World War II was the most devastating conflict in history with much of Europe and Asia left in ruins at war’s end. Yet, there was no peace. The superpowers of the United States and Soviet Union and their ideologies of democracy (U.S) versus tyranny (Soviet Union) competed for prominence on the world stage in a cold war. For over 40 years these nuclear superpowers maintained a standoff and avoided a hot war that could have potentially destroyed the planet. The cold war was just simply a scramble between the U.S and the Soviet Union (Russian) to acquire greater share of influence and implement their policies. During World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union fought together as allies against the Axis powers. However, one would have believed that the two countries were going to be great friends but their relationship became a tense one due to DISTRUST. Americans had long been wary of Soviet communism and concerned about Russian leader Joseph Stalin’s tyrannical, blood-thirsty rule of his own country. For their part, the Soviets resented the Americans’ decades-long refusal to treat the USSR as a legitimate part of the international community as well as their delayed entry into World War II, which resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of Russians. After the war ended, these grievances aggravated into an overwhelming sense of mutual distrust and enmity. Post-war Soviet expansionism in eastern Europe fueled many Americans’ fears of a Russian plan to control the world. Meanwhile, the USSR came to resent what they perceived as American officials’ bellicose rhetoric, powerful arms buildup and interventionist approach to international relations. In such a hostile atmosphere, no single party was entirely to blame for the Cold War, in fact, some historians believe it was inevitable.So this was the scene after the war ended in 1945. Both sides distrusted the other, one had a vast army in the field (the Soviet Union with its Red Army supremely lead by Zhukov) while the other, the Americans had the most powerful weapon in the world, the A-bomb.
CAUSES OF THE WAR
Politically: The immediate cause of this war was the extensive policy of the USSR over eastern Europe which scared the Americans. By the end of 1945, USSR had full control over many countries in eastern Europe such as Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Ukraine, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Lituania, East Germany etc. Stalin was not satisfied with communist control of eastern Europe. In the meantime, he encouraged the communists to take an active part in the immediate post-war elections in western Europe. In late 1946, the French and Italian Communists were becoming the most powerful parties in France and Italy while in Turkey and Greece the communist were receiving military aids to overthrow the government.This scared the Americans especially as President Roosevelt who was optimistic about cooperating with the Soviet Union after the second world war died in 1945 and his successor Harry Truman was a complete contrast. He knew that the communists would not set up democratic governments in eastern Europe. He also believed that after the Soviet Union had established her control in eastern Europe, she would continue to extend her influence into western Europe. Thus President Truman favoured a policy of strong resistance against Russian expansion and adopted a policy of containment to prevent the Soviet from becoming world power:
Ideologically: The United States and the Soviet Union represent two opposing systems of government. In the United States, the government is elected by free elections. The people can form political parties to voice their political opinions. They also possess the right of assembly, of speech and of the press. In the Soviet Union, the government is formed by the Communist Party. The people do not have the right to form their own political parties. They do not enjoy the right of assembly, of speech and of the press. Since these two systems of government are diametrically opposed to one another, there can be little compromise between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Economically: The United States wanted to encourage free trade throughout the world. The Soviet Union wanted to protect her own sphere from international commerce. Russia feared that trade with the West would involve the risk of Russia being opened to western influences which would have eroded the strength of the communist regime. These differences led to much ill feeling between the United States and the Soviet Union.
|Free elections||No elections or fixed|
|Democratic||Autocratic / Dictatorship|
|‘Survival of the fittest’||Everybody helps everybody|
|Richest world power||Poor economic base|
|Personal freedom||Society controlled by the NKVD (secret police)|
|Freedom of the media||Total censorship|
Is the world today being shaped by this differences in ideology between West and Russia?
I will vehemently affirm to this question. The cold war was a mere differences in ideologies between the Americans and the Soviet Union but there wasn’t any physical confrontation that resulted to bloodshed and lost of lives. However many of the clients or supporting countries have had devastating effects of this cold war. For example the Korean war (1950-1953). After WWII, the Korean peninsular was divided into Russian-backed People Republic of Korea (North Korea) and American-backed South (Republic of Korea). The north invaded the south and capture Soeul. The Americans intervened and liberated the South, The Afghanistan war of 1979 where the Russian invaded the capital Kabal. The prime minister, Hazifullah Amin, tried to sweep aside Muslim tradition within the nation and he wanted a more western slant to Afghanistan. This outraged the majority of those in Afghanistan as a strong tradition of Muslim belief was common in the country. The Vietnam War of 1954 in which the Russian-backed Vietnam attacked the American-backed South Vietnam and this led to several caualties for both states. All these wars has shaped the world today and though the Soviet Union finally collapse in 1989, one would believed that the cold war has ended. The rise of the Russian dedicated reformer Gorbachev ended the war as he introduced the policies of Glasnost and Perestroika to the USSR. Glasnost or openness, meant a greater willingness on the part of Soviet officials to allow western ideas and goods into the USSR and Perestroika. The war is still much prevailing.
Does the collapse of the Cold War gave more power to the Americans?
On March 12, 1947, President Truman enunciated the Truman Doctrine. The essence of the Doctrine was that “it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressure.” This was clearly an anti-communist doctrine. The syrian war has been greatly affected by this doctrine. In essence, it has become more than just a battle between those for or against Mr Assad.
A key factor has been the intervention of regional and world powers, including Iran, Russia (Communist) and Saudi Arabia and the United States (Capitalist). Their military, financial and political support for the government and opposition has contributed directly to the intensification and continuation of the fighting, and turned Syria into a proxy battleground.
The West have also been accused of fostering sectarianism in what was a broadly secular state, pitching the country’s Sunni majority against the president’s Shia Alawite sect. Such divisions have encouraged both sides to commit atrocities that have not only caused loss of life but also torn apart communities, hardened positions and dimmed hopes for a political settlement.
Jihadist groups have also seized on the divisions, and their rise has added a further dimension to the war. So-called Islamic State (IS), which controls large parts of northern and eastern Syria, is battling government forces, rebel brigades and Kurdish groups on the ground, as well as facing air strikes by Russia and a US-led multinational coalition.
Why are so many outside powers involved
Russia, for whom President Assad’s survival is critical to maintaining its interests in Syria, launched an air campaign in September 2015 with the aim of “stabilising” the government after a series of defeats. Moscow stressed that it would target only “terrorists”, but activists said its strikes mainly hit Western-backed rebel groups.
Six months later, having turned the tide of the war in his ally’s favour, President Vladimir Putin ordered the “main part” of Russia’s forces to withdraw, saying their mission had “on the whole” been accomplished. Rebels have received only limited military assistance from Western powers opposed to Mr Assad. Shia power Iran is believed to be spending billions of dollars a year to bolster the Alawite-dominated government, providing military advisers and subsidised weapons, as well as lines of credit and oil transfers. It is also widely reported to have deployed hundreds of combat troops in Syria.
Mr Assad is Iran’s closest Arab ally and Syria is the main transit point for Iranian weapons shipments to the Lebanese Shia Islamist movement Hezbollah, which has sent thousands of fighters to support government forces.
The US, which says President Assad is responsible for widespread atrocities and must step down, has provided only limited military assistance to “moderate” rebels, fearful that advanced weapons might end up in the hands of jihadists. Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, which is seeking to counter the influence of its rival Iran, has been a major provider of military and financial assistance to the rebels, including those with Islamist ideologies.
The UN says 250,000 people have been killed in the past five years. However, the organisation stopped updating its figures in August 2015. One monitoring group puts the death toll at 270,000, while a think-tank recently estimated that the conflict had caused 470,000 deaths, either directly or indirectly. More than 4.8 million people have fled Syria, most of them women and children. Neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have struggled to cope with one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent history.
About 10% of Syrian refugees have sought safety in Europe, aggravating political divisions as countries argue over sharing the burden. A further 6.5 million people are internally displaced inside Syria. Almost half of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million has been displaced by the war. The UN says it will need $3.2bn to help the 13.5 million people, including six million children, who will require some form of humanitarian assistance inside Syria in 2016. About 70% of the population is without access to adequate drinking water, one-in-three people are unable to meet their basic food needs, more than two million children are out of school, and four out of five people live in poverty.
The warring parties have compounded the problems by refusing humanitarian agencies access to many of those in need. Some 4.6 million people live in hard-to-reach areas, including almost 500,000 people in besieged locations.
This is the neo- cold war in Syria. Which country will be next.
Sources: BBC News: The Syrian War
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