.. ould be definite spheres of influence, as long as it was clear that the Soviet Union was not to interfere with the governments of the affected nations. The reason that Roosevelt did not object to a large portion of Eastern Europe coming under the totalitarian control of the Soviet Union was that he believed the weakness in the Soviet economy caused by the war would require Stalin to seek Western aid, and open the Russians to Western influence. Many historians feel that Roosevelt was simply naive to believe that the Soviet Union would act in such a way. Arthur Schlesinger saw the geopolitical and ideological differences between the United States and the Soviet Union.
He stressed however, the ideological differences as being most important. The two nations were constructed on opposite and profoundly antagonistic principles. They were divided by the most significant and fundamental disagreements over human rights, individual liberties, cultural freedom, the role of civil society, the direction of history, and the destiny of man. Stalins views regarding the possibility of rapprochement between the USSR and the West were similar. He thought that the Russian Revolution created two antipodal camps: Anglo-America and Soviet Russia.
Stalin felt that the best way to ensure the continuation of communist world revolution was to continually annex the countries bordering the Soviet Union, instead of attempting to foster revolution in the more advanced industrial societies. This is the underlying reason behind the Soviet Unions annexation of much of Eastern Europe, and the subjugation of the rest. The creation of the Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe did not come as a total surprise. Roosevelt thought that Americas position after the war, vis–vis the rest of the world, would put him in a very good position to impose his view of the post-war world order. The Joint Chiefs of Staff however, predicted that after the German defeat, the Russians would be able to impose whatever territorial settlement they wanted in Central Europe and the Balkans. World War II caused the USSR to rapidly evolve from a military farce, to a military superpower. In 1940 it was hoped that if the Soviet Union was attacked, that they could hold off the Germans long enough for the West to help fight them off with reinforcements.
In 1945 the Soviet Army was marching triumphantly through Berlin. Was this planned by Stalin in the same way that Roosevelt seems to have planned to achieve world supremacy? The answer to this question must be a somewhat ambivalent no. While Stalin desired to see Russian dominance in Europe and Asia if possible, he did not have a systematic plan to achieve it. Stalin was an opportunist, and a skilful one. He demanded that Britain and America recognise territory gained by the Soviet Union in pacts and treaties that it had signed with Germany, for instance. Stalins main plan seemed to be to conquer all the territory that his armies could reach, and create to socialist states within it.
From this it can be seen that one of the primary reasons for the superpower rivalry was Roosevelts misunderstanding of the Soviet system. Roosevelt and his advisors thought that giving the Soviet Union control of Central and Eastern Europe, would result in the creation of states controlled somewhat similar to the way in which the United States controlled Cuba after the Platt Amendment. The State Department assumed that the USSR would simply control the foreign policy of the satellite nations, leaving the individual countries open to Western trade. This idea was alien to Soviet leaders. To be controlled by the Soviet Union at all was to become a socialist state; freedom to decide the domestic structure, or how to interact with the world markets was denied to such states. Stalin assumed that his form of control over these states would mean the complete Sovietization of their societies, and Roosevelt was blind to the internal logic of the Soviet system which in effect required this.
Roosevelt believed that the dissolution of Comintern in 1943, along with the defeat of Trotsky, meant that Stalin was looking to move the Soviet Union westward in its political alignment. While Stalin might have been primarily concerned with socialism in one country, communist revolution was a paramount, if deferred policy goal. Roosevelts desire for a favourable post-war settlement appears to be naive at first glance. The post war plan that he had created was dependant upon the creation of an open market economy, and the prevailing nature of the dollar. He was convinced that the Soviet Union would move westward and abandon its totalitarian political system along with its policy of closed and internal markets. When seen from such a perspective, Roosevelts agreement to let the Soviet Union dominate half of Europe does not seem as ludicrous. His fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the Soviet state can be forgiven, once it has been allowed that an apparently peaceful nature was apparent at the time, and that it had existed for a relatively short time.
While the United States wanted to eschew isolationism, and set and example of international co-operation in a world ripe for United States leadership, the Soviet Union was organising its ideals around the vision of a continuing struggle between two fundamentally antagonistic ideologies. The decisive period of the century, so far as the eventual fate of democracy was concerned, came with the defeat of fascism in 1945 and the American-sponsored conversion of Germany and Japan to democracy and a much greater degree of economic liberalism. Such was the result of America attempting to spread its ideology to the rest of the world. The United States believed that the world at large, especially the Third World, would be attracted to the political views of the West if it could be shown that democracy and free trade provided the citizens of a nation with a higher standard of living. As United States Secretary of State James F.
Byrnes, To the extent that we are able to manage our domestic affairs successfully, we shall win converts to our creed in every land. It has been seen that Roosevelt and his administration thought that this appeal for converts would extend into the Soviet sphere of influence, and even to the Kremlin itself. The American ideology of democracy is not complete without the accompanying necessity of open markets. America has tried to achieve an open world economy for over a century. From the attempts to keep the open door policy in China to Article VII of the Lend-Lease act, free trade has been seen as central to American security. The United States, in 1939, forced Great Britain to begin to move away from its imperial economic system.
Cordell Hull, then Secretary of State, was extremely tough with Great Britain on this point. He used Article VII of the Lend-Lease, which demanded that Britain not create any more colonial economic systems after the war. Churchill fought this measure bitterly, realising that it would mean the effective end of the British Empire, as well as meaning that Great Britain would no longer be able to compete economically with the United States. However, Churchill did eventually agree to it, realising that without the help of the United States, he would lose much more than Great Britains colonies. American leadership of the international economy–thanks to the institutions created at Bretton Woods in 1944, its strong backing for European integration with the Marshall Plan in 1947 and support for the Schuman Plan thereafter (both dependent in good measure on American power) created the economic, cultural, military, and political momentum that enabled liberal democracy to flourish in competition with Soviet communism. It was the adoption of the Marshall Plan that allowed Western Europe to make its quick economic recovery from the ashes of World War II.
The seeds of the massive expansion of the military-industrial complex of the early fifties are also to be found in the post war recovery. Feeling threatened by the massive amount of aid the United States was giving Western Europe, the Soviet Union responded with its form of economic aid to its satellite counties. This rivalry led to the Western fear of Soviet domination, and was one of the precursors to the arms-race of the Cold War. The foundation for the eventual rise of the Superpowers is clearly found in the years leading up to and during World War II. The possibility of the existence of superpowers arose from the imperial decline of Great Britain and France, and the power vacuum that this decline created in Europe.
Germany and Italy tried to fill this hole while Britain and France were more concerned with their colonial empires. The United States and the Soviet Union ended the war with vast advantages in military strength. At the end of the war, the United States was in the singular position of having the worlds largest and strongest economy. This allowed them to fill the power gap left in Europe by the declining imperial powers. Does this, however, make them Superpowers? With the strong ideologies that they both possessed, and the ways in which they attempted to diffuse this ideology through out the world after the war, it seems that it would.
The question of Europe having been settled for the most part, the two superpowers rushed to fill the power vacuum left by Japan in Asia. It is this, the global dimension of their political, military and economic presence that makes the United States and the USSR superpowers. It was the rapid expansion of the national and international structures of the Soviet Union and the United States during the war that allowed them to assume their roles as superpowers. Bibliography Aga-Rossi, Elena. Roosevelts European Policy and the Origins of the Cold War Telos.
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