The American Age: United States Foreign Policy at Home and Abroad

By Walter Lafeber | Go to book overview

14
The Cold War, or the Renewal of
U.S.-Russian Rivalry (1945-1949)

TRUMAN AND A NEW WORLD

For President Harry Truman, events in 1945-1946 resembled a spaceship that rocketed him from a known world to a quite different universe. The end of the war in August 1945 brought wild celebration throughout the Allied camp. To most observers, the Big Three relationship of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union seemed so solid that many agreed with Eric Johnston, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who prophesied: "Russia will be, if not our biggest, at least our most eager consumer." 1 Truman privately (and colorfully) doubted it: "Our agreements with the Soviet Union have been a one-way street," the president complained, and the Soviets "could go to hell." 2 But the Soviets only remained in central and eastern Europe. They refused to cooperate economically, as Johnston and Truman had once hoped. In 1945, one set of U.S. policies, devised during the war by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Cordell Hull to create an open, cooperative, unified world, rapidly dissolved in the acidic aftermath of the Yalta and Potsdam disagreements. 3 No new policies were yet available.

At home, Truman had to spend much of 1945-1946 replacing FDR's advisers with officials whom he knew and trusted. Meanwhile, the nation's incredibly productive factories and farms, turning out an unbelievable 50 percent of the world's goods and services, required new markets. With their huge wartime savings, Americans also

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