers represented an overwhelming and united danger to Americans. Some historians have theorized that had Truman recognized Mao, this alignment may never have occurred. Instead, Truman and his cabinet perceived a singular communist entity and menace in Asia that, in fact, simply did not exist.
- The Nuclear Race - 1945-1953. In January 1950, Truman ordered his scientific advisors to develop a fusion-based hydrogen bomb hundreds of tiems more powerful than the atomic bomb. In November 1952, the U.S. exploded its first H-bomb in the Marshall islands - projecting a radioactive cloud 25 miles into the atmosphere and blasting a canyon a mile long and 175 feet deep into the ocean floor. The Soviets exploded their first H-bomb 9 months later.
- The Korean "Conflict" - June 1950-July 1953
- Sputnik - 1957. The USSR launched Sputnik
in October, 1957. The 23 inch satellite travelled at 18,000 miles per hour, took 96.2 minutes to complete an orbit, and emitted radio signals that were monitored by amateur radio operators throughout the world. The signals continued for 22 days until the transmitter batteries ran out. Sputnik burned up on January 4, 1958 when it fell from orbit upon reentering Earth's atmosphere. It had traveled about 37 million miles during its three months in orbit.
- The Cuban Missile Crisis - October 1962.
Discussion Goal #4: To understand the buildup of what became known as the military industrial complex
In his January 1961 Farewell Address to the nation, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the American people about the evolution of what he called the "military-industrial complex." He explained that the American defense establishment since World War II had dramatically changed. He continued by saying that ...
The U.S. could no longer rely upon "emergency improvisation" to prepare for war, but instead was now "compelled to create a permanent armaments industry" and a huge military force.
For the first time, America must have a well prepared, technologically adept standing army.
While the Cold War made clear the "imperative need for this development," he also expressed grave concerns about "the acquisition of unwarranted influence ... by the military-industrial complex."
In particular, he asked the American people to guard against the "danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite."
In essence, Eisenhower was telling the American people that we had developed a large and powerful defense establishment - a military industrial complex - which comprised an informal alliance of the arms industry, military officers, and members of Congress that could greatly influence government policy. He feared that this informal alliance would lead the country to building unnecessary weapons. This military-industrial complex might inappropriately shape national priorities and dictate the direction of American foreign policy. Thus, he was warning the American people to not let the military-industrial establishment dictate America's actions at home or abroad because such unchecked power would begin to take away the freedoms found in the institutions and principles it was designed to protect.
A Final Note about War - Declared and Undeclared Wars in U.S. History
The Cold War in the International Arena
- The U.S. consciously decided to become involved in a global
struggle to contain communism and foster democracy and capitalism in war-torn
Europe. The Containment policy began with suppressing economic
and ideological factors favorable to communism and, after Korea, was broadened
to include supporting military frontiers behind which communismís
spread would be discouraged.
- The U.S. adopted new a foreign policy - collective security
- in which the nation became involved in defense pacts with other countries
that shared mutual defense interests with Americans.
- The U.S. consciously promoted a military industrial complex not only
within America, but overseas.
- By the 1960s, the US had military bases
on every continent.
- The U.S. consciously embarked upon a nuclear arms race with
- The Korean War marked an important transition in foreign policy
by helping to make the US into a national security state. After the war,
the US emerged as the most powerful military in the world, with the largest
military budget in the world, and with a highly-organized and mighty national
security apparatus in place.
- The Cuban Missile Crisis brought the US closer to a nuclear war than any other confrontation
before or sense. There are two very important sides to this crisis, not just the American
- These Cold War foreign policies encouraged the growth
of anti-communist hysteria within the borders of the US. Thus, Cold
War foreign policies dramatically influenced Cold War domestic policies.