Research Paper: Soviet Union and the New Russia

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Soviet Union and the New Russia as a U.S. Security Threat

At the end of World War II, roughly Summer 1945, Europe was in shambles. Millions had been killed, many of the governments so disenfranchised that they had to be rebuilt. The infrastructure in most of Europe was in shambles, but unlike the situation after World War II, the United States found a new determination in President Truman and his staff. Because they wanted to build up a democratic Europe, aid was put into place (the Marshall Plan) to help restore Europe to hegemony and self-sufficiency. However, because Europe was in such turmoil and there was somewhat of a power vacuum that France, England, the United States, and of course, the Soviet Union, wished to fill.

The United States insisted that Germany be brought back into Europe to prevent a repeat of Versailles; but the occupation of Eastern Germany and Eastern Europe by the Soviets prevented that from occurring completely. Politically, Europe had to elect new governments and set up new economic and transportation systems. Socially, Europe was somewhat divided, depending on the amount of war damage, displaced persons, new political systems, and ability to rebuilt their infrastructure appropriately. Clearly, without U.S. intervention, the war damage would not have been repaired as quickly and the resultant hardships encountered might have changed the socio-political spectrum of Europe and, with such horrible internal conditions, moved more of the population towards the Soviets (Foa, 2000). Europe, however, did not recover overnight. Into the 1950s Germany and England, for instance, still had a number of shortages and were certainly not back to full potential until the 1960s. What followed were decades in which Europe tended to operate as either part of NATO (Western Allies), or part of the Soviet, Eastern Bloc. Nationalistic tendencies were subsumed, in part because of the memory of the war, in part because of the polarization of the Cold War.

The Cold War -- the Post World War II Paradigm- Briefly, the Cold War is generally termed the period of tension between the U.S.S.R. And its allies (the Warsaw Pact) and the United States and Allies (NATO) after World War II. Tensions heightened after the surrender of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy when Josef Stalin of the U.S.S.R. occupied Eastern Europe and created, as Winston Churchill called it, "An Iron Curtain." During the 40 plus years after World War II, the antagonism between the two views resulted in trillions of dollars in spending, countless loss of lives, insurmountable human suffering, and drastic economic impact to not only the U.S.S.R. And USA, but to those aligned with each power. A seminal question remains, however, and one that remains debatable depending on the position of the scholar, what were the actual origins of the Cold War? and, based on the information available to the decision makers of the time, realizing that it was reasonable to believe in Stalinist aggression and form a protectionist and aggressive foreign policy to counter.

On one side, the Cold War was seen as a reaction to American aggression after World War II. America had not been invaded, and had an economy that was growing stronger and indeed was one of the only major powers whose homeland was untouched by the ravages of World War II (with the exception of Pearl Harbor). Compare this to the Soviet Union, with 30+ million dead, 25 million homeless, almost 1 million acres of productive agricultural land destroyed, and the infrastructure of the transportation system in shambles, and most major cities and industry ravaged. After the fall of Germany, the Soviets may have been on the winning side, but their economy was in shambles and they were in a position in which their entire internal structure was at risk -- and facing an ever powerful United States who, in one fell swoop, became the only nation on earth to harness the power of atomic weaponry (Linz).

The United States was, in fact, well aware of the vulnerability of the Soviets. A 1945 Report predicted that the Soviet Union was 5-20 years behind the United States in regrouping and repair of its own infrastructure and economy. If one imagines looking at the globe in 1946, the Soviet Union would see Japan as occupied by the United States, a looming presence in the Pacific and Indo-China by the United States, a Europe being propped up by the Marshall Plan and extreme loyalty to the Americans, an American economy still tooled for war, American technology far surpassing any the Soviets had at that moment, and finally a new President (Truman) who was strongly opposed to any Soviet grab for territory (Aid). This, combined with the psychological makeup of Josef Stalin would result in a paranoia and distrust -- and the feeling of obligation to protect his country from being the victim of the United States as it had been of Germany (Gordin).

On the other hand, Winston Churchill rightly saw that Stalin wanted a large "buffer zone" between the U.S.S.R. And Europe -- and was in a position in which he needed vast agricultural and industrial areas in order to repair the war damage -- what better location than Eastern Europe and the Slavic nations? President Truman, having not been a party to Franklin Roosevelt's dealings and negotiations with Stalin (or Britain, for that matter), had to rely on his experts who were, for the most part, hawkish. When he asked for Secretary of Commerce Henry Wallace for an overview on the Soviet Union, Wallace pointed out that it was natural for the Soviets to feel entangled and entrenched, but Wallace had a long history of sentiment for the U.S.S.R. (Altman). From Russia's point-of-view, the U.S. push to establish democracy in Eastern Europe, where [it] never existed, seem[d] to be an attempt to reestablish the encirclement of unfriendly neighbors which was created after the last war and which might serve as a springboard of still another effort to destroy her (Iakolev). Add to this Truman's Secretary of State, Dean Acheson's view that Russia's motivation was continually aggressive (Whitman).

That is not to say that Truman had an easy time from 1946-50. Millions of service men and women were returning home to great expectations. No one knew what was going to happen in Europe, and the domestic fear of communism was growing. While some believed that the United States wanted to continue the policy of friendliness to the Soviets, negotiating any differences in the United Nations, there was also a clear message sent to the world in 1947, thereafter called the "Truman Doctrine," in which the U.S. policy was set to support the "free" peoples of the world -- and the definition of such be American style democracy. Post-war revisionists see this pronouncement as "the most important propaganda technique of the Truman Administration was the consistent interpretation of major international events [using] the terminology of the Truman Doctrine (Bostdorff). Thus, despite any belief after the surrender of the Nazi regime, "the American dream of postwar peace and the Big three (United States, Great Britain, USSR) cooperation was to be shattered as the Soviet Union expanded into Eastern and Central Europe" (Churchill).

For the United States, the 1950s was an Era of dramatic change. Winning the war, the resulting economic book, the political situation of helping Europe rebuilt, and the new mega-weapon all pushed the American paradigm into the forefront or world politics. America was "rich," and expected to help other countries, but was going through its own crises and growing pains socially and economically. Several large trends occurred during the 1950s, the Cold War between the United States and the U.S.S.R. developed, Africa began to be decolonialized throwing the economic and political situation out of balance, the Korean War brought the United States into another global conflict, tensions heated up in Egypt (the Suez Canal Crisis) and Cuba (Castro and the Cuban Revolution), and America went through a turbulent time with Anti-Communist feelings and Senator Joseph McCarthy's accusations and focus on "reds in the State Department" (Hanson).

The Cold War with the Soviet Union was based, really, on a high level of mistrust. After World War II the Americans had nuclear weapons capability, they had not been invaded so were on better footing economically, and the Soviet's need for buffer "protective" zones in Eastern and Southern Europe. Then, of course, there was the nature of the Soviet State -- the aim of spreading world communism, and American President Harry Truman's personal dislike and distrust of Joseph Stalin. Both sides feared and mistrusted each other to the point where minor signals and incidents signaled far more than the intent of simply security, instead, with the United States unwilling to share its nuclear secrets, a climate of unparalled tension that would last several decades began in earnest.

After the death of Joseph Stalin in 1954 there was a clear power vacuum. One of the true believers in the Bolshevik Revolution and intellectual heir to Lenin's policies was Nikita… [END OF PREVIEW]

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