Even though the USA and the USSR were allies during the Second World War, it only took four years for them to fall out and start the one of the longest and most bizarre wars the world has ever seen.
The differences between the USA and the USSR
One of the causes of the Cold War was the vast number of differences between the American and the Soviet way of life. American society was based on democracy and capitalism, but Soviet society centred on Communist ideas.
The people of the USA could elect any politician they wished for presidency or a place in Congress. On the other hand, the USSR was a one-party state, meaning that people could vote, but only for Communists.
The Americans believed in Capitalism, meaning that all businesses and property should be privately owned by companies or individuals. However, in the USSR, all industry was controlled and run by the state.
The USA was the richest country in the world, but the wealth was not evenly spread, whereas there was little unemployment and poverty in the USSR, but the overall standard of living in the USSR was lower than that of the USA.
The flag of the USSR, a symbol of Communism
To an American, the rights and freedom they had were far more important than the equality of everyone else. Communists believed, however, that the equality of everyone was more important than anything.
Both sides thought that their beliefs were the right one and were not prepared to accept the other due to their differences.
New President, new opinions
President Roosevelt had died and had been replaced by Harry Truman. Truman was far more anti-Communist than Roosevelt and this led to many disagreements between him and Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union.
The atomic bomb
The Americans had recently developed an atomic bomb and President Truman was more than happy to split Stalin not-so subtle hints about its great power. The Soviets were worried by the atom bomb, even though it appeared to Truman that Stalin hardly knew what on earth he was talking about.
t the Yalta Peace Conference in 1945, the USA agreed that Eastern Europe should be a Soviet sphere of influence. However, they had thought that this meant that the countries of Eastern Europe should be friendly towards the USSR, but still be able to elect their own democratic leaders.
The Soviets thought differently. Stalin did not trust any government unless he was in charge of it. He used his Red Army troops to take control of all the Eastern Europe countries. He then set up a new organisation called the Cominform to control these new governments.
The USA protested to Stalin’s takeover of Eastern Europe, but it did nothing. To Stalin, it made sense to control the states around him. Twice in the twentieth century his country had been invaded by Eastern European states. To him, his actions were justified. To Truman, however, it just looked like Stalin was building up an empire and wanted to take the rest of Europe too.
Disagreements over Germany
Stalin wanted Germany to pay $10 billion to the USSR in compensations. He did not care whether Germany was crippled or not. The Soviets had lost over 30 million people in the war and, though he would not admit it, Stalin knew that the USSR had almost no money or resources left.
The division of Germany after WWII ruman did not understand why Stalin still seemed to feel threatened by Germany. He wanted Germany to settle down and become a peaceful, democratic state. The last thing he wanted was to repeat the mistakes of the Treaty of Versailles and he was certain that Germany was unable to pay compensation to the USSR.
Questions: What were the main differences between the USA and the USSR?
Now that you know the differences between the American way of life and the Communist way of life, explain briefly why Americans were so against Communist supporters.
What part did the newly-created atomic bomb play in creating the Cold War?
What did the USA think about the Eastern Europe being a Soviet sphere of influence?
Why did Stalin want to control the countries around him?
Why did Stalin want Germany to pay reparations to the USSR?
What did President Truman want for Germany and why did he not want to force her to pay reparations?
‘The Cold War just sprang out of nowhere without any logical cause.’ Do you agree with this statement? Explain your answer fully.