Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 4

Alexander Chalmers Who was to blame for the Cold War?

History is written by the winners. The history of the Cold War has for a long time been focused on Stalins brutality and internal repression in the Soviet Union. Although these traditionalist accounts, laying the blame for the Cold War solely on the USSR have lost their dominance, these views are still widely held. Revisionist accounts completely blaming the USA and the West do not answer the question satisfactorily nor does saying that either side was equally responsible or that the Cold War was inevitable due to conflicting ideologies. The blame for the Cold War must lie on both sides, but on one more than the other and on events that neither side could control. When looking at a conflict like the Cold War, where events were shaped by one side acting and the other side reacting in a similar manner, the idea that both sides were equally responsible seems quite attractive. In fact, it is just an easy way of avoiding a difficult question. This suggestion would imply that both sides mirrored each other exactly, that they were equally provocative and equally responsible for the root causes and that they were of equal strength. The fact is that the two sides were not equal in any of these ways. The Cold Ear was not inevitable, conflicting ideologies do not have to clash in the way that they did. Capitalism and Communism did not have to collide. The West argued that communism advocated global revolution, but the Soviet Union used Cominform to rein in European communist parties, in the interest of diplomacy. The USSR knew that there was not going to be a global revolution. They could see how small and insignificant the communist parties in the USA and the UK were. The PCF (Parti communiste franais) was an exception, because many French people respected the role they had played in the French Resistance and they had been historically strong in France and was committed to achieving its aims through democratic means. It was not one of the more forceful Eastern European communist parties. It was a member of Cominform, but it was fairly distant from the Soviet Union. The West had clearly trusted them enough to include them in Charles de Gaulles government. Western-style democracies today manage to do business with the approximately fifty dictatorships in the world. There are more historical examples of this. Great Britain and Napoleonic France enjoyed an extended period of peace, until the British broke the Peace of Amiens. There was no Cold War between democracies and Nazi Germany, where Hitler actively seized other countries territory. Appeasement only ended when Chamberlain would have looked dishonest and weak if he had not acted when Hitler launched his invasion of Poland and even then the British government made a last ditch attempt to avoid war. If Chamberlain had not guaranteed to defend Polands sovereignty, it is doubtful that he would have declared war on Germany. Francisco Franco and the Falange ran an effectively fascist government in Spain until 1975, but there was only a very limited amount of tension. The idea that one country is completely to blame deserves little consideration either. If there is to be a conflict, there must be two sides as it takes two to tango. If only one side was acting aggressively and the other side was not responding in an overly aggressive or

Alexander Chalmers provocative fashion, there could be no escalation or conflict. As neither side was blameless in the Cold War and they were not equally responsible, the blame must lie with one side more than the other. When the Russian Revolution began, the Tsarist regime and the Romanovs were deeply unpopular. Russia was losing the war against Germany and a major counter-offensive had failed at a high cost. Poverty was rife and Russian society was backward. Most people wanted change, even if they did not support the Bolsheviks. This became clear when the Bolsheviks went on to lose the first Russian election to a more moderate left-wing party, coming third with less than 25% of the vote. However, the Wests decision to intervene in Russia and to prop up the forces of a deeply unpopular regime indirectly led to the Chekas brutal crackdown on enemies of the people and a famine that caused the starvation of millions. The Allied intervention in the USSR destroyed any chance of positive relations between the nascent Soviet Union and the West. The USA also refused to recognise the communists as the government of Russia. Despite the communists clear brutality and their more than dubious ascent to power, involving breaking up the first meeting of the new national assembly. The USA absurdly maintained this denial until 1935. The Russian Empire was clearly dead and the American failure to acknowledge that Russia had changed helped sow the seeds of suspicion. Appeasement is a controversial issue and at the time, it could have been seen as justified. War-weary, depression-struck Britain argument arguably was in no position to prevent the ascent of Nazi Germany. In 1939, Britains army did not have a single complete armoured division and its air force and its infantry forces were dwarfed by the Luftwaffe and the Wehrmacht. Despite the image of confidence and organisation projected by the Nazis, they were nervous about their actions and chaotically disorganised. It has now been revealed that German forces were ordered to immediately from the Rhineland, which had been designated as a demilitarized zone in the Treaty of the Versailles, if the French reacted. On paper, the French army was of equal strength to the German army, so reaction was not impossible. Russia had suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Germany, the tough terms of the surrender she signed reduced her frontiers to the Brest-Litovsk line. The First World War had destroyed what remained of Russias agrarian economy and left 3,800,000 dead. However, the West did not understand the Soviet Unions anxiety about the newly-confident Germany, despite the fact that Hitler was tearing apart the Treaty of Versailles and that in Mein Kampf he had pledged to annihilate communism and turn the East into farmland for German settlers. When the West discovered the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, they were astonished, having failed to predict the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union or that Stalin would have to buy himself some time. When Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa and what the Soviets called the Great Patriotic War began, ideological differences between the Allies were temporarily forgotten. Billions of dollars in aid poured into the Soviet Union with Arctic convoys embarking on a dangerous journey to keep the USSR supplied.

Alexander Chalmers The first of the wartime conferences was held in Tehran in 1943. The Allies agreed to open the second front in May 1944 and, although Stalin raised the issue of Poland, it was not really discussed. The Tehran Conference itself did not have much of an effect on the Cold War, however, Stalin was irked when the Allies launched their invasion of Western Europe a month later than agreed. The issue had been an area of contention throughout the war. When German originally invaded the Soviet Union in October 1941, Stalin had frequently called on the Allies to open the second front to relieve the large amount of pressure the rapidly advancing Germans were placing on his forces. These demands were unrealistic, as the Allies were engaged in heavy fighting in North Africa and resisting a powerful Japanese advance in the East. However, Stalin still felt aggrieved. The other two wartime conferences were less harmonious. Stalin, looking towards the future repeatedly pressed for concessions on the issue of Poland. In exchange for not intervening in the Greek Civil War, the Allies agreed that Poland would be moved west, but with the Red Army occupying in Eastern Europe, they were in no position to deny him this. The Soviet Union was also given a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, although the two sides interpreted this phrase differently. The Allies saw this as the Soviet Union being surrounded by friendly governments, but Stalin saw it more as dominating the governments of neighbouring countries. The West had been uncomfortable about Stalins ambitions for Eastern Europe, however in 1947, their worst fears were confirmed. One by one, the communist parties in Eastern Europe, who were part of coalitions drove their partners out of the government and banned other political parties. The West claimed that this showed that Stalin wanted to conquer Europe and posed a serious threat, but Stalin argued that the West possessed atomic weapons and the Soviet Union required a buffer zone. Stalin broke his promise of non-intervention in Greece. The Greek communist forces received a large amount of aid from Yugoslavia, the USSR and Bulgaria. If Stalin and Tito had not split, resulting in assistance for the Greek communists frying up, the results could have been very different. The combination of the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Aid were two of the most provocative actions of the early Cold War. Truman denounced the evils of communism and the Soviet Union and announced a policy of containment and co-existence. Marshall Aid also tried further these aims. It was a clear attempt at economic warfare, as the West knew that Stalin could not accept it, as it would be perceived by the rest of the world as a sign of weakness and it would damage his standing and reputation. The real purpose of Marshall Aid was to advertise capitalism and to create a rampant free market for the sale of American goods. The Truman Doctrine also had a similar aim. It did not defend Turkey, as it was never in significant danger. Stalin had expressed interest in the Dardanelles, but he knew that an attempt to seize them would risk provoking a conventional war with the West that he could not win. Truman did not save Greece, it was Stalin and Titos split that led the communists to be driven into the mountains and eventually defeated. So, the Truman Doctrine must have had another purpose. This was also economic. Communist countries did not buy American goods and communism had already deprived the US of one-sixth of its market share, arguably that was the real reason for containment. If Truman was planning economic warfare,

Alexander Chalmers he clearly was not that set on co-existence. That is why communists, despite posing no threat to the US, were routinely arrested and persecuted by the US government. The Berlin Blockade was the first major crisis of the Cold War. It is unclear why the West thought that combining their zones, holding secret meetings and introducing a new currency without warning the Soviets would not cause tension. However, Stalins reaction was grossly out-of-proportion and using the people of Berlin as a political weapon was morally wrong, however the West did blockade East Berlin. The Berlin Blockade inflamed tensions and was a terrible political miscalculation by Stalin. Divided Germany was often the flashpoint of Cold War tensions. The idea of a divided Germany was a Western one. Stalin had been against the idea, preferring a demilitarized and neutral Germany, but the West was worried that it would freely elect a communist government. Even at the end of the Cold War, when the German Chancellor warned the West of his plans for reunification, Margaret Thatcher, President Mitterand and other world leaders implored him to reconsider. However, when Germany was split, the Federal Republic of Germany refused to pay its fair share of reparations. This partly why the German Democratic Republic was poorer. With West Germany only paying $600 million, East Germany had to pay billions of dollars and most of their industrial equipment. East Germany had traditionally poorer than the West and it had borne the brunt of the damage done to Germany during the war.