Following States and the Soviet Union. AtFollowing States and the Soviet Union. At

Following the
second World War, the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences paved the way for impending
tension between the United States and the Soviet Union. At Yalta, these two
geopolitical powers, who filled the postwar power vacuum, disagreed on the
fates of the nations of Eastern Europe, namely their forms of government. Stalin
believed there should be pro-Soviet governments, whereas Roosevelt pushed for self-determination
and democratic elections. At Potsdam, Truman wanted to take action against the
Soviet Union, but was not able to due to the presence of Soviet troops in
countries with Soviet-imposed governments, such as Poland, Hungary, and
Romania. Thus, a conflict ensued in the ideologies between capitalism and
communism because of Stalin’s refusal to honor self-determination. During the
early years of the Cold War, America’s foreign policy goals were containing
communism within its existing geographic boundaries and limiting Stalin’s
influence to Eastern Europe while establishing democratic governments in
Western Europe.

diplomat George F. Kennan was the first to propose the idea of containment to
the US Department of State in a word cable, later known as the Long Telegram.
In a Foreign Affairs article, he
stated that the West’s only method of retaliation was to use “unalterable
counter-force at every point where the Soviets show signs of encroaching upon
the interests of a peaceful and stable world to achieve long-term …
containment of Russian expansive tendencies.” However, when Britain could no
longer afford to support the anticommunists in the Greek civil war, the United
States was left alone to fight the battle against communism. Worried about a
communist victory in Greece, President Truman addressed a joint session of
Congress on March 12, 1947 to convince Congress to approve large-scale
assistance to Greece and Turkey. In what later became known as the Truman
Doctrine, the president states that America has a moral obligation to “support
free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by
outside pressure.” Truman then presents two possible governments:
totalitarianism or democracy. He paints communist states as totalitarian
regimes where “the will of a minority is forcibly imposed upon the majority”
and terror, oppression, and the suppression of personal freedoms prevail
(Document 1).

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United States was worried that the economic instability of Europe after the war
would lead unemployed Europeans to join the Communist Party. In 1947, Secretary
of State George C. Marshall proposed a solution: a recovery program using
American capital to rebuild the European economy. The Marshall Plan was a
success and European industrial production increased by 64%, which decreased
the appeal of communism in Europe. Solving the economic crisis in Europe was an
important step in America’s containment strategy.

In East Asia, the
United States believed that limiting Japan’s military influence and restoring
its economy would help contain communism. However, in his speech to the
Japanese parliament, Shigeru Yoshida, the prime minister of Japan, voiced
concerns that Japan wouldn’t be able to preserve its security if it was
disarmed, but he then revealed that measures have been taken by the United
Nations (Document 4). Speaking to the Japanese parliament was part of an effort
to urge the parliament to be on America’s side in the fight against communism. In
Korea, the Soviet Union supported a Communist government in the North and the US
supported a right-wing Nationalist government in the South. With both sides
wanting to unify the country and establish their own respective governments,
this division at the 38th parallel led to rising tensions between
North and South Korea. Ultimately, the North Koreans launched a surprise attack
on June 25, 1950. Truman responded by sending US troops to Korea with the UN
Security Council’s approval of “police action” and a “peacekeeping force.” Secretary
of State Dean Acheson defended this decision to the Senate Armed Forces and
Foreign Relations Committee in 1951, saying that “if the United States stood
with its arms folded while Korea was swallowed up, it would have meant
abandoning its principles” (Document 3). Acheson’s purpose was to convince the
committee that military intervention was the best way to uphold America’s
democratic principles and ensure the containment of communism.

In 1954, the new
Secretary of State John Foster Dulles gave a radio and television address to
the American people, trying to galvanize public opinion against communism by
convincing them of its dangers. Having public support is an important factor
behind America’s containment strategy. Speaking about Guatemala, which has been
labeled as a communist state, Dulles states that recent events there, such as
President Arbenz’s pursuance of reform policies that threaten large
landholders, “expose the evil purpose of the Kremlin to destroy the
inter-American system, and … test the ability of the American States to
maintain the peaceful integrity of the hemisphere” (Document 5).

As shown,
America’s foreign policy goal during the early years of the Cold War was the
containment of communism within its existing geographic boundaries. In Greece
and Turkey, the United States invoked the Truman Doctrine, providing them with
large-scale assistance to help the anticommunist forces. The US also intervened
in Korea to fight the North Korean communists who crossed the 38th
parallel. All of America’s policies during the Cold War point to one goal:
limiting the spread of communism.