Sample History Research Paper on The United States and the Cold War

Introduction

            The cold war refers to the lengthy post-World War II conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. The major reason for the Cold War was competition between USSR and the United States. The two countries represented different and contradicting ideologies and each country was committed to spreading their ideology to the rest of the world and in return achieve supremacy. Additionally, the Cold War was also caused by other concerning reasons such as conflict between leaders, that is, USSR dictator, Joseph Stalin and president Harry Truman; the need for control over resources and territories around the world, especially in Europe. This paper aims to establish the origins of the Cold War and analyze how the Cold War affected the policies of the two nations and interactions with the rest of the world regarding conflicts around the world. The main argument is that the Cold War was primarily caused by competition between the United States and USSR.

Difference in Ideologies

            The two superpowers, United States and USSR had contrasting and conflicting ideologies which were starkly different, from economic to political views. Politically, the United States embraced democracy while USSR adopted Socialism and totalitarian political systems. Also, USSR was communist while the US was capitalist. These ideological differences formed the foundation for competition and differential viewpoint which ultimately prompted the Cold War after World War II (Whitton, pg. 21). However, the competition between the two countries did not begin at the end of World War II. During World War II, the two superpowers were allies especially against Germany. However, there was speculation that the Soviet Union had recruited Americans to work for Soviet Intelligence regarding war secrets and post-war plans. The two nations remained suspicious of the other. The Soviet Union was eager to achieve supremacy over the United States, hence the secret intelligence against the US. Some of the recruits were top government officials in the American government. Some of these Soviet Union Spies were uncovered in the Venona decryptions. Among the identified was Harry Dexter White who worked at Treasury, the organization responsible for US government monetary funds for the war and postwar plans. Also, Lauchlin Currie was one of President Franklin’s assistants (Sibley, pg. 63-65). Such occurrences further stifled the competitive tension between the two nations and propagated the beginning of the Cold War.

Communism vs Capitalism/ Democracy vs Socialism

            In theory, Communism is a social and political system that aimed to eliminate classes in the society by promoting abundance and equality for all regardless of social or economic status. However, in practice, it was a different ideology. In the Soviet Union, especially, the communist regime was authoritarian and repressive and not inclusive like the theory states. President Stalin was a coercive and authoritative leader who used communism as a movement gain more control and power, and to preach against capitalism through a revolution. Capitalism was the competing system against communism which proposed that an elite group of individuals take the responsibility of economic production and the determination of prices. Capitalism rivaled communism because unlike communism, its ideologies were not equally inclusive of all individuals in a society (Craig, pg. 15). On the political front, the United States adopted a democratic system while the USSR adopted an authoritarian socialist and communist regime.

            For the most part, the ideological differences and irreconcilable systems between the two countries epitomized the conflict that arose during the Cold War. This bred contention and a mutual incentive to destroy the other.

Origins of the Cold War

            As mentioned, prior to the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States were allies during the Second World War Sir Winston Churchill’s reputable sentiments regarding his intent to defeat Hitler where he confessed his willingness to make a deal with the devil so as to defeat Hitler. USSR’s president at the time, Joseph Stalin perhaps fit that description accurately. He was a dictator whose regime was authoritarian and repressive on the people of Russia, and was responsible for the deaths of millions of people (James, pg. 33). However, due to similarity in intent, Britain, the US and Russia united as allies against Germany during the war due to individual reasons unique to each nation. The USSR was eager to retaliate after Nazi Germany attacks against in 1941 and to quell any form of attacks on its territory from Germany. Equally, the US and Great Britain were eager to enhance security over their territories and to get rid of the dangerous Nazi Germany. Leaders of the three countries, Joseph Stalin of Russia, Franklin Roosevelt of the US and Sir Winston Churchill of Great Britain met in 1945 in Russia, in what is termed the Yalta Conference. The issues of contention and debate included the need to form an allied force against Germany and the fate of Europe post-war. The serious issues of contention included jurisdiction over Poland regarding postwar borders and the occupancy of Eastern and Western Europe. The alliance between the three countries worked well during the war period despite speculation of distrust among them. The alliance was able to defeat Germany and the war ended. However, the USSR always felt an ideological unease given its allies were both capitalist superpowers. As that, Stalin feared the influential nature of his two allies. Additionally, both Britain and the United States had supported and funded USSR’s enemies during the Russian Civil War (Whitton, pg. 78).

            After the war, the mutual antagonism between the US and Russia was more pronounced mostly due to competition and confrontations over jurisdiction over Europe. The Leaders of the three countries met once more in the Postdam conference in an effort to enforce the efforts of the Yalta Conference. This time, the US was represented by President Harry Truman upon the death of Franklin Roosevelt. It is after this conference that the Cold War began officially. The US regarded the Soviet Union as a difficult ally especially due to President Stalin’s unwavering intentions to expand the realm of communism across Europe particularly in Eastern Europe (Harrington, pg. 42). When it became difficult to arrive at diplomatic conclusions regarding various contentious issues with the Soviet Union, the US officially regarded the Soviet Union as an outright adversary.

            President Harry Truman, unlike his predecessor, showed unwillingness to foster peace and get along with Russia. On certain occasions, he expressed willingness and the need for negotiation between the two countries. However, at the same time, he devised a defensive strategy limiting the influence of Soviet power and spread of communism. Negotiation was never a viable option since both countries wanted to get their way 90 percent of the time. Therefore, the conflict was facilitated by the need for power and status quo. Additionally, the leaders of both countries remained unwilling to reach a compromise.

The Struggle for geographic and political zones of influence

            The Cold War resulted into division of the world into two opposing factions, with each faction supporting either of the adversaries and their ideologies. Europe was most affected as it formed the geographical center of contention of the Cold War. Europe became divided into two factions. Western Europe constituted the United States jurisdiction while majority of Eastern Europe consisted of USSR’s satellites. According to James, the two countries had conflicting intentions for the jurisdictions they occupied. While the United States was keen to support integration in Western Europe and the rest of Europe, the Soviet Union was more concerned with spreading communist ideology in Eastern Europe and gaining control over its jurisdictions (James, pg. 98). The conflict in Europe greatly affected Europe. For example, the Berlin Blockade and Airlift greatly affected innocent citizens. The Berlin Blockade and Airlift describes the cold-war crisis between the Soviet Union and the US regarding jurisdiction in West Berlin. Due to disagreements, the Soviet Union required the United States, France and the United Kingdom to abandon their jurisdiction in West Berlin (Harrington, pg. 12). The Soviet Union sanctioned a blockade from Eastern Germany blocking access points through railway, road and water to West Berlin. In return the remaining Allied forces (the US, Britain and France) began to supply supplies to West Berlin by air. Tensions between the two sides increased tremendously affecting the people in West Berlin. Even though the airlift helped to provide resources to the people there were significant challenges. The war between these factions greatly severed the relationship between the people and the State and the Eastern and Western bloc in Germany (Craig, pg. 112-113).

Collectively, both countries were concerned with gaining world supremacy. The two adversaries continually employed strategies and resources available to them aimed at outwitting the other facilitating crises of varied intensity that affected the two countries and other countries caught in the midst of the conflict. The conflict affect the entire global community sometimes prompting war on many occasions. For example, the Cuban Missile Crises almost prompted nuclear war between the US, Russia and Cuba. In 1962, the Soviets felt that they lagged behind in the arms race, especially compared to their key adversary, the United States. Therefore, the Soviet Premier at the time, Khrushchev started a secret missiles deployment program in Cuba to boost its nuclear weaponry and to ensure USSR was equipped for any attack from the US who were well equipped. Similarly, the president of Cuba, Fidel Castro was eager to equally protect his island nation against potential attacks. He, therefore, allowed the Soviet Union to carry out their nuclear arms initiatives in Cuba. Soon after, reconnaissance regarding the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons construction in Cuba was revealed to the United States. The US sanctioned a blockade on Cuba to prevent the arrival of more weaponry from Russia and at the same time started to prepare for war. The crisis led to a missile attack on a plane over Cuba which resulted in several deaths. The US threatened to invade Cuba in a bid to eliminate the missiles. However, the tensions did not result in nuclear war as Soviet Premier Khrushchev agreed to dismantle the missile installations in Cuba with the promise that the US would not invade either Cuba or USSR (Allison, pg. 692-695).

Conclusion

            The Cold War can be accurately described as a strategic, political and ideological struggle between two countries that had contradicting and irreconcilable systems. It is evident that conflict arose due to both political and ideological competition between the US and USSR. The key ideological contention was between communism and capitalism. Politically, conflict arose due to the mutual need to achieve world supremacy and control over specific zones in Europe after World War II. The Cold War comprised of everything short of full-blown war. The conflict strategies consisted of espionage; alliances; surrogate wars; offering aid to neutral countries; competing social and economic ideologies through propaganda; and attempts to gain supremacy through possession of nuclear weaponry/ nuclear arms race.

Works Cited

Allison, Graham T. “Conceptual models and the Cuban missile crisis. “American political science review 63.03 (1969): 689-718. Print.

Craig, Campbell, and Fredrik Logevall. America’s Cold War. Harvard University Press, 2012.

Harrington, Daniel F. Berlin on the Brink: The Blockade, the Airlift, and the Early Cold War. University Press of Kentucky, 2012.

James, R.R. Winston S. Churchill: His Complete Speeches 1897-1963. 1943-1949. Primary Source. Print.

Sibley, Katherine Amelia Siobhan. Red spies in America: stolen secrets and the dawn of the Cold War. University Press of Kansas, 2004. Print.

Whitton, John B. “Cold war propaganda. “The American Journal of International Law 45.1 (1951): 151-153. Print.