Title: How did the Cold War develop? Focusing on the aftermath of the Second World War and the different early approaches and policies of each side, examine the implications of this era on overall foreign policy, including the ‘Third World.’
A thesis state with supporting points organized throughout the paper
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Implications of Aftermath of World War II on Overall Foreign Policy
In the years that followed World War II, a struggle emerged between the then two superpowers, the western democracies and the Soviet Union. The disputes between the two superpowers were over the takeover of the East European states. Cold war became a period of competition between the East and the West (Westad 12). Although there was a lot of tension and conflict, there was no full-scale war characterized by any weaponry. The only real battles were between proxies of the East and West as they were fought by the allies of the Soviet Union and not the USSR itself. According to Betts, the development of cold war was an attempt by the two superpowers to exert their control over the ‘Third World’ countries and ensure that they get as much support as possible (23). The policies of the West were those of presenting themselves as friends of the ‘Third World.’ For instance, the United States adopted the policy of containment which was to keep the communist allies from spreading beyond the countries which they already controlled (Goh 13). The implications of cold war on foreign policies of the two superpowers were that they determined whether the rest of the planet would survive because of their military capacities, provided foreign aid to ‘Third World’ and spread their dominance and influence based on ideologies.
Cold War thus developed when the Soviet Union and the U.S. emerged victorious and stronger after the end of the Second World War, hence making them have an inordinate influence on the international platform. According to Westad, the two superpowers had, through the course of World War II, mobilized vast numbers of resources for their maximum effect (20). In specific, they increased their weapon stockpiles and placed more citizens under arms than they had ever done before in their histories. Additionally, the two countries had expanded their territorial control and influence to other countries and eras around the world, especially in ‘Third World.’ The meeting between the then U.S. president Harry Truman and Josef Stalin, the Secretary-General of the Soviet Union in Potsdam in July 1945, made far-reaching decisions which would guide the future of foreign policy in the world. Although the two leaders avoided another war, they were cognizant of the fact that they were rivals in dominating Europe and Asia (Betts 24). There were several fears by the two superpowers on losing access to traditional markets. Additionally, they feared that the other would win the ‘war of ideas’ and convert resources into war-fighting capabilities.
The superpowers engaged in a war of ideas whereby they convinced the devastated populations of Asia as well as Europe that liberal capitalism/communism was the only recognized and legitimate system of governance (Goh 14). The United States thrived on ‘psychological weaknesses’ whereby they used propaganda to drive societies to subversion. There were ideological conflicts between the U.S. and the Soviet Union as each of the two sides had competing interests and ideologies. The U.S.-Soviet rivalry extended to the 1950s when the development of thermonuclear weapons as well as intercontinental missiles gave each of the two ability to annihilate each other and most parts of the world. The two countries became superpowers as their leaders had the sole determination of whether humankind could survive or vanish (Westad 13). No single country at that time had an option to escape the uncomfortable dependence on the decisions of the two superpowers as the nuclear arsenals of the countries continued to grow in a terrifying lethargy. The influence that they had on the other countries, as well as their foreign policies, had various implications on the ‘Third World.’
The era in the aftermath of World War II ensured that foreign policy was based on competition for dominance and better systems of governance. Gavin states that there was a lot of dependence from countries especially in ‘Third World’ on the two superpowers (18). One of the ways of dependence was that the small states, especially those in the colonized ‘Third World,’ gained leverage over the foreign policies of the superpowers. For instance, in South East Asia, there was a common belief by the U.S. and the Soviet Union that a need arose to prove that their respective systems of governance were the most appropriate for the newly independent countries (Goh 14). As such, the two superpowers poured massive amounts of aid into such a region. The process of exporting their ideas and institutions saw the two superpowers work with local allies such as Ngo Dinh Diem and Ho Chi Minh in Indochina who had personal connections with the superpowers (Westad 13). The competition to establish their ideas to the ‘Third World’ was beneficial as it ensured that such countries had much aid and that their systems were either those of the U.S. or the Soviet Union. Such was the level of dependence on the superpowers by the newly independent nations such that they could not function without ideas from the Soviet Union or the U.S.
The other implication of the policies and approaches of the Soviet Union and the U.S. was that local allies diverted not only foreign aid to unintended purposes, but also built domestic regimes which served to challenge the interests of the superpowers (Gavin 23). The resultant effect of the actions of the local allies was to create regional wars that brought about the conflict between Washington and Moscow. For instance, in countries such as Korea, Vietnam, Angola, and Afghanistan, the local allies and other peripheral actions drove the policies of the superpowers in self-defeating directions (Betts 25). The net effect was that the Soviet Union and the U.S. did have control over their comprehensive policies. However, such actions could not divert attention from the fact that the dominant and driving influence of the U.S. and the Soviet Union was still powerful in the ‘Third World.’
In conclusion, the Cold War developed from the need by superpowers to control ‘Third World’ and spread their dominance and influence through the provision of foreign aid and promotion of their systems of governance to other countries. The aftereffects of World War II saw the competition of ideologies between the Soviet Union and the United States each side was working on stopping the influence of each other on other countries. The approaches on the two superpowers implied that their overall foreign policies were based on dominance and control through external aid. The use of local allies ensured that the foreign aid provided was directed to unintended purposes. Additionally, the allies in the ‘Third World’ used their connections with the superpowers to build local dynasties. However, the influence of superpowers remained to exist and hence ensure that newly independent nations were over-reliant on either the Soviet Union or the U.S.
Betts, Richard K., ed. Conflict after the Cold War: arguments on causes of war and peace. Taylor & Francis, 2017.
Gavin, Francis J. “Same As It Ever Was: Nuclear Alarmism, Proliferation, and the Cold War.” International Security 34.3 (2010): 7-37.
Goh, Evelyn. The Struggle for Order: Hegemony, Hierarchy, and Transition in Post-Cold War East Asia. Oxford University Press, 2013.
Westad, Odd Arne. Reviewing the Cold War: Approaches, Interpretations, Theory. Routledge, 2013.