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Daidrill J.

Fearon

POLS 4314

Assignment # 2

At the end of the Second World War there were two superpowers, namely, The
Soviet Union and The United States of America. The countries differed from each other
in many ways but the most distinct difference was in their political ideology. The Soviet
Union was a communist state and the United States was capitalistic in nature. At the very
core of the beliefs of each state, were opposing ideas and these opposing ideas are what
essentially led to the cold war. The communist ideology of the Soviet Union saw
capitalism as a means of suppression of the poor and a source of inequality among and
within nations. According to Soviet beliefs, communism was the right way to go and it
was the duty of the Soviet Union to spread communism to the rest of the “backward
world”. The United States saw communism as a threat to democratic progress and
democratic stability in the world and recognized that there was a great need to suppress if
not stop altogether the Soviet desire to spread its doctrines.
As the United States tried to figure out ways to deal with the Soviet threat, a
suggestion was made by Mr. George Kennan, and that suggestion was adopted by the
United States. Mr. Kennan suggested that the United States pursue a policy of
containment with regards to the spread of communism. According to Mr. Kennan,
“Soviet pressure against the free institutions of the Western world is something that can
be contained by the adroit and vigilant application of counterforce at a series of
constantly shifting geographical and political points corresponding to the shifts and
maneuvers of Soviet policy.” Mr. Kennan’s suggestion meant that wherever the
communists tried to expand, the United States should exert its power so as to contain the
spread of communism and it was this suggestion that led to the United States policy of
containment towards the Soviet Union and in fact started the Cold War. The policy of
containment was effective to some extent but with a few caveats.
One of the first things that the American government did with regards to
containment was to help the countries in Western Europe to rebuild their economies that
were damaged from World War Two. The idea was that since communism was usually
seen as attractive to countries whose economies were facing difficulty, it was necessary
for the United States to help those economies so that they would not be as inclined to
adopt communist policies. One of the tools that were used in the rebuilding of Western
Europe was the Marshall Plan which according to Steven Hook was “a massive injection
of dollars.”1 The United States funded the rebuilding of Western Europe through the
European Recovery Program while the governments of the Western European countries
did their own planning and program execution.
According to Steven Hook, “The Marshall Plan was a huge success, and at a cost
that represented only a tiny fraction of the U.S. national income over the same four year
period.” Because of the Marshall Plan, Europe’s production levels in 1950 had shown a
twenty five percent increase over prewar production levels, and by 1952, the increase in
1
American Foreign Policy Since WWII (pg 57)
production levels was up to two hundred percent The new economic strength of Western
Europe served as a powerful deterrent from the appeal of communism and was effective
in preventing the spread of communism through Western Europe.
One of the conditions under which the United States funded the rebuilding of
Western European economies, was economic cooperation among the countries. To this
effect, the European Economic Community (EEC), which was also known as the
Common Market was formed. The Common Market was intended to unite the countries
of Europe in an economic union which would facilitate regional trade and provide
benefits in terms of labor and capital for its member countries. The Common Market also
had governing bodies which were intended to lead the countries in a direction towards not
just economic unity but also political unification. This was another tool that was used
against Soviet expansion and the Soviet Union expressed a strong dislike of the whole
idea since a booming economy in Western Europe would make communism appear less
desirable and would essentially hamper Soviet expansionist intentions. Additionally, the
differences in the quality of life and standards of living in the two regions would
highlight the shortcomings of communism and may even have bred dissent within the
Soviet sphere of influence.
Beyond economic strength, the United States recognized the need for military
strength in Western Europe to make containment more effective. The military strength
was created in the form of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) which was a
defensive union of the United States, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Portugal,
Great Britain, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. According to Steven
Hook “The NATO treaty called for the continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid
among its signatories; an invasion of one shall be considered an attack against them all.”
For the United States, NATO was to be a powerful tool in their policy of containment,
since it would provide its member countries with protection against soviet aggression and
consequently against soviet expansion. The Soviet Union responded to the creation of
NATO by building the Warsaw Treaty Organization, also known as the Warsaw Pact
which included the Soviet Union and its satellite states in Eastern Europe. Germany
became the showdown point between the United States and the Soviet Union when West
Germany decided to join NATO. In response to West Germany’s membership in NATO,
The Soviet Union occupied East Germany, so the United States and NATO forces
retaliated by occupying West Germany, thus dividing the country according to Cold War
boundaries. This worked well for in favor of the United States because most of
Germany’s population, and industrial complexes were located in the West so the NATO
occupation of West Germany served its purpose of containment in that region.
For the early part of the cold war, the United States used their monopoly on the
atomic bomb as a deterrent against the Soviet Union, however, that monopoly ended in
1949 when the Soviet Union announced that they had created their own atomic bomb.
This meant that the United States could no longer use their atomic bomb technology as a
means of containing Soviet expansion or holding off Soviet aggression. About ten to
fifteen years after the soviet declaration that they had made an atomic bomb, the soviets
announced that they were engaging in the large scale production of missiles that were
intended to make American bombers vulnerable. By 1957, The Soviet Union was testing
the very first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), and was launching Sputnik, which
was the world’s first man-made satellite. These military developments essentially
toppled the United States containment policy since the atomic bomb and American
military technology was one of the major anchors for maintaining the policy.
The Cold War affected many countries in the world and one of those was Cuba.
After Cuba’s independence from Spain, The United States engineered the Cuban
constitution in such a way that Americans had the right to intervene in Cuba’s affairs at
any time. The Americans claimed that the provision of the constitution that gave them
authority in Cuba was necessary to preserve Cuba’s independence and democracy;
however, the people of Cuba saw U.S. policies in their country similar to the way they
looked at colonialism. This colonial view of America, allowed Fidel Castro to promote
anti-American, nationalistic ideas to the open ears of his countrymen. Castro led Cuba
away from America and sought to align the country with the Soviet Union. For an
economically challenged Cuba, communism seemed like the way to go and since the
Soviet Union was helping to strengthen Cuba and was supplying them with lots of
military support and advice Cuba easily became a communist country under the
dictatorial rule of Fidel Castro.
The affiliation between Cuba and the Soviet Union was another major blow to the
U.S. policy of containment especially because of the proximity of Cuba to the United
States. In response to the alliance, the Americans decided to devise a secret plan to
overthrow Castro. The plan failed because contrary to American belief, most of Cuba’s
population was not against Castro since they saw him as the person who improved the
country and brought it from where it was after colonialism to a much better social and
economic position. This failed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro and his communist
regime in Cuba indicated that the United States no longer had a monopoly of power in the
Caribbean so the Soviet Union decided to push its expansionist ideas to a new dimension.
The Soviet Union decided to establish a missile base in Cuba consisting of launch sites
for short and intermediate range ballistic missiles that were able to carry nuclear
warheads for use against the United States. An American spy plane detected the missiles
and the result was a series of strategic moves between the United States and the Soviet
Union. President Kennedy ordered a blockade of Cuba to prevent any more missile
deposits and he also ordered the removal of the missiles that were already installed.
Rather than risk a major war, the Soviets removed the missiles from Cuba and redirected
the ones that were on their way there. The United States symbolically removed missiles
that they had installed in Turkey and Kennedy publicly declared that the United States
would not invade Cuba.
The situations related to America’s containment of Soviet expansion that are
mentioned in this paper are just a microcosm of the bigger crusade that was not only
against Soviet expansionism but also against the spread of communism. To a large
extent, the policy of containment was effective in containing soviet expansion however it
did not totally stop the spread of communism. At the end of the day the Soviet Union
collapsed, the United States remains standing and communism is contained.