The U.S. struggle to contain Soviet communism worldwide resulted in what came to be known as the "Cold War". Although full-scale war between the U.S. and Soviet Union did not occur, two major wars—Korea and Vietnam—and many smaller conflicts occurred between 1946 and 1991 over the battle between democracy and communism.
I. Roots of the Cold War
A. U.S. point of view
1. Stalin seemed intent on creating "spheres" of influence in Eastern Europe a. Yalta Conference: Soviet pledge to allow democratic elections in E. Europe was broken incl. Poland, Romania, Bulgaria. Later Czechoslovakia & Hungary dominated by Moscow.
b. USSR refused to release E. Germany while the US, British and French allowed their western zones to be unified into a new democratic West Germany.
2. US wanted democracy spread throughout the world with a strong international organization to maintain global peace (United Nations)
-- Soviet Union eventually supported resistance to democracy throughout the world.
3. Churchill’s "Iron Curtain" Speech warned Americans of Soviet expansion (March 1946 in Fulton, Missouri)
-- Americans now realized that a protracted conflict with the USSR was a reality.
B. Soviet point of view
1. US did not open western front in W. Europe early enough; millions of Soviet soldiers died fighting the brunt of Nazi armies alone until mid-1944.
2. The US and British froze Russia out of the atomic bomb project.
3. US terminated lend-lease to Moscow in 1945 and refused $6 billion plea from Stalin while granting Britain $3.75 billion in 1946.
4. Soviets wanted a security guarantee for the Soviet western border, especially in Poland
a. USSR twice attacked by Germany in 20th century.
b. Eastern Europe would become a "buffer zone" C. Partitioning
1. Korea & Vietnam split into northern and southern zones controlled by communists in the north and pro-democracy forces in the south.
-- Two major wars would be fought by U.S.: Korean War (1950-53); Vietnam (1964-1973)
2. Germany split into 4 zones with Berlin also being split in to quadrants. Issue of Berlin nearly resulted in full-scale war in 1948-49
II. Shaping the Postwar World
A. Bretton Woods Conference (1944): International Monetary Fund (IMF) created by western Allies
1. International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank) founded to promote economic growth in war-torn and underdeveloped areas; stabilize currencies
2. Soviets declined to participate
B. United Nations 1. Yalta Conference -- "Big Three" had called for a conference on world
organization to meet in April 1945 in the United States
2. Dumbarton Oaks Conference (August 21-October 7, 1944) -- Laid the basis for the United Nations Charter 3. San Francisco Conference opened on April 25, 1945.
a. UN Charter created a General Assembly composed of all member nations which would act as the ultimate policy-making body. -- In reality, had the power to recommend but not enforce.
b. Security Council composed of US, USSR, China, Britain, and France (+ 6 additional nations elected by the General Assembly for 2 year terms)
i. Any single veto would overrule a proposal
ii. Responsible for settling disputes among UN member nations.
III. The German Question
A. Nuremberg Trials 1. Potsdam Conference had decided on punishing war crimes and for a program of denazifying Germany.
2. Allies tried 22 top Nazis at Nuremberg, Germany during 1945 and 1946.
3. 12 Nazis hanged and seven sentenced to long jail terms.
4. Legal critics in U.S. condemned proceedings as judicial lynchings because the victims were tried for offenses that had not been clear-cut crimes when the war began.