The Cold War began in the aftermath of World War II as an “ideological, political, economic, military, and cultural” struggle for power between East and West (Seventeen Moments). Because the Cold War was not always a literal war fought on the battlefield, I have always wondered what actually sparked it.
As the Freeze text states, “the bonds of the Grand Alliance predictably weakened in the aftermath of the war…the deteriorating relationship between the Soviet Union and its former allies soon gave way to the overt hostility of the Cold War” (Freeze 398). In 1946, Winston Churchill (one such former ally) gave his famous Iron Curtain speech, which included the well-known line “from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent” (Iron Curtain Speech). This is often seen as the actual start to the Cold War. Stalin responded to Churchill’s words by calling it a “dangerous act” and even comparing Churchill and his American friends to Hitler in an interview with Pravda (“Stalin on Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech”). It appeared that the way the Democratic West and Communist East viewed one another had been changed irrevocably.
In 1947, George F. Kennan, the Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States to the Soviet Union, published the “Long Telegram,” in which he described the USSR and communism as “undoubtedly the greatest task our diplomacy has ever faced and probably greatest it will ever have to face” (George Kennan’s “Long Telegram”). He also stated that there could be no “permanent peaceful coexistence” between capitalism and communism (“Long Telegram”). Later that year, in a statement on the international situation by Andrei Zhdanov, the Soviet Union asserted similar views – that there were ideological differences between the two parties that may not be reconciled (“Zhdanov on the International Situation”).
While there were no full-on military battles in the years following WWII, it became clear that a new type of war had emerged between East and West – one that eventually proved to be just as dangerous as a real war.
- George Kennan, author of the Long Telegram
“Iosif Stalin, Interview on Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech” Pravda, 14 March 1946. http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=article&ArticleID=1947iron1&SubjectID=1947coldwar&Year=1947Kennan, George. “The Long Telegram.” http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/coldwar/documents/episode-1/kennan.htm
Iron Curtain image retrieved from: https://jspivey.wikispaces.com/Part+Four+%28pg.34-39%29+LG
Kennan image retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_F._Kennan
Rosenburg, Jennifer. “Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech.” http://history1900s.about.com/od/churchillwinston/a/Iron-Curtain.htm
Siegelbaum, Lewis. “Cold War.” 2013. http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&show=&SubjectID=1947coldwar&ArticleID=&Year=1947
Zhdanov, Andrei. “New Aspects of World Conflict: The International Situation.” 22 September 1947. http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=article&ArticleID=1947conflict1&SubjectID=1947coldwar&Year=1947