Free Essay About The United States And The Relationship Between The Second World War And The Cold War
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The relationship between the Second World War and the Cold War dates back to the First World War that brought unrelated countries together in a fight against a common foe. However, while each State tabled different reasons for fighting in the Great War, the causes of both World War II and Cold War stemmed from a single factor, the Germans. For instance, in the First World War, Britain declared war on Germany for its violation of Berlin’s neutrality while the United States joined the war in a bid to protect its economy. In that manner, the extent of the war was unforeseeable, and even some involved States changed relations as it went on, the best illustration being the Soviet Union choosing to support the Germans. With that in mind, the Second World War and the Cold War had more organization as their causes and desired outcomes had clear outlines. For World War II, the Germans were again a standard target and even the Soviet Union wanted their complete surrender to prevent them from causing more trouble. The events of World War II saw the emergence of the Cold War in which, economic and political dominance were the desired goals, and it did not end until the Soviet Union collapsed. With that in mind, the causes and effects of the Cold War and the Second World War exhibit a relationship between the two. Hence, the Second World War related to the Cold War because they involved the Americans and Soviets who joined forces during the Second World War but disbanded after failed peace attempts.
Evidently, both wars have two countries in common, the United States of America and the Soviet Union. When the Cold War ensued, they each occupied a particular sphere of influence on the globe and the tactics of war, at the time, included controlling the other’s territory for more economic dominance. Dubbed the Western Bloc was the United States and its allies while the Soviet Union formed the Eastern Bloc with its areas. For the Second World War, other super powers like Britain and France were fighting alongside the Americans and Soviets, but only the latter two fought the Cold War, and their reasons did not develop overnight.
Prior the Second World War of between 1939 and 1945, the involved countries had established alliances with each other albeit under strenuous conditions. Particularly, the relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States was out of necessity and by no means meant a concrete association between the two. The Soviets were a treacherous lot, and if their actions during the First World War were anything to go by, then the others had good reason to mistrust them. In the period of the Great War, there was a moment in which the people assumed that Germany was winning, and the Soviets quickly retreated to appease the Germany government (Dillon 200). Their antics left the Alliance defenseless and were it not for the United States joining the war late in a bid to protect its trade ships then the Germans might have won the First World War. Evidently, the United States did not forget the Soviets betrayal and the signing of a pact between the Soviet Union and the re-emerging German nemesis proved them accurate. According to Duiker and Spielvogel, Hitler negotiated “a nonaggression pact with Stalin” on August 23, 1939 (734). The deal allowed German troops to invade Poland without opposition on September 1, 1939, and, in retaliation, Britain and France declared war on them (Duiker and Spielvogel 734). At that point, the Second World War had begun, and the situation was eerily similar to the events that transpired before the Great War because the Alliance was soon fighting the Axis. Expectedly, after Josef Stalin’s actions, the United States grew more suspicious of the Soviets because of their apparent disregard for the threat the Germans posed to other countries. However, the Soviets soon retracted from the deal and turned against the Germans after they violated the terms of the pact (Duiker and Spielvogel 736). Therefore, the Soviet Union only broke the bargain because the Germans broke it first, and since the Americans were aware of the same, Stalin sending his Red Army to help the Alliance did nothing to help.
Expectedly, the end of the Second World War did not change the situation between the Americans and the Soviets; in fact, their blatant dislike for each other paved way for a new conflict. Fighting in two consecutive wars within fifty years did not sit well with the known world superpower countries and their societies were left exhausted and in ruins (Yahuda 9). Such conditions were perfect for the emergence of new superpowers, and their positions allowed each one to claim a substantial portion of the globe as its territory. Hence, two blocs extended from the United States and the Soviet Union, and other countries were to choose a side based on their interests. The territorial behavior confirmed Winston Churchill's words in his speech dubbed the “Sinews of Peace” where the man stated, “an iron curtain has descended across the Continent” (300). After all, the countries could not exercise both forms of governance; it was either imperialism or communism. Now, each superpower boasted a different advantage in terms of the spoils of war. For the Soviets, their morale was high because they not only helped defeat the Nazis but also proved heroic for standing by the alliance unlike in the Great War (Yahuda 93). Simultaneously, the country developed particular ideologies to govern the economies and societies of its areas of influence and were keen to impose them by any means necessary. In addition, the Soviet Red Army still had enough men and weapons at its disposal, a fact that further supported their stand in the Eastern bloc. On the other hand, the United States’ army was in a worse condition immediately after the war but within a few months, the situation was not as dire, and they reestablished their military. Concurrently, the United States did not suffer as many losses because none of the major battles took place on American soil. In fact, until 1949, the United States was the only country in the world to possess nuclear weapons while its air forces and navy remained unparalleled (Duiker and Spielvogel 766). Therefore, in the Western bloc, the United States emerged as the leading power, and both its agricultural and industrial productions propelled the country to the forefront of monetary prowess. By extension, the world adopted the dollar as the main global currency (Duiker and Spielvogel 829).
The emergence of the two blocs turned the rest of the world into their playing field, and they both scrambled for territories. The fact that most of their targets had lost many citizens and resources made it easier for them to spread their influence. Initially, the Allied forces that encompassed the Britons, Americans, and Soviets were already planning the reconstruction of the world once the Axis powers lose. First, there was the Teheran Conference of between 28, November 1943 and 2, December that same year (Yahuda 119). The meeting persons were Winston Churchill of Britain, Josef Stalin of the Soviet Union, and Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States, all of whom set about forming post-war policies (Jenkins 66). Concurrently, the agenda included planning the invasion of Normandy, the dismemberment of Germany, and the "reorganization of the world" after the war (Duiker and Spielvogel 755). Subsequently, there was the Yalta Conference of between the 4th and 11th of February 1945 and the Potsdam Conference later that year from 17 July to 2 August. The meetings were not a sign of progress; on the contrary, they only proved that the three forces were unable to reach concrete solutions that served all their interests. In addition, each of the forces saw each other at its best during the war, making it plausible that the Americans monitored the Soviets and vice versa. For instance, the Soviets witnessed the Americans drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki while the United States saw the strength and tactics of the Red Army (Yahuda 162). In concurrence, Garrett provides his readers with a breakdown of the strength of the Red Army and according to him, what he found were “scary statistics” against Americans (19). Hence, the close relations during the period of war paved the way for a setting of mistrust and fear. Throughout the peace conferences, it became clear that the Westerners and the Soviets had divergent beliefs and views of what will work to revive the world’s economy. Buried hostilities quickly resurfaced, and the Alliance was unable to formulate a treaty.
Because World War II allowed each force an opportunity to analyze the strength of the other, it was acceptable that they proportionately became wary of the other’s strength. The Soviet Union felt threatened by the United States and was constantly accusing its government of organizing the expansion of imperialism. Concurrently, the United States government was worried about the Soviets expanding communism and even took to charging them with tyranny within their areas of influence. In “The Cold War at Home”, Philip Jenkins refers to communism as “red tyranny” that is “the greatest enemy ever faced by religion” and humanity in its history (167). Talks of disarmament were constant between the two States, but that did not mean that they worked, after all, mistrust was a common feeling between the American government and that if the Soviets. Homer Jack’s article in the “Bulleting of the Atomic Scientists” reports of the United States' continued apprehension when dealing with the Soviet Union. According to the writer, the United States was “remaining cool” with their negotiations with the Soviets amid talks of disarmament (Jack 35). Consequently, the American government was not keen on believing everything the Soviets said and were continuously cautious of them. By extension, with accusations going back and forth, the two superpowers engaged in dramatic standoffs and even crises that caused armed conflicts between their supporters but not a war for them. Marked with constant threats of using nuclear power against each other, the tension between the United States and the Soviet Union earned the name Cold War just because it never amounted to full-blown warfare. As mentioned before, the United States was the only country to have nuclear power until 1949, their leading streak ended because the Soviet Union developed its first atomic bomb (Yahuda 95). With the hypothetical battlefield evened out, the two powers went on to build their zones and managed to divide the world into two bases. Although the United States and the Soviet Union did not engage in actual combat, their territories were not as lucky. An excellent example is the War in Vietnam that only happened because the ongoing cold war divided its people into either communists or imperialists. In the conflict, the Soviet Union and more of its communist allies supported North Vietnam against the imperialism South Vietnam that had the support of the United States. Similar to its commencement, the end of the Cold War was gradual, and it began with the Islamic Mujahidin fighters rebelling against a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the establishment of communism in the country. The United States were quick to aid the Afghan rebellion and, as a result, the Soviet Union lost their desired territory (Duiker and Spielvogel 786). Systematically the Soviet Union lost its territories and in December 1991, the world witnessed its disintegration to form fifteen independent States (Yahuda 185). The United States hailed the dissolution as a victory and further instigated the support of democracy or imperialism over calls for totalitarianism or communism.
While the United States established its power on the global scale, the wars affected its internal social, economic, and political spheres. The changes were evident at the household, societal, and national levels as each American made attempts of reasserting himself or herself with the post-Second World War and later Cold War United States. The impact of the Second World War was the United States becoming the most eligible country with which other countries sought to trade and form alliances (Duiker and Spielvogel 829). The good relations boosted its economy to unknown proportions and soon, its citizens boasted higher employment rates and the reduced number of the impoverished masses. As mentioned before, the country’s industrial and agricultural productions boomed significantly and within no time, its lucrative financial system became another advantage for the Americans. The public was happy with its government and the fact that they were the only nation with nuclear power boosted the country’s confidence in all its relations. Such bliss ended with the Soviets’ successful nuclear experiments and as soon as the public found out, everybody living on American soil found himself or herself in the middle of the mayhem. The people had witnessed firsthand the devastation a nuclear weapon could cause after the bombing of Japan’s cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Naturally, the people were in a continuous state of panic, and everything pertaining to the Red Army became taboo, including communism. In what Michael Yahuda terms as “McCarthyism”, the fear encouraged widespread accusations of American citizens supporting the Soviets without evidence (89). Orchestrated by Senator John McCarthy, the method of McCarthyism entailed “an irresponsible and dangerous tactic characterized by vague and unsubstantial accusations” against Americans (Jenkins 2). While the senator claimed to rid the United States of treachery, his methods only served the political ends of the country by causing extreme fear of the Soviets and their ideologies (Jenkins 2).
On the other hand, throughout the periods of the two wars, racial systems were still rampant in the United States with white supremacy ensuring the segregation of the black race. However, black people also served in the war, and they expected a form of payment for their services, in the same manner in which the government paid Caucasian soldiers. The problem with such demands was the fact that the legalization of segregation through the endorsement of Jim Crow laws infringed the rights of black people in the social and civil sectors. In addition, blacks had no rights to vote and were therefore not American citizens, a situation one can rightfully blame on their history of slavery (Jenkins 36). Nonetheless, their involvement in the wars earned them the right, and to an extent the confidence, to defy societal norms and hold civil and social rights movements to demand equality (Duiker and Spielvogel 831). The actions brought to light the predicaments of the African Americans at the hands of a racist government and vigilante groups like the Ku Klux Klan, in the end egalitarianism won. Therefore, the war brought changes to the social makeup in the United States by providing African American soldiers with a reason to fight against racism.
Conclusively, there existed a relationship between the Second World War and the Cold War, and three reasons support those notions. First, the Great War preceded the two and in each case, the same powers took to arms when their alliances faced threats. On that note, Germany was a common denominator for the First and Second World Wars making is safe to argue that their involvement extended to the Cold War. In other words, without Germany, the United States and the Soviet Union might have never had to establish partnerships with each other out of obligation or mistrust each other. Secondly, the hostilities from the Second World War created the perfect environment for the Cold War, allowing one to argue that without the former war, the latter one would not have happened. Naturally, the spoils of war can cause rifts between the best of allies, such scenarios are worse among enemies who try to outdo each other at every turn. Finally, the two have a connection because they each affected the United States at the local and international levels. With its global fame, the changes within the United States of America were inevitable.
Churchill, Winston. "The Sinews of Peace." Sources of World History . Ed. Mark A. Kishlansky. New York: Harper Collins, 1995. 298-302. Print.
Dillon, Emile Joseph. "The Inside Story Of The Peace Conference." 26 December 2004. The Project Gutenberg. Web. 23 March 2004. <http://www.gutenberg.org/files/14477/14477-h/14477-h.htm#CHAPTER_III>.
Garrett, Stephen. "Détente and the Military Balance." Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists April 1977: 10-20. Web.
Jack, Homer. "A World Disarmament Conference." Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Feb 1973: 33-35. Web.
Jenkins, Philip. The Cold War at Home: The Red Scare in Pennsylvania, 1945-1960. North Carolina: UNC Press Books, 1999.Web.
Duiker, William J. & Spielvogel, Jackson J. World History, Volume II: Since 1500. 7th. Connecticut: Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.
Yahuda, Michael. The International Politics of the Asia Pacific. 3rd. London: Routledge, 2011. Print.
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