The Cold War was a geopolitical war that was mostly caused by the United States. Even though the USSR was a major player in the world and the Cold War, the United States was more responsible in starting and escalating the Cold War itself through containment, continuing the space race, and the Red Scare. These actions led the USSR to believe that the United States wanted to go to war with them and the USSR was more than willing to participate, especially after the victory over Germany in World War II.
First, containment was a contributing factor to the Cold War that got the USSR unnecessarily angry at the United States. Originally the plan of George Kennan, “Containment provided a conceptual framework for a series of successful initiatives undertaken from 1947 to 1950 to blunt Soviet expansion” (Anonymous, “George Kennan and Containment”). With this idea, Kennan felt that the U.S. should stop the USSR from expanding its communist influence to other countries that were not communist countries at that time. While limiting communism can be seen as a positive action, Russia did not take too kindly to containment because they wanted to spread communism to as many places as possible. As a result, they became irritated with the United States for trying to stop them from spreading communism which, according to Russia, was none of the United State’s business. Therefore, by meddling in Russia’s business with regards to spreading communism the U.S. gave the impression that they wanted to pick a fight with the USSR.
Second, the United States made it seem as if they wanted to overpower Russia when they continued the space race. When the USSR launched Sputnik into space, “Americans feared that the world would see the Soviet system as superior, and many questioned whether the free and open society of 1950s America was as dominant as they had thought” (Anonymous, “The Space Race and the Cold War”). This fear led them to furiously attempt to outdo Russia with regards to space exploration. This resulted in a competition to get humans into space that only escalated tense relationships between Russia and the U.S. When Russia realized that the U.S. wanted to overpower them with regards to space exploration, they believed that the U.S. was a threat and that they wanted to go to war.
Finally, the Red Scare was the third and most direct opposition to communism and the USSR that was associated with violence. When the U.S. government suspected people of being communists, “few people dared to criticize the questionable tactics used to persecute suspected radicals” (Anonymous, “Red Scare”). The United States was so against communism that they resorted to certain persecution methods of suspected communists that were not necessarily legal. This is shown through the fact that very little people questioned the governmental actions with regards to communists. Not only does this show that the U.S. was actively using possibly illegal persecution methods against communists, but it also shows that people in the U.S. did not care. When the USSR observed this, they came to believe that the U.S. wanted to go to war with them because if they were using questionable persecution methods against Americans, then for sure the U.S. government wanted to eradicate communism in the USSR as well with questionable methods or violence.
Anonymous. “George Kennan and Containment”. https://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/short-history/kennan (Links to an external site.)
“The Space Race and the Cold War.” Science and Its Times, edited by Neil Schlager and Josh Lauer, vol. 7, Gale, 2001. World History in Context, link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CV2643450871/UHIC?u=s0351&xid=c5ca430d. Accessed 11 Jan. 2017.
Anonymous. “Red Scare”. http://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/red-scare (Links to an external site.). 2010.
The Cold War was a global conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. Although both countries contribute to the high tensions during the war, the Soviet Union was ultimately at fault for starting it and further escalation tensions. Soviet aggression, as well as their rush to build their weapons, and their ultimate decision to place missiles in Cuba all contributed to the Cold War starting and further escalating.
One of the main issues that contributed to why and how the Cold War started was because of Soviet aggression. According to the realist explanation, the aggression didn’t even come from the individual level, but it stemmed from the aggressive nature of the Soviet society which caused the need for the Soviets to try and expand their power. Stalin had occupied Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, all of Eastern Europe and half of Germany by the time World War II ended, meanwhile the US was withdrawing troops. Because of the aggressive nature of Soviet expansion, the US began a policy of containment in order to check aggressive Soviet actions through military alliances. Furthermore, the “iron curtain” which was once only a political divide between the east and the west became a physical divide as well, when the Soviet Union ct off access to the east side of the barrier.
Another Soviet act that led to increasing tensions was setting off the arms race. They did this when they invaded North Korea because Europe wanted to stop a Soviet invasion from happening. By invading North Korea, the Soviet Union now had allies in Asia as well which did not sit well with the rest of Europe. This ultimately led to the creation of the nuclear bomb. Although both sides were building and testing nuclear bombs, it was very clear that the United States was very hesitant to use its full capabilities. For example, the United States had the capability to Strike the Soviet Union without having them strike back because their weapons were more developed. However, because the United State depended on a strategy called massive retaliation, but didn’t actually follow through on their threat, they were able to keep the Cold War from becoming all out war against Russia.
This was further exacerbated during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1962 the Soviets moved nuclear armed ballistic missiles into Cuba. The only logical reason that could explain this was because Cuba is very close to the United States and this because a huge threat to the United States. Again, the United States had a much bigger advantage when it came to the arms race, however their policy was to not attack the Soviet Union because they knew the Soviet Union would attack back so they did not want to risk it. When the Soviets moved the missiles to Cuba this could have reached a point of all out war yet again, however the Soviets realized that the Americans threat of retaliation this time was credible so they backed down.
Ultimately, the two countries were able to put an end to the Cold War by working with each other. Although both countries held responsibility, it was the Soviets who should be held accountable.
Nau, Henry R. Perspectives on International Relations: Power, Institutions, and Ideas. Washington, D.C.: CQ, 2007. Print.
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