This document was once part of my history notes. However, I have found that making accurate history notes is boring and does little to help me remember content anyway. So these are improved notes, which is to say that a lot of what is here should never be written on a final by any student valuing his or her mark. Nonetheless, if you have studied the actual content that these notes are based on (that is, the origins and development of the Cold War, roughly up to the Cuban Missile Crisis), these notes may help to jog your memory and/or amuse you.
Russia, America, and the Second World War
The Big Three: Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin
The seeds that would later grow into the Cold War were sown years earlier, mostly among the thorns. Russia fought a civil war to drive out the white man, and thereafter the red man ruled in Moscow. Lenin was replaced by Joe Stalin, who swiftly became the number one communist oppressor of the twentieth century. Stalin adopted an introverted policy known as “Stalinism in one country,” which actually meant killing a lot of people. He also rounded up and removed all members of Lenin’s original think-tank, making his brutality strikingly evident. Stalin gained the hatred and respect of the Russian people by imposing collective farming, gulags, purges, and fifty-year plans.
In the United States, most people were chasing the “American Dream,” which meant founding big corporations without fighting any wars in Europe. Suddenly, in 1929, Wall Street crashed into the Stock Market and America was left in a state of great depression. The antidote came in the form of the president Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), who rallied Americans to his fireside and encouraged them find jobs. Due to paralysis, he leaned considerably to the left and had to travel by wheelchair, giving him an unusual perspective from which he was able recognize Russia. This led to far easier communication and co-operation between the USA and the USSR, and many American experts went to help engineer Russia. They could not avoid noticing certain elements of depraved despotic totalitarianism about the place, and support for communism flourished throughout the United States.
As Hitler grew in power, Stalin called for a united front against the Axis, but, due to Europe’s fear of communism, such measures were to be reserved for extreme cases such as China. Once the Munich crisis had made it apparent to Stalin that the western powers might not get around to doing anything about Hitler until he was already picking his teeth with the Soviet Union’s territory, Stalin turned to his archenemy and they signed a pact promising not to kill one another. Stalin immediately took advantage of this treaty by invading everything he could reach, alerting people anew to the “Stalin as dictator” concept. Hitler responded by blitzing into Russia with an airforce of tanks, but hindsight has found that this was in fact the greatest military blunder of all time. Moscow was saved by the icy Russian weather, although really this had nothing on the lowest temperatures of the Cold War.
The Allies were willing to work with the devil if it meant beating Hitler, but working with Stalin was a difficult proposition. Hitler made up their minds for them by declaring war on the United States in response to bombing attacks by the Japanese. The Americans and Russians became allies, despite attempts by the Germans to create distrust by revealing the corpses of Polish officers killed by the Russians during their alleged “Non-Aggression” phase. Stalin, pleased to find himself suddenly allied with the greatest economic power in the world, began demanding control of vast territories. Churchill and FDR, though, had already decided that all territorial urges were to be suppressed, when they met aboard the Atlantic Charter and planned the rest of the century. They also envisioned a United Nations, which would be much like the League of Nations but without being so pathetic. The first United Nations were later to be held in San Francisco.
Together with Uncle Sam and Uncle Joe, Churchill formed a group called the “Big Three,” which worked to make sure the Allies won the war. The so-called uncles were really just FDR and Stalin. They held a club meeting at the Soviet embassy in Pteranodon, and agreed that giving Eastern Europe to Russia was a clear case of necessary self-defence. Another conference was held in the palace of Yalta, a former czar. The purpose of the meeting was to deal with Germany and Poland, who were still taking orders from Hitler. FDR went to ingratiate himself to Stalin, and soon the Balkans, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia had all wound up in Stalin’s hands. The Russians also secretly promised to attack the Japanese by invading Korea, but failed to mention that they had no intention of ever giving it back. They also promised to allow democratic elections in Eastern Europe, but in that case they were just lying.
All these trips around Europe by wheelchair were too much for FDR’s health. He died in 1945 and the Allies were finally able to win the war.
Late in the war, relations between the USA and the USSR became marginally overwrought. The Americans tested the world’s first nuclear weapons on Manhattan. What had happened was meant to be a secret, but somehow the Russians figured it out. The Russians proved the ignobility of their motives by taking a sixty-three-day lunch break while Nazis wiped out the Polish freedom fighters in Warsaw. When they took Berlin, the Soviet troops raised a homemade communist flag over the Reichstag fire and carried on like they owned the place. The Russian and American armies met at a river in Germany and tried not to notice what they were embracing.
The third Allied summit was held in Potsdam, which had been in Germany for many years. Churchill had been overthrown by Clement Atley, who was willing to make change for his people, and Roosevelt’s old spot was filled by Harry Truman, who unfortunately had never been to oversee a conference before and therefore had little idea what to do. His idea of a subtle threat was the atomic bomb. Stalin showed up a day late, but no one noticed because he apologized. Unlike at all previous conferences held in Germany, these leaders didn’t understand each other so well. They just weren’t as Big as the last Three. Truman declared that Russia was failing to carry out the agreements reached at the Yalta conference, and refused to acknowledge the existence of Eastern Europe. Obviously he was an American.
American Action and Soviet Response
Against their better judgement, the Americans dropped a couple of atom bombs on Japan. On September 1st, 1949, World War II was history.
Many people were expecting a period of peace after the war, but not Churchill. He flew to America and announced that the Russians had already constructed a heavily fortified iron curtain from the Balkans to the Atlantic, similar to France’s late Maginot Line. This was an extraordinary instance of foresight, as this wall would not in fact be built until 1961. In order to further turn people against the Russians, Churchill advised them to kiss the Germans. He probably knew that attempting to appease the Russians instead of standing up to them might result in the Nazis taking over Munich again.
Before long it became clear that the United States and the United Soviet Socialist Republic were no longer united. In the west, distrust of the far east was based on knowledge of Russian atrocities such as kulaks and famines, as well as on a general-purpose hatred of communism. In the east, capitalists were despised for conspiring to destroy communism, which had never done them any harm. Some were also irritated that the democratic powers had taken so long to get moving in the war while the Russians had been forced to delay the German tanks by expending their population.
Britain, France, America, and Russia faced disagreements over how to punish Germany while still encouraging its economic recovery. The Americans were willing not to have all the Germans crippled, but the French felt differently. The Russians, meanwhile, were in favour of flattening Germany, occupying it forever and ever, and demanding reparations until kingdom come. Everyone did agree that the military occupation had to be thorough to avoid being stabbed in the back by misled Germans. Eventually the Germans were divided into four parts and each section was operated on by a different nation. The city of Berlin, which was metaphorically the heart of the country, was divided along the same lines, because separating it from any section of the country would have caused that part to die of blood loss. With Germany divided up into zones, a process of denazification and decentralization began, carried out on a case-by-case basis by the western powers and much more efficiently by the Russians.
Another disagreement arose over whether the new capital of Poland ought to be in Lublin or in London.
One of the budget cuts implemented by the British government in 1947 was abandoning Greece to communist insurgents, and Truman, alarmed, asked the US Congress to send immediate aid to Turkey. This showed the replacement of America’s traditional policy of isolation with one of contentment, which was preferable because it could combat the spread of communism. Although the Russians refused to have anything to do with the Greeks, the USSR issued a statement criticizing Truman’s speech for being much too old-fashioned. Nevertheless, Truman’s ideas formed one of the core doctrines of American belief, along with the Incarnation and the Trinity. The communists believed the Truman doctrine would be a failure because it was too imperialistic, but they were wrong, so they didn’t get Greece. A month later, the Truman Doctrine was further expanded in the 1968 report of the National Security Council. This would later walk hand in hand with the Martian Plan through the twilight zone between communism and capitalism.
Another tense situation arose when Soviet forces refused to withdraw from Iran, but eventually Stalin backed down. He believed he had come to an understanding with the government about oil, although the government didn’t think so. This kind of problem led to the publication of the George Kennan telegraph, which is Source A in studying the Cold War. It explained that communist dictators always needed enemies to fight so that their people wouldn’t have time to revolt.
In 1947, the United States signed an agreement whereby the Latin American powers would help one another if threatened.
Factors in Eastern Europe began to intensify the seeds of the Cold War into real plants. The world was shocked when Czechoslovakia was suddenly communisted to Russia. Even democratic nations were soon lost in the Soviet thorn-bush. The Russians liked to say they weren’t holding elections because they deserved a buffer zone after World War II, but according to Source A that’s all phooey.
Realizing the danger of impoverished Communists carrying off all the broken pieces of Europe, the Americans designed the Marshall Plan to reassemble the continent. Named in memory of George C. Marshall, it was a program of financial aid to prop countries up against the crushing weight of the encroaching communist glacier. The USSR refused to accept Marshall Plan aid and forced other communist nations likewise to forego the pleasures of American money in favour of an aggressive new Soviet policy called Comecon (short for Combat Economics.) This was later followed by the organization Cominform (Communist Informers, a euphemism for secret police), which replaced the older Comintern (Communist Internal Security, an older euphemism for secret police.)
The Yugoslavians didn’t care a whit for what Stalin said, so they took the money and gave it to the communist rebels in Greece. Yugoslavia had experienced a communist takeover under Tito, which wasn’t his real name. Stalin always meant to invade Yugoslavia back into line, but the plan never got off the ground.
Wait, there’s more! Check out page 2!