Chapter 32: The Cold War



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- Chapter 32: The Cold War -

Conflict: A cold war develops between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, the two superpowers after WWII.

Change: The Soviet Union tries to move away from the legacy of Stalin while maintaining its control over Eastern EU.

Regionalism: Western EU democracies develop closer regional unity.

Cooperation: The U.S. and Canada build strong economies and forge closer ties.

- Background -

The U.S. and the Soviet Union emerged from WWII as the world’s two superpowers. No other countries were equal to them in military power or political influence. Differences in political beliefs and policies soon pulled the two superpowers apart and led to a struggle between them known as the cold war. In the cold war, each superpower sought world influence by means short of total war. This was because the possibility of nuclear war made the cost of a “hot” war too high. The “weapons” used in the cold war included the threat of force, the use of propaganda, and the sending of military and economic aid to weaker nations.
- Section 1: The East-West Split -

The United Nations: In the closing months of WWII, the Allies started planning for the postwar world. To handle further global problems, they had agreed at Yalta to replace the League of Nations with the United Nations (UN), a new, permanent international organization. The purpose of the UN was to maintain peace by guaranteeing the security of member nations. It would foster good relations among nations based on the principles of equal rights and self-determination. It would also encourage cooperation on economic, cultural, and humanitarian problems. The UN met in NYC for the first time in 1946. Although the UN Charter (drafted in San Francisco 1945) provided for six major bodies, it assigned the bulk of power to only two of them --- the Security Council and the General Assembly. The Security Council, established to decide diplomatic, political, and military disputes, was made up of 11 members. The five permanent members were: G.B., China, France, the U.S., and the Soviet Union. Each was given the right to veto any Security Council decision. The other six members served two-year terms. The General Assembly, the policy-making body, was made up of representatives from all UN member nations. Each nation had one vote. The third body, the Economic and Social Council, oversaw the fights against poverty, ignorance, and disease. The fourth, the International Court of Justice, handled the UN’s administrative work. During the postwar period, the UN effectively resolved many crises. However, the right of veto given to the Security Council’s permanent members made the UN powerless to resolve any dispute involving the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The UN became deadlocked. It was criticized as being a “debating society” --- far from what the signers of the Charter had hoped it would be.
From Allies to Arch Enemies: After WWII, the Western Allies --- the United States, Great Britain, and France --- believed the best way to achieve security was to strengthen democracy and build prosperous economies in EU; the Soviets had different goals. The Soviets had well-justified fears of invasion and had lost more than 20 million people in WWII. Stalin wanted to establish pro-Soviet governments in Eastern EU not only to prevent any future attacks but also to expand his empire. He made sure Eastern EU’s Communist parties were loyal to him and worked to strengthen their position throughout the region. FDR was open to cooperating with Stalin; Truman was not. Many other leaders adopted a much darker view of Stalin. They concluded that the Soviet dictator wanted to control Eastern EU with the same ruthlessness that he used to govern the Soviet Union.
The Iron Curtain: Eastern EU became the first region where Soviet and Western interests came into conflict. Albania and Yugoslavia, local Communist parties, which had led the resistance against Axis forces in their countries, took control with little help from the Soviets. In Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria, where Soviet troops were in full command, the Soviet Union made sure that government ministries included Communists. Later, breaking his promise made at Yalta, Stalin refused to allow free elections. Non-Communists were ousted from governments, and Communists took charge. By 1947, most of the nations of the region had become Soviet satellites, controlled by the Soviet Union. Stalin’s actions convinced President Truman that the U.S. had to resist further Soviet moves. Truman was backed by British statesman Churchill. In March 1946, Churchill used the phrase “iron curtain” in a speech in Fulton, Missouri: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the continent of EU.” Thereafter, iron curtain referred to the Soviet-made divider that split EU into non-Communist Western Europe and Communist Eastern Europe.
Containing Communism: To counter the expansionist threat from the Soviets, the U.S. developed a new foreign policy in 1947 known as containment. Believing that the Soviets sought to expand their territory without war, a Soviet Union expert suggested a policy of containment --- holding back the spread of communism. The U.S. had hoped to keep communism inside its existing borders.

  • The Truman Doctrine: In 1947, Greece was torn between communists and a pro-Western democracy. Albania and Yugoslavia were funding the guerilla warfare. The West feared the fall of Greece to communism would endanger Western influence in the Mediterranean region. Since G.B. was enduring economic weaknesses, they asked the U.S. to intervene. A month later, Truman asked Congress for $400 million for Greece and Turkey. In asking Congress for support, Truman made a new statement of foreign policy that became known as the Truman Doctrine:

I believe that it must be the policy of the U.S. to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures… We must assist free peoples to work their own destiny in their own way.”

Congress approved Truman’s aid request. With the Truman Doctrine, the U.S. took on international responsibilities as the leader of the Western world. American military aid would now be available to any nation threatened by communism. Greece was a success story.



  • The Marshall Plan: Conditions in EU posed immediate and long-term challenges for the U.S. WWII had severely weakened EU economies. Truman feared that an EU economic crisis/collapse would open EU to communism. It believed that the military and economic security of the U.S. depended on a strong and democratic EU. The U.S. gov’t devised a new approach to aiding EU. Secretary of State George C. Marshall proposed an aid program known as the Marshall Plan. Its purpose was to restore “the confidence of EU people in the economic future of their own countries.” Western EU countries responded enthusiastically to the Marshall Plan; however, the Soviet Union refused to participate in the plan and forced its Eastern EU countries to do the same. Despite their great need for economic aid, the Soviets felt they could not afford to give out info about their economy. They also opposed linking their Communist economy with capitalist ones. The Marshall Plan was a great success. Western EU nations worked together to boost productivity, reduce trade barriers, and use resources efficiently. They received about $13 billion in aid during the next four years. By 1951, Western EU’s economies were prospering and Communist prospects in these countries had declined. The Marshall Plan extended American influence in Western EU and helped unite the region into a single economic group to counter the Soviets. In reaction to the Marshall Plan, in 1949 the Soviets Union set up a rival plan known as the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance or COMECON. Eastern EU was thus formed into a competing economic group led by the Soviet Union.

What key events caused and heightened the cold war? _____________________________________________________

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What events in Eastern EU changed the American attitude toward the Soviet Union?

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What nations of Europe remained neutral (6)?

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