Fall of the Soviet Union Essay

Pages: 9 (3008 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: American History


In the First World War the United States had entered late and, although its involvement had an impact on the outcome, its influence was much less than its influence arising from the Second World War.

In the Second World War the United States assumed a leadership position. There was little doubt as to how important the United States' entry into the War was to the ultimate outcome and, unlike what occurred following the end of the First World War, the United States was largely able to dictate the terms of how the War would end and under what terms. The Allied nations, with the exception of the Soviet Union, looked toward the United States for leadership and this time the United States did not withdraw into isolation. As the only nation in the world with the atomic bomb and one of the few nations that did not have to rebuild its infrastructure, the United States was in excellent position to assume a position of power on the world scene and the fact that the Soviet Union was poised to challenge the United States for world domination caused the American public to adopt a new attitude toward isolation.

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The devastating effects of the Second World War and the recognition how different the world might have been if Germany had managed to win the War in Europe caused the American public and politicians to take a new interest in foreign affairs. There was a new pride present in America arising from its involvement in the War; its possession of atomic weaponry; and in its status as the symbol of democracy for the rest of the world. There was some sentiment for America to return to its position of isolation following the end of the War but the fear of Communism overrode this sentiment and the United States quickly stepped forward to lead the free world in its fight against the threat of Communism. It was the U.S. that led the drive to from the United Nations; it was the U.S. that designed and operated the Marshall Plan; that joined the Western Europe nations in forming NATO; and, led the fight against the Soviet Union by airlifting supplies into Berlin.

TOPIC: Essay on Fall of the Soviet Union Assignment

In the aftermath of the Second World War the United States made a rapid transformation from being a nation dedicated to isolation to a nation intricately involved in nearly every aspect of world affairs. The United States emerged from the Second World War and its image was completely transformed. It was no longer viewed as the sleeping giant across the ocean. Europe had been decimated by the war and the world was undergoing considerable change. Nations in Asia, Africa, and South America that had been under colonial control were becoming free to pursue their own destinies and they sought the assistance of the United States in doing so. The United States had vested interests in providing this assistance but also wanted to negate the possibility of the Soviet Union stepping in to do so.

What little hope that isolationist forces in the United States had of convincing the American public and its leaders into adopting a position of isolation disappeared entirely in August of 1949 as the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb. The result of this action was to force the United States into a position of making sure that the military power of the Soviet Union was neutralized. The fear of Communism as a political ideology had already consumed Western Europe and the United States. The prevailing thought was that the goal of Communism was to spread its ideology throughout the world and once the Soviet Union, the most powerful of the new Communist governments, demonstrated the ability to produce atomic weapons the free world looked toward the United States to keep it safe from Soviet aggression.

From the end of the Second World War through the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, the world was engaged in a situation identified as the Cold War. The Cold War was characterized as a constant struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union for world domination. Although a shot was never fired between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, this did not stop the ever escalating buildup of arms between the two nations. Whereas before the Second World War there were no clear cut world powers during the Cold War there was no doubt that the balance of power in the world was split between the United States and the Soviet Union. The United States was forced to assume a leadership position because it was the only nation in the world that could equal the power of the Soviet Union. The result of this situation was that the United States was forced to dedicate far more of its national budget to national defense and to have its military to become engaged in a number of military conflicts that were remarkably unpopular with the America public.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 the United States has, by default, assumed the role as the world's only real super power (Holbrooke, 1995). Other nations have nuclear capabilities but no one has the quantity of nuclear weapons that the United States possesses. No one has a standing army with the skills and experience that the United States has and no one has the economic resources that the U.S. possesses. Thus, the United States stands alone as a world power.

Isolation is no longer an option for the United States. Even if the United States wanted to withdraw and allow the remainder of the world to go about its business without any involvement from the United States this is no longer possible. The world is now dependent on the United States economically; militarily; and, some argue, morally. The fact is that the rest of the world will not leave the United States alone and that for economic and security reasons the United States is now forced to maintain its present position in world affairs. It must not only maintain all of its present alliances it must also work toward forging new relations with the rising powers in the world such as India, China, Brazil, and South Africa. Poor countries throughout the world will continue to look toward the United States for financial assistance and guidance. The United States can no longer consider withdrawing. It must remain vigilant in its role as the world's only super power and its best representative of democratic ideals.

Although there is considerable debate relative to what America's role in the world should be, since the end of the Cold War, it has been one largely of nation building (Dobbins, 2006). In this role the United States has found itself involved in such activities in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Under the auspices of the United Nations it has also been involved in numerous other, smaller missions throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America. These missions have met with mixed results.

As indicated, there is considerable controversy over whether or not the United States should be involved in nation-building and part of that controversy is a group of advocates arguing for a renewed period of American isolation. Members of Congress have openly opposed America's continued involvement and threatened to cut off the funding for such activities but, for the moment, this is the role that has fallen onto the shoulders of the American government.

Nearly two hundred and fifty years ago a number of small and unorganized English colonies formed an experimental government that has since grown into the most powerful nation that the world has ever known. For most of its history that nation purposely avoided foreign entanglements and, in fact, its first President, George Washington, actually warned against such involvement (Wasington, 1796). Over time, however, things changed and so did America's role in the world. The isolation that was enjoyed for nearly two hundred years could not be sustained. The United States emerged from the Second World War permanently abandoning its isolationist position and, except for a few fleeting moments, has never looked back. Today, the American government and people are intimately involved in every aspect of world affairs and isolation is only a dream.


Chalberg, J.C. (1994). Isolationism: Opposing Viewpoints. Chicago: Greenhaven Press.

Dobbins, J.F. (2006). America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq. Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, 87-110.

Fry, J.A. (1979). William McKinley and the Coming of the Spanish-American War: A Study of The Besmirching and Redemption of an Historical Image. Diplomatic History, 77-98.

Holbrooke, R. (1995). America, A European Power. Foreign Affairs, 38-51.

Lebergott, S. (1983). Why the South Lost: Commercial Purpose in the Confederacy, 1861-1865. The Journal of American History, 58-74.

Ninkovich, F. (2001). The Wilsonian Century: U.S. Foreign Policy since 1900. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Timmer, A.S. (1998). Immigration Policy Prior to the 1930s:… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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