Week 2 - The Cold War and the End of Western Empires

Week 2 - The Cold War and the End of Western Empires - The...

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The Cold War and the End of Western Empires The Cold War: Containment and Confrontation The Cold War: Anti-Communism The Triumph of Communism in East Asia At the end of World War II, Europe lay in ruins. Newly-freed countries in Asia (and later Africa) sought their own independence, a fact that resulted in a new outbreak of wars of national liberation. European nations sought new political and economic reforms. In the West, only two powers remained, the United States and the Soviet Union. Their relationship would soon be marked by a Cold War that lasted for more than forty years (1947-1991). This coincided with the ultimate victory of communism in China, and led to the Korean War (1950-53) and the Vietnam (or Second Indochina) War (1954-1975). The Cold War: Containment and Confrontation The Soviet Union appeared to most Americans as an enigmatic and threatening presence on the world scene. Despite President Franklin D. Roosevelt's vision of an international world society, the Soviet Union remained "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma" (Winston Churchill). Stalin's insistence on maintaining a Soviet sphere of influence would dictate American policy for the next forty years. One approach to Soviet expansionism was drawn from the general history of empires. In the past, aggressive empires were contained by diplomatic and political restraints. Over time, these empires declined both from within and without. The history of Russia had proven again and again its territorial ambitions. The most logical response was to constrain its expansionist tendencies through a policy of containment. Russian Kremlin The principal architect of containment was George F. Keenan (1904-2005). Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Keenan made his way to the U.S. Foreign Service, with early appointments to Germany and the Baltic countries. He became a leading expert on Russian affairs during the 1930s and was a key member of the U.S. embassy in Moscow at that time. After the war, he served as deputy head of the U.S. mission in Moscow, and at the end of his term in 1946 sent his now-famous "long telegram" – perhaps the best-known cable in American diplomatic history – to James Byrnes, President Harry S. Truman's Secretary of State. Keenan argued that Soviet policy was dictated by a "traditional and instinctive Russian sense of insecurity." Stalin used communist ideology to legitimize his own autocratic rule and and protect his own self-interests. But Keenan argued that while Stalin was "impervious to the logic of reason," he was "highly sensitive to the logic of force." Keenan's strategy was to contain Soviet power by a system of alliances and foreign aid. He belittled the idea that Stalin was determined to destroy the United States and argued that, when pressured, he [Stalin] would back down. As Keenan stated: "...the main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies. .. Soviet pressure against the free institutions of the Western
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Week 2 - The Cold War and the End of Western Empires - The...

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