The Cold War (1945-91)


Figure 1.--Berlin was the epi-center of the Cold War. Berlin was conquered by the Red Army in savage fighting (April 1945). As decided at the Yalta Conference, the three principal Western Allies (Britain, France, and the United States) were given occupation zones in the conquered NAZI capital. It was at Berlin that the first major confrontation of the Cold War occurred. After major differences developed between the Western Allies and Soviets over the occupation of Germany, Stalin decided in 1948 that he could blockade Berlin and force the Western allies out and the people of West Berlin into submission. Ironically the people of West Berlin were saved by American and British pilots, in most cases the same men that only 3 years earlier had been bombed German cities into rubble. Notice that the children here are standing on ruble created by the Allied bombing. It is difficukt to see, but the pilotv of this C47 as he lands his dropping little parachutes with candy for the children. The Berlin Air Lift was the major step in changing the German view of the Allies from foreign occupiers to their protectors.

The United States and its allies following World War II fought a 45-year struggle war with the Soviet Union and China. The War pitted the ideals of Western democracy and free enterprise against totalitarian states with command economies. At stake was the future social order of mankind. Germany's defeat left Stalin in control of the countries of Eastern Europe. President Harry Truman when he became president in April 1945 began taking a stronger approach to the Soviets, disturbed by Soviet actions in Poland. Stalin proceeded to install People's Republics in these states which meant Stalinist police states subservient to the Soviet Union. American and European democracies sharply criticised the Soviet actions. Winston Churchill warned in 1946 that an "iron curtain" was descending through the middle of Europe. Joseph Stalin who had virtually allied himself with Hitler in 1939 to launch World War II, blamed the War on "capitalist imperialism" and threatened Western Europe. President Truman decided to support Western Europe economically (the Marshall Plan) and militarily (NATO). The Cold War was a period of intense East-West competition, tension, and conflict, but always short of full-scale war. The first major episode was the soviet blockade of Berlin in 1948. Berlin was during much of the Cold War a focal point of the conflict. The Soviets brutally suppressed attempts by Eastern Europeans to overthrow Soviet imposed governments: East Germany (1953), Poland (1956), Hungary (1956), and Czechoslovakia (1978). There were proxy wars and competition for influence in developing countries, many of which introduced Soviet command economics. There was also an arms race between the two super powers. After Stalin died in 1953, the Cold War became more unbalanced. There were periods of relaxation followed by resumed confrontation. The most dangerous point of the Cold War was the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962). There were efforts to pursue detente during the 1970s. Unlike the other major conflicts in world history, in the end the Cold War was not settled by force of arms. It was the example of the West, especially the success of free market economics and political democracy that defeated Communism. Not all historians agree that the Cold War was necessary and that the foundation of Western democracy was at stake.

World War II

World War II Germany's defeat left Stalin in control of the countries of Eastern Europe. Right-wing politicians in America charged that President Roosevelt at Yalta had given Eastern Europe to the Communists. The actual fact is that the Soviet Red Army had been the major factor in the defeat of the German Wehrmacht. The Soviet Union had been a major part of the Allied coalition that had defeated the Axis. It was Soviet victories in the desperate fighting on the Eastern Front that had left Stalin in control of Eastern Europe. The Red Army before Moscow (1941) and at Stalingrad (1942), and Kursk (1943) defeated German armies far more massive than were encountered by the Allies in 1942-44. Revisionist historians have tried to blame America in the aftermath of World war II for the Cold War. Stalin's behaviour in 1939-40 when he brutally imposed a Communist dictatorship on the people of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Eastern Poland make it clear that the creation of satellite People's Republics in Eastern Europe was not a response to American policies, but in fact the essential nature of Stalin's regime.

Marshall Stalin

Joseph Stalin is undeniably one of the most important figures of the 20th century. His impact on the development of the Soviet state and society and the international Communist movement was immense. He is also one of the most evil figures in world history and was directly and indirectly responsible for the deaths of millions in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, a death toll even exceeding that of Adolf Hitler. Even so, the Russian people are deeply conflicted about his legacy. Stalin unlike the United states began the Cold war well before the end of World war II. The most obvious steps were Soviet actions in Poland. While the Allies were focused on Poland, however, similar actions were taking plasce theroughout the broad swath of territory in Eastern Europe occupied by the Red Army.

President Truman

Historians debate President Fraklin Roosevelt's attitude toward Stalin and the Soviet Union. Often those most critical leavce out of the equation the central role of the Red Army in destroying the Wehrmacht. Few historians criticise President Harry Truman for holding any illusions about Marshall Stalin. But of course by the time he became president (April 1945), the NAZIs were defeated and surrenderd within weeks. President Truman had virtually no experience in foreign relations. He had, however, been closely following the War and Soviet actions in Poland. He immediately began taking a stronger approach to the Soviets, especially disturbed by Soviet actions in Poland. Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov was the first to be on the receiving end of his famous temper. Molotov was a tough nut. He was virtually the only Bolshevick to survive Stalin's purges. Stalin had sent his wife to the Gulag to send him a message. He met with the President in the White House (April 1945). In the middle of a statdard Soviet statement statement on Poland, the President cut him short and told him he wasn't interested in propaganda and that he wanted Molotov to clearly express his concerns to Stalin. Molotov was next to Stalin the most powerful man in the Soviet Union. No one but Stalin interupted him. One observer reported that Molotovs face turned 'ashy'. He told the Presuident that 'I have never been talked to like that in my life.' That is saying a great deal given the fact that Molotov dealt with both Hitler and Stalin. The Presidebnt shot back "Carry out your agreeements and you won't get talked to like that." [McCullough, p. 461.] The change was apparent at Potsdam. Truman stopped Lend Lease shipments (August 1945). The decisions taken by President Truman were to set the foundation for an epic 45-year struggle with Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin and the powerful empire that he created. Neither the President or the American people influenced by favorable news coverage of Stalin and the Soviets were prepared for this struggle in the flush of victory over the Axis.

The Beginning (April 1944)

The Cold War is usually seen as beginning after the end of World War II. It is clear now that Stalin had launched the Cold War in Eastern Europe about a year before VE Day. Most wars are easy to date. World War I began when the Germans smashed into neutral Belgium (August 1914). World War II began when the Panzers smashed ioto Poland. The Cold War is a little difficult to date, in part because Stalin launched it before most Americans and Brits really understood it was underway. Different authors date it differently. We believe it began when Stalin broke relations with the Polish Government in Exile (April 1944). Once the Red Army had entered the boundaries of pre-War Poland and set up a puppet government in Poland--the Lublin Government. This was a major shift in Stalin's thinking. When working wiyh Hitler his policy after invading Poland (September 1939) was to destroy Poland as a nation. And like Hitler he set out to destroy the Polish intelegencia as ast step in wipeing out the Polish nation. The Katyn Massacre discovered by the Germans (1943) is only the best known of the terrible attrocities committed by Stalin and the NKVD in Poland. After the German invasion (June 1941), Stalin gradually shifted his policy and would tolerate a Polish natuion, albeit one shifted west and under his control. One historian writes, "In lettrs to FDR and Churchill in late April, Stalin denied involvement in the 'monstrous crimes' against the Polish officers and claimed that the 'London Poles' were allowing themselves to be used as 'tools'for anti-Spviet purposes. On Apriol 25 the USSR broke off relations with the London-based Polish Government. A weekk later Stalin decided it might be useful to dissolve the Cominterm .... The big story suceeded in pushing the news of the murdered Poles into the background." [Gelltely] Poland would proved to be the most contentious issue at both the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences, in essence the beginning of the Cold War. The Western llies were unable to prevent the subgegation of Poland, but as brutal as it was, Allied pressure meant that it was not the same as what Stlin began to do in 1939.

Responsibility

Responsibility for ending the World War II alliance against Fascism and launching the Cold War was at first ascribed by most American historians and pundits to Stalin and The Soviet Union. It would be a costly, decades-long struggle between totalitarian Communism on one side and democracy and free market capitalism on the other side. Some historians with liberal orientations began shifting in the 1960s to the Soviet line that the West was responsible for the Cold War, basically revising the view of Vice President Wallace. Not only American Communists and those ideologically sympathetic pursued this line, but liberals began to ascribe to this view. President Truman and Eisenhower began to be criticized for their Cold War policies. Here the Vietnam War was a factor in changing attitudes. And there were many at the time World War II ended who still believed that the Soviet Union was a worker's paradise and a country of happy peasant farmers. They ignored increasing evidence of Stalin's crimes like the Great Terror, Katyn, and the Gulag. Today only left-wing ideologues continue to deny that Stalin and the Soviet Union were responsible for the Cold War. Stalin when he met with Churchill and Roosevelt at Yalta and presented himself as a great statesman. In fact he had not changed his goal made clear when he agreed to the NAZI-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact that he wanted a fully Communist Europe under Soviet control. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, we now know much more about Stalin and his Cold War policies. It is now clear except to the ideologically committed where guilt for launching the Cold War lies. Historians assessing the briefly opened Soviet archives have now definitively answered the question. It was was Stalin and his minions and their actions in Eastern Europe made possible by Red Army victories that set the Cold War in motion. One historian who had been able to delve into Soviet archives writes, "Moscow made all the first moves and that if anything the West was woefully complacent until 1947 or 1948, when the die was already cast." [Gellately] The United States was prepared to offer Marshall Plan aid to both Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Stalin rejected the offer because political control was more important to him than economic recovery. He was intent on building an Eastern European empire of puppet satellite states and even adding some of Western Europe to that empire.

Berlin

Berlin would prove to be ground zero in the Cold War. The Red Army had stormed Berlin in one of the most costly battles in history (April 1945). The city had already been leveled by the Allied strategic bombing campaign. And the battle for the city destroyed much of the rest that was still standing. General Eisenhower directed advancing Allied armies away from Berlin knowing that it would be in the Soviet zone. The Allied occupation zones had already been determined at Yalta. The Yalta Agreement provided, however, for a four power administration of Berlin, despite the fact that it was deep in the Soviet occupation zone of Germany. Such an arrangement would only work among Allies. And it soon became clear that the United States and the Soviet Union were not Allies. The Soviet Behavior in the Komandatura made it impossible to administer the city as whole. The Americans, British, and French coordinated their efforts and the Soviets began running their section separely. Berlin was the one place in the wortld that American and Soviet tanks were muzzel to muzzel. There was, however, no way that the small Allied garrison in Berlin could withstand a Soviet attack. Only the American commitment to Berlin protected the city. That committed was finally tested by the Stalin (1948). The result was the Berlin Air Lift. Although that was only the begging of the Cold war, it essentially determined the outcome of the struggle. Not only Berlines, but Germans as a whole stopped thinking of the Americans as a conquering enemy who had blasted their cities to rubble, but as a steadfast ally in the fight against totalitarian Communism. Another major step in the Cold War was the Berlin Wall. This was the admission by the East Germans and Soviets that Communism could not compete with free market capitalism. Just as the Cold War began in Berlin, the fall of the Berlin Wall was the symbolic conclusion.

Cold War Phases

It is a very complicated undertaking to date the Cod War. Generally is is dated from the break up of the joint effort to defeat the NAZIs after World War II. This certainly ishen most Europeans and americans became aware of the Cold war, but it was not when the Cold War actually becgan. The Cold War began with tge Bloshevik Revolution in the Soviet Union (1917). The Bolsheviks wereactuallybsurprised when the Evolution occured in backward, largely agrarian Russia, ather than one of ghe major industrial countries with sibstantial proloterit (industrial work force). Thus from the very beginning of Soviet Communism, Bolsevil eyes were on the aevolution in the rest of the world especially Western Europe. Stalin's Non Aggression Pact with Hitler was calculated to direct Hitler West ith the expectation that a ebilitatingvwar bewtwwrn Germany and the llies would clear the way for the redrmy to bringeuripe under soviet cotrol. ve afyer the NaZI invasion (1941). Stalin continued to wage cold war, although largely covertly so as not to put the co-belligerbcy in jepordy. After the war the Cold war became more and more obvious. Churchill's spech at Fulton, Missoti drew America's attention to it, but in fact The Soviets had been waging Cold war for some time. The focus of this first stage was Soviet expanionist efforts in Europe. The nature of the conflict changed with Stalin' death and Khruschev's De-Stalinization campaign. Berlin had been ground zero in the post-World war II phase of the Cold War. The Communist victory in China and the North Korean invasion of south Korea opened new fronts in the Cold war. The third and fnal phase of the Cold war began with the Berlin Wall (1961). Few realized at the time that thefundamentl economic weakness of Communism was beginning to show. While seen at the time as an aggressibe step, it actually froze the European or openig phse of the Cold War in place. The Cold war than shifted to the Third World. Castro had brought Cuba over the Communist side and by inviting the Soviets to deploy balistic missles almost initiating a nuclear exchange, The de-Colonization process in many case developed into East-Westconflict. The primary focus became Vietnam. The Vietnam War weakebed America. Many in the Third world saw it as Communit superiority. Many Europeans objected to American military projection, but hipcritically saw no problen witn North Vietname invasiin of the South. In America the anti-Wr movement went on endlessly about uposed American war crimes, but after the war were silent about the millions killed by the Communists. After the war. the inherent inefficencies of Communism and the impact of supresng freedom began to eat at the vitals of Communist countries. The Soviet Union was unable to hold Easrer Eurppe wuthout military interventions abd eventually collapsed. China of all countries adopted market capitalism. Thise countries Communist countries which refused to reform were subjected to perpetual poverty (Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam).

Country Trends

Our discussion of the Cold War is primarily based on a chronological flow of events. This of necesity condenses the Cold War into its essence--a struggle between the Soviet Union and America. America's European allies played critical roles in the Cold War. but withoit America, Wesrern Europe could not have resisted the Red Army and Soviet domination after World War II. In Easter Europe, East Germany was the key for the Soviets because of the potential power of a united Germany, And because of its geographic lovation, Poland became the epicenter for the Cold War. For without a compliant Communist Poland, a the Communist East German regime was untenable. Unfortunately for the Siviets, Poland proved the most difficult Eastern European satellite country to control. Thus developments in individual countries, especially the European countries most affected by the struggle are not adequately presented. Here we will collect information on development in specific countries during the Cold War. Here we are just beginning this assessment.

Military Trends

The Cold war was notable in that it was a rare conflict between two major world powers in which there was no direct military confrontations. between the two principal powers--the United States and the Soviet Union. There were several military engagements. The United States fought the Korean War which became a direct conflict between the United States and China and subsequently the Vietnam War. The Soviet Union had to use its military forces to maintain order in its Eastern European empire. And it fought a war in Afghanistan. hus while a Cold war, military power was important and in many ways set the parameters wihin which the Cold War evolved. Thus to understand the Cold War it is necessary to assess the military balance, a balance which shifted over time. The military balance at the beginning of the Cold War was largely determined by two developments. First was the success of D-Day which meant that the NAZIs were defeated by both the Soviets and Western Allies, creating a military balance. Second was the American development of an atomic bomb. The Soviet Union had at the end of the War a massive army. The exclusive American possession of the atomic bomb mean that the Sovierts were not able their massive superority in land forces to chllenge the West, even over Berlin deep in the Soviet occupation zone.

Pacifism

Pacifism, isolationism. and neutrality suffered as a result of World War II. These different but related policies had all played into Hitler's hands. France sucummed because of pacifist anti-War sentiment and and a terribly mismanaged military effort. The same was true of Britain except the Channel stopped the Panzers at Calais. And America entered the War unprepared for military action. Pearl Harbor had fundamentally changed the American outlook. America after World War II was not prepard to disarm as it had done after World War I, although milirary spending was cut substantially. Attitudes in Europe also shifted. The Belgians and Dutch having endured German occupation were no longer interested in neutrality as a guarantee of security. The British and French were also not prepared to disarm as they had after World War I. And Soviet conduct, using the Red Army and NKVD to carve out a Eastrern European empire only confirmed the concerns of Americans and many Western Europeans. The result was the North Atlantic Treaty Organizatin (NATO) (1949). Not all Europeans believed in a strong defense. Socialists and Communists still held pacifist beliefs. This was a major strain of thought among Socialists since the foundation of the world socialist movement (late-19th century). And Soviet foreign policy trumpeted this theme. The Soviets claimed to be commited to world peace and charged that it was the Americans who were pursuing agressive miitarist policies threatening peace. Some European sococialists were so devoted to Marxist thought that they simply ignored reality. Others dutifully followed orders from Moscow. They just ignored the fact that the Stalin they now thrumpeted as a force for peace was the same evil dictator who had signed the NAZI-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact (August 1939) and with the NAZI dictator as a close ally had launched Word War II to carve up Europe between them. While nonsensical, the Soviets used pacifist sentiment in Western Europe to weaken European resistance to Soviet military expansion. They tried the same in America, albeit with less suceess. The Communists infiltrated left-wing and peace groups. The pacifist movement proved highly selective about what they protested. These groups not uncommonly simply repeated Sovuiet propagabnda. They criticised Anmerican and allied defense spending, but never Sovie defense spending. They criticised the American nuclear arsenal, but never the Soviet arsenal. There were also protests behind te Iron Curtain, but like the protests in the West, only criticized American and Western military spending. The Soviets helped fund many of these movements and conducted an active propaganda effort in an effort to both reduce westerndefense speding ad to destabalization Western governments. It was only with the Vuietnam War that pacifism in the United States grew beyond left-wing groups into a much more widely supported peace movenment. This could have had a major impact on the Cold War had it not been for three consrvative politicans (Presuident Reagan, Primeminister Thstcher, and Chancellor Kohl) and the inherent inefficenies of Communism began to undermine the Soviet economy.

Biographies

We have begun to build bigoraphies of the major figures of the Cold war in the various countries involved. Some of the individuals involved were also ikportant World War II figures. The srtruggle was essentially a continuation of Stalin's attempt begun with Hitler to seize control of Europe. Many of the individuals involved with Europeans, but as the Cold War progressed it spread around the world and included figures from many different countries, to a greater extent than World War II. The central figure in the Cold War was Josef Stalin. It was a struggle tht did not need to have been fought. Stalin set it in motion and it was continued by subsequent Soviet leaders as well as Communists in many other countries, both in Europe and the Third World.

Intelligence

The Cold War unlike World War I and World War II which proceeded it was primarily fought on the intelligence front. The intelligence struggle was a fascinating one. Although the American Central Inteligence Agency is a much agency, in fact thanks to the CIA and other Western intelligence, the Soviets never succeed in launching a weapon system which upset the strategic ballance or surprisng the United Sates with an unansweravle feint. The one weapon system which the CIA did not fully appreciate was the Soviet biological weapns program, but it never became a factor in the Cold war. The CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) achieved many innovative technical successes. The KGB on the other hand while relying less on technology proved extrodinarily adroit in recruiting agents at high levels in the Western camp, especally in Germany. Although these successes gained them little and may have backfired. More useful was the penetration of American, and British intelligence services through ideological penetration or simple (often paltry) payoffs. The full story of the intelligence struggle has not yet been written.

Dictators

A major issue during the Cold War was dictators. There were both right-wing and left-wing dictators. The left, however, pretended for good propaganda that there were only right-wing dictotors. In intert discussions, we are constanly bombarded with condemnations of Ameruva for dealing with the likes of Pinochet, Somoza, and Trujillo who killed in the thousands, butwere seen as disgraces and were ultimately replaced, but no criticism by the Left for Communist dictators like Mao who killed in the tens of millions and today continues to be a left-wing icon. That of course is absurd, but is widely believed are at least accepted by coutless people around the world. And unlike the right, trend their dictators into heroes, no matter how high their death count. Just look how Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Ho Chi-Minh, Chavez became cultural icons and remain so today in spite of the millions of people they killed. Dictator are not new. They in different guises (primarily monarchial) have been a force throughout history. The first modern dictator was probably English Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell. The great dictators of history are mostly left-wing dictators or dictaots like Hitler and Mussolini that adopted left-wing concepts. But it is in the 20th century that totalitarian dictators with the advent of mass coomunication. Many are willing excuse the killing of left-wing dictators because they are seen as working for a better tomorrow. Those that oppose them are seen as impeding history and a utopian tomorrow. Cuban dictator called them worms. Other left-wing dictaors have their own terms. The Left criticises America for dealing with dictators during the Cold War, but not aord of critism for dealing with Stalin during World War II or the left-wing dictators spawned by the Communist and the immensly larger death count of left-wing dictators. Some how America is criticised for dealing with right-wing dictators, but there is no moralmossue connected in dealong with left-wing dictators. It is useful to look a the differences between left-wing and right-wing dictators and look at some of the individuals involved.

Refugees

One tragic consequence of Communism is the huge numbers of refugees generated. Where ever Communist triumphed, refugees attempted to escape. The refugee flow was only limited by geography, police state force, and the ability of neigbiring states to take in refugees. Geography was often a barrier. It was virtually impossible to escape from large areas of the Soviet Union and China because of the distances involved. Other Communist states like Poland were surrounded by other Communist states which did not accept refugees. Cubans were hemed in by the dangerous Florida Straits. And the Vietnamese had no where to go. Over a million none-the-less risked death to escape Communism--the tragic Boat People. Communist regimes did not tolerate refugees. This was a deprture from 19th century empires (Austrian, German, Ottoman, and Russian) did not restrict emmigration and were in fact largely happy to geet rid of querilous subjects. Not so the Communists. As refugees were proof that the regimes were not building worker's parasises, trying to leave was a criminal offense in all Communit countries. Stalin saw them as traitors. Castro called them 'worms'. Stalin anxious to keep the failure of Communism leaking out, very effectively sealed off the Soviet borders. Of course the most egregious example of holding people in by force was the East German Berlin Wall which the East German regime was actually proud of because its chillingly perfection of a murderous barrier. So many people wanted to escape Communism, that neigboring countries had to limit the entry of refugees, This was especially the case of Hong Kong, And America had to restict the entry of Cubans. Thailand had to keep Cambodian refgugees in camps rather than assimilating them. In the one case where a revolution briefly replaced the Comminist regime (Hungary), the barbed wire came down and a huge flood of refugees poured out. The notable fact here is that it was always a one-way flow. Westen Govrenments did not restrict emigration. It was just that virtually no one wanted to move to a Communist country. As President Kennedy pharsed it, "Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect. But we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in ...." Even among the million of Italian and French Communists, virtully no one wnted to emigrate to a Communist country. We note American leftists who lionize Castro, but no one wants to live there. One of the most voviferous critic of America was Black Panther Huey Newton. One there, however, he could not wait to get back to America.

Culture

A not often discussed aspect of the Cold War is culture. From the very beginning in the Soviet Union, culture was seen as a matter of importance. And just as the individuals were to serve the state, culture was seen as important not for itself, but because of its ability to serve the state, The term 'Soviet realism' appeared. Socialist realism is a style of realistic art which was developed in the Soviet Union and became a dominant style in Communist regimes established by the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe after World War II. Socialist realism had two primary elements. One was a realistic depiction in the sence of visual accuracy, in part because the abstract art popular before the Revolution was seen as decadent. Soviet realism emerged early in the Revolution, but did nor become official state policy until 1932. Stalin like Hitler hated modern or abstract art. The second aspect was that it furthered the Revolution by adhering to guidelines set by the Communist Party. Artists, authors, and eventually film makers role was to glorify the new Soviet state and Soviet culture. They became state employees and could only practice their craft if their work adhered to the guidelines established by the Party. This meant depicting an idealized society and ignoring or hiding aspects of the new country that reflected poorly on the the Soviet Union. Music and dance were less overtly political, but technical competence reflected well on the Soviet Union. In much thge sane way, sports were also politicized. The Soviet Union was surprisingly adept at managing its image in the West durung the 1930s and 40s. Thus while starving millions of Ukranians and conducting the Great Terror condeming other millions to death or the Gulag, many in the West like the Rosenbergs or a substantial part of the Western inteligentsia were convinced that the Soviets were building an ideal society. As a result the Soviets and their new Eastern European satellites werecwell prepared to mobilize a culture offensive as the Cold War developed. The West was much less prepared in this regard. Western artists like Hollywood today were often social critics who tended to depict the failings and weaknesses of capitalist society and often as not were lionized for doing so. Similar work behind the Iron Curtain would mean expulsuion from the professional organizations (artists, composers, dancers, writers, ect) which would mean the end of their careers. During the stalist era it could mean arrest and abullet in the head or a long sentence in the Gulag. An aspect of the cultural competition were well-publicized cultural exchanges of various sorts.

Medecine

One rarely discussed issue as part of the Cold War is medicine and medical science. Soviet policy was even before World War II was declonization before the process really began. At the time the soviets has no way to affect developments in the Third world. After World War II it did have that ability. Soviet aid to the new natioms had a strongg military compment, but there were also economic programs. The Soviet Union, for example, helped build an Indian steel industry. The effectivens of Soviet economic assistance is an important topic. Here we want to discuss medical issues. The Soviets did not make an important humanitarian effort in the Third World. This includes food aid as well. But the medical effort is especially interesting. The Soviet Union and than China has the world's largest state healh care sustema. And give the massive effort to trian health care professuals, the Soviets and Chinese would seem to have a unique capability to aid Third World countries in this area. But this did not occur. Two factors seem to have been at play here. First, although both the soviets and Chinese had huge medical establishmnts, they created next to noting in the way of medical technology, either pharmecuticals or medical equipment and procedures. The Chinese did have one major achievement. Their victory in the Civil War brought stability to China and the ability to launch a baic, low tech sanitation campaign that paid substntial dividends in public health. Basically the Soviet Union and China rather than dveloping new technology, simply acquired western medical technology to the extent they could afford it. It is interesting that all those who promote socialism andsocialist medicine, nevr mention that most of life saving advances in health sciences come from the private sector and virtually nothing from the state sector, including the massive Spoviet and Chinese Communist health care system. Second, their interest in humanitarian aid suxh as sponsoring clinics and hospitals seems limited. The major exceotion here from Communist countries seems to be Cuba's programsof providing doctors to left-wing African states. This is important because in assessing the impact of the Comminost west and Communism, an important metric is the lives saved by Western technology.

Fashion

One notable aspect of the Cold War was that the Iron Curtain errectef by the Soviets did not prove impervious to fashion. Although fashion and consumer ecomomics in geneal was not promoted by the Soviet planners, Western fashion slowly spread east. It often took some time, but fashions developed in the West were eventually adopted in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Notably, there was no fashion flow west. This observation is less frivolous than it may seem at face value. A characteristic of people over time and over cultures is an interest in fashion. We note this only at the dawn of cuviization, but even among Stone age peoples and the primitive people that survived into the modern age. Somehow it seems built into our DNA. The specific fassions have varied widely, but an interest in fashion began in the Stone Age and has been aart of humanity even before evolution of modern man. Soviet officials were determined not to seve humanity, but to change humanity to bring it in line with Marxist-Leninist ideology. They called their objective the creation of the Soviet Man. The Soviet economic planning also reflect the desire of Kremlin planners not only to create the Soviet Man, but to to use the economy to butress state power rather than to meet the needs and desires of the population. The resulting Soviet resistance to fashion and consumer goods in general underlie a majpr weakness in the Soviet system. It failed to understand and take in account baic human nature. Fashion is just one small area in which this occurred. The attemp to bend human nature to the demands of ideological purity was a major reason for the eventual collapse of Communismm in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

Empire

A common term in left-wing circles is the "American Empire". Soviet propaganda during the Cold War charged that the United States was an imperial power bent on colonizing oher countries. The Soviets made these charges at the same time that they created an oldfashioned political znd economic empire in Eastern Europe. The term was picked up on by left-ing circles in Europe and the Third World which after World War II was stringly influenced by Socialist thiking. Many Third World countries emerging rom European colonialism were influenced by Socialist ideas, in part becuse Socialist in Europe led the campaign against imperialism. Many Third World leaders for ideological reasons were convinced that the Soviet modelwas a more meanigful model for rapid economic development than the free enterprise economies of Europe and America. This of course prove to be a costly effort and the most successful Third World countries have moved toward liberalizing their economic systems. Even so the charge of American imperialism continued. The Soviet Union imploded, but the term has continued to be used. As the Uninted States, unlike the Soviet Union, did not seize political control of other countries, left-wing authors have been forced to adjust their argument and thus came up with the term "economic-imperialism". The question thus becomes if this term is justified. Is there an American empire? We will look a the great empiresof history and assess if America is an empire or if the term "economic empire" is justtified. here is no doubt that America has played an important role in after World War II creating the modern economic-system. The basic question, becomes, "Does the world economic system that the United Sttes helped fashion act to only benefit America or do other countries able to develop and benefit by participating in the system?

Assessment

Not everyone agrees that the Cold War was necessary and that the foundation of Western democracy was at stake. Gore Vidal has described the Cold War as "40 years of mindless wars which created a debt of $5 trillion". A British journalist described the Cold War as "the most unnecessary conflict of all time". This view is the Cold War was just one more exercise in great power politics. It is difficult to understand Vidal's view when in the Soviet Empire any independent thinker, certainly anyone like Vidal, was silenced permanently or ended up in the Gulag. This is not to say that America and its allies always acted in the best tradition of their values. The McCarthyite excesses of the 1950s were a serious stain on the Cold War effort. Accommodations were made with dictators, people like Franco, Suharto, Mobutu, and many others. Nor was the Cold War always well fought. As with any human undertaking of the dimensions involved here, there were undoubtedly mistakes, serious mistakes. The Cold war was not, however, just another in the endless historical confrontations between nation states. The Cold War was fought not because the Soviet Union was powerful and threatening. It was fought because the totalitarian system created by Stalin was inhumane, even as President Regan charged evil. The Soviet Union threatened the basic human rights that we cherish today. These freedoms evolved slowly and painfully as any review of history will show. The Western democracies led by America contained Soviet expansion and allowed the Soviet Union to destroy itself. We have noted that large numbers of people, even some Europeans and Americans believe that the Cold war was not an effort to defend freedom, but nothing more than another conflict between two cometing superpowers. This attitude seems particularly prevalent among young people. We believe that the facts speak for themselves. There is a simple test here. Compare East and West Germany, North and South Korea, and Taiwan and Mainland China (before capitalist market reforms).

Sources

Deutscher, Issac. Deutscher is Trotsky's biographer.

Gellately, Robeet. Stalin's Curse: Battling for Communism in War and Cold War (2013), 496p.

Gray, William Glenn. Germany's Cold War: The Global Campaign to Isolate East Germany, 1949-69 (University of North Carolina), 251p.

Harrison, Hope. George Washington University. Library of Congress Panel, March 5, 2003.

Hitchcock, William I. The Struggle for Europe: The Turbulent History of a Divided Continent (Doubleday), 513p. This is a thought provoking, well researched book. The author has gained access to never before used Soviet archives. We do not agree with all of his conclusions. The author in many instances, for example, tends to explain Soviet actions as response to American policies rather than the inherent nature of a brutal, expantionist regime.

Hudson, G.F. The Hard and Bitter Peace: World Politics Since 1945 (Praeger: New York, 1967), 319p.

Kennan, George. Foreign Affairs.

McCullough, David. Truman.

Mandelbaum, Michael. The Ideas that Conquered the World: Peace, Democracy, and Free Markets in the 21st Century. Prados, John. Lost Crusader: The Secret Wars of CIA Director William Colby (Oxford Unicersity, 2003), 380p.

Stafford, David. Spies beneath Berlin (Overlook), 211p.

Taubman, William. Khrushchev: The Man and His Era (Norton), 876p.

Vidal, Gore.






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Created: February 25, 2003
Spell checked: March 7, 2003
Last updated: 3:59 AM 5/24/2016