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Cold War Containment. History 17B Lecture 14. Cold War. Trillions of dollars and millions of lives. What caused it? Why was the U.S. response containment?. A “Monstrous” Regime. Americans denounce 1917 Soviet government.

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Cold War Containment

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Cold War Containment

History 17B

Lecture 14

Cold War

  • Trillions of dollars and millions of lives.

  • What caused it? Why was the U.S. response containment?

A “Monstrous” Regime

  • Americans denounce 1917 Soviet government.

    • Leaders are maniacs who deny freedom and property and promote class warfare.

    • A “complete repudiation of modern civilization.”

  • U.S. seeks to overthrow Bolshevik regime after WWI

    • Red Scare of 1920s

  • FDR recognizes USSR in 1933.

World War II Allies

  • Mistrust on both sides

    • Stalin calls for a “second front” in Europe.

    • U.S. fears Stalin will negotiate a separate peace.

  • Yalta Conference

    • FDR’s efforts to hold free elections in Eastern Europe

    • Stalin, desirous of “friendly governments,” makes a vague promise.

United Nations

  • FDR’s effort to integrate U.S. and U.S.S.R. into international community.

  • General Assembly and Security Council


    • United States

    • Great Britain

    • Soviet Union

    • China

FDR’s Death

Post-War Europe


  • The Cold War was a contest between ideological and economic systems.

  • Cold war is a heightened state of tension between nuclear powers.

Josef Stalin

  • Sought Soviet security through creation of buffer states in Eastern Europe.

  • Mistrustful of West”

    • Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech.

    • Harry Truman’s anticommunist views.

President Harry Truman

  • Distrustful of Stalin and unwilling to compromise like FDR was.

  • Didn’t believe USSR wanted “security” – he believed it wanted “world conquest.”

  • Political pressure to take a “hard-line.”

National Security Interests

  • Definition: Interests that the U.S. defined as politically, economically, and militarily vital to American safety.

  • America sought to redesign the world in its own “liberal-capitalist” image (democracy and free markets).

  • Soviet efforts against this goal perceived as threats to U.S. national security.

Economic Interests

  • Promote international capitalism.

  • U.S. industrial production rose 90% during WWII.

  • America wanted to be able to sell its goods abroad to prevent another depression.

Ideological Interests

Fear of the “disease” of communism to democracy.

Military Security

  • No more “Pearl Harbors”

    • U.S. sought military bases around the world.

  • Why target the USSR as the aggressor?

  • Wartime alliance made Americans forget Russian totalitarianism.

  • After war, looked no different from Nazi Germany.

Paradox of American Power

  • America had the bomb but Stalin had million of troops in Eastern Europe.

  • America was the riches and strongest nation in the world, but it was weak in imposing its will on the world.

George Kennan and Containment

  • USSR believed peaceful coexistence impossible.

  • Stalin needed foreign threats to maintain tyrannical rule.

  • U.S. should be patient and “contain” Soviet expansion

Truman’s Response

  • Truman Doctrine (1947)

    • Military assistance to Greece and Turkey

    • Open-ended commitment to aid the “free world.”

  • Marshall Plan (1948)

    • Fear that the “disease” of communism would spread in a weak Europe.

    • $17 billion to jumpstart European economies.

Stalin’s Strategic Blunders

  • Stalin tightens grip on Eastern Europe

    • Coup in Czechoslovakia

  • Blockade of West Berlin

    • Stalin seeks to drive the West out by cutting supplies to Western sector.

    • Truman responds with massive airlift for 11 months.

    • Wins the hearts of Germans.

“Three Shocks”

Korean War (1950-1953)

Containment and the Third World

  • U.S. goal was to keep Soviet and Chinese communism out of the Third World

  • Third World: Latin America, Africa, Asia, Middle East

    • Political instability, pre-industrial economy, mass poverty.

  • Criticism of U.S. domination of their economies.

  • Calls for “nationalization of industries.”

U.S. Interests

  • Third World must have free-market economies and to be anti-communist.

  • John Foster Dulles (Secretary of State under Eisenhower)

    • No neutrality allowed.

    • Nationalization of industries seen as “communist inspired.”

Iran (1953)

  • America looking for enemies (even if they’re not there!)

  • Iran takes control of its own oil fields from British and American companies.

  • Eisenhower has CIA overthrow government and install the Shah.

Guatemala (June 1954)

  • Guatemala elected government nationalizes some land owned by United Fruit Company

  • CIA overthrows government and installs a brutal dictator.

  • U.S. could not see distinction between “communism” and “nationalism.”

Cuban Revolution (1959)

  • Fidel Castro overthrows brutal Batista regime.

    • U.S. isolates socialist leaning government and drives it into the arms of the USSR.

  • JFK reluctantly supports Bay of Pigs Invasion (1961)

    • No popular uprising against popular Castro regime.

Anti-Castro Policy

  • Tremendous political pressure to overthrow Castro.

  • Failure of Bay of Pigs invasion leads to:

    • Trade Embargo

    • Assassination attempts on Castro

  • Forced Cuba closer into Soviet camp.

13 Days in October

  • Reconnaissance planes in October 1962 discover installation of nuclear missiles in Cuba.

    • Range of 2,200 miles could reach U.S. targets easily.

Why Missiles to Cuba?

  • Nikita Khrushchev believed they would serve as a deterrent to an American invasion of the islands.

  • Redress the military balance on the cheap.

    • U.S. military technology superior to USSR.

    • U.S. also had short-range nuclear missiles in Turkey along Soviet border.

Kennedy’s Response

  • Demands the missiles be removed.

  • Places an embargo on offensive military equipment intended for Cuba (an act of war).

  • Warns the public to prepare for nuclear war.

Eyeball to Eyeball

  • Khrushchev sends two cables.

    • First one demands U.S. promise not to invade Cuba.

    • Second one demands U.S. removal of missiles from Turkey.

  • JFK agrees to first and ignores second (but secretly agrees to remove missiles in Turkey at a later date).

  • USSR “blinks” and removes missiles from Cuba.


  • Thaw in Relations

    • “Hot Line” established

    • Partial Test Ban Treaty

      • No more atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons.

  • Convinced Russians they could never again be in a weakened nuclear position.

  • Begin a crash building program in nuclear missiles.

Who is to blame?

  • Both sides made choices and took actions that exacerbated the already tense relationship between the two.

  • Mistrust on both sides led to misperception that the other was hostile.

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