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The Historical Background of Cold War

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Essay title: The Historical Background of Cold War

Chapter 1: The Historical Background of Cold War.

1.1 The Historical Context.

The animosity of postwar Soviet-American relations drew on a deep reservoir of mutual distrust. Soviet suspicion of the United States went back to America's hostile reaction to the Bolshevik revolution itself. At the end of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson had sent more than ten thousand American soldiers as part of an expeditionary allied force to overthrow the ne¬¬¬¬w Soviet regime by force. When that venture failed, the United States nevertheless withheld its recognition of the Soviet government. Back in the United States, meanwhile, the fear of Marxist radicalism reached an hysterical pitch with the Red Scare of 1919-20. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer ordered government agents to arrest 3,000 purported members of the Communist party, and then attempted to deport them. American attitudes toward the seemed encapsulated in the comments of one minister who called for the removal of communists in "ships of stone with sails of lead, with the wrath of God for a breeze and with hell for their first port."

American attitudes toward the Soviet Union, in turn, reflected profound concern about Soviet violation of human rights, democratic procedures, and international rules of civility. With brutal force, Soviet leaders had imposed from above a revolution of agricultural collectivi¬zation and industrialization. Millions had died as a consequence of forced removal from their lands. Anyone who protested was killed or sent to one of the hundreds of prison camps which, in Alexander Solzhenitsyn's words, stretched across the Soviet Union like a giant archipelago. What kind of people were these, one relative of a prisoner asked, "who first decreed and then carried out this mass destruction of their own kind?" Furthermore, Soviet foreign policy seemed committed to the spread of revolution to other countries, with international coordination of subversive activities placed in the hands of the Comintern. It was difficult to imagine two more different societies.

For a brief period after the United States granted diplomatic recognition to the Soviet Union in 1933, a new spirit of cooperation prevailed. But by the end of the 1930s suspicion and alienation had once again become dominant. From a Soviet perspective, the United States seemed unwilling to join collectively to oppose the Japanese and German menace. On two occasions, the United States had refused to act in concert against Nazi Germany. When Britain and France agreed at Munich to appease Adolph Hitler, the Soviets gave up on any possibility of allied action against Germany and talked of a capitalist effort to encircle and destroy the Soviet regime.

Yet from a Western perspective, there seemed little basis for distinguishing between Soviet tyranny and Nazi totalitarianism. Between 1936 and 1938 Stalin engaged in his own holocaust, sending up to 6 million Soviet citizens to their deaths in massive purge trials. Stalin "saw enemies everywhere," his daughter later recalled, and with a vengeance frightening in its irrationality, sought to destroy them. It was an "orgy of terror," one historian said. Diplomats saw high officials tapped on the shoulder in public places, removed from circulation, and then executed. Foreigners were subject to constant surveillance. It was as if, George Kennan noted, outsiders were representatives of "the devil, evil and dangerous, and to be shunned."

On the basis of such experience, many Westerners concluded that Hitler and Stalin were two of a kind, each reflecting a blood-thirsty obsession with power no matter what the cost to human decency. "Nations, like individuals," Kennan said in 1938, "are largely the products of their environment." As Kennan perceived it, the Soviet personality was neurotic, conspiratorial, and untrustworthy. Such impressions were only reinforced when Stalin suddenly announced a nonaggression treaty with Hitler in August 1939, and later that year invaded the small, neutral state of Finland. It seemed that Stalin and Hitler deserved each other. Hence, the reluctance of some to change their attitudes toward the Soviet Union when suddenly, in June 1941, Germany invaded Russia and Stalin became "Uncle Joe."

Compounding the problem of historical distrust was the different way in which the two nations viewed foreign policy. Ever since John Winthrop had spoken of Boston in 1630 as "a city upon a hill" that would serve as a beacon for the world, Americans had tended to see themselves as a chosen people with a distinctive mission to impart their faith and values to the rest of humankind. Although all countries attempt to put the best face possible on their military and diplomatic actions, Americans have seemed more

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