Cold War perspectives: A battle or harmonic coexistence in the battleground?

4 Μαρτίου 2022
Checkpoint Ukraine. What is happening today, is it the first time that it happens? Ukraine, Georgia, Serbia, many crises that brought us on the brink of the abyss. They devastated humanity in light of interests and haymaking. Many analysts are criticizing the current events in Ukraine and they note the hesitant stance of the West which certainly does not want to trigger another total war. They talk about a New Cold War. What that would mean? Is it possible to live such a War one more time? Or is it a continuum of the one and only Cold War back in time? On December 25, 1991, the Soviet flag lowered for the first time after many years. Yeltsin replaced the former president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, as now the prime minister of the newly independent Russian Federation. That event constituted the end of the Cold War. The Soviet Union was now split into multiple nations and it was observed in amazement that the transition was so smooth and peaceful. All this transformation defined a new world order with the bipolar sentiment which until then had prevailed. Treaties resonated with the end of the Cold War. A new era started over. Currently, as humanity, we realized that we did not soothe the wounds of the entire time period of the Cold War. By using the term Cold War, we imply not a total war as the two world wars occurred, but a conflict in which all sorts of non-military means -economic, political, ideological, etc.- are used. The two main poles, the United States of America (USA) and Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) got into the ring of competing with each other for the eyes of the rest of the world. There was no direct military intervention in the battleground of the Cold War but only proxy-war incidents such as Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam War. As you imagine in a War, there is much propaganda. So, in the Cold War era, two predominant positions had been hovering around: the Orthodox vision and Revisionism. The former was the official USA stance starting straight away from the end of the Second World War, while the latter represents an approach starting from late 50s/ early ‘60s, supported more by left-wing thinkers. In the upcoming analysis of the two positions, we can see how the data has transferred between the two approaches. Aiming at assuming whether we are heading to another Cold War, we have to flash back to the origin of the Cold War and what it means. What the one side advocated and what the other. The coins have always two sides. In July, 1947, George Kennan, the American diplomat seated in the capital of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Moscow, sent a long telegram to the American statesmen, revealing the geopolitical reality of the post-World War II and the intention of USSR to expand its influence over the war-devastated Europe. By using the pseudonym ‘Mr. X.’, he covered his real identity and prevented USSR’s totalitarian state from punishing the ‘brave’ US diplomat. He proposed ways to the United States of America (USA) to limit Soviet expansionism by following a ‘containment policy’ (Kennan 1949: 861). Precisely 12 years later, in July, 1959, American historian Fleming published a far more appeasing article which criticized the USA’s containment policy and provided the US state with solutions to the Cold War. Is it ethical to compare these two views on the Cold War? From “Mr. X.’s” to Fleming’s article transpired 12 antagonistic years during which the two super powers fought. When Kennan wrote his analysis, the Second World War (WWII) had just ended. The Soviets had yet to create their first nuclear bomb, taking two more years (Long 2007) and the Korean War had not happened yet. The emergence of other sovereign powers -besides USA and USSR- could not possibly have been predicted, mainly due to the destruction the war had caused. No matter which viewpoint was correct, it is worth discovering how these authors comprehended the historic phenomenon of the Cold War. As the Second World War was reaching its end, the conditions created two great ‘poles’ around the global setting. The traditional powers had diminished and the US and USSR forged ahead. That is the reason why Kennan implied the concept of ‘bipolarity’ in his article (Kennan 1947: 861) to describe the sole dominance of the two countries. Other states, which would play a prominent role later in the history, had not yet appeared. The monopoly of atomic bombs reassured Truman and Churchill they can control the world. On the other hand, in the period on which Fleming wrote his article, “Beyond the Cold War”, a few countries began to rise from the ashes. Throughout the text, Fleming talked about the ‘Chinese upsurge’ (Fleming 1959: 116-117), summarizing the fact that multipolarity was developing. Fleming predicted that the repressed nations subsequently around the world would stage their revolution and inevitably take revenge on the US monopoly (Fleming 1959: 124-125). Notably, by 1959 the two great powers had nuclear bomb bases, while the Chinese government had to wait for more 5 years. In 1947, Kennan adopted an aggressive policy regarding the Cold War, mainly due to the fact that Soviets had not acquired nuclear weapons yet, while Fleming referred to the appeasement of the era’s turbulences, supporting that the US would succeed only provided that they could negotiate with the other two great powers. Otherwise, the Soviets would gain the power to encircle the USA in return (Fleming 1959: 115-116). Therefore, ‘Mr. X.’ remained in his possession to the ‘containment’ of Soviet expansionism as opposed to Fleming who tried to persuade the US state about the absolute consequences of a probable nuclear bomb war that would be detrimental, not only for the US, but for the entire humanity. Kennan attempted to identify the USSR’s vulnerabilities by explaining the whole structural keystones of the Soviet regime and codifying t into the US containment policy. In accordance with George Kennan, the Soviet Union, had been maintaining its regime by presenting the ‘outside world’ – outside the borders of the USSR- as an enemy who had tried to impose itself on the Soviet territory. That notion provided an incentive to Soviet people to develop a hatred for non-Soviet people. The “Socialist Fatherland” should be cherished by all good Communists, home and abroad, as the watchword of the Kremlin has been presented within Soviet society (Kennan 1947: 859). It did not come to be a conventional war attack for the USA side, therefore, building reliable military and economic alliances at a diplomatic level would form USA’s basic tactic and implement the domino-theory (Britannica 1998). From Kennan’s perspective, this would lead to the Soviet limitation. This opinion did not accord with what Fleming stood for. Instead of countering the Soviet power, this strategy, according to him, motivated the Soviets to improve their military might and could probably provoke a ‘hot incident’ in the future (Fleming 1959: 120). As Fleming had expected, if the USA clung to this policy much longer, the result would probably be the literal isolation of the United States (Fleming 1959: 115). When comparing the two views, the Orthodox vision and Revisionism collapse. As an advocate of revisionism, D. F. Fleming believedhat the ‘American Imperial Disease’ (Lukacs 1959: 141-150) had been endeavoring to conquer the world through a capitalist approach, while Stalin’s USSR focused more on its internal affairs, and did not pose any threat. Yet, George Kennan, as an American diplomat, supports the view of the Orthodox vision, the official USA interpretation of the startling of the Cold War. The Orthodox vision proclaimed the Soviet expansionist character which it should contain. All actions from the USA side were justified due to the Soviet attempt to impose itself throughout Eastern Europe, at first, and the world later on. However, on March 12, 1947, after the Second World War had ended USA President Truman and Soviet Minister Molotov convened a meeting to establish a new Polish government where the Soviet side demandedo secure military and political security, as well as and access to warm-water ports (Fleming 1959: 113). Neither recommendation was accepted by the USA. Around a month later, the Truman Doctrine, succeeded the USSR – USA agreement’s failure and pioneered American support to other nation against Soviet communist threat. Fleming subjoined to his argumentation Soviet Union’s weakness to maintain its advanced position in the Finnish and Dairen naval bases, the control of the Manchurian railroads, the Danish Island of Bornholm, Eastern Austria, Yugoslavia Sinkiang and North Korea (Fleming 1959: 115). Should those moves not have implied an American adamant stand, what else could confirm it? Nonetheless, Kennan presented the dogma of the innate competition between capitalism and socialism (Kennan 1947: 858). Could it be assumed that a USSR’s cooperation with a capitalist state would not have been a walk in the park? It is quite obvious that both authors, given their radically different historiographical view on the Cold War, analyzed and came to such different solutions, as the differences outnumber the similarities. How Orthodox vision and revisionism can be intertwined? Any assumption and reflection to today’s Russian invasion to Ukraine are a matter of personal opinion. Bibliography: Britannica (1998). “Domino theory, International Relations”, , Consulted on 25 October 2021 Fleming, D. F. (1959). “Beyond the Cold War”, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 324(1): 111-126 Kennan, G. (1947). “The Sources of Soviet Conduct”, ​Foreign Affairs​, 65(1): 852-868. Long, T. (2007). “August 29 1949: First Soviet Atomic Test stuns West”, Wired,, Consulted on 25 October 2021 Lukacs, J. A. (1959). “American Imperial Disease”, The American Scholar: 141-150. Written by Menelaos Tsikaras Αρχική   >  Κοινωνία  >  Πολιτική Cold War perspectives: A battle or harmonic coexistence in the battleground? Από Μενέλαος Τσικάρας

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Μενέλαος Τσικάρας

Μενέλαος Τσικάρας

Το παρόν με βρίσκει στην πρωτεύουσα των Κάτω Χωρών, το Άμστερνταμ, σπουδάζοντας Πολιτικές Επιστήμες στο πανεπιστήμιο της πόλης. Βιβλία, ταινίες και θεατρικές σκηνές αποτελούν βασικά στοιχεία της καθημερινότητας μου. Θα με δείτε κάποτε, κάπου να μιλάω. Μιλάω πολύ.



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