US Cold War involvement examples

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How was US involvement in the Greek Civil War, the Truman Doctrine, the Soviet acquisition of the atomic bomb, the Korean War and McCarthyism are all primary examples of Cold War conflict and how they impacted the attitudes of most Americans?

Jul 25th, 2015

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Ideologies : Communism v. capitalism

Capitalism: production of goods and distribution is dependent on private capital with a view to making profit; capitalist economies run by individuals rather than by state

Communism: hostile to capitalism, which exploits workers; ideally all property, businesses & industry should be state-owned, ‘each gives according to their ability to those according to their need’

Economics: Marshall Plan (1947) – provision of fuel, raw materials, goods, loans, food, ……………..machinery advisers

US exploited it financial power to export Western values – dollar imperialism

1948-52, US Congress voted nearly $13bn economic aid to Europe

Trade war with Communist countries, e.g. Cuba

Military tensions: Korean War (1950-3), Vietnam (early 1960s -1973); US …………military …………, e.g. 1960 2.4 US military personnel around world; …………1959, 1,500 ………….military bases in 31 countries

Treaties: NATO (1949) – North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

SEATO (1954)– South East Asia Treaty Organisation

Warsaw Pact (1955)– military defensive pact amongst eastern European nations

COMECON (1949)– Council for Mutual Economic Assistance

Propaganda: European Recovery Program – propaganda as much as economic ………..exercise

Benefits of Marshall Plan advertised

Italy became a focus of economic rebuilding after WWII - ‘Operation Bambi’ used minstrels, puppet shows and film

Espionage: CIA (1947) – founded to co-ordinate information gathering on ………USSR and ………..Allies. Activities included:

Support for anti-Communist political leaders, e.g. Christian Democrats, 1948 elections

‘Regime change’,  e.g. overthrow of left-wing govt in Iran & Guatemala, Operation Executive Action (1961), collaborated with Mafia to overthrow Fidel Castro

Arms race: 1945 US tested and detonated 1st atomic bomb

1949 USSR carried out 1st successful nuclear test

1952 tested 1st H-bomb (2,500x more powerful)

1953, USSR produced H-bomb

1961 enough nuclear weapons to destroy world

1967 China produced H-bomb

1981, USA 8000 ICBMs, USSR 7,000

MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction

Space race: 1957, launch of Sputnik

1957, 1st animal in space

1961, Yuri Gagarin 1st man in space

21 July 1969 Apollo 11 mission successfully land 1st man on moon

Sport & culture: 1980, ‘Miracle on Ice’ – US hockey teams defeats USSR ………‘’giants’

1980 Moscow Olympics, 1984 LA Olympics – boycotted by US & USSR

Ballet – defections to West, e.g. Nureyev

World Chess Championships– Bobby Fisher v. Boris Spassky (1972)


o  Communism  capitalism  - democracy (different interpretations)

o  US assumptions  - poverty, expansionism, oppressive (no choice – forced), evil

o  Spy trials – threat internally – State Dept , McCarthyism

o  Truman Doctrine perceived these as subjugation by armed minorities “free peoples”

o  Marshall aid perceived as having ideological reasons – dollar imperialism

o  Expansionism (Kennan – Russian nature was nationalistic) –proof seen in E Europe/Far East

o  Guilt over appeasement

o  Support for newly created UN

o  Buffer zone/puppet state – different perceptions

o  USSR commitment to world revolution

o  Liberated peoples after 2ww or after colonial powers left want independence/self

§  determination & may choose communism

Personality (Leaders)

o  Stalin paranoid – e.g. purges, fear of invasion – betrayed in 2ww by Hitler but also allies made him wait 2 yrs before opening eastern front; distrusts Truman as kept A bomb secret at Potsdam,

o  Truman – hard headed – ignorant of foreign affairs, persuaded by Riga Axiom & Kennan’s  Long telegram  rather than Wilsonian liberalism,no appeasement uphold Freedoms in UN charter

o  Change of leaders during 1945: Relations tricky, suspicion personal e.g. Potsdam relations – Molotov swore at Truman. Truman’s “I’m tired of babying the Soviets”  and the “only language they understand is the language of force”

·  USA attitudes (point of view)

·  Assumptions (poverty breeds communism, expansionist, evil, monolithic power, puppet states)

·  Fear of appeasement, must confront  (little suffering in war)

·  Events of 1945-50  seemed to provide proof for each assumption so justified containment policy

o  Domestic pressure: US spy trials Fucks, Hiss, Rosenburgs 1949 & USSR a bomb, Berlin airlift symbolic support for democracy under threat by another dictator, China communist “soft on communism” – Truman found demands to be tough

USSR attitudes (point of view – perspective)

o  History – fear of invasion: Russian past constant invasion, 1917 & civil war foreign intervention,  – betrayed in 2ww by Hitler but also allies made him wait 2 yrs before opening eastern front; suffering huge 20 million, felt needed buffer as protection

o  distrusts Truman as kept A bomb secret at Potsdam, despite being allies, thought bomb dropped in Japan as warning/threat

·  Stalin had agreed with Churchill to have some influence in E Europe after war, not honoured by Truman as not a formalised agreement

National security: 

·  conflicting National interests – geopolitical – attitudes & assumptions drove need for security

o  Balance of power/spheres of influence - strategic advantage - containment v. Perceived as hegemony or expansion by other side

o  US perspective different from USSR – result of different histories and war time experiences

o  Conflict over E Europe – Yalta promises not fulfilled, conflict over  Poland, Red Army in Europe, elections in France/Italy, no elections liberated states, opposition exiled, killed, imprisoned in E Europe, Greece – Truman Doc/Marshall Aid – buffer zone

o  Conflict over Germany- US rebuild, USSR reparations – Berlin division - airlift

o  Conflict over Far East – Japan (bulwark, defence perimeter)– China., Korea, Vietnam

Threats.. perceived to national security. World peace.. balance of power

·  Actual danger – e.g., Berlin airlift Korean invasion

·  Nuclear advantage: perceived danger of A bomb – arms race/NATO/Warsaw Pact

·  1949 turning pt China communist – Sino-Soviet Pact – spy trials at home – Berlin – NATO led to NSC 68 – followed by Korean invasion – led to 1st military action UN led invasion of Korea

·  Korea militarised and globalised Cold War


·  Economic containment by US: Marshall Aid, reconstruction of Japan, money to Korea, Vietnam

·  Germany – US rebuild, join zones new currency: USSR reparations

·  Comecon – join E bloc v. Marshall Aid countries , bound by command economy to Moscow

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