Weiner, University of California Psychology Professor, 8
[Bernard, September 2, Truthout, “Violating Someone's "Sphere of Influence" Can Be Dangerous,” http://www.truth-out.org/archive/item/79911-violating-someones-sphere-of-influence-can-be-dangerous, accessed July 12, 2014, EK]
To better understand the current Russia/U.S. clash in the Caucasus, and why Russia is moving so aggressively in its perceived "sphere of influence," we need a bit of historical context.
My area of concentration in graduate school was the origin of the Cold War, and my dissertation was on the "Truman Doctrine," the governmental policy that declared for the first time that the U.S. would launch a global struggle against what was seen as a monolithic Soviet Empire bent on worldwide communist domination.
Actually, President Truman in 1947 was mainly interested in a much smaller issue - sending financial and military aid to Greece and Turkey, to keep them safely within the Western fold - but was informed by Senate Republican leaders that the only way he'd get a large-scale aid-appropriation through Congress was to "scare hell out of the American people." So Truman refashioned his message by talking about a Soviet Union moving toward "worldwide domination" through the use of force, a red menace that had to be stopped in its tracks before it conquered the globe.
Thus the Truman Doctrine was born, Greece and Turkey got their money, and the U.S. from that time forward was locked-into battling "world communism" wherever it seemed to be raising its head. The result was that the U.S. sent massive cash infusions to dictators all over the globe who claimed they were "fighting communism." (Similar today to any tinpot dictator who claims to be "fighting terrorism.") In reality, much of that anti-communist U.S. money went into Swiss bank accounts or was used to crush reform movements in those countries, the effect of which was to push reformers toward revolutionary options. The debacle in Vietnam can be traced back to the ramifications of that earlier Truman Doctrine.
Please don't misunderstand me. Stalinist communism (like fundamentalist Islam today) was a despicably brutal, totalitarian system. And Stalin was a monstrous authoritarian leader, who did entertain theoretical/ideological dreams of communist uprisings abroad. But, though he was a certifiable paranoid, Stalin was not a madman in how he related to the outside world. Despite the conventional myth, he had no desire or ability (don't forget that 20 million Soviet citizens lost their lives in World War II) to take over the world by force.
Soviets' Need for a Buffer
My research confirmed that Stalin was an old-style national leader who wanted, at all costs, to protect the homeland and home base of communism, which is why he was so desirous of controlling the Eastern Europe countries and Baltic states as part of the Soviet empire. They would serve as a protective buffer between the Soviet Union and Western Europe, from whence three European leaders' armies invaded Mother Russia: Napoleon, then Kaiser Wilhelm, and then Hitler.
Whenever confronted elsewhere, Stalin tended to back away, abandoning local Communist Parties to the tender mercies of their enemies, the example of the Greek Communist Party being a case in point. (My Master's thesis, by the way, was on the Greek Civil War of that period.)
There was so much misunderstanding, misreading, among the Allies that led to so much Cold War misery when WWII was over. And we're repeating the pattern today. Just one contextual episode, which I've written about previously.
Stalin couldn't understand why Truman and other Western leaders were screaming so loudly about his harsh treatment of the Eastern Europeans absorbed into his satellite-states buffer zone after the end of the war. After all, he reasoned, the Americans and British had recognized his right to control those states in the so-called "percentages agreement" or "spheres of influence" agreement worked out in a secret Moscow meeting in October 1944.