One of the most significant aspects in World History of the post World War II period was the tensions brought about by the Cold War between Communist and Capitalist nations, principally between the USSR and the US, but also encompassing other nations from around the World. The roots of this conflict can be traced back through the individual countries systems of Governing. In 1917 the Russian Revolution occurred causing the change from having a Monarchy to having a Communist Governing body.
Following in the footsteps of the conclusion of the Second World War the ideological differences between the US and the USSR, between Communism and Capitalism, caused the beginning of the Cold War. The Cold War can be interpreted as a reverse application of Bruce Russet’s democratic peace theory, “If people in a democracy perceive themselves as autonomous, self-governing people…
they will respect the rights of others to self-determination if those others are also perceived as self-governing.Since the US did not perceive the people of the USSR as self-governing, it was less likely they would recognise the rights of the Soviets, and therefore conflict became more likely than if both states had been democracies. The ideological differences between the US democracy and the USSR’s communism are extensive. In theory, while the Soviet prioritised economic equality amongst its people, the US was marked by a disparity of incomes. The USSR’s political structure created a system of unequal political power whilst the US continued to exist in a state of political equality.Because of the World’s tendency toward economic interdependence both Capitalist and Socialism, in their most ideological forms, require that their system serve as the World’s only economic structure. Therefore the two clashing systems, particularly in the economic realm, invariably create conflict of the World stage.
This was shown in Korea and Vietnam where half of each country were Communist and the other half Capitalist, resulting in overseas fighting.The ideological differences between the US and the Soviet Union lead to mistrust which in turn lead to a spiral escalation of tension. This caused the US to perceive that the Russians were aggressive and this aggression, or the threat of it, had to be met with force. In essence it was the constant threat of force by both sides which defined the Cold War, and as has been proven, this perceived aggression largely derives from the conflicting ideologies of the two states rather than from the states themselves.During the Cold War period of 1945-1989 the whole of Europe became divided. Winston Churchill defined this divide as the Iron Curtain because neither side new what the other was currently doing but couldn’t find out, hence the name the Iron Curtain. The divide was between Communist and Capitalist nations.
This also affected Berlin as after the Second World War The Cuban Missile Crisis, perhaps the tensest point of the Cold War, can also be traced to mistrust.Contrary to the US perspective, placing missiles on Cuba was Khrushchev acting on, “an obligation to do everything in our (Soviet) power to protect Cuba’s existence as a Socialist country. ” He further states that his, “principle aim was only to deter America from starting a war. ” This defensive strategy was perceived as offensive by President John F Kennedy even before the unfolding of events when he assured his constituents that America would not tolerate such activity.During the incident itself Kennedy’s action demonstrates the US assumption that the placement of missiles was an offensive manoeuvre.
From the Soviet perspective, the Bay of Pigs altercation was a US invasion of the island that needed to be addressed. What the Soviets perceived as an act of offence was intended to be a defensive restoration of a legitimate government from the reign of an aggressive dictator. The spiralling US-Soviet relations’ regarding Cuba parallels the spiralling of tension in the Cold War.The end of the Cold War provides a final argument that ideologies were responsible for the period of tension between the super-powers. It was not until Mikhail Gorbachev established his plans for “perestroika” that the end of the Cold War became inevitable. By instituting reforms toward a market economy, individual liberties and democratic elections, Gorbachev moulded a Soviet ideology more closely aligned to the American ideology.
With the ideological gap narrowed the factors that Russet articulated as causes for the “democratic peace” were able to act, deescalating and eventually ending the Cold War.