Causes of the Cold War (1947-1953)
Unlike the other forms of warfare, a cold war finds its basis in the acts of sabotaging societal set ups of a country’s enemy. There is no clear definition of the Cold War but in “The Cold War: Conflicts in Europe and Asia” Philips (2001) states that the, “The Cold War is the term given to the period of poor relations between East and west” (p.159).With regard to this, the Cold War found basis in the emerging enmity between the United States of America and the Soviet Union. Consequently, the effects of the cold war were felt by the whole world as allies and enemies were made with each one seeking to best the other in technology and other advances. It is important to note that, the term “cold” emerges from the fact that the two powers did not engage each other in battle of arms but rather, attempted to intimidate each other with threats of nuclear power while engaging their allies in substitute wars. A good example is the Vietnam War (1956-1975) that engaged South and North Vietnam, which were allies of the United States and the Soviet Union respectively (Sheehan, 2003, p.33). This paper seeks to identify the causes of the Cold War and the participating parties and relate the findings to conflicts in the twenty-first century.
After the Second World War in 1945, The United States of America and the Soviet Union emerged victorious over the then Hitler led Nazis from Germany. Prior to this, in 1943, President Roosevelt Franklin of America, Churchill Winston who was Britain’s prime minister and Stalin Josef general secretary of the Soviet, represented their countries in talks held in Tehran (Harper, 2011, p.40). Otherwise dubbed as the Tehran Conference of 1943, the talks entailed plans for Poland that had options for a communist or an anti-communist government. The disagreement that erupted from the conference was the first sign of disagreements that escalated over the following years (Harper, 2011, p.40). The first cause was therefore, Churchill and Roosevelt’s support for the Polish choosing their own government while Stalin was for the idea of communist governance.
The second cause emerged from the Yalta Conference that took place in 1945. With the same participants from the Tehran Conference, the Yalta Conference entailed agreements that led to the formation of the United Nations. As the year marked the end of the Second World War, the three dignitaries were expected to decide on how to monitor the defeated countries, especially Germany. Stalin agreed to sign the “Declaration of Liberated Europe” in exchange for Winston and Roosevelt’s agreement to place Poland under the Union and in turn, impose the previously suggested communism (Philips, 2001, p. 46). With Poland under the Soviet Union, the latter had won in these particular talks while feigning interest in helping the previously Nazi dominated countries. The countries lay in Eastern Europe and with time, each turned against the Union in a bid to reestablish self-governance. Disputes emerged over the Yalta agreements as the Soviet Union realized a loss with the revolting territories.
President Roosevelt’s death from cerebral hemorrhage on April 14, 1945 saw Truman Harry, becoming president (Harper, 2011, p. 46). Having been absent in the Yalta talks, Truman saw the Soviet Union’s presence in Eastern Europe, despite the peoples’ view of self governance, as a violation of the “Declaration of Liberated Europe” and a sign of Stalin’s dishonesty. Consequently, Truman moved to block any more expansion of the Soviet Union in the world. With Truman’s control over the communist ideology, the cold war had officially begun.
Cold War in the Twenty-first Century
The cold war ended in 1953 however, today there is evidence of its characteristics between some of the world’s super powers as they try to outdo each other. Gruber (2013) attests to this when he states that the cold war is evident as “countries are being forced to side with either America or China” (Welcome to the New Cold War) very much like the original cold war, where America engaged the Soviet Union and allies were made, present day America and emerging super power china are subjecting the world to the same events. According to Gruber (2013), the economic competition between the two countries has led to a form of enmity as each seeks to outdo the other (Welcome to the New Cold War). Consequently, their target is on the Asian continent, leading to separation of the Asian countries as each is forced to trade with either the United States or the Chinese government.
Very much like the Cold War, the American and Chinese disagreement regarding trade resembles that of the Soviet Union and the United States in 1947. At the same time, allies are being made which in this case are the Asian countries that are themselves at an impasse on whom to follow. It can be argued that the major factor that this competition qualifies as a cold war finds basis in the fact that the Asian continent, very much like the Vietnam country, are forced to choose the country to ally with therefore separating the regions. At the same time, the two culprits who in this case are the United States of America, again and the Peoples’ Republic of China feign ignorance as scuffles ensue.
Gruber (2013) goes further to give an account of an emerging conflict between China and Japan regarding five islands, called the Senkaku or Diaoyu islands (Welcome to the New Cold War). Positioned in South of China Sea, the islands are reportedly uninhibitedly and have abundant natural gas (Gruber, 2013, Welcome to the New Cold War). Again, there has been no open war declaration between the two countries but China rose to stake its claim over the island therefore challenging Japan to do the same. Consequently, the feud led to an almost missile attack, a claimed by Japan, when China supposedly “beamed fire control radar at a destroyer owned by the Japanese Navy ” (Gruber, 2013, Welcome to the New Cold War). Politicians from both countries are the source of danger as each side seeks to appear stronger if not tougher. At the same time, the major conflict finds basis in the countries efforts to outdo the other in terms of economical strengths.
The dispute strongly resembles that of the Soviet Union against the United States and Great Britain regarding Poland (Harper, 2011, p.40). This is so because the Polish territory and the Senkaku or Diaoyu islands are the cause of disagreement between powerful countries. It is also plausible that just as the Soviet Union sought to include Poland under its rule for purposes of economic and political prowess, the Japanese and Chinese have the same views regarding the islands. America and the Soviet Union, though never engaged in combat, threatened each other with nuclear power. Japan issued complaints over China threatening a destroyer belonging to the Japanese navy. Again, history seems to repeat itself with the talks held over the islands resembling those held before the Cold War.
In “Russia and the United States” Blechman Barry (2009) states that the United States and Russia, “together posses more than 95 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons” (p.2) It is important to keep in mind that present day Russia was at one point the Soviet Union meaning the engagement of nuclear power is a repetition of history, exactly as it was during the Cold War. Blechman (2009) quotes Trenin Dmitri, a Russian scholar, stating that, “Russia regards nuclear weapons as the mainstay of both its security posture and status among the major powers of the 21st century” (p.3). On the other hand, The America, “has relied on the threat of nuclear devastation as a central element in its national security policies for most of the sixty-plus years these weapons have existed(Blechman, 2009, p.23). According to Blechman, none of the super powers has shown genuine interest in giving up its nuclear powers, something that can be attributed to the ideas that none can trust the other. In other words, both countries rely on their nuclear weapons to ensure security of their borders. Consequently, despite the “calls for global zero by both countries” (Blechman, 2009, p.1) none of the countries is ready to make the first move.
Like in the Cold War, Americans and the descendants of the Soviet Union are at a battle of wits with none opting to believe the other. Throughout the Cold War, each side threatened the other with a nuclear bomb but none went ahead to carry out the threat. Today, there are no threats but there is still fear regarding the other side’s goals meaning that it will be a long while before the two powers come to an agreement. Historians have officially stated that the Cold War ended in 1953 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, there is evidence of a recurring feud between countries that directly connects to the original Cold War. Therefore, it is safe to state that the Cold War is still ongoing, despite the fact that none of the involved states has acknowledged the same. In addition, the original Cold War countries are involved in present day enmity therefore giving evidence to the notion that it is the same war in disguise.
Blechman, B. (2009). Russia and the United States. Washington: The Henry L. Stimson Center.
Gruber, J. ( 2013, February 16). Welcome To The New Cold War. Forbes Asia.
Harper, J. L. (2011). The Cold War: Oxford Histories. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Phillips, S. (2001). The Cold War: Conflict in Europe and Asia. London: Heinemann.
Sheehan, S. (2003). The Cold War: Questioning History. Brooklyn: Black Rabbit Books.