In 1945, the United States and Soviet Union were allies, jointly triumphant
in World War II
which ended with total victory for Soviet and American forces over Adolf Hitler
's Nazi empire
Europe. Within just a few years, however, wartime allies became mortal enemies, locked in a
global struggle—military, political, economic, ideological—to prevail in a new "Cold War."
How did wartime friends so quickly turn into Cold War foes?
Who started the Cold War?
Was it the Soviets, who reneged on their agreements
to allow the people of Eastern Europe to
determine their own fates by imposing totalitarian rule
on territories unlucky enough to fall
behind the "Iron Curtain
Or was it the Americans, who ignored the Soviets' legitimate security concerns, sought to
intimidate the world with the atomic bomb
, and pushed relentlessly to expand their own
international influence and market dominance?
The tensions that would later grow into Cold War became evident as early as 1943, when the
"Big Three" allied leaders—American President Franklin D. Roosevelt
, British Prime Minister
Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin—met in Tehran
to coordinate strategy.
Poland, which sits in an unfortunate position on the map
, squeezed between frequent enemies
Russia and Germany, became a topic for heated debate. The Poles, then under German
occupation, had not one but two governments-in-exile—one Communist, one anticommunist—
hoping to take over the country upon its liberation from the Nazis. Unsurprisingly, the Big Three
disagreed over which Polish faction should be allowed to take control after the war, with Stalin
backing the Polish Communists while Churchill and Roosevelt insisted the Polish people ought
to have the right to choose their own form of government. For Stalin, the Polish question was a