The United States and the Soviet Union were never in a completely stable relationship. World War II had both nations working together, but partly only because Germany was a common enemy of them both. Roosevelt did not agree with communism, but would work alongside Stalin in order to stop a bigger issue, the Nazis. By helping each other out, they became part of the Big Three along with Britain.
However, even working together wouldn’t resolve the differences between the two nations.Tensions and suspicions between the United States and the Soviet Union grew partly during WWII because of Soviet disregard to Allied goals, and dramatically increased in the post-war world when the spread of communism seemed to be threatening the free world that Franklin D Roosevelt had envisioned. By invading the Soviet Union in 1941, Nazi Germany had broken the non-aggression pact the two nations had entered in 1939. Subsequently, the Soviet Union joined the Allies to defeat the Axis Powers. As the Soviets and Nazis were fighting on the eastern front, Stalin was feeling a lot of pressure.This was shown in the Tehran Conference in Iran when Stalin laid out his concerns that a western front against Germany to relieve pressure in the east was not opened yet.
Churchill and Roosevelt agreed that they would open one within 6 months, but Stalin is already questioning their motives in the war. It wasn’t until D-Day in 1944 when western allies invaded Normandy that this was achieved. As the Allied forces advanced toward victory, the Big Three met at Yalta to discuss postwar issues. The fates of the nations of central and eastern Europe divided the three leaders.Stalin insisted the creation of pro-Soviet governments in central and eastern Europe while Roosevelt pressed for self determination and democratic elections in Poland and neighboring countries. Roosevelt agreed to accept a pledge from Stalin for future “free and unfettered elections” given the Soviet presence in those countries at the time.
However, Stalin did not live up to his word, especially in Poland. Stalin’s failure to hold “free and unfettered elections” was a move that strongly increased US distrust of the Soviets. As Roosevelt passed away, Truman assumed the presidency, and he was much more distrustful of the Soviets.Because of the inability to hold free elections, Truman dropped the lend-lease agreements with the Soviet Union and used “tough methods” at the Potsdam Conference to deal with them. With the success of the atomic bombs, Truman hoped to intimidate the Soviet Union and show that the US was the one with power.
However, Stalin was not taken by surprise because previous distrust had led him to create a spy network that had informed him of the Manhattan Project back in 1942, much earlier than when Truman was notified. However, the atomic issue did increase tensions.The Baruch Plan seemed like a way for the US to be in control of atomic use, and the Soviets rejected the plan as an American trick. This was the start of a nuclear arms race. Truman’s negative view of the Soviet Union increased further when his advisor George F.
Kennan wrote the “Long Telegram” that challenged Soviet communism and proposed containment of their expansionism. With Kennan being a close advisor of Truman’s, containment came to define American strategy against the Soviet Union. The first sign of this containment came when the US established the Truman Doctrine to prevent communism from subjugating Greece and Turkey.The Marshall Plan also further polarized the differences of both sides of the “iron curtain” that split up Western and Eastern Europe.
Truman hoped that the Marshall Plan would revive the economies of Europe as well as support democracy. Through the Marshall Plan, Western European economies revived, and the appeal of local Communist parties waned. Though it was offered to the Soviet Union, it was rejected, depriving their partners of the assistance they so desperately needed. Tensions shot up when dealing with post-war Germany.
Stalin saw that the United States was trying to create a capitalist zone deep within a Soviet area in West Berlin, and took matters into his own hands by halting all traffic to West Berlin with the Berlin Blockade. Instead of giving up, the US and British decided to also take action. For 11 months, American and British pilots flew in 2. 5 million tons of supplies in the Berlin Airlift.
Now Stalin had to make the decision that might have tipped the whole situation into a war. However, he backed down and lifted the blockade in 1949. West Berlin was a symbol of Communist resistance.The whole Berlin situation convinced European countries that a collective security was needed with the US.
NATO was created between twelve nations at first. They established that an attack against on or more of them was an attack against them all. In response to this, the Soviet Union created the Warsaw Pact for Eastern Europe. With the establishment of these two alliances, the Cold War was advancing. The US and Soviets were also on different sides during the civil war taking place in China. The Soviet Union backed communist forces led by Mao Zedong while the US backed the Nationalist forces led by Jiang Jieshi.
The communist forces won and the People’s Republic of China was established by Mao Zedong in 1949. Many Americans saw this as a defeat for the United States. Truman did not recognize the new communist China, angering both the Soviets and Mao Zedong. Meanwhile at home, anything that seemed like communism was being persecuted. Communist resentment increased with the Second Red Scare. With the Manhattan Project being conducted in secrecy, spies were sent to the US.
Soviet espionage was exposed and the government moved quickly to crack down. In 1947, Truman issued a loyalty program for all federal employees.Thousands of jobs were wrecked, because of persecutions as well as stress. For example, State Department official Alger Hiss was accused of being a communist spy by Whittaker Chambers, a former communist. He was later convicted of perjury and jailed. HUAC, House Un-American Activities Committee, also helped to spark the great fear by accusing the “Hollywood Ten,” a group of writers and directors, of spreading communism through the film industry.
Hundreds of other actors or directors accused by the HUAC were unable to get jobs because of being blacklisted.The United States and the Soviet Union always had a tricky relationship. Their ideological differences were too strong, and the Cold War was inevitable. Through actions on both sides, tensions and suspicions increased in the 1940s during and after World War II.
Fear led to containment of communism all around the world. This created striking differences in both sides of Europe, and eventually led to problems in Asia. At home, fear of communism was destroying the lives of many people, whether they were guilty or not. These tensions in the 1940s were just the roots of the Cold War that was to expand.