American Foreign Policy During the Cold War

Assess the impact of American foreign policy in bringing about the Cold War.

Assess the impact of American foreign policy in bringing about the Cold War.

The Cold War, distinct for its sustained military and political tensions, dominated global politics for over half a century; therefore, it is not surprising that its origins has been one of the most debated topics in not only the study of American diplomatic history but the world. The Cold War was more as a result of American foreign policy, as by establishing a policy that ‘aimed’ to prevent the spread of communism it provoked Soviet aggression which as a result set the foundations of intensified tension among two of the world greatest superpowers. In this respect American foreign policy undeniably impacted on the Cold War; a view supported by historians such as William A.Williams. Alternatively, other historians have also increasingly come to a consensus that the Cold War was fundamentally a conflict of diverging ideologies as expressed by John Lewis Gaddis ‘‘neither superpower can be held solely responsible for the ideological war.’’ That said other factors such as the growing lack of trust and post-war tension among both superpowers, emphasised in the post-revisionist theory, and the Soviet expansionist policies were also influential in bringing about the Cold War.

Nonetheless the importance of American foreign policy in bringing about the Cold War cannot be undermined, as due to its fundamental ‘‘shift from a long standing effort to reach agreements to a determination to limit Russia’s expansionism,’’ it increased American involvement and as a result escalated tensions among both superpowers. In a letter from the then Secretary of Commerce, Henry A.Wallace urged Truman to build ‘‘mutual trust and confidence’’ in order to achieve ‘‘an enduring international order.’’ He also gave a speech which ‘focused on the necessity of a political understanding with Russia, and that capitalist and communist systems should compete on ‘‘a friendly basis’’ and ‘‘gradually become more alike.’’ However the way in which Truman’s administration reacted to Wallace’s speech by dismissing him, symbolises ‘‘the distance American foreign policy had moved since the close of World War II.’’ This shift in dynamics of American foreign policy is marked by the use of policies such as the Marshall Plan but in particular the Truman Doctrine, which not only acted as an intrusive intervention into European affairs but also an indirect attack on the Soviet Union. Truman’s motives could be numerous, as in addressing the Congress he may have exaggerated Soviet threat, in order to secure the funds. Nonetheless it did in fact have the desired effect as Truman managed to convince both the Congress and the American people, which ‘‘were isolationist and averse to spending U.S. dollars on a remote region that did not seem to fit into U.S. strategic need.’’ Therefore whilst Truman promised salvation to the world he intentionally took it upon ‘‘the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or outside pressures.’’ That said, the official justification for the Truman Doctrine was to support Greece and Turkey with economic and military aid to prevent their falling into the Soviet sphere. However Stalin was not interested in aiding Greek communist cause as whilst ‘‘Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Albania provided assistance to the Greek communist guerrillas’’ Stalin wanted, in fact, “to cap Tito’s ambitions.” This shows how the belief of a Soviet threat that shaped the Truman Doctrine was based on false assumptions. Moreover the fact that the Soviet Union ‘‘had been less aggressive in the months before the president’s announcement than any time in the post-war period’’ strengthens the contradictory nature of the Truman doctrine. Consequently the impact of the Truman Doctrine exemplifies the significance of American foreign policy in bringing about the Cold War and also leading to a growth of U.S involvement in international relations, since the Doctrine was later used to justify American intervention in the affairs of other sovereign states. In a wider context the Doctrine symbolises the United States post-world war II global leadership role, as the drastic change in strategies translated into America’s foreign policy deepened tensions that ultimately brought about the Cold War.

Conversely, the Soviet Union have also been attributed responsible for the outbreak of the Cold War