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The Cold War 1945 to 1991

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Following World War II, most of Europe was in distress. Nations were exhausted and drained after fighting a long and bloody war. Germany had been crushed, and France and Britain were worn out. In the middle of the chaos surrounding the end of the war, two superpowers emerged. The United States and Soviet Union led the worlds economy and military. They both had extensive economic resources and a military that could dominate the world. These two superpowers later became enemies in the Cold War, which lasted from 1945 to 1991. The Cold War was a state of hostility, tension and rivalry among capitalist and communist nations. The events during the Cold War only increased the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. There was no armed conflict between the major rivals; however, the Cold War was characterized by threats, violent propaganda and subversive activities.

While the Soviet Union wanted to spread communism throughout the world, the United States would do anything in its power to stop it. In an excerpt from Documents of American History, President Harry Truman described a new direction in American foreign policy in 1947. He said, "I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way". (Document 1) Countries in Europe were vulnerable after World War II, their resources were drained and they were struggling to rebuild their nations. Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union, saw this as a good opportunity to transform European nations into communist nations. Nations in Eastern Europe had already fallen under Stalin's control, however, nations in Western Europe were still free, and the United States believed they must support those nations so that they can maintain their freedom. Secretary of State George C. Marshall also believed that the United States must aid democratic governments in Europe so that they could resist communist ideas. He set up the Marshall Plan, also known as European Recovery Program, which was a program of financial aid and other initiatives sponsored by the United States, designed to boost the economies of western European countries after World War II. "It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace" said Marshall, during a commencement address. (Document 2) With help from the United States, western Europe was able to rebuilt itself and resist the forces of communism. Aid was also offered to the Soviet Union and its satellites in Eastern Europe, however, Stalin saw this as threat, and did not allow nations in Eastern Europe to accept the offer. With help from the United States, living conditions in Western Europe were much better than living conditions in Eastern Europe, and Stalin felt annoyed and humiliated.

During the Cold War there were some events that caused



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