Who to blame for the Cold War

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Bigdumps, Jul 20, 2007.

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  1. Hello all,

    I have just finished reading The Cold War by John Lewis Gaddis and I was thinking is it possible to lay blame to one side for this "conflict".

    I mean, we could blame America's policy for containment, or Stalin's (and later soviet leaders) paranoia? etc etc

    Just thought it would be an interesting topic :)

    edited for spelling!
  2. Gavrilo Princip. Started a conflagaration that lasted on and off for nearly a century.
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  3. The circumstances surrounding the Cold War are a bit like those surrounding the First World War: Existing superpower vs ascendent superpower, both hoping to prevent a war through elaborate alliance networks and vast military buildup. In both cases, they just sort of happened due to events beypond any one person's control. Looking at your examples, you could argue that both American and Soviet policies were justifiable in the context of the 1940's and 1950's, especially given how each side percieved the other.
  4. To be honest, i haven't got a clue... so i'll opt for the French.

    failing that, what Overpromoted said sounds good, so i'll nick that
  5. The comparison with WW1 occured to me. When I was at school we were taught that there were a number of reasons for WW1:

    Naval rivalry
    Countries seeking independence (from Austria-Hungary)
    Friction (Balkan Wars, Algiers etc)
    Balance of Power politics

    But I feel that it would be fair to say the reasons are similar, but the Cold War was also (and perhaps mainly...) a war of ideaology.

    In my opinion, the problem with comparing the causes of WW1 and the CW is the political polarity - i.e., the Capitalist West against Communist Russia/China.

    As I understand it now, many politics scholars of the 1970s were laying blame at the USA, whereas now these same people are saying its not entirely true that the causes WW1 was a mixed bag, but rather the blame should be laid at an aggressive Germany.
  6. I lived through all of it and served through a lot of it and I have no doubt that Russia was entirely to blame. Its basic position was expansionist, motivated partly by a Marxist desire to export revolution and partly by a Russian nationalist desire to achieve security through the domination of its neighbours.

    It was very fashionable among our leftists - fellow travellers or 'useful idiots' as the Soviets knew them - to discern a moral equivalence between the two sides. You only have to look at the Berlin wall to see the idiocy of that point of view. The glee with which the former captive nations joined the West merely emphasises the point.

    Basically, in 1945, the West was pleased to think the struggle was over and we could all go home. The Soviets, on the other hand merely saw it as the end of round one. It's not widely appreciated that in the immediate post-war years, the countries of Eastern Europe had a chance for independence, but they were subverted by more-or-less dirty tricks, courtesy of the Soviets. And the West pretty much stood by and watched, because of war time agreements on the shape of post-war world. Eventually, of course, they had to act and NATO was formed.
  7. Why should anyone be blamed for the Cold war? Its existence prevented WW3. The casualties suffered in brush wars and proxy conflicts between 45 and 89 were the price to be paid for the continued existence of human civilisation.

    Oh, and it was Stalin's fault.
  8. I do wonder how differant the post war era would have been had FDR survived another decade. Two examples...

    We wouldn't have left Chiang Kai-Shek in a logistical lurch and his nationalist army would probably have crushed Mao...

    We would have had a better rapport with Soviet leaders following the death of Stalin...

    Truman was an honest but overly idealistic and simple man who's inflexible nature allowed his prejudices interfere and intrude upon commen sense geopolitics.
  9. WE won, so in time honoured tradition, its obvious that THEY started it!
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  10. When I was doing an OU course, one of the texts I was amused to read was written by a yank sometime in the 1840s-1850s. He said something like 'it will not be long before we see the flag of the Tsar, flying over the British houses of Parliament'. 8O A wee bit hysterical, but it does show that conflict between the West and Russia was nothing new in 1947. In fact, I often wonder why everyone assumes the Berlin airlift was the real begining of the cold war. Arguably it was really 1917, and if you are a truly cynical bastard like myself, you can point to the Crimean war as being the real start. If you read turn of the century books by Janes (particularly FT Janes book on the Russian Navy) you can clearly see them viewed by Admiralty experts as an emerging threat. In fact it was that threat that made the Entente necessary.

    The question is then can you really blame Stalin for the conflict when it had already been going for the best part of 100 years on and off? He certainly re-ignited it, though whether that was due to political conviction or more likely to stablilise his own position is debateable. I think you can write out the West has being to blame. Both America and Britain clearly in private were still hoping to work with the USSR as late as 1946. If anything, America was even more reticent than Britain to start a new conflict, and we were practically bankrupt and had no interest in doing so.
  11. Go back much further Stuart666... Britain and Russia have been playing the Great Game for a few centuries now with varying phases of excitement.
  12. Can’t see how Communist Russia is being considered a straight continuation of Imperial Russia? Various empires which rose and fell were always a threat to others – a nature of Empire, submit (for your own benefit of course) or be subjugated.

    Various European monarchies were related by kin, and various allied with each other as suited them best at the time. The major change for Russia in recent history was the total State change brought about by the Communist insurrection from 1905 to 1917. Following from this was the Communist agenda, the way it was interpreted by those in power, the means they had to implement it and the means others had to resist them.

    Stalin’s expansion had to be content with his immediate neighbours until the advent of WWII and Hitler's invasion. Aided by the West, also fighting Hitler, he developed a military that was capable of full European warfare against any. He thereafter seized as much as he’d dare, not so much with consent of the West, as without open confrontation with them.

  13. Ernest Bevin - Bevin was a hawk even before Truman could say containment. US post war enmity was not directed towards the Soviets it was directed towards us. It was the British who educated and some what may say exaggerated the post war soviet threat. But of course Soviet belligerence did not help.
  14. I agree - the Cold War wasn't a war - nobody got vapourised which if we're going to be all geopolitical has got to be a good thing. It is sad that eastern europe was subjected to a regime that was suppressive and that people there had to wait a considerable time to gain independence from that regime.

    A bit of a trolling observation now - if (as some say) Iraq was an illegal war for the British - does that make WW2 and illegal war for the British given that the casus belli was Poland?
  15. The USA and Russia from the 1850s were clearly emerging greater powers...Having just looked this up in a book:

    In the 1830s French writer Alexis de Tocqueville predicted, in a way that mingled ideals, political systems and geopolitics, that Russia and the USA would dominate world affairs.

    "All other peoples seem to have nearly reached their natural limits...(The American) relies on personal interest and gives free scope to the unguided strength and common sense of the individuals. The Russian in a sense, concentrates the whole power of society in a single man. One has freedom as the principle means of action;the other has servitude."

    We may now be digressing, talking about the "mass conciousness" of a nation (if there is such a thing...)

    To talk about law and warfare... well lets face it, most states comply with international law most of the time.

    Except when its against the national interest! Which makes me wonder what was in the national interest for "containing" communism in Vietnam, and again for invading Iraq (thats a real can of worms!).