The Cold War Causes

Causes of the War

The Cold War begun in 1946, after the end of the Second World War, and arguably lasted until 1989. The causes of the war are debatable, but the generally accepted factors are:

Second World War

The Second World War differed from the First World War given the expansive and destructive nature of war, as well as intensifying war of ideology. The Holocaust was the pinnacle of divisive and destructive ideology, and this was further compounded by the warfare on the Eastern Front. The Second World War led to tensions and arguments of how to govern, and this intensified during the war, as the war seemed to be between liberal democracies of the West and totalitarian dictatorships to the East. Moreover, the suspicion between leadership during the war further fostered the tensions and resentment that resulted in the Cold War. Winston Churchill famously announced the ‘Iron Curtain’ had descended in 1946.

The end of the war also saw the division of land and confirmation of borders, as discussed and agreed beforehand, such as the Percentages Agreement (1944), Yalta Conference (1945) and Potsdam Conference (1945). These conferences confirmed the borders and agreements after the war, but also highlighted the tensions between the Allies. The U.S.S.R wanted greater protectionism after the invasion of 1941, that devastated the Eastern Front, while the Allies did not want to make concessions for the U.S.S.R.

Conflicting Ideology

Ideology is always seen as an important causation of the Cold War, the fight between Western Democracy and Eastern Communism. Ideology, and its conflicts, undoubtedly caused tensions between and within nations, which the war intensified. Throughout the 20th Century, there was profound hostility towards Communism, as shown in the Nazi and Fascist eradication of the Communist threats and Western infiltration of voting campaigns and elections thereafter. The hostility towards communism is further highlighted in United States refusing recognition of the U.S.S.R for 16 years! Domestic fears of communism erupted in a RED SCARE in the 1920s.

Nevertheless, although ideology played a significant role in the Cold War, some historians argue the pursuit of communism or democracy merely provided a veil for traditional power politics. During the Second World War, Joseph Stalin moved with ease away from expounding Marxist–Leninist ideology towards Russian nationalism in an effort to inspire the population (Reynolds, 2002). Similarly, the glue that held the west together after 1945 could be more accurately described as anti-communist rather than a liberal democracy (Conquest, 1999)

Changes to Leadership

There were changes to leadership after the Second World War, in part due to the changing nature of politics during the war. Citizens wanted change and to build a different world, and this meant a change in leadership with different attitudes. The war-time Prime Minster Churchill became Anthony Eden and Franklin D. Roosevelt became Harry S. Truman. Truman took a particularly hard-line approach to Stalin and the U.S.S.R and likely worsened relations.

Nuclear Weaponry

The emergence of nuclear weaponry during and after the Second World War was a big factor in the Cold War, and nuclear weaponry played a large role in escalating or diffusing tensions. Nuclear weaponry was developed during the Second World War and it has been quoted the President of the United States had bragged to Stalin about a new, incredibly powerful, weapon – which likely caused suspicions and tension. When the nuclear bombs were unleashed on Japan, it heralded a new age of weaponry. Britain, France and the U.S.S.R were keen to create their own nuclear arsenal and this in turn created tensions.

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