Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cold War- A War of Power Rivalry and Ideological Conflicts

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Has the Cold War been a clash of conflicting ideologies or primarily a chronicle of great power rivalry between the two new superpowers, the USA and the USSR? Justify your answer.

The Cold War has been a clash of conflicting ideologies and chronicle great power rivalry between the two superpowers, the USA and the USSR. These differences led to increasing tensions between the two powerful nations almost to the extent of nuclear war. The Berlin Blockade was a result of both conflicting ideologies and power rivalry between the USA and the USSR, which led many to believe that Berlin was the Barometer of Cold War tensions around the world. Furthermore, one of the most significant events during the Cold War where those conflicting ideologies and rivalries occurred was the Cuban Missile Crisis bringing the world to the brink of World War III. Therefore the Cold War was not only a clash of great power rivalry but also a clash of conflicting ideologies.

The Berlin Blockade was an ideological based occurrence that consequently led to a great power rivalry that lasted from 1948 to 1949. “When Truman became president of the USA, Churchill had told him how worried he was about the ‘descent of the Iron Curtain between us and everything to the East.’ ” (Sayer). It is therefore clear that the differences in ideologies between these the Soviet Union and the USA was evident and that Winston Churchill was concerned about the negative impact that this would have on the east and the rest of the world. The Berlin Blockade existed when “Two and a half million people in the Western Zones were denied essential supplies of food and fuel.” (Condon). The ideology behind this action of denying essential supplies to people in the Western Zones, was thought by the USA as an act of war by the USSR. It demonstrated to the world that the USSR could not manage under the pressures of the USA and the crisis, which virtually placed many countries in the ‘arms of America’. “Their different political theories, however, were significant factors in their fear of each other. Ideologies are ideas which are the basis of economic and political theories”.(Jones) Therefore it can be seen that the cause of the Berlin Blockade was the ideological differences between these powerful nations.

However through the ideological differences lies the superpower rivalry, which was clearly evident in the Berlin Blockade. “… the Americans recognising that the USSR had a huge advantage in armed force … sought a less provocative response. The answer to the blockade was an airlift of supplies into Berlin.” (Condon) This quote displays that the Americans had shown their domineering power by assisting other countries and obtaining trust and loyalty from these countries. “… the USA launched the Marshall Plan to aid economic recovery in Europe. The Soviets refused to allow members of their bloc to participate in the plan.” (Readers Digest) The Soviet Union and the USA were resentful of each other because the power that the two superpowers obtained threatened one another, which ultimately led to further superpower rivalry. “ Despite the alliance during the Second World War, the USA and the Soviet Union were mutually suspicious of each other. Once Germany had been defeated this mistrust re-emerged. Much of this hostility was due to the power of each country…” (Jones). Therefore the beginning of the Berlin Blockade was caused by ideological differences, however as it proceeded superpower rivalry was evident, as this was the situation in which the dispute between the nations had ended. This situation is also seen in the Cuban Missile Crisis.


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The Cuban Missile Crisis began due to the different ideological backgrounds of the superpowers but as it progressed it was obvious that it was simply a great power rivalry. These differences in ideologies erupted when Khruschev’s intention was to impose fear upon the United States of America by seeking the devotion of communism in Latin American countries. “ They feared us much as we hoped, that a socialist Cuba might become a magnet that would attract other Latin American countries to socialism”.  Khruschev (Condon). The Soviets were assisting Cuba through economic aid and also by ‘protecting’ Cuba from the USA. As a result of this, the USSR maintained a ‘big brother’ relationship with Cuba, however it was only to benefit their own needs. These ideologies provoked the two superpowers into a rivalry, which enhanced the relations of the Soviet Union and Cuba to assist their own needs. “ The Russians supplied machinery as well as technical aid to Cuba and bought the Cuban sugar crop. Khruschev also pledged to protect Cuba from the US should the Americans attempt to overthrow Castro’s regime.” (Condon) Kennedy essentially wanted security and assurance for his country. To ensure this security among the American people, “…Kennedy demanded that Khruschev remove all launching sites and small rockets already in Cuba.” (Sayer) However according to Fidel Castro, the tensions that alarmed the world in the crisis, was solely the American’s fault. “The Imperialists imposed a naval blockade, forcing the world to the brink of war. The crisis was the result of US aggressive policy, the culminating point of which was to be an armed invasion.” Therefore the Cuban Missile Crisis initiated from differences in ideologies; as a result these ideologies led to superpower rivalry between the USA and the USSR.

It is clear that the Cuban Missile Crisis began with conflicting ideologies like the Berlin Blockade, however as it progressed the two superpowers built up a rivalry where they attempted to out perform each other. President Kennedy conveys the message that the USSR has threatened the Western Hemisphere by providing such powerful weapons that could cause massive destruction, as shown in the quote “The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide nuclear strike comparability against the Western Hemisphere.”  These antagonistic superpowers communicated through constant threats, which had brought the world into consternation. Also, the USA was fearful of these mass destructive weapons, as they were capable of exterminating America. “The crisis developed when US leaders learned that Soviet nuclear missiles capable of targeting the USA were being secretly installed in the bases in Cuba.

 As a part of great power rivalry, the USA accused the USSR of a deliberate change in the state of affairs concerning all nations and countries, which led to retaliation between these superpowers. “…this sudden, clandestive decision to station weapons for the first time… is provocative and unjustified change in the status quo which cannot be accepted by this country… any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the US ”. However the Soviets did not have the nuclear power status to overcome the Americans. “They knew the Russians would not dare to start another world war because they had not yet got atomic weapons like the Americans.” This quote indicates that the USA had some ‘control’ over this crisis due to their nuclear power situation, this in effect would mean that the Soviets would have to ‘back down’ from their threatening position as they could not compare nuclear status with the Americans. Therefore the evidence shown clearly indicates that the Cuban Missile Crisis was initiated from differences in ideologies and eventuated in great power rivalry.

The two superpowers of the twentieth century, the USA and the USSR, clashed through conflicting ideologies and also through great power rivalry in the Cold War. These conflicting ideologies and superpower rivalries are apparent in the two major turning points in history, the Berlin Blockade and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Therefore it can be seen that the Cold War was an ideological based war which had led to power rivalry between these nations.



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