Defining the Cold War, pp

Cold War Perspectives—What the U.S. Thought of the USSR and Vice Versa

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Cold War Perspectives—What the U.S. Thought of the USSR and Vice Versa
George Kennan’s Long Telegram (Article X), 1946

  • Russian-based American diplomat, who had been stationed in Moscow since 1933, was directed by the State Department to write a document about Soviet intentions and outlooks; they received back an 8,000 word telegram from Kennan

  • Kennan sought to explain the USSR’s actions in Eastern Europe and hostile/confrontational rhetoric (Stalin had repeatedly said that capitalism and communism could not coexist)

  • Kennan’s work formed the basis of American policy towards Russia for the next quarter of a century (containment, Marshall Plan)

Key ideas/quotes:

  • “At bottom of Kremlin’s (reference to Russia’s government) neurotic view of world affairs is traditional and instinctive Russian sense of insecurity . . . . [T]hey have always feared foreign penetration. . . . And they have learned to seek security only in patient but deadly struggle for total destruction of rival power, never in compacts and compromises with it.”

  • Leaders of the USSR represented the West as evil and corrupt—as Russia’s enemies, which justified an increase in military and police power of the Russian state

  • Accurately predicted actions the USSR would take (great displays to impress outsiders; continued secretiveness about internal matters; attempt to influence colonial areas, or those that were undeveloped or possibly opposed to Western centers of power)

  • Inaccurately predicted that communism would undermine Western governments through infiltration and spying; though there were regular spy scares, communism never managed to undermine Western governments

  • Explained that the Soviets were by far the weaker force, which would eventually collapse and would back down against a show of force

  • Asserted that the U.S. should make sure people were wealthy, happy and secure; encouraged waging a propaganda war to make sure citizens were aware of the benefits of Western freedoms

  • “Much depends on health and vigor of our own society. World communism is like malignant parasite which feeds only on diseased tissue.”

  • “It is not enough to urge people to develop political processes similar to our own. Many foreign peoples are tired and frightened by experiences of past, and are less interested in abstract freedom than in security. They are seeking guidance rather than responsibilities. We should be better able than Russians to give them this. And unless we do, Russians certainly will.”

Nikolai Novikov’s Telegram, 1946

  • The Soviets, well-aware of Kennan’s telegram, responded with a similar document of their own, written by the Soviet Ambassador to the U.S.

  • Was not made public until 1991, after the breakup of the Soviet Union; before that time virtually no documents that looked at the Cold War from the USSR’s perspective were available

Key ideas/quotes:

  • “Obvious indications of the U.S. effort to establish world dominance are also to be found in the increase in military potential in peacetime and in the establishment of a large number of naval and air bases both in the United States and beyond its borders. . . . Expenditures on the army and navy have risen colossally . . .”

  • Accurately noted that Western Europe was completely dependent on the U.S. (particularly after the Marshall Plan was enacted)

  • Suggested that the U.S.’s new interest in Zionism (support for the creation of the state of Israel in former Palestine) was just an attempt to gain control of oil resources of the Middle East

  • “The foreign policy of the United States, which reflects the imperialist tendencies . . . is characterized in the postwar period by a striving for world supremacy. This is the real meaning of the many statements by President [Harry] Truman . . . : that the United States has the right to lead the world. All the forces of American diplomacy—the army, the air force, the navy, industry, and science—are enlisted in the service of this foreign policy. . . . [B]road plans for expansion have been developed and are being implemented through diplomacy and the establishment of a system of naval and air bases stretching far beyond the boundaries of the United States, through the arms race, and through the creation of ever newer types of weapons.”

  • “Europe has come out of the war with a completely dislocated economy, and the economic devastation that occurred in the course of the war cannot be overcome in a short time. All of the countries of Europe and Asia are experiencing a colossal need for consumer goods, industrial and transportation equipment, etc. Such a situation provides American monopolistic capital with prospects for enormous shipments of goods and the importation of capital into these countries—a circumstance that would permit it to infiltrate their national economies. Such a development would mean a serious strengthening of the economic position of the United States in the whole world and would be a stage on the road to world domination by the United States.”

  • “The numerous and extremely hostile statements by American government, political, and military figures with regard to the Soviet Union and its foreign policy are very characteristic . . . . These statements are echoed in an even more unrestrained tone by the overwhelming majority of the American press organs. Talk about a "third war," meaning a war against the Soviet Union, even a direct call for this war—with the threat of using the atomic bomb—such is the content of the statements on relations with the Soviet Union by reactionaries at public meetings and in the press.”

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