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Start of the Cold War: The Marshall Plan or Soviets' exploding first atomic bomb

FortYorkRifleman

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I'm in the beginning stages of learning about the Cold War from 1917 and the Russian Revolution all the way to 1991. The consensus amongst historians and commentators put the "Cold War" from 1947 - 1991 but which event sparked it seems up for debate. My reading of things is that it was The Marshall Plan that can be seen as the beginning; this is where East and West relations fell apart and lines drawn between those accepting American aid and those sticking to the Soviets, solidifying the Iron Curtain.

Any insight would be great
 

Old Sweat

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Interesting theory and one that I had not considered before now. I suggest relations fell apart between the USSR and the West before the end of the Second World War in Europe. For example the British 6th Airborne Division did a rapid advance to Wismar on the Baltic to prevent the Soviets from getting far enough west to isolate Denmark. This was before VE Day.

Whether or not there was a recognizable start to the confrontation is moot. Certainly by 1946 Canada and the United States were concerned enough about the Soviets actually establishing lodgements in Alaska and Northern Canada for forward basing of bombers to draft a North American defence plan.
 

Infanteer

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There probably is no "Cold War Starts Here" point in history; it was rather a steady decline in relations between the USSR and the West.  Old Sweat's point on Second World War relationships is good - even at Tehran, there was a lot of acrimony over Poland.  The Cold War jousting certainly kicked off prior to the Marshall Plan - Western checks on Soviet efforts in Turkey and Iran in 1946 were clearly a break between any sense of allied cooperation.
 

FortYorkRifleman

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Old Sweat said:
Interesting theory and one that I had not considered before now. I suggest relations fell apart between the USSR and the West before the end of the Second World War in Europe. For example the British 6th Airborne Division did a rapid advance to Wismar on the Baltic to prevent the Soviets from getting far enough west to isolate Denmark. This was before VE Day.

Whether or not there was a recognizable start to the confrontation is moot. Certainly by 1946 Canada and the United States were concerned enough about the Soviets actually establishing lodgements in Alaska and Northern Canada for forward basing of bombers to draft a North American defence plan.

There's no doubt the "Big 3" were in a relationship of convenience at the time but I think The Marshall Plan gave Europe a glimpse of what could be; America via aide showed Europe what could be under Democracy and Capitalism and this triggered something in the Soviet Union that show of force would no longer be enough and that the old ways of Communism, the rallies, symbols and spreading of Communists in countries would be the only way to subvert the American influence.
 

FortYorkRifleman

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Infanteer said:
There probably is no "Cold War Starts Here" point in history; it was rather a steady decline in relations between the USSR and the West.  Old Sweat's point on Second World War relationships is good - even at Tehran, there was a lot of acrimony over Poland.  The Cold War jousting certainly kicked off prior to the Marshall Plan - Western checks on Soviet efforts in Turkey and Iran in 1946 were clearly a break between any sense of allied cooperation.

Communism and Capitalism were on a collision course with or without Fascism and the Second World War. I don't think the actions of the Soviets (bugging FDR's quarters, usage of spies) were unusual. Because of the Marshall Plan we had "you're either with us or against us" sort of ultimatum where flags were firmly planted
 

Old Sweat

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Another theory puts the start of the Cold War at 5 March 1946 when Churchill delivered his Iron Curtain speech.

http://history1900s.about.com/od/churchillwinston/a/Iron-Curtain.htm

 

FortYorkRifleman

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Old Sweat said:
Another theory puts the start of the Cold War at 5 March 1946 when Churchill delivered his Iron Curtain speech.

http://history1900s.about.com/od/churchillwinston/a/Iron-Curtain.htm

That speech was definitely significant and reading the diplomatic cables now available that were sent within the Soviet Union it may have turned up the heat, so to speak. I would say when it was decided that West Germany should receive aid via the airlifts could be seen as the real start of the division that would define the two sides which would put it beginning in 1947. All signs point to what was happening in Germany with the introduction of the two currencies which was enough to almost bring tanks to the border between East and West
 

Danjanou

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I've moved this into Military History as I feel it is a serious discussion and not the usual radio chatter stuff.

 

Danjanou

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Danjanou said:
I've moved this into Military History as I feel it is a serious discussion and not the usual radio chatter stuff.

Another possible "start point" could be the Greek Civil War and US and British Intervention there in 1946

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_Civil_War ( yeah I know it's wiki but still has the basics)

Finding an actual start date for the Cold War may be as hard as finding an end date. The OP has suggested 1991, I've sen other accounts that put it ending in 1989.  8)
 

FortYorkRifleman

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Danjanou said:
Another possible "start point" could be the Greek Civil War and US and British Intervention there in 1946

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_Civil_War ( yeah I know it's wiki but still has the basics)

Finding an actual start date for the Cold War may be as hard as finding an end date. The OP has suggested 1991, I've sen other accounts that put it ending in 1989.  8)

I think the end date is the most defined with the dissolution of the USSR. At that point they were out of the game and the American empire was triumphant. The Korean War was a stalemate, but was it caused by one ideology prevailing over another? No. Likewise with Vietnam and the Soviet Afghan War. This was a conflict defined by actions whether it be coup's, military interventions by proxy and economic aspects. Communism is still around, albeit not in the way Lenin and Marx had envisioned it but what has triumphed is Capitalism which enabled countries to rebuild and heal after wars, recessions, and shifting industries. I'm beginning to feel this isn't a conflict that should be seen as East vs West or Communism vs Capitalism but by who could survive the longest and when the USSR dissolved that was it.
 

Colin Parkinson

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The Cold war was a phase within a larger global struggle between competing ideologues. The Soviets were certainly busy spying on us likely before and during WWII. Perhaps it started when Stalin began to look beyond the USSR borders?


http://www.journal.forces.gc.ca/vol12/no1/41-granatstein-eng.asp

 

Retired AF Guy

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I always thought the Cold War started here in Canada when Igor Gouzenko walked out of the Soviet Embassy with an armful of documents exposing their espionage operations in the West.
 

AJFitzpatrick

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I'd go further back to immediate post WWI and the allied "interventions" in Siberia and Vladivostok ...  There was a brief discussion on it all right here a few years back ...

and found

http://army.ca/forums/threads/68575/post-652714.html#msg652714


Edit: for link
 

FortYorkRifleman

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Retired AF Guy said:
I always thought the Cold War started here in Canada when Igor Gouzenko walked out of the Soviet Embassy with an armful of documents exposing their espionage operations in the West.

Never knew that happened. So Gouzenko was a defector? Interesting
 

George Wallace

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FortYorkRifleman said:
Never knew that happened. So Gouzenko was a defector? Interesting

Whoa!  You really missed out on a very interesting time in Canadian history.  Quite a scandal for the day. 

Guess not being a "Super Power" has its pitfalls in the history books. 
 

FortYorkRifleman

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George Wallace said:
Whoa!  You really missed out on a very interesting time in Canadian history.  Quite a scandal for the day. 

Guess not being a "Super Power" has its pitfalls in the history books.

To be honest all I can name more US Presidents than I can Canadian Prime Ministers. My knowledge of Canadian history is very limited to the point where between 1945 and 2001 I know very little which pretty much means I know nothing but I am working on changing that
 

George Wallace

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FortYorkRifleman said:
To be honest all I can name more US Presidents than I can Canadian Prime Ministers. My knowledge of Canadian history is very limited to the point where between 1945 and 2001 I know very little which pretty much means I know nothing but I am working on changing that

Have fun with the Diefenbaker years......The Avro Arrow.  Bomarc Missiles.  The Cuban Missile Crisis.  Then the Peason years and the start of the Canadian myth of "Peacekeeping", followed by the Trudeau years with the War Measures Act and "Just watch me".....Then we have the business of "the nations bedrooms", Judy LaMarsh........Wow!.....In between the lines, our history is not quite as boring as some would like to think.
 

Edward Campbell

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Colin P said:
The Cold war was a phase within a larger global struggle between competing ideologues. The Soviets were certainly busy spying on us likely before and during WWII. Perhaps it started when Stalin began to look beyond the USSR borders?


http://www.journal.forces.gc.ca/vol12/no1/41-granatstein-eng.asp


I think you are closest to the historical truth: the Cold War was a campaign in a large, long, and still ongoing struggle between, essentially: Anglo-American liberal, capitalist, secular, democratic, civil society and all the other systems, including communism, fascism, socialism (democratic and not) and, now, Asian/Confucian conservative, sometimes democratic, civil society.
 

Bass ackwards

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Although AJFitzpatrick beat me to it, I cannot help but wonder how much of an effect our post-WWI intervention had on relations. We (including Canada) sent military forces into their country in an attempt to decide their form of government for them. I doubt that endeared us to them.

Krushchev mentioned that in a 1957 speech in the US:
"All the capitalist countries of Europe and America marched on our country to strangle the new revolution...Never have any of our soldiers been on American soil. Those are the facts." 
 

FortYorkRifleman

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E.R. Campbell said:
I think you are closest to the historical truth: the Cold War was a campaign in a large, long, and still ongoing struggle between, essentially: Anglo-American liberal, capitalist, secular, democratic, civil society and all the other systems, including communism, fascism, socialism (democratic and not) and, now, Asian/Confucian conservative, sometimes democratic, civil society.

If we went by that definition then we are in a Cold War with Iran now and Russia still. Maybe its the definition that has contributed to us not being able to define the when. With regards to China they pretend to have a Communist system but once again that does not gel with what Marx-Lenin had in mind. I believe the Cold War ended when the USSR failed to compete against a superior ideology, an ideology that has proven the test of time. The lines during ?-1991 were clear whereas now we, in the West, have strange bedfellows of shifting alliances.

I would say that if we were to look at our current state of affairs in the Middle East that in itself is a Cold War where Iran is the USSR; during the Iraq War they financed and supplied weapons to anti US forces, created Hezbollah and have financed acts of terrorism around the world. By all accounts we have an uneasy alliance with them in the fight against ISIS but that story has yet to be played out.
 
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