Was the Cold War avoidable? Why or why not?

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When trying to answer this question, another useful strategy is to look at the origins of the Cold War. Specifically, you could focus on the dropping of the atomic bomb in 1945, an event which many historians believe marked a critical turning point in US and Soviet relations, leading to...

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When trying to answer this question, another useful strategy is to look at the origins of the Cold War. Specifically, you could focus on the dropping of the atomic bomb in 1945, an event which many historians believe marked a critical turning point in US and Soviet relations, leading to the inevitability of a cold war.

We know, for example, that prior to the bombing, Truman told Stalin that he had a significant weapon which would bring World War II to an end. However, Truman did not tell Stalin what the weapon was or how exactly he intended to use it. Of course, Stalin probably already knew about the bomb, as he had spies in the US, but by not confiding in his ally, Truman risked provoking Stalin’s anger. Conversely, the fact that Truman had the atomic bomb and the Soviet Union did not may have made him more aggressive in his foreign policy.

If we look at this specific incident, then, we see that there is a sense of inevitability of conflict on both the US and the Soviet sids. The relationship was changed significantly and paved the way for the creation of Soviet satellite states and the issuing of the Truman Doctrine. This is an idea that you could develop in further detail, focusing more closely on the events between 1945 and 1947.

See the reference link for more information and to kickstart your research.

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There are two points of view regarding the Cold War. One viewpoint is that it was not preventable. The Soviet Union had broken several agreements with the Allies at the end of World War II. There were supposed to be free elections in Poland to determine the composition of the new Polish government after the war ended. Those elections didn’t appear to occur. The King of Romania said he was pressured to have a communist government, which violated the principles of the Declaration of Liberated Europe. If there was one lesson the Allies learned from World War II, it was that aggressive actions must be dealt with immediately. The idea of appeasing the Soviet Union was not something the Allies were going to do based on what happened with the Munich Pact during World War II. Since the communists wanted to spread their system around the world, it was reasonable to think that using force against them might stop them from spreading communism. Thus, the people with this point of view would argue that the Cold War was inevitable.

An opposite point of view was that the Cold War could have been prevented. If the Allies and the Soviet Union could have worked out an agreement regarding the spread of communism, the Cold War could have been avoided. Allowing the people to determine what kind of government they wanted to have was one possible solution. If truly free elections could be held, then the people of a country would determine their future. It wasn’t unreasonable for both sides to want their system to exist in areas of importance to them. Thus, a compromise could have been developed.

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You can, of course, argue this either way.  I will give an argument for each side and you can decide which you think is the better argument.

We can say that the Cold War could not have been avoided because communism and democracy/capitalism were incompatible ideas that could not coexist.  Communists believed, as a matter of faith, that their system was destined to take over the world.  This made them believe in policies that tried to extend communism to other countries.  The West felt threatened by this expansion because they knew that communism believed it would take over the world.  The West inevitably fought back against what they saw as aggressive communism.

On the other hand, we can say that anything in human history could have been avoided.  The US and the USSR were allies during WWII.  They did not have to start distrusting one another.  The US could have been more understanding when the Soviets wanted to control Eastern Europe.  The US could have realized that it, itself, wants to control its own neighbors and it could have not felt threatened by the Soviets’ attempt to do the same thing.  The Soviets, in turn, could have been less paranoid about the West.  They could have believed that the West only wanted to contain communism, not to destroy it where it already existed.  If people had seen things in these ways, the Cold War could have been averted.

Which of these arguments do you find more convincing?

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