Events with the tribulations of Nazi Germany coming to an end, Adolf Hitler’s suicide, and the definitive surrender of the Germans, it seemed that anticipation of an optimistic future was within reach, however, a new threat loomed not so shortly after with the Soviet Union establishing communist governments and the U.S.S.R. became the new face of adversary. The Cold War was the dynamic struggle between communism and capitalism after World War II causing merciless animosity between the east and the west. Two of the world’s superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, racing to reach ideological and political clout across the globe, and the advent of nuclear weaponry arming the powers to the teeth, leaves behind a swelling attention that humanity’s end would be responsible by humanity itself.
The Cold War is what held these entangled affairs throughout the time-frame of 1947 to 1991. The Cold War received the name given to it for both of the superpowers were anxious due the cataclysmic capabilities they held and thus wasn’t much of a direct war. Knowing the nuclear power and devastation they could bring upon the world if they were to take action and conflict directly, a growing uncertainty dominated the minds of many, opening the query: when will the end come? In The Cold War: A New History the historian author, John Lewis Gaddis, ascertains the elements that connect both the Soviet Union in tandem with the United States from the beginnings, with the closure of World War II and the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, also known as the U.S.S.R., in purpose of delivering and understanding the events transpired in a more finite passage. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the historian and author of The Gulag Archipelago provides an in-depth analysis to the dread carried out under the totalitarian regime within Russia by his own experience and documented observations inside the Gulag concentration camps as a prisoner. We will delve into what makes the Cold War significant, how it deeply affects the U.S. and hopefully instilling rationale to be cognizant of the relatively recent history.
After World War II, the United States and the U.S.S.R. we’re the only nations with dominant, leading powers, with the United States bearing capitalism while communism belonging to the Soviet Union. Previously being allies during the war, their conflict of what made the principles of the Cold War spurred through ideological, geopolitical, and economical means with global endeavors. As the end of World War II came about, the U.S.S.R. initiated the expansion of communist governments in areas such as Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary, territories already occupied by Soviet Union troops to remain a predominant influence within the countries and have an intermediary between them and Germany. The United States, however, observed this to be communism enduring expansion across territories, setting up concern for the United States with their aspirations of capitalism and circulation of industrial products. Curiosity arose, searching answers as to what the Soviet goal was and what was Stalin’s intention. George F. Kennan, a Foreign Service officer operating in the American embassy, introduced a policy, firstly noted as Kennan’s Long Telegram, later to be called Containment with the intent to keep communism wherever it is present but to not allow it to expand (Gaddis 25). Inspired by containment, President Harry Truman, declared in March 12, 1947, to supporting both Turkey and Greece in military and economic backing. This act was called the Truman Doctrine. John Lewis Gaddis, author of Cold War: A New History informs the readers on the expressions Truman made for the policy:
He had done so in strikingly broad terms, insisting that it now must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures. . . . [W]e must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way. Stalin paid little attention to Truman’s speech, although he did take time that spring to insist that a recently published history of philosophy be rewritten to minimize the deference it had shown to the West. (Gaddis 27)
The speech, along being paired with the doctrine, set a nation exemplar for Americans in viewing the world with communism being the tyrannical threat and America being the land of the free with capitalism, and thus the marathon of the Cold War commenced.
Fear consumed the minds of the Americans and any indication of exposed potential threats coming from Soviet territory made America haste to react properly in preparation in what the next moves were or what to produce. The containment policy in tandem with the Truman Doctrine established the roots to what developed the arms race, which is the principles to what the Cold War is notable for. For instance, the Americans discovered from their flight samples detecting radiation as well as fallout within Soviet territory, signaling that the Soviet Union developed their own bomb, with The Kremlin affirming the existence of it. As dread lingered in the idea that another superpower attained atomic capabilities, a competitive race was engaged for security. According to Gaddis on America’s reaction to the atomic monopoly, It would have to build more atomic bombs if it was to maintain a quantitative and qualitative lead over the U.S.S.R. (Gaddis 30).
The driving fear between the two superpowers of conceivable dangers from east to west led Truman to even authorize bombs so devastating and destructive; it would be more powerful than even the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On the date of January 31, 1950, the project to produce such a weapon, along with refilling the nuclear arsenal in general, was approved and called the hydrogen bomb. This action was also incentivized because producing more atomic bombs, even hydrogen bombs, would still be cheaper than what it would take to bring the army, navy, and air force back to anything approximating World War II levels (Gaddis 30).
Although it may sound overwhelming to perpetuate escalation in such a highly volatile creation, we’re it so easy if the adversary not bare evil themselves. The Soviet Union possessed such catastrophic tribulations within the 20th century; it would seem to be a dangerous gambit to not ingest equipment of equal armament. As Joseph Stalin’s totalitarian reign continues over the U.S.S.R., the nation dived into degeneration and nihilism, often of the murderous nature. Man-made famine came about in banishing employer class farmers within the Soviet Union acclaiming employers oppress which goes against their communist ideals, forced collectivization of peasant land and agricultural components, livestock dwindling, attributing class guilt, and even forced labor camps to where those residing in it, some not aware of what they’ve done to deserve it, we’re considered skeptics, enemies of the nation for not adopting the socialist system, or were individuals contaminated by the west.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a Russian historian and a novelist, wrote the novel, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 An Experiment in Literary Investigation II-IV and details his experience to what it is like to be within the Gulag forced labor camps in his book. Solzhenitsyn illustrates on how unrelenting the conditions were and how severe unconformity was like. Solzhenitsyn exposes the falsified recordings within the camps throughout his narration:
In cold lower than 60 degrees below zero, workdays were written off; in other words, on such days the records showed that the workers had not gone out to work; but they chased them out anyway, and whatever they squeezed out of them on those days was added to the other days, thereby raising the percentages. (And the servile Medical Section wrote off those who froze to death on such cold days on some other basis. And the ones who were left who could no longer walk and were straining every sinew to crawl along on all fours on the way back to camp, the convoy simply shot, so that they wouldn’t escape before they could come back to get them.) (Solzhenitsyn 206).
Solzhenitsyn reveals further that if you are weak, you are essentially executed or left to be killed from exhaustion, and those who we’re able to survive would feed upon garbage if you were lucky enough to be fed at all. There was much to fear in this time period of America’s history during The Cold War and the brewing trepidations between the east and the west produced dangers, hooded by paranoia and driven by grandiose ideological goals.
The Cold War, directly after World War II was the indirect conflict between the Soviet Union and the United states. The Cold War accumulated such incredible discord between the two superpowers of the world. Being conscious of such a period of time is important for it revealed how much paranoia and avidity for influence can not only sway a nation and its people, but laid the tracks for calamity to fall upon the world itself. Cognizance to the events unfolds how evil can sprout and germinate when people believe that their knowledge, methods, or ideology is complete, and as soon as the assumption is made, tyranny and mayhem is granted a possible road that is alike from Hell. Observing what the mania produced with nations arming themselves with weapons of mass destruction, the totalitarian regime conducting any action to fulfill their goals no matter how heinous and inhumane, so shortly after World War II should illuminate anyone aware of these instances that it was not fictional, otherworldly monsters that committed and allowed these barbaric events, but it was humanity itself and that the evil resides within us all, with no one to be exempt of it. To what I observed, the conflict wasn’t merely just a battle between interpretations of the world, but a conflict between two ideas that were not aware of what the answers were to how the world should run and omitted to their a priori bias and engaged in justifying it in absence of dialogue. Although this is merely just a gross simplification to all the variables taken account to the events during The Cold War, to me it is clear that it played a significant role and the 20th century is an example to how chaos and nihilism can easily creep around the corners at any moment.
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