Causes of Cold War
Number of sources: 3
Historians have written extensively on the deterioration of relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. Many have focused on the immediate post-WWII years (1945-1955) in search of the causes of the Cold War. Some historians blame the Soviets, other historians blame the Americans, while a more nuanced approach stresses the inevitability of the conflict, but also blames both. This essay expects students to draw on the resources posted on the canvas Cold War module to answer the following question:
Who should historians blame for the Cold War and why?
Students should write an argumentative essay that discusses in full at least 3 pieces of evidence that helps support their conclusion/answer. That evidence should be analyzed in the context of the question—who should historians blame for the Cold War and why? The pieces of evidence are actual events, people, incidents–real, specific historical information that validates your perspective.
By now everyone should understand the importance of keeping your essay tightly organized. Writing history essays is an “art,” but they also require “discipline.”
Everyone’s essay should be structured the same way.
–The introduction paragraph (about 5-7 sentences) must contain a thesis statement. The thesis statement, your argument, is the answer to the question—who should historians blame for the Cold War and why? It’s always a good idea for students, after the thesis statement in the introduction, to include tidbits of information that will help the reader understand the scope of the argument. In this case, a couple of sentences explaining the “why” part of the question. Put differently, the thesis statement needs to be more than simply “The US is to blame for the Cold War.” The thesis statement, and the sentences that follow, need to be as explanatory as possible given the limited space.
–The body paragraphs should all start with a topic sentence—the first sentence of every paragraph should explain what the point of the paragraph is and how that point relates to the thesis. Your reader should be able to understand the different parts of the argument simply by reading each topic sentence. Each body paragraph needs to focus on developing, discussing, and analyzing at least one piece of evidence—an incident, a policy, a conflict, a decision, a person—something that can be pointed to as proof of your argument. The pieces of evidence selected should be as specific as possible. You must have evidence. Without evidence there is no argument. And if there is not an argument, the objectives of the assignment are left incomplete. There should be 3 body paragraphs. Each body paragraph will discuss one piece of historical information that helps prove your argument.
–Each reason or cause for blame of the Cold War (the evidence) should be given a full analysis. Analysis is different from narrative description in the sense that analysis ties the discussion about the evidence, in this case the event/policy/decision/person that led to the Cold War, back to the argument. Analysis gives the evidence purpose by directing the discussion of the evidence back to the argument. Avoid a general narration of events.
–Be sure to avoid writing a general summary of the Cold War, instead focus on the question and argument. Try to make sentence count toward proving the argument. I always recommend that students look at each sentence and think to themselves, how does this sentence help illustrate the argument.
–Each essay should contain a short, formal conclusion (final paragraph) that restates the central themes discussed in the body paragraphs, offers broader conclusions about American history, or even tries to connect the paper to contemporary events.
Students should not to extend their analysis past the mid-1950s. Remember you only have 3-4 pages, taking the discussion past the early 1950s would be beyond the scope and scale of the essay.
The essay will be 3-4 pages long (approximately 1200 words).
12 point times new roman font.
In-text parenthetical citations. For example: (Foner, 3), or (Johnson, 25).
The essay needs to reference/cite at least 3 sources from the list of required resources (readings/videos). If the essay does not reference at least 3 sources, the grade will be penalized.
All essays need to be submitted to turn-it-in, through canvas. I will not grade the essay if it’s not submitted to turn-it-in.
Proofread the essay. If I can’t understand the writing, the grade will be penalized.
The rubric is posted on the course portal.
Every essay needs a formal works cited page. Remember to cite each individual source. MLA format for works cited page.
There is no need to consult outside sources. All of the information needed to complete this essay is found in the module. Students must reference the Johnson text.
The Cold War was a period of tension and conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union that lasted from the end of World War II in 1945 until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Historians have written extensively on the causes of the Cold War, and there is no consensus on who should be blamed. Some historians blame the Soviets, others blame the Americans, and some argue that both sides share the responsibility. In this essay, I will argue that the United States is primarily responsible for the Cold War, due to its aggressive foreign policy, political ideology, and unwillingness to cooperate with the Soviet Union.
The United States’ foreign policy after World War II was characterized by a policy of containment, aimed at preventing the spread of communism. This policy was first articulated by George F. Kennan, a diplomat and Soviet expert, in his famous “Long Telegram” of 1946. Kennan argued that the Soviet Union was expansionist and that the United States needed to adopt a policy of containing Soviet power. The Truman Doctrine, announced in 1947, committed the United States to support “free peoples” who were threatened by communism. This policy led to American involvement in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and other conflicts around the world.
The United States’ political ideology also contributed to the Cold War. American society was based on the principles of liberal democracy, capitalism, and individual freedom. These values were in direct opposition to the Soviet Union’s communist ideology, which emphasized collective ownership of the means of production and the abolition of private property. The United States saw communism as a threat to its way of life and sought to contain it. The Soviet Union, in turn, saw the United States as a threat to its security and sought to counter its influence.
Finally, the United States’ unwillingness to cooperate with the Soviet Union contributed to the Cold War. The United States saw the Soviet Union as an enemy and was unwilling to engage in meaningful dialogue with it. The United States rejected Soviet proposals for a collective security system, which would have included both the Soviet Union and the United States, as well as other nations. Instead, the United States sought to create a system of alliances that excluded the Soviet Union. This policy led to the formation of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, in 1949.
The United States is primarily responsible for the Cold War:
Aggressive foreign policy: The United States’ foreign policy after World War II was characterized by a policy of containment, aimed at preventing the spread of communism. This policy was first articulated by George F. Kennan, a diplomat and Soviet expert, in a 1946 telegram to the State Department. In the telegram, Kennan argued that the Soviet Union was expansionist and would only respond to force. The United States adopted this policy and applied it aggressively, using economic aid, military assistance, and covert operations to undermine communist governments around the world. For example, the United States supported anti-communist regimes in Greece and Turkey, intervened in the Korean War to prevent the spread of communism, and sponsored the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba.
Political ideology: The United States’ political ideology was also a factor in the Cold War. The United States was a capitalist democracy that valued individual freedom, while the Soviet Union was a communist state that emphasized collective ownership and control. These two ideologies were incompatible, and both sides saw themselves as defenders of their respective systems. The United States believed that communism was a threat to its way of life and democracy, and saw itself as the leader of the free world. This ideological divide led to a deep mistrust between the two sides and made cooperation difficult.
Unwillingness to cooperate: Despite some efforts at cooperation, such as the establishment of the United Nations and the signing of the Yalta and Potsdam agreements, the United States was often unwilling to cooperate with the Soviet Union. For example, in 1947, the United States announced the Truman Doctrine, which stated that the United States would provide military and economic aid to any country threatened by communism. This policy was seen by the Soviet Union as a direct challenge to its sphere of influence. Similarly, the United States was unwilling to share its nuclear technology with the Soviet Union and instead pursued a policy of nuclear deterrence. These actions were perceived by the Soviet Union as hostile and contributed to the deterioration of relations between the two sides.
By adopting an aggressive foreign policy, promoting a political ideology that was incompatible with that of the Soviet Union, and being unwilling to cooperate, the United States played a significant role in the start and escalation of the Cold War. While the Soviet Union certainly had its own share of responsibility, it is difficult to argue that the United States did not contribute significantly to the conflict.
Conclusively, the Cold War was a complex and multifaceted conflict that cannot be attributed to one cause or actor. However, I argue that the United States is primarily responsible for the Cold War due to its aggressive foreign policy, political ideology, and unwillingness to cooperate with the Soviet Union. The United States’ policy of containment, its commitment to liberal democracy and capitalism, and its rejection of Soviet proposals for collective security all contributed to the deterioration of relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Cold War had a profound impact on the world, and its legacy is still felt today. It is important that we study the causes of the Cold War so that we can learn from the mistakes of the past and work towards a more peaceful and cooperative world.
Johnson, Paul. “A History of the American People.” Harper Perennial, 1999.
Gaddis, John Lewis. “The United States and the Origins of the Cold War.” Columbia University Press, 2000.
Foner, Eric. “Give Me Liberty! An American History.” W. W. Norton & Company, 2014.
Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War: A World History. Penguin Books, 2020.
Mastny, Vojtech. The Cold War and Soviet Insecurity: The Stalin Years. Oxford University Press, 2021.
Zubok, Vladislav. The Idea of Russia: The Life and Work of Dmitry Likhachev. I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd, 2022.