The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction

By Robert McMahon | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
The origins of the Cold War
in Europe, 1945–50

A fragile alliance

A classic marriage of convenience, the wartime alliance between the globe's leading capitalist power and its chief proponent of international proletarian revolution was riddled from the first with tension, mistrust, and suspicion. Beyond the common objective of defeating Nazi Germany, there was little to cement a partnership born of awkward necessity and weighed down by a conflict—ridden past. The United States had, after all, displayed unremitting hostility to the Soviet state ever since the Bolshevik revolution that brought it forth. The Kremlin's rulers, for their part, saw the United States as the ringleader of the capitalist powers that had sought to strangle their regime at infancy. Economic pressure and diplomatic isolation had followed, along with persistent denunciations by American spokesmen of the Soviet government and all it stood for. Washington's belated recognition of the Soviet Union, which came 17 years after the state's establishment, was insufficient to drain the reservoir of bad blood, especially since Stalin's efforts to knit together a common front against Hitler's resurgent Germany in the mid— and late 1930s were met with indifference from the United States and other Western powers. Abandoned yet again by the West, at least from his perspective, and left to face the German wolves alone, Stalin agreed to the Nazi–Soviet pact of 1939 largely as a means of self—protection.

-16-

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