The end of the Second World War led to the rise of two major global powers, namely, the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R., who emerged victoriously. The two nations had different political and economic ideologies, which made them suspicious of each other.
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America’s economic and political system was capitalistic in nature, and it favored liberal political and economic practices. On the other hand, the Soviet Union practiced communism, which gave very little room for private enterprises to thrive. This paper discusses how the Cold War that occurred after 1945 influenced U.S. governmental foreign and domestic policies.
The Cold War between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. occurred due to the desire of two nations to exert their political influence on other nations across the globe. Soon after the defeat of Germany and other axis powers, the Soviet Army cordoned off some sections of Berlin which made it difficult for American and British troops to enter the city using roads. As a result, they opted to use airlifts to provide food and other important supplies to the city’s residents.
Afterward, the sharp divisions between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. caused Germany to split because both sides were not able to reach an amicable settlement on how the territory was going to be governed. This situation was replicated in Eastern Europe, where the Soviet Union under Stalin’s leadership sponsored armed rebellion against governments that failed to adopt communism. For instance, the Soviet Union used its power to control Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Czechoslovakia.
Soon after the Second World War, the U.S. became aware of the threat posed by the Soviet Union to international peace and stability. This made President Harry Truman opt for a containment policy to control the spread of communist ideologies into other parts of the world. The policy entailed the use of both soft and hard tactics to counter the military and economic influence of the Soviet Union.
Ultimately, this led to a bipolar geopolitical system dominated by the two superpowers, which influenced economic, political as well as military activities in different parts of the world. In addition, they competed with one another by taking different positions on important global matters. As a result, these competing interests resulted in constant diplomatic conflicts, which heightened political tensions between the two superpowers.
The Marshall Plan, which was developed by the Truman administration in 1947, was one of the main methods the U.S. used to contain the influence of the Soviet Union. This policy was used to offer support to sixteen countries in Europe to rebuild their economies so that they could overcome the destructive effects of World War II. The Marshall Plan laid the ground for strong multilateral relations between Western Europe and the U.S.
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The funds obtained allowed European countries to revitalize their economies. As a result, from 1947 to 1952, major European economies registered impressive growth rates, and this helped to prevent the spread of communism in Europe. In addition, the U.S. government also instituted policies that encouraged high budgetary allocations on military and national security activities to deter the Soviet expansionist ambitions.
The establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that included the U.S., Britain, and France in 1949 fostered strong military ties between the three states. Subsequently, the Soviet Union, together with its allies, used the Warsaw pact to establish an alternative military alliance that would serve as a counterweight to the NATO. However, the two superpowers avoided direct confrontation because they knew the nuclear warheads in their possession were highly dangerous.
This encouraged them to support proxy wars in different parts of the world to strengthen their international influence. For instance, the Korean war of 1953 had made the two states support opposing sides, and as a result, two countries emerged. They were also involved in another proxy war in Vietnam, where the U.S. lost a lot of its troops and incurred heavy financial losses.
The mutual hostility between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. threatened world peace, especially during the Cuban missile crisis in the early 1960s. President John F. Kennedy’s administration was opposed to the establishment of missile sites in Cuba because it was suspected that the U.S.S.R. government intended to keep nuclear weapons there. However, the two nations had been able to resolve the crisis, and afterward, the Soviet Union stopped the military buildup in Cuba.
This crisis was one of the biggest threats to global peace in the post war period, and it motivated subsequent U.S. governments to develop more sophisticated weapons to counter the Soviet threat. Two decades later, the Reagan administration developed new military technology that placed the U.S. ahead of the Soviet Union, which was facing economic and political problems. Inevitably, the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and this heralded the end of the Cold War while the U.S. remained dominant in world politics.
The Cold War had a significant impact on global politics. The U.S. had to contend with the rising power of the Soviet Union, and this motivated its leaders to do more to safeguard its domestic as well as international interests. Moreover, the collapse of the Soviet Union showed that capitalism was a better economic model than communism.