Sample Research Paper: Who's To Blame For the Cold War?
A research paper is a type of coursework that presents an idea, claim, message, or argument expressed in the form of a thesis statement. The body of the paper then utilizes evidence from scholarly sources to support the points made. This sample research paper examines the roots of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.
While the Second World War ended in 1945 with the victory of the Allies and the defeat of the Axis powers, it heralded the beginning of an even longer conflict known as the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies. Lasting over four decades, this conflict between the two factions fundamentally changed modern history as it shifted the balance of power among major countries and contributed to major events that are happening to this day. Given the tremendous impact of the Cold War on contemporary society, it comes as a question why this event happened in the first place. Or more precisely, which country started this long conflict? This is a question that unfortunately has no simple answer. Responsibility for the Cold War can neither be attributed to the United States nor to the Soviet Union alone. Indeed, it cannot be attributed to a single nation. Rather, it is the result of geopolitical, cultural, economic, and ideological differences that emerged long before the Cold War began in 1945 as well as legitimate worries from both factions.
Firstly, no single country can be blamed for the Cold War because the root of the problem existed long before the Cold War began. To understand this, it is essential to step back and consider the history of both the US and the USSR. In 1917, the imperial government of Russia headed by the autocratic Tsar Nicholas II was toppled by two successive revolutions, the first by a provisional government and the second by a communist group known as the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks executed the imperial family, seized control of the country’s resources, and established a single-party authoritarian government headed first by Vladimir Lenin and then by Joseph Stalin (Westad, 2013). Meanwhile, the United States and its allies, primarily Great Britain and France, remained democratic capitalist countries (Šmejkalová, 2013). The emergence and spread of communism in Russia laid the foundation of the Cold War. Here was a political, cultural, social, and economic system that was the very antithesis of the Western way of life. It was only a matter of time before these two systems came clashing against each other.
Apart from the fact that the Cold War is an ideological divide at its core, both countries contributed to it due to their mutual suspicion of each other. These worries prompted the two countries to commit actions that fueled the conflict. For instance, at the Yalta Conference, all three leaders, Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill, agreed that democracies would be established in countries liberated following the recapture of Nazi-occupied territory (Grenville & Wasserstein, 2001). However, Stalin did not honor this agreement, and instead installed communist governments in many Eastern European countries including Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Hungary among others (Gaddis, 2006). The West saw this not only as the USSR’s denial of democracy in these countries but also an active expansion of their ideology. On the other hand, the USSR considered this as insurance against invasion by the West, since these countries would serve as a buffer zone. The desire to create a buffer zone, however, was not without merit. As far back as the early days of the Russian Revolution, Western countries had attempted to stem the tide of communism by supporting Russia’s nationalist factions known as the Whites against the Bolsheviks who were known as the Reds. The USSR was aware that the West opposed them, which made the alliance during World War II temporary and fragile from the start. The USSR, therefore, had a quite valid reason for fearing the West.
Meanwhile, the United States and its allies saw the USSR’s actions as a direct threat to their existence. Reacting to Stalin’s actions, Harry Truman issued the Truman Doctrine, which fundamentally changed the US’s foreign policy. Whereas the previous foreign policy of neutrality towards regional conflicts that don’t involve America, the new foreign policy sought to contain communism by fostering friendly relations with other nations. Furthermore, this policy sought to support foreign governments at risk of being toppled by communism (Gaddis, 2006). This was the doctrine behind the US’s involvement in many regional conflicts including the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Ultimately, the West’s worries regarding the USSR resulted in the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO in 1949, a coalition of Western democracies bound to protect each other in the event of an attack from the USSR (Armstrong & Goldstein, 2013). The creation of NATO, however, was viewed by the USSR as proof of its apprehensions regarding the West.
Given the events that led to the Cold War, it can be argued that there is no single nation that can be blamed for the Cold War. Rather, it was the consequence of a series of events characterized by mutual distrust, conflicting interests, and competition for power and influence. Deciding who should be blamed, therefore, is a difficult task and one that should not be taken lightly. In the end, evidence points to this unfortunate chapter in modern history as the result of many nations’ actions. While the West had valid reasons to worry about the USSR’s attempt to spread communism, since it threatened the West’s way of life, the USSR also had deep apprehensions about the West that was grounded on history.
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Armstrong, D. & Goldstein, E. (2013). The end of the Cold War. Routledge.
Gaddis, J. L. (2006). The Cold War: A new history . Penguin.
Grenville, J. A. S. & Wasserstein, B. (2002). The major international treaties of the twentieth century: A history and guide with texts. Taylor and Francis.
Šmejkalová, I. (2010). Cold War books in the “Other” Europe and what came after. BRILL.
Westad, O. A. (2013). Reviewing the Cold War: Approaches, interpretations, theory . Routledge.