Safe Sangthongsuk September 1st, 2009 IB History HL p. 3To what extent were Stalin’s expansionist ambitions responsible for the onset of the ColdWar? The responsibility of the origins of the Cold War often triggers questions amonghistorians yet both powers should be blamed for taking part in it. Through most analyses, thefault was often given to Stalin’s ambitions to expand communism in Europe, a conventional ideaof the Orthodox school. Other historians revised this idea therefore blame the United States’actions for the origins of the Cold War, which were analyses of the Revisionists. Later, the Post-Revisionist school was adopted; its goal was not to blame any side but focused on examining“what” caused the start of it. Even though, both sides have claimed responsibility for theiractions, Stalin’s intentions should be seen as defense actions from the West therefore, the UnitedStates is mostly responsible for the start of the Cold War. While most of the blames should be placed for the United States, the Soviet Union ispartly responsible for the origin of the war too. After World War II, Stalin saw in Eastern Europethe opportunity to spread communism and protection necessities against Western attacks.According to Schlesinger’s analysis, the Soviet’s actions were moved only by its desire toprotect themselves and the satisfaction of control over Eastern Europe. In 1947, Stalinestablished Cominform. This was a plan to organize activities of Communist parties in Europe tocontrol capitalist ideas and spread communism hence, strengthen the Soviet’s power. Then twoyears later, another one of Stalin’s foreign policy, Comecon was set up to coordinate theeconomy of Eastern Europe. Although these methods were seen by the West, Stalin’s action tosecure the Soviet Union’s power, these actions were self-defensive policies against US’spolicies, the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan.
Stalin’s action to secure his power was the Sovietization of Eastern Europe, arguably forthe protection of the USSR against Western attacks. There had been a long history of “peace-time” attacks of the West on Soviet Union since the early 1900s therefore Stalin seeks a bufferzone in Eastern Europe for their protection from the West. The result of his actions was theSoviet’s sphere of influence in almost all Eastern European countries such as East Germany,Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria and Albania. Stalin’s reason forhis actions to establish communist regimes in these countries was that most of these countriesneighbor the Soviet Union’s border and also a threat to the USSR since most of its neighborswere in close allies with the Third Reich. By 1949, the Soviet Union had most control overEaster Europe. The West had suspicions about Stalin’s intention in Europe whether it was fortheir protection or his ambition to expand his power. Not only that Communism had spreadalmost all of Eastern Europe, it also spread to the Pacific with the communist China and theinvasion of communists into South Korea. Stalin’s expansion policy seems to be quite successfulin the eye of the West. While Stalin was putting up defensive bulwarks, the United States had been attacking thecommunism hence, the Soviet Union. The economic and political pressure on the USgovernment has long been taking affect in the Cold War. The idea of an economic pressure wascreated by historian T.J. McCormick who said that businesses and industrial sectors had beenpushing the government into the Cold War. Entering the Cold War was a way to guardcapitalism from post-war economic disaster. Not only that there was an economic pressure, along submerged political pressure was partly responsible for the start of the war too. Truman’sfear of the Sovietization of Europe had scared the US governments since his policy ofcontainment failed. Consequently, Truman decided to take provocative and hostile actions for
productive results. In addition to these long-term causes, Truman took more direct actionstowards handling the Soviet Union. The Revisionist historian, William Williams expressed that American actions was “topromote commercial penetration of Eastern Europe” which puts the blames on their overlyhostile actions. Truman established many approaches towards the Soviet Union such as theTruman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. These unnecessarily attacks show the Soviet Union oftheir intention against communism. Thus, the Stalin’s policy of Cominform and Comeconbecame just reactions to Truman’s provocative acts. George Kennan’s Long Telegram was alsoconsidered one of the main causes of the war. Kennan’s analysis mentioned that the SovietUnion’s communist state was a threat to the American foreign policy and that the Europe shouldalso beware of Stalin. This aggressive analysis clearly announced the true and hostile intention ofthe United States towards the Soviet Union. To take the last perspective into account, a Post-Revisionist historian does not put theblame on anyone but lays the fault between the two powers as John Gaddis concludes, “neitherside can bear sole responsibility for the onset of the Cold War”. As both superpowers wereemerging as winners of World War II, situations in 1945 let them into conflicts with each other.Each country was in a position to take the leader role to rebuilt Europe after the war. The powervacuum in central and Eastern Europe provided them with a great opportunity to be powerful. Asboth countries were following their foreign policy towards the same goal, it is usual to get intoconflicts with each other. Even though, the Soviet Union is somewhat guilty for the start of the Cold War, most ofthe responsibility should place in the hands of the United States due to its unnecessarilyaggressive actions. This thesis is drawn from the evidences throughout the Cold War which has
proven that the United States government’s diplomatic actions had been too provocative. For thisreason, the Soviet Union had to react to these actions therefore; the Stalin’s intention should beseen as a defense for his country against the West.