The view that the Soviet Union bore almost total responsibility for starting the Cold War was prominent during the conflict itself. By the early 1960s, many historians were already looking at the aftermath of World War II, and they saw Stalinist treachery and communist expansionism as the reason the conflict...
The view that the Soviet Union bore almost total responsibility for starting the Cold War was prominent during the conflict itself. By the early 1960s, many historians were already looking at the aftermath of World War II, and they saw Stalinist treachery and communist expansionism as the reason the conflict began. One of the most prominent of these historians was Arthur Schlesinger Jr., whose 1967 essay "The Origins of the Cold War" attempted to refute so-called "revisionists" who, in the midst of the Vietnam War, began to critically examine the role of the United States in the Cold War. Schlesinger argued that the responsibility for the Cold War ultimately lay with the Soviet Union itself:
The Cold War could have been avoided only if the Soviet Union had not been possessed by convictions both of the infallibility of the Communist word and of the inevitability of a Communist world.
Because the Soviets believed these things, they pursued a course which precipitated conflict with the United States. Another statement of this thesis (in even more strident terms) was by historian Thomas Bailey. Bailey, more famous for his authorship of American history high school textbooks, wrote the following in his 1951 work America Faces Russia:
Not even the iron hand of Communism has been able to remold his [the Russian people's] genes. Traits noted in the nineteenth century . . . have also been noted in Soviets of the twentieth century. Most commonly mentioned have been antiforeignism, secretiveness, suspicion, duplicity. . . callousness, ruthlessness, and brutality.
Bailey cast the conflict as a struggle between a peace-loving democratic society and a Russian people conditioned by their past to be expansionist and unmindful of human life and dignity. Many other historians have shared the view that the Soviet Union bore the primary responsibility for starting the war. John Lewis Gaddis, in a far more nuanced manner, emphasizes the "unilateralism with which the Soviets . . . handled their affairs" in Eastern Europe, contrasting this approach with Roosevelt's instinct (before his death in the spring of 1945) for coalition-building. Gaddis, writing in the 1980s and 1990s, argues that Stalin did not wish to bring about the Cold War. Rather, he hoped, in the short term, to protect Soviet security through the establisment of puppet regimes in Eastern Europe. But, according to Gaddis, the United States was correct to interpret his long-term goals as the "eventual Soviet domination of Europe," and the origins of the Cold War lay in these goals.