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To What Extent Was The Cold War Caused By Ideological Differences?

1927 words - 8 pages

The Cold War, a period of sustained political and military tension between the USA and the USSR, resulted in various viewpoints concerning the cause of the tension emerging. Until today the question remains unresolved, even after the 1991 release of Soviet archives. The main point of disagreement relates to the roles that ideology played in the events between 1945 and 1949. Was it the strongly opposing ideologies, capitalism and communism, or power and material interest that drove both superpowers to the decades of struggle for global supremacy.

The orthodox view regarding the cause of the Cold War, formed the standard interpretation between the 1940s and early-1960s. The breakdown of the wartime alliance and the expansion of Soviet power in Europe, the ‘loss’ of China to communism, the Korean War, and domestically the rise of McCarthyism with its anti-communist hysteria eventually mixed into this school of thought. Orthodox historians argued that the USSR’s expansionist policy in Eastern Europe and beyond, driven by the ideological goal of exporting world revolution, started the Cold War. According to Michael Hart, “the Cold War was caused by the military expansionism of Stalin and his successors. The American response… was basically a defensive reaction. As long as Soviet leaders clung to their dream of imposing Communism on the world, the West had no way (other than surrender) of ending the conflict…”. In fact, one could argue that the first interpretation of the origins of the Cold War was made by policy maker George Kennan. In 1947, under the pseudonym Mr. X, he published the article ‘Sources of Soviet Conduct’. Kennan claimed that the Soviet’s desired to expand their empire and Stalinist ideology in order to offer resistance to ‘threat’ of the ‘hostile world outside its borders’. This article helped to harden American attitudes towards the Soviets and played a key role in the development of U.S. Foreign policy of containment.
Moscow’s unilateral moves to install pro-communist governments in Eastern Europe served as a pro argument for the orthodox view. During the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the ‘Big Three’ agreed upon the future of Germany, among other points, but the most divisive disagreement at the conference was Poland. The political make-up of the new government was of great concern. The USSR fully sponsored and controlled the Lublin Committee, which proclaimed itself the provisional government of Poland on 22 July 1944. However, the UK and US still supported the ‘London Poles’, Polish government-in-exile based in London. The Western powers saw the installation of the Lublin committee as direct violation of Stalin’s promise from Yalta, as he did not conduct free and democratic elections. According to McNeill, Stalin was responsible for the Cold War as he did not hold his promise of popular elections in Eastern Europe after the Second World War. Because of this, the United States could not trust anything Stalin promised, and...

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