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Relations between the United States and the Soviet Union were driven by a complex interplay of economic, political, and ideological factors. This led to alterations between a conservative coalition and often vicious and spiteful superpower rivalry over the decades. The clear-cut distinctions in ideological as well as political systems of the two nations often prohibited them from attaining a common understanding of major policy problems and even, as in the issue of the Cuban missile predicament, brought them close to the urge of war. The US government was initially bitter and hostile to the leaders of the Soviet Union for pulling Russia out of WW I and was against a state ideology that was based on the notion of communism.

Even though World War II brought the US and the Soviet Union into an alliance, which was attributed to the common objective of conquering Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union’s antidemocratic and aggressive policy towards East European nations created immense tensions even before the end of the war. However, there is more to the chasm than two opposing political systems. As Griffiths & Franklyn (1972) pointed out in their essay on Russian-American relation policy objectives, one under-researched way to analyze the various dynamics of the American-Soviet relationship is to compare the growth of strategic codes for both sides: that is, how each nation perceived the prospects and nature of significant happenings, the respective objectives and the means of achieving them. For these reasons, one may sub-divide the period of 1945-a991 into five different stages: the end of the cold war (mod the 1980s-91), late cold war (1970s-early 1980), détente (1969-1976), competitive coexistence (mid-1950-190s) and the early cold war (1945-early 1950s). For this assignment, this paper looks at the differences and similarities between the Soviet and American perceptions of significant world events during the early cold war (1945-1950).

To begin with, we look at the communist vs. capitalist war that prevailed between 1945 and 1950 between the two superpowers. According to Roberts (2005), the US emerged from the second world war as one of the foremost military, political and economic powers around the globe. In the interest of preventing another world war, for the first time, the US began to utilize financial help as one of the strategic elements of its foreign policy and provided huge help to nations in Asia and Europe struggling to recreate their shattered economies. In contrast to the Soviet Union, the US fought to spread the capitalist notion to European countries. As expected, the US encountered great resistance from the Soviets. Disputes between the Western democracies and the Soviet Union, particularly over the takeover of Eastern European states, led Churchill Winston in 1946 to warn that an ”iron curtain” was descending via the middle of Europe (Harbutt, 1988). Joseph Stalin, on his part, deepened the dispute between the Soviet Union and the United States when he claimed that the second world war was an inevitable repercussion of ”capitalist imperialism” and meant that such a way might reoccur. As the soviets showed a keen interest in taking over the East of Europe, the US took the lead in creating a western alliance to counterbalance the communist nation to contain the widespread communism. Each nation hoped to see the world develop in its respective pollical system, defending its system as the harbinger of global security and peace. America’s republic was sure that capitalism was the genuine and authentic expression of freedom and individualism. The communist, however, boasted of socialism as their base of the economy, maintaining its prowess and uniqueness in a universe controlled by high finance.

Another major event that saw the two nations differ was the United States’ introduction of the Marshall Plan. The US resolved to help Europe after the second world war rather than retreat as it did following the first global war. Therefore, in 1948, the US introduced a multibillion-dollar strategy to offer help to any European nation trying to recreate its economy. As documented by Eichengreen and Uzan (1992), the US believed that Europe’s political, economic, and physical collapse made it easier for the Soviet’s encroach influence, and in providing aid, the US sought to protect its democratic allies. On the other hand, the east European nations, as well as the Soviet Union, rejected the assistance. Soviet’s response to the emergence of the Marshall plan was based on the hard reality that accepting help from the US would give them influence over their current economies. The Soviets were not far from the truth as the plan was not merely charity but a cornerstone of the United States Cold War strategy. In response to the Marshall Plan, the Soviets offered east European nations help via an initiative called the Molotov Plan and established the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) to facilitate and coordinate the economic development of its bloc (Kochavi, 2014).

Switching gears, the detonation of the first-ever soviet atomic bomb in 1949 saw a coalition between the US and the Soviets. The cold war entered a fatal new chapter in August 1949 when the Soviets became the second nation to create an atomic missile, four years after the US. Now that both nations possessed nuclear bombs, the stakes of all cold war confrontations increased. However, as posited by Goncharov, G. A., & Ryabov (2001), those nuclear missiles, perhaps counterintuitively, also deter conflicts as both nations realized that employing nuclear weapons would lead to an equally wracking retaliation-a concept called Mutually Assured Destruction. The two nations were also seen to use nuclear weapons for atomic diplomacy. In a general sense, atomic diplomacy refers to attempts by nations to utilize the threat of nuclear arms to gain diplomatic objectives. After the first-ever successful test of the nuclear bomb by the US in 1945 and the first detonation of nuclear warfare by the Soviets in 1949, US and Soviet officials considered or used atomic diplomacy on several occasions to gain a negotiating advantage. Lastly, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) creation in 1949 presented another wrangle between the two superpowers. The cornerstone of NATO was mutual security, the assurance that any attack on one nation would be an assault on all (Masters,2019). Germany’s admission into NATO in the early 1950s compelled the Soviets into creating its very own regional alliance- the Warsaw Pact, a precipitous move aimed at preventing other nations, particularly those in East Europe, from defecting to NATO. The Soviet was afraid that NATO would rapidly grow to absorb its colonies and begin tackling new forms of instability and imbalance outside the borders of its member states.

In conclusion, similarities and differences exist between the American and Soviet perceptions of events that occurred between 1945 and 1950. With each superpower acting to safeguard its political ideology, maintain its colonies, and safeguard its people, periods of mutual collaboration and spiteful superpower rivalry were witnessed. With the centrality of Soviet-American and the Cold War gone, both nations are still looking for new roles in a much more pluralistic and fluid world.


Eichengreen, B., & Uzan, M. (1992). The Marshall Plan: economic effects and implications for Eastern Europe and the former USSR. Economic Policy, 7(14), 13-75.

Franklyn, G. (1972). Images, Politics, and Learning in Soviet Behaviour toward the United States. Unpublished Ph. D. dissertation, Columbia University.

Gaddis, J. L. (2000). The United States and the origins of the Cold War, 1941-1947. Columbia University Press.

Goncharov, G. A., & Ryabev, L. D. (2001). The development of the first Soviet atomic bomb. Physics-Uspekhi, 44(1), 71.

Harbutt, F. J. (1988). The iron curtain: Churchill, America, and the origins of the Cold War. Oxford University Press.

Kochavi, N. (2014). The Oxford Handbook of the Cold War.

Masters, J. (2019). The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Council on Foreign Relations.

Roberts, G. (2005). The Soviet Union in World Politics: Coexistence, Revolution and Cold War, 1945–1991. Routledge.