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Harry S. Truman

“ Totalitarian regimes imposed on free peoples, by direct or indirect aggression, undermine the foundations of international peace and hence the security of the United States.”. Harry S. Truman.

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Harry S. Truman

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  1. “Totalitarian regimes imposed on free peoples, by direct or indirect aggression, undermine the foundations of international peace and hence the security of the United States.” E. Napp Harry S. Truman

  2. A rift soon began after the Russian Revolution when the new communist government became the source of fear and loathing to many in the Western capitalist world • But the common threat of Nazi Germany temporarily made unlikely allies of the Soviet Union, Britain, and the United States • However, a few years after World War II ended, that division erupted again in what became know as the cold war • Underlying that conflict were the geopolitical and ideological realities of the postwar world • The Soviet Union and the United States were now the major political and military powers but they represented sharply different views E. Napp

  3. The initial arena of the cold war was Europe, where Soviet insistence on security and control in Eastern Europe clashed with American and British desires for open and democratic societies with ties to the capitalist world economy. E. Napp

  4. What resulted were rival military alliances (NATO and the Warsaw Pact), a largely voluntary American sphere of influence in Western Europe, and an imposed Soviet sphere in Eastern Europe • The heavily fortified border between Eastern and Western Europe came to be known as the Iron Curtain • Europe was bitterly divided; tensions flared across this dividing line, particularly in Berlin; but no shooting war occurred between the two sides • Yet the extension of communism into Asia – China, Korea, and Vietnam – globalized the cold war and led to “hot wars” E. Napp

  5. A North Korean invasion of South Korea in 1950 led to both Chinese and American involvement in a bitter three-year war (1950-1953), which ended in an essential standoff that left the Korean peninsula divided still in the early twenty-first century. Likewise in Vietnam, military efforts by South Vietnamese communists and the already communist North Vietnamese government to unify their country prompted massive American intervention in the 1960s, peaking at some 550,000 U.S. troops. To American authorities, a communist victory opened the door to further communist expansion in Asia and beyond. E. Napp

  6. But armed and supported by the Soviets and Chinese, the Vietnamese united their country under communist control by 1975 • Another major military conflict of the cold war era occurred in Afghanistan, where a Marxist party had taken power in 1978 • But radical land reforms and efforts to liberate Afghan women alienated much of this conservative Muslim country • Soviet forces intervened militarily but were soon bogged down in a war they could not win • For a full decade (1979-1989), that war which was sustained in part by U.S. aid to Afghan guerrillas led to a Soviet withdrawal in 1989 and the rise of an Islamic Fundamentalist regime E. Napp

  7. When Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba in 1959, his nationalization of American assets provoked great U.S. hostility and efforts to overthrow his regime. Such pressure pushed Castro closer to the Soviet Union. The Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, secretly deployed nuclear-tipped Soviet missiles to Cuba, believing that this would deter further U.S. action against Castro. When the missiles were discovered in October 1962, the world waited for thirteen days as American forces blockaded the island and prepared for an invasion. A nuclear exchange seemed imminent. But an agreement was reached. E. Napp

  8. Under the terms of the compromise, the Soviets removed their missiles from Cuba in return for an American promise not to invade the island • The Cuban missile crisis gave concrete expression to the most novel and dangerous dimension of the cold war – the arms race in nuclear weapons • An American monopoly on those weapons when World War II ended prompted the Soviet Union to redouble its efforts to acquire them • By 1949, the Soviet Union developed a nuclear weapon • An arms race ensued • The detonation of a fraction of the weapons could reduce target countries to radioactive rubble E. Napp

  9. Awareness of this possibility is surely the primary reason that no shooting war of any kind occurred between the two superpowers. During the cold war, the leaders of the two superpowers knew beyond any doubt that a nuclear war would produce only losers and utter catastrophe. Furthermore, the deployment of reconnaissance satellites made it possible to know with some clarity the extent of the other side’s arsenals. E. Napp

  10. Yet both sides courted third world countries just emerging from colonial rule • In the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile, the Congo, and elsewhere, the United States frequently supported anti-communist but corrupt and authoritarian regimes • But neither superpower was able to completely dominate its supposed third-world allies, many of whom resisted the role of pawns in superpower rivalries • Some countries, such as India, took a posture of nonalignment in the cold war • Others tried to play off the superpowers against each other E. Napp

  11. Indonesia received large amounts of Soviet and Eastern European aid, but that did not prevent it from destroying the Indonesian Communist Party in 1965, butchering half a million suspected communists in the process. When the Americans refused to assist Egypt in building the Aswan Dam in the mid-1950s, that country developed a close relationship with the Soviet Union. Later, in 1972, Egypt expelled 21,000 Soviet advisors and aligned more clearly with the United States. E. Napp

  12. The United States spearheaded the Western effort to contain a worldwide communist movement that seemed to be on the move • The need for quick and often secret decision making gave rise in the United States to a strong or “imperial” presidency and a “national security state,” in which defense and intelligence agencies acquired great power within the government and were often unaccountable to Congress • According to U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961), the “military-industrial complex,” a coalition of armed services, military research laboratories, and private defense industries stimulated and benefited from increased military spending and cold war tensions, had begun E. Napp

  13. Sustaining this immense military effort was a flourishing U.S. economy and an increasingly middle-class society. As World War II ended, the United States was the world’s largest creditor, controlled two-thirds of the world’s gold, and accounted for half of its manufacturing and shipping. The U.S. dollar replaced the British pound as the most trusted international currency. E. Napp

  14. Accompanying the United States’ political and economic penetration of the world was its popular culture • Even in the Soviet Union, American rock-and-roll became the music of dissent and a way of challenging the values of communist culture • On the communist side, the cold war was accompanied by considerable turmoil both within and among the various communist states • Joseph Stalin died in 1953 and his successor, Nikita Khrushchev, stunned his country when he delivered a speech in 1956 presenting a devastating but incomplete account of Stalin’s crimes, particularly those against party members E. Napp

  15. In the Soviet Union, the cold war justified a continuing emphasis on military and defense industries and gave rise to a Soviet version of the military-industrial complex. Soviet citizens, even more than Americans, were subject to incessant government propaganda that glorified the Soviet system and vilified that of their American opponents. And as the communist world expanded, so too did divisions and conflicts among its various countries. E. Napp

  16. In Eastern Europe, Yugoslav leaders early on had rejected Soviet domination of their internal affairs and charted their own independent road to socialism • Fearing that reform movements might spread, Soviet forces actually invaded their supposed allies in Hungary (1956-1957) and Czechoslovakia (1968) to crush such groups • In the early 1980s, Poland was seriously threatened with a similar action • Even more startling, the two communist giants, the Soviet Union and China, found themselves sharply opposed, owing to territorial disputes, ideological differences, and rivalry for communist leadership E. Napp

  17. The Chinese bitterly criticized Khrushchev for backing down in the Cuban missile crisis, while to the Soviet leadership, Mao was insanely indifferent to the possible consequences of a nuclear war. In the 1960s, the Soviet Union backed away from an earlier promise to provide China with the prototype of an atomic bomb and abruptly withdrew all Soviet advisers and technicians who had been assisting Chinese development. But by the late 1960s, China had on its own developed a modest nuclear capability with the Soviets hinting at a possible nuclear strike on Chinese military targets. E. Napp

  18. Their enmity certainly benefited the United States, which in the 1970s was able to pursue a “triangular diplomacy,” easing tensions and simultaneously signing arms control agreements with the USSR and opening a formal relationship with China • A communist China also went to war against a communist Vietnam in 1979, while Vietnam invaded a communist Cambodia in the late 1970s • Nationalism proved more powerful than communist solidarity • Despite its many internal conflicts, world communism remained a powerful global presence during the 1970s • Few people expected that within two decades most communist experiments would be gone E. Napp

  19. The communist era came to an end during the last two decades of the twentieth century. It began in China during the late 1970s, following the death of Mao Zedong in 1976. Over the next several decades, the CCP gradually abandoned almost everything that had been associated with Maoist socialism, even as the party retained its political control of the country. E. Napp

  20. Then in the “miracle year” of 1989, popular movements in Eastern Europe toppled despised communist governments • The final and climactic act in this “end of communism” drama occurred in 1991 in the Soviet Union • The reformist leader Mikhail Gorbachev had come to power in 1985 intending to revive and save Soviet socialism from its accumulated dysfunction • Those efforts (glasnost or “openness” and perestroika or “economic restructuring”) only exacerbated the country’s many difficulties and led to its political disintegration on Christmas Day of 1991 E. Napp

  21. There were two general failures of the communist experiment. The first was economic. Despite early successes, communist economies of the late 1970s showed no signs of catching up to the more advanced capitalist countries. In fact, citizens were forced to stand in long lines for consumer goods and complained about the poor quality and declining availability of those goods. The second failure was moral The horrors of Stalin’s Terror and the gulag, of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, and of genocide in communist Cambodia wore away at communist claims to moral superiority over capitalism. E. Napp

  22. In China, after Mao’s death in 1976, Deng Xiaoping emerged as China’s leader • A party evaluation of Mao severely criticized his mistakes during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, while praising his role as a revolutionary leader • Even more dramatic were Deng’s economic reforms • Collectivized farms were rapidly dismantled and a return to small-scale private agriculture occurred • Industrial reform proceeded more gradually • Managers of state enterprises were given greater authority and encouraged to act like private owners E. Napp

  23. China also opened itself to the world economy and welcomed foreign investment in special enterprise zones along the coast, where foreign capitalists received tax breaks and other inducements. The outcome of these reforms was stunning economic growth, the most rapid and sustained in world history, and a new prosperity for millions. But the country’s burgeoning economy also generated massive corruption among Chinese officials and sharp inequalities between the coast and the interior. E. Napp

  24. Although the party was willing to largely abandon communist economic policies, it was adamantly unwilling to relinquish its political monopoly or to promote democracy at the national level • Thus, when a democracy movement, spearheaded by university and secondary school students, surfaced in the late 1980s, Deng ordered the brutal crushing of its demonstration in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square • China entered the new millennium as a rapidly growing economic power with an essentially capitalist economy presided over by an intact and powerful Communist Party E. Napp

  25. By the mid-1980s, the reformist wing of the Soviet Communist Party had won the top position in the party as Mikhail Gorbachev assumed the role of general secretary. Like Deng Xiaoping in China, Gorbachev was committed to aggressively tackling the country’s many problems. E. Napp

  26. His economic program, launched in 1987, and known as perestroika (“restructuring), paralleled aspects of the Chinese approach by freeing state enterprises from the heavy hand of government regulation • Small-scale private businesses called cooperatives were permitted • Opportunities for private farming existed • And foreign investment was cautiously welcomed in joint enterprises • Heavy resistance to these modest efforts from entrenched party and state bureaucracies persuaded Gorbachev to seek allies outside of official circles E. Napp

  27. Glasnost (“openness”) was a policy of permitting a much wider range of cultural and intellectual freedoms in Soviet life. Gorbachev hoped that glasnost would overcome the pervasive, long-standing distrust between society and the state and would energize Soviet society for the tasks of economic reform. But in the late 1980s, glasnost hit the Soviet Union like a bomb. Newspapers and TV exposed corruption, crimes, and other social problems. E. Napp

  28. Beyond glasnost lay democratization and a new parliament with real powers, chosen in competitive elections • When those elections occurred in 1989, dozens of leading communists were rejected at the polls • In foreign affairs, Gorbachev moved to end the cold war by making unilateral cuts in Soviet military forces, engaging in arms control negotiations with the United States, and most important, refusing to intervene as communist governments in Eastern Europe were overthrown • The Soviet reform program was far more broadly based than that of China, for it embraced dramatic cultural and political changes, which Chinese authorities refused to consider E. Napp

  29. But despite his good intentions, almost nothing worked out as Gorbachev had anticipated. Far from strengthening socialism and reviving a stagnant Soviet Union, the reforms led to its further weakening and collapse. In a dramatic contrast with China’s booming economy, that of the Soviet Union spun into a sharp decline as its planned economy was dismantled before a functioning market-based system could emerge. E. Napp

  30. More corrosively, a multitude of nationalist movements used the new freedoms to insist on greater autonomy, or even independence from the Soviet Union • Even in Russia, growing numbers came to feel that they too might be better off without the Soviet Union • In the face of these mounting demands, Gorbachev resolutely refused to use force to crush the protesters, another sharp contrast with the Chinese experience • Events in Eastern Europe now intersected with those in the Soviet Union • If the USSR could practice glasnost and hold competitive elections, why not Easter Europe as well? E. Napp

  31. This was the background for the “miracle year” of 1989. Massive demonstrations, last-minute efforts at reforms, the breaching of the Berlin Wall, the surfacing of new political groups – all of this and more quickly overwhelmed the highly unpopular communist regimes of Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Romania, which were quickly swept away. This success then emboldened nationalists and democrats in the Soviet Union. E. Napp

  32. Soviet conservatives and patriots were outraged • To them, Gorbachev had stood idly by while the political gains of World War II, for which the Soviet Union had paid in rivers of blood, vanished before their eyes • This was nothing less than treason • Gorbachev’s perceived betrayal was just one of the grievances that motivated a short-lived conservative attempt to restore the old order in August 1991 • But popular resistance ensured that this effort collapsed within three days • Ironically, this failed coup energized those who sought an end to both communism and the Soviet Union, and by the end of the year, the Soviet Union and its communist regime had passed into history. E. Napp

  33. From the wreckage of the Soviet Union emerged fifteen new and independent states, following the internal political divisions of the USSR. Within Russia itself, the Communist Party was actually banned for a time in the place of its origin. Once again, nationalism had trumped socialism. E. Napp

  34. In Europe, Germany was reunited • A number of former communist states joined NATO and the European Union, ending the division of that continent • In many places, the end of communism allowed simmering ethnic tensions to explode into open conflict • Both Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia fragmented, the former amid terrible violence and the latter peacefully • Chechens in Russia, Abkhazians in Georgia, Russians in the Baltic states and Ukraine, Tibetans in China – all of these “minorities” found themselves in opposition to the states in which they lived E. Napp

  35. Only an impoverished North Korea remained the most unreformed and Stalinist of the remaining communist countries. Even Vietnam, Laos, and Cuba engaged in modest reforms. International tensions born of communism remained only in East Asia and the Caribbean. North Korea’s threat to develop nuclear weapons posed a serious international issue. Continuing tensions between China and Taiwan as well as between the United States and Cuba were hangovers from the cold war era. But either as a primary source of international conflict or as a compelling path to modernity and social justice, communism was effectively dead. The communist era in world history had ended. E. Napp

  36. Strayer Questions • In what different ways was the cold war expressed? • In what ways did the United States play a global role after World War II? • Describe the strengths and weaknesses of the communist world by the 1970s. • What explains the rapid end of the communist era? • How did the end of communism in the Soviet Union differ from communism's demise in China? E. Napp

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