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Soviet Perspective On The Cold War And American Foreign Policy

Soviet Perspective On The Cold War And American Foreign Policy

Ukraine gained its independence in 1991, when the Soviet Union was dissolved and former Soviet republics became sovereign states. Since that time Ukraine started its own policy, with the Ukrainian point of view on history, international relations, and politics differing greatly from the Russian perspective. But during the Cold War period Ukraine was also a part of the USSR, which is why we can talk about Ukrainian perspectives of that time as the Soviet one.

The better way to understand the specific features of the Soviet interpretations of the Cold War era – is first of all – to describe some basic facts about the Soviet Union. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics [USSR] (official full name of the Soviet Union) came into being in 1922 after a long period of the civil war, which started at 1917. Many different political parties and groups were struggling for power in the former Russian empire, but soon the only one remained in the political arena – Bolsheviks (later name– Communists). Since 1920s the government and the political organization of the country were defined by the single party: the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

The Communist’s philosophy of history was one where the history of mankind is a process of revolutionary changes based on social-economic formation to a next more progressive civilization. According to this philosophy, capitalism would be changed into communism. In global politics, this result was a continuation of the class struggle between the regressive capitalists and the progressive working classes. As Communists considered themselves as a vanguard of the revolutionary proletariat – their “aim” was to build socialist society in the whole world. At the beginning of 1920s it became clear that it would be impossible to spread the revolutionary movement all over the world, especially in those regimes where communists came to power[1]. The idea of world socialist revolution was postponed, but it remain as one of the main ideas of Soviet foreign policy.

Another important note about Soviet policy and politics is connected with internal situation in the Soviet Union. Communists came into power in Russia by force and their domestic policy in first years failed. One of the ways for the Communists to keep power in their hands was to consolidate society around them by “finding an enemy” and to be held responsible for their unsuccessful policy. From Soviet history one can find many attempts to finding “enemies” inside as well as outside the regime. Struggle with those enemies was a way to keep society “busy”. While struggling with enemies, less attention was paid to the failed reforms. For example, in 1917-1920s the main “fight” was with the external and internal enemies of the socialist revolution; in 1920-1930s – political struggle with inside enemies of the Communist party; and in 1941-1945 fight with fascist Germany (World War II).

The semantics of the Soviet politics from the very beginning was full of such words as “fight,” “struggle,” “war,” “antagonism,” “implacable foe,” “camp,” and other military terms. The leaders of the country considered the USSR as the first socialist state against a blockade of capitalist powers and felt they were in constant danger, fearing a new war was possible and expected. The Soviet approaches towards historical descriptions of the twentieth century showed that with the emergence of the new type of state – socialist one – it became a target for capitalist aggression. According to this perspective, all possible conflicts in international relations with the Soviet Union were interpreted as attempts by capitalist powers to suppress the young socialist state. That was a reason why throughout the pre-WWII history the Soviet Union was a certain outsider of international relations.

Under the Stalin’s rule, Soviet society was extremely consolidated, being involved into the constant struggle with internal and external enemies. Many Soviet citizens under different circumstances were repressed with a charge “the enemy of the people” and even during the World War II when the external enemy was more than clear, new victims for the strengthening of the socialist state were surprisingly large in number. With the end of the World War II that kind of “fighting mood” did not disappeared; and only after the Stalin’s death in 1953 did some changes occurred in Soviet foreign and domestic policy. One of the brightest examples of such approaches was so called “Zhdanov’s doctrine” – a conception declared in September 1947 that after the World War II the world was divided into two main camps – socialist and capitalist, with each of them with contrary but similar aims of foreign policy: to crush the other side. [2] This point of view became dominant not only in the politics of the Soviet Union, but in the other socialist countries as well. In his The economic problems of the socialism in the USSR (1952), Stalin once more underlined that crises and collapse of the world capitalist system is inescapable: wars were inescapable which is why the Soviet Union had to annihilate imperialist and capitalist countries[3].

After Stalin Khrushchev came into power and soften the Soviet approach towards different issues, especially towards idea of the world socialist revolution. It was finally moved to the background of primary Soviet interests and was replaced by new idea – competition of two different social-political systems: socialism and capitalism. That is why fight with world bourgeoisie turned into more constructive emulation. Formerly struggle with capitalism and imperialism was aimed on its complete destruction, but since new approach was declared in 1950s Soviet policy was targeted on the “fight to be first” and to built new socialist world as proof of the advantages of the Soviet system. A great number of examples can be found of such contest in sport, culture, science, technologies, medical care, and education and so on. At least within the Soviet Union each development was declared as the unique achievement of the socialist system. The brightest model of attempts to implement that competition was slogan: “overtake and surpass America,” which became very popular in the USSR after Khrushchev’s speech in 1957, when he proposed to overtake and surpass America in all economic indicators and to build communism till 1980. The idea of competition between two social-political systems played some kind of integration role for the Soviet society: the enemy was defined, and it was clear how to achieve victory in all spheres of life in order to show that the socialist way of life is better than capitalist one. At the same time the idea of peaceful coexistence was reborn, but is was revised as the specific form of class struggle.

During Brezhnev’s era, Khrushchev’s approaches were not changed radically. The idea of peaceful coexistence remained as the important one, but Brezhnev modified it: the idea of consolidation of all socialist countries and newly independent countries-former colonies. This modification was combined with so-called Brezhnev’s doctrine, according to which nobody had a right to interrupt the Eastern bloc’s processes of building a socialist community. Real changes in the Soviet foreign policy occurred only when Gorbachev came into power. The main ideas of so called “new political thinking” Gorbachev described in his book Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World (1988), which was translated to many foreign languages and published in many countries. The new approach meant first of all the cancellation of the idea of class struggle and was built on the concept of universal values of mankind and the mutual peace interests of different nations, cultures, societies and types of states. On that political background the idea of peaceful coexistence was once more reborn and the ideas of the world socialist revolution and class struggle were finally given up.

We can summarize, that Soviet domestic and foreign policy were defined by combination and piecemeal replacement of few main ideas: find and fight the enemy, the idea of world socialist revolution, the idea of competition of two social-political systems, and peaceful coexistence.

Origins of the Cold War: Who Was Guilty?

It’s a well known fact that Cold war was a period of enormous confrontation between USSR and USA. After the World War II these two countries changed their status of “great powers” to “superpowers” and a new bipolar system of international relations was formed. As the US became the leader of the world bourgeoisie after the World War II, it became the main enemy for the Soviet Union in post-war period. According to the Soviet interpretations the Cold War was provoked by the policy of the USA and other imperialistic countries towards socialist states, first of all towards the USSR[4]

Soviet explanations of the background of the Cold war were presented as following:

(1) The Cold War was an attempt of the United States to change the results of the World War II. One of the main results for the Soviet Union was the appearance of the “socialist camp: the number of countries with the similar socialist system. It was first positive move towards realization of the Soviet foreign policy main idea: the world socialist revolution and creation of the socialist society in the whole world. So those who wanted to change this result of the World War II wanted to destroy the socialist system.

(2) The US had plans to dominate in the entire world. After the World War II the US became a leader in the West, which used its chance to present their own interests as the interests of the whole capitalist world, while other countries were dealing with their economic recovering after the war. That is why American post-war foreign policy was interpreted by the Soviets as attempts to build “Pax Americana” and that idea was seen as a threat. The Soviet state had its own idea to build a socialist world oriented on the benefits of all mankind and especially for the working class all over the Earth, while US was oriented only for their own purposes.

(3) All US post-war foreign policy doctrines were aimed on the struggle with socialism. After the victory of allies in the World War II a new and more global threat of international communism led to the appearance of new approaches in American foreign policy. The majority of US foreign policy doctrines emerged during the Cold War, and mainly they all were oriented against Soviet Union and its satellites.

Let’s make a brief review of Soviet interpretations of those doctrines. The Containment Doctrine (1946) was aimed on justification of the US’s aggressive foreign policy, which was provided for active interruption of American imperialism into the internal affairs of the socialist countries, the maintenance of reactionary political regimes in all part of the world, and the weakening of the USSR by military, political and economic pressure.[5] The Containment strategy was featured in the Truman doctrine and Marshall Plan. The Truman Doctrine (1947) was seen as first official implementation of strategy of containing communism by active financial involvement into the internal affairs of Greece and Turkey under the reason of “communist threat” and “national security interests of US”. As it was mentioned in Soviet publications, the treaty provisions on American assistance in Greece and Turkey led to the creation of the springboard for attack on the Soviet Union and other socialist countries as well as to the US penetration to the Middle East.[6] The Marshall Plan (1947) was another manifestation of American expansionism in Europe directed on active involvement into the economic recovering of European countries and widening of American presence on the continent. The USSR agreed with economic assistance propositions of the USA, but was against American interference in the internal affairs of other countries.[7] That is why none of socialist countries was allowed to join that program.

The next one was the Liberation Doctrine (1952) created by J. Dulles who meant first of all the liberation from the communism because on his opinion “we (US) shall never have secure peace or a happy world so long as Soviet communism dominates one-third of all of the peoples that there are, and is in the process of trying at least to extend its rule to many others.”[8] The main idea was to disintegrate socialist unity which was interpreted as a monolithic structure. Dulles was author of other doctrines as well and he was one of the pioneers of massive retaliation and brinkmanship strategy, tactical task of which was with blackmail and threat to get different concessions from the Soviet Union and its satellites.[9] The Eisenhower-Dulles Doctrine (1957) showed further open interference of the USA into the Middle East region while other capitalist countries were loosing their position there. The US Congress decision to let American president deal with military help almost independently alerted Soviet Union because the main reason of giving military help was to struggle with the aggression of those countries, which were controlled by the world communism.[10]

Kennedy’s “Flexible Response” Strategy (1961) was considered as the next anticommunist method to use war as the tool to achieve American foreign policy tasks aimed on local wars as the suppression of world revolutionary and national-liberation movement.[11] But after the Cuban missile crisis a new emphasis became manifest in American foreign policy: more attention was paid to economical, political and ideological actions focused on improvement of the capitalism in developing countries and thereby creating a positive image of the US. One of the new features of that policy was creation of the Peace Corps (1961) which activity was used by CIA and was directed on the strengthening of American ideological, political and economic penetration into the developing countries. At the same time usage of so called “quite counterrevolution” methods became more often to prevent escalation of local conflict into the global one. That is why at that time in the Soviet Union Kennedy’s policy was evaluated as inconsistent and contradictory because it combined aggravation with the USSR and some realistic steps towards diminishing of international tension, such as the treaty banning nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water signed by Soviet Union, USA and Great Britain (1963).[12]

The Mann (1964) and Johnson (1965) Doctrines contained ideas about support of authoritarian regimes in Latin America, further economic and political isolation of Cuba and organization of collective actions against communist threats. Both doctrines were ideological “cover” for military intervention of the United States into the interior of that region.[13] The Johnson Pacific Doctrine (1966) as it was called in the Soviet Union reserved for the US national interests not only Western hemisphere, but South-East Asia, where Vietnam became the most significant example.

Soviet interpretations of the Nixon Doctrine (1969) underlined that it had attached American right to support their allies and friends (the capitalist-oriented states), but with the division of tasks: “America cannot – and will not – conceive all the plans, design all the programs, execute all the decisions, and undertake all the defense of the free nations of the world…”[14] In 1970 that point of view was repeated – and extended from the Asia to the other regions of the world.[15] That meant that the US policy in Vietnam failed and American government simply wanted to find exit from that situation by sharing “obligations” with allied states.

The Ford Doctrine (1975) was some kind of re-reading of Nixon strategy of lessening of American responsibility and military presence in the Asia and other regions. New feature of the Ford Doctrine was proclaimed task to consolidate on new “boundaries” (that meant defensive position to which USA were forced to retreat in the Vietnam War) for the following attack on socialist countries and progressive forces of the Asia region.[16]

The next idea in American foreign policy was Carter’s idea to unite capitalist highly developed countries of Western Europe, Japan and United States to resist world socialism, the Soviet Union, and national-liberation movements. According to Soviet interpretations, the Trilateral perspective (1977) was announced because of attempts to overcome crisis in capitalist economy and to strengthen international positions of imperialism.[17] The Carter Doctrine (1980) declaring the willingness of the United States to use military force to protect its interests in the Persian Gulf was interpreted more widely and was evaluated in the Soviet Union as renewal of expansionism and aggressiveness of American foreign policy. At the period of last escalation of the Cold War the Reagan Doctrine (1985) was announced. Its main idea was to enlarge American military potential to be able to resist Soviet influence in the world with such tools as arms race and economic war against USSR.

We can summarize – that on Soviet point of view all American presidents of Cold War period were creating their own doctrines, and all of them were anti-communist and anti-Soviet, even if they were dealing with such regions as Middle East, South-East Asia or Latin America.

(4) Western countries (with US) were first who started the Cold War confrontation. Winston Churchill speech in Fulton 05 March 1946 was interpreted by the Soviet Union as the character assassination to the address of the USSR. That speech declared a crusade against socialism and pronounced the program of British-American world domination not only after the World War II, but for further centuries[18].

According to Soviet concept first vivid steps, which signalized about the start of the confrontation between East and West, were steps made by the West. In all Soviet historical textbooks (they usually presented official interpretation of history) the first event of the Cold War was Winston Churchill speech in Fulton.

An interesting fact is that in Western interpretations, the Soviets were perceived as the aggressors, with the main role played by Stalin’s speech 09 February 1946; but that speech had its own pre-history. A few days before, 02 February 1946, according to one of the Communist party documents, cooperation with allies in the World War II was determined as the main feature of post-war order. But the next day, 03 February 1946, the United States a propaganda campaign started, aimed against Soviet nuclear espionage. That is why it could be considered that Stalin’s speech was mostly caused by American mass media campaign against Soviet Union, and was not planned as program speech against capitalism. Its rhetoric contained nothing especially new, but for the West it seemed a direct signal for confrontation. The main theses of Stalin’s speech contained following: (1) Inner conflicts within capitalist world would led to new wars; (2) New wars would led to the weakening of the capitalist system; (3) New wars would speed up crush of capitalist system because of socialist revolutions; (4) Soviet social system is more viable; (5) the Soviet system is better than other systems[19]. This speech was considered on the West as claiming war against capitalist countries.

If we’ll try to summarize the Soviet point of view on the origin of the Cold War – the main idea can be named as following: bipolar confrontation had western roots and the Cold War was the policy of the US and other imperialistic countries against socialist countries. What was a role of the USSR? According to its own interpretations, the Soviet Union was the only power in the world able to stop American ambitions of superpower. The area of the Soviet Union occupied 22,402,200 sq. km (while USA occupied 9,826,630 sq. km); different natural resources were available; a population 170 million, more than in US at that time (about 140 million); and even after World War II part of Soviet industry remained so economic potential was present. The Soviet Union considered itself as the only defender of the interests of the working class all over the world because it was the first socialist state in history.

Two lines in the World Politics Since World War II

According to Soviet interpretations, one of the main results of the World War II was the formation of the two new “lines” in the world politics: the “line of peace” presented by Soviet Union, and the “line of war” presented by US.[20] This is why events in the international relations were interpreted by two ways: (1) all Soviet foreign policy acts were seen as peaceful even if they were military interventions; (2) American foreign policy was interpreted as the aggressive and militaristic.

That kind of division became vivid just after the end of the World War II. After Churchill’s speech, it was clear that capitalist world started preparations to the next world war. This idea is in the analytical report of Soviet ambassador in the US, N. Novikov’s “American Foreign policy in the post-war period” (1946). The Soviet ambassador prepared that report on the demand of Soviet minister of international relations, V. Molotov, and it was presented to the members of Soviet delegation on the Paris peace conference 27 September 1946. According to Novikov’s observations, post-war US foreign policy was aimed on achieving of world dominance and the maintenance of military potential signaled American preparations for a future war that was designed against the Soviet Union[21].

The American’s policy was in contrast to the Soviet Union’s peaceful initiatives, e.g., the peaceful coexistence of countries with different political systems (socialist and capitalist); the continuance of cooperation between the winners of the World War II; the strengthening of UN as the organization where all participants are equal; the withdrawal of troops from the territory of UN states; general arms cut; and the elimination of nuclear weapons. It was underlined in the Soviet mass media and then repeated in historical and political science interpretations that they “were out of plans” of United States and other capitalist countries.[22]

According to communist point of view the Cold War was the time when two different system of international relation emerged: Democratic and Imperialistic. The Democratic was the system of socialist countries, which had very close economic, cultural, political ties with the USSR as the leader. Within this system all nations tried to help each other in all spheres of life and developments with no competition: only fruitful cooperation existed. The Imperialistic was the system of capitalist countries: they had a lot of contradictions in their “camp” where each wanted to solve their problems and to defend their own interests by using the others. This bipolar world was also presented in American textbooks, where post-war world was described as divided into two blocks – Democratic in the West and Communist in the East. It is vivid with each side confronting the other and taking for itself the name “Democratic,”, while the other side was titled by “abusive” one (Imperialists/Communists).[23]

The entire world was separated into two main categories: friends and enemies. Such black and white world-view was a distinctive feature of Stalin’s way of seeing the world (outside as well as inside the USSR), but even after his death, this remained as one of the characteristic approach towards international relations. Among friends of the USSR you can find such categories as: (1) brother nations in the Eastern Europe; (2) nations in the third world countries; (3) working class in the capitalist countries. The enemy was the imperialistic circles in the capitalist states.

The explanation of international relations was very simple according to such approach: everything that was undertaken by the representatives of the own bloc/camp was aimed on positive developments of the mankind, on the defence of all-human values, on the support of national-liberation movements and democracy and achieving of main goal with the opposite side trying to build military tools and interference into the domestic affairs of other countries. Such ideas were supported by all possible means of Soviet propaganda.

From the secondary school education level to universities, the Soviet people were informed about main events of domestic and international affairs, especially about American imperialism, counterrevolutionary forces, world capitalism and their aggressive plans to destroy socialist system and not to let newly liberated countries (former colonies) to join brotherhood of socialist states. In the secondary schools, the historical part of educational program and the number of special so called humanitarian and social science disciplines, as well as in the activities of Pioneer and Komsomol organisations, such approaches were originally “put into the minds” of Soviet people. [24]  Anti-American propaganda continued at university level within obligatory program in the courses of “The History of the CPSU,” Marxism-Leninism, Historical materialism, Dialectical materialism, Political economy, etc. [25] A lot of different propaganda posters were produced and centrally spread at schools, universities, jobsites, public places. For example poster “Two worlds – two plans: We (the USSR) are spreading new life. They (the US) are sowing death”, on which two different ways of life and main tasks of the society were depicted. The Soviet was peaceful planning to raise crops, while American had fatal plans to build new military bases. Even in American studies and scientific research in that field everything was subordinated to such aims as to criticize negative aspects of bourgeois society in USA and American imperialistic foreign policy and to give positive evaluation of all types of struggle for rights and liberation: woman’s, working class, ethnic groups (Afro-Americans, Indian-Americans).

A great number of researches are already made all over the world in the field of Soviet-American relations. Current investigations give us an opportunity to revise events of the Cold War according to new facts and documents. In that case communist point of view which was presented in the Soviet studies is very interesting because it shows us huge role of propaganda. Among specific ideas of the Soviet viewing of the American policy towards the USSR we can mark out next main ideas: (1) The whole American post-war policy was aimed on blocking Soviet peaceful initiatives; (2) The United States initiated and forced the arms race; (3) The USA de-facto blocked the normal activity of UN; (4) All aggravation of the international situation were caused by the US policy. Of course Soviet policy was viewed as the opposite. And such approaches were showed not only in the sphere of international relations but in the domestic policy within the Soviet Union. Propaganda, brainwash and agitation within the Soviet society made it possible that even in the cases when USSR were demonstrating aggressive and tough policy it was justified as necessary and indispensable in the conditions of struggle for the better world.

The situation in Afghanistan in the late 1970s can be presented as good example. The only accessible version of events in that country contains a story about the victory in April 1978 of the national-democratic revolution and the formation of Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. The USSR was the first country which recognized the new state, and Soviets were the first who proposed all kind of support and assistance for young democratic society. An agreement between two countries was signed in December 1978 based on friendship, good neighbourly relations, and cooperation. But new democratic system “was met with unconcealed hostility in the US, and in such neighbours as Pakistan and China.”[26] Those countries organized subversive activities and that led to destabilization of situation. In September and December 1979 coups d’etat took place and Afghan government asked the Soviet Union for military help. If pro-Soviet government and would fail, this would be a big blow for the Soviet foreign policy. That is why in December 1979 the Soviet government, according to the 1978 Agreement between Afghanistan and USSR and to UN Charter, decided to send Soviet troops (it was warily called limited military contingent just to stress that it was small troops and not a big army, although between 25 December 1979 and 15 February 1989, a total of 620,000 soldiers served with the forces in Afghanistan). The conflict involved different countries – the US, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, PRC and others, contributed to Moscow’s high military costs and strained international relations. But for the Soviet soldiers this conflict was presented as the international duty, and their participation was propagandized as help to the brother people of Afghanistan, who only started building of socialist society.

The Cuban missile crises can be presented as another good example. For the Soviet Union the Cuban revolution was a great achievement because it was a first socialist state in Western hemisphere and that fact was certain prove of vitality of the world socialist revolution idea. That is why American policy towards Cuba, especially economic blockade, diversions, military provocations (such as April 1961 the Bay of Pigs Invasion) were considered as aggressive policy towards new socialist state. When in February 1962, US claim Cuba was excluded from Organization of American States gave an opportunity for the USSR to show its support towards Cuba. On 19 February 1962 the USSR declared its first statement as a supportive one towards Cuba and denouncing towards US. In the summer of 1962, Cuba asked USSR for military help to prevent American invasion. We can say that Cuban crises as geopolitical situation was in some point built in the frame of next items: a young socialist state in the blockade of capitalist countries asked for the help the only defender of peace and democracy – the Soviet Union. That is why Soviet Union position was within main ideas of Soviet foreign policy described earlier. It was simply help and assistance to the brother nation, but not aggression or own initiative.

American Policy Towards Eastern Europe

East European countries occupied a unique place in the bipolar system of international relations. American policy towards that region was completely determined by US-USSR relations. It was one of the arenas of real struggle between superpowers. For the Soviet Union it was very important to keep new democratic countries (as Eastern European states were called after the post-war elections) within the socialist camp as the proof of successful Soviet policy, as an example of correct way of building society under the socialist ideas, and to show how to spread of socialist system in the world. For the US, Eastern Europe was important for the opposite meaning: it was proof of the wrong way of the Soviet policy as well as of socialist type of society and state.

Now the approaches towards interpretations of the US policy towards communist countries in the Soviet sphere of influence changed. But it would be interesting to figure out main features of them. First of all we have to underline that in the Soviet political science and historical studies a number of American special doctrines and tools towards Eastern Europe were determined. Let’s make a short outlook of them in chronological appearance. Just after the occupation of Germany and the end of the World War II it became clear that future development of Europe would be in between few main participants: the Soviet Union, the United States and Great Britain. But as it happened Great Britain did not manage to keep the position of the superpower, and only two main actors were left. The division of Europe became visible on the example of Berlin: when the de facto eastern and western parts of that city symbolized the division of the whole Europe. Soviet control of Eastern Berlin as well as of East Germany and other Eastern European countries showed that possible future of the whole region. In the second half of 1940s the main task for the United States was to prevent the complete transition of those countries to the “socialist camp.”

American policy at that time was directed on three main issues: support of non-communists leaders; counteraction/resistance for “sovietization” of the region; keeping EE countries as “opened” for the West and American influence. The Marshall Plan was considered as one of the possible ways to fulfill these tasks. The situation in Europe was very crucial because of combination of economic problems and political instability. According to the Soviet point of view, the post-war devastation might lead to the deepening of exploitation of the working people, a decline in living standards, and social outburst. Western interpretations describe the beauty of Marshall’s plan as it did not appear on the surface to be directed against the Soviet Union. The Secretary of State never mentioned the dangers of communism or the Soviet Union, and he opened the program to all European nations. But Soviets saw it as the tool to save capitalist economy and to stop the rise of revolutionary movement towards world socialist revolution. Thus, the participation of Eastern Europe in proposed European recovering program was prohibited by Stalin and the Western influence in that part of the continent was minimized.

As soon as coalition governments in East European countries transformed into socialist/communist, American policy changed. A new tool of US policy towards the whole regions was created: “the economic blockade.” It started in 1949 with the adoption of a special law which had not only to control the export but to sanction special limits to the trade relations with Eastern European countries. Trade acts with Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary were canceled. Since 1 January 1949 a Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM) started its activity, and it ceased to function only on 31 March 1994. In 1949 it united 15 most developed western countries, but soon some other neutral states joined it as well. Among them were Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. In addition there were a number of cooperating countries, such as Austria, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland. The main aim of COCOM was to control the export to the socialist countries: an extensive list of restricted or prohibited trade items was developed. COCOM had to control it to stop the transfer of sensitive technologies to communist states.

In October 1951 a new law (it was called the Battle law) was adopted. According to it the export had to be limited to those countries that considered being a threat to US or its allies. A list of 217 groups of goods was created and similar lists of prohibited items Western European countries, Canada and Japan were forced to adopt it as well[27]. Soon Poland and Hungary lost their “most-favorite-nation status.” Some number can illustrate the results of that policy: within 1948-1953 American export to Eastern Europe decreased in 200 times, East Europe export to US – in 5 times.[28]

New feature in American policy towards communist countries was the appearance of so called “doubled diplomacy”: a combination of official contacts with communist/socialist governments and non-official/quiet relations with opposition and emigration groups. For example in 1949 the US Department of State tried to unite all the representatives of East European Diasporas in order to organize their activity in Eastern Europe. National Committee of Free Europe and a number of different assemblies were created.

A lot of other examples can be named here to show the broad picture of American policy towards the East European countries. In 1949 a report to the President known as NSC 58/2 drafted a document “US policy toward the Soviet Satellite states in Eastern Europe” (this document was discussed since May till December 1949). Eastern Europe was considered to be the “weakest link” within the Soviet empire. The main aim of the American foreign policy in that region was declared as the abolishing of “soviet power” and adoption of non-communist governments. The US even negotiated with France and Britain in May 1950 during the summit of Ministers of foreign relations in London and on that meeting an American variant of the act “Policy towards soviet satellites in Eastern Europe” was adopted. The main purpose of that document was to coordinate policy towards socialist countries of the East European region. Another well known document NSC 68/2 (30 September 1950) that proclaimed usage of “secret measures” in economic, political, “psychological” war, aimed on rising up and supporting of displeasure in Eastern European states. Its practical realization was $100 million which were given in 1951 for organizing of “army of liberation” (formed of emigrants from the East Europe) to act in their countries. Partly these funds had to be used for the support of illegal anti-soviet organizations in the region. The main role in the “psychological” war was played by radio “Freedom” and “Free Europe” (existed since the 1950s). The very clear description of that gave Senator W. Fulbright, who referred to the activity of these radio stations as to the essential part of American foreign policy towards Eastern Europe and USSR[29].

After 1953 the “liberation concept” was proposed by Secretary of State Dulles and supported by Eisenhower. According to Soviet interpretation that meant the further interference into the events, which took place in Eastern European region. But in practice the US did not interfere while in mid 1950s there were a number of opportunities to do this: in 1953 there was no reaction from the US to support the protests of East Berlin workers against their communist leaders; 1956 attempts of Hungarians to overthrown Stalinist-type authorities. The Hungarian events were a real possibility for US to show the “liberation” concept in practice: but Eisenhower was busy from: (1) the re-election presidential campaign; and (2) the involvement into the Suez crisis. The only thing was done was the expression of support on the radio “Free Europe”[30].

The next decade for American Eastern European policy was in the context of disunity of western alliance. De Gaulle’s France started its own policy towards Eastern Europe to “build bridges” to the East. De Gaulle sent his foreign affairs minister to several East European countries; and De Gaulle even made official visits to the Soviet Union (June 1966), Poland (September 1967), Romania (May 1968). There were even planned visits to Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria. De Gaulle’s aim was to break the “hegemonic” hold of both the Soviet Union and the United States and to establish a “community of European states” from “Atlantic to the Urals.” In this global design, France would be able to reassert its central role in European politics.

Soon the United States showed similar strategy of “building bridges,” which was oriented on more flexible methods dealing with East European socialist countries. The strategy of “building bridges” was aimed on supporting of local national movements to result in the soft gradual isolation from the Soviet Union. It was considered that country, where national movements would win, already started its moving out of Soviet dominance and endorsed/joint Western countries. The main tool of this concept was the policy of “differentiation.” It was created at Kennedy’s presidency, but completely was formed in Johnson’s times. The US policy of differentiation had for many years meant “rewarding,” mainly through trade concessions or political gestures, Easter European countries that either distanced themselves from Soviet tutelage and embarked on a path of international liberalization. The most revealing example in this context was US policy towards Yugoslavia: as USSR-Yugoslav relations deteriorated, US granted financial assistance to Yugoslavia[31].

The 1960s as well as the previous decade had brought a number of crisis for USSR in their relations with Eastern European countries, as well as increasing of confrontation with the US. There were Berlin crisis and the building a Berlin wall, the Cuban crisis, Czechoslovakia (Prague spring) and others. But we have to mention that the Berlin wall was considered as a result of deteriorating of US-USSR relations, but not as a reaction on American policy towards Eastern Europe. US reaction on the Prague spring and its suppression by the Soviets was the same as in 1956 on Hungarian events. The reasons (internal and external) were similar: election campaign and Vietnam War.

In the 1970s a new approach towards Eastern Europe was created: the so-called connection principle. It was aimed on the connection to the inside ideological, social and political problems, which already sharpened in Eastern European countries. As the US turned down their own attempts to create “problems” for the Soviets in the region, and was looking for opportunities “created” by Eastern Europeans by themselves. Theoretically American East European policy was concentrated on further “erosion” of the socialist camp and used to be a tool of influence on the USSR. In practice it was supporting of groups of dissidents (those who were openly critical about the political system and spoke about necessity of “pluralistic” society in Eastern Europe).

A détente policy influenced American policy towards Eastern Europe as well. One of the ways to improve relations with the Soviet Union was so called Sonnenfeldt doctrine, according to which Eastern Europe was recognized as a “sphere of natural interests of the USSR.” [32] But the Carter administration turned down this doctrine: Eastern Europe was considered as a “buffer zone” (nobody’s zone): so USSR as well as USA had a right to interfere to the politics of the region.

One more tool of American policy towards socialist countries was so called Jackson-Vanik Amendment to the Trade Act of 1974. According to this amendment, those countries who supposed to be US trade partners and seek for “most-favorite-nation” trading status had to conduct free emigration policy. In that case domestic politics had to be subordinated to the requirements of international politics. According to this amendment communist countries had an opportunity to: apply for the “most-favorite-nation” status and to receive American credits. But they had to change their domestic policy. This tool of American foreign policy is used even after the end of the Cold War.

In the 1980-s “crisis diplomacy” was the realization of the connection principle. The great example was support the Polish opposition trade-union Solidarity. This trade union was organized by Polish people by themselves, and US used only to support their activity in order to have a source of uncertainty in the center of Soviet empire. The Carter administration assisted to Solidarity by sending literature and copying equipment. The main problem was to keep this support invisible for Moscow, because Solidarity would be proclaimed as CIA-tool, and as interference of US into the domestic affairs of the foreign country. At the beginning of Reagan administration in 1981, martial law was declared in Poland and Solidarity became an illegal organization. In that case “doubled diplomacy” was used in practice: (1) US’s official policy towards Polish communist government was economic sanctions (2): US’s unofficial support to Solidarity (equipment to print newspapers, radio Free Europe, money and so on). Even economic sanctions against USSR were announced, such as flights of Soviet airlines “Aeroflot” to the US were cancelled; access of Soviet ships to the seaports were limited; Soviet trade agency in New York was closed; export of high technologies to the USSR was blocked; American companies were prohibited to sale oil and gas equipment to the USSR. All these facts once more prove that American policy towards Eastern Europe was determined by US policy towards USSR. As Peter Schweizer in his book Victory summarized: the secret policy towards Poland was one of the reasons of the dissolving of the socialist camp and break of the USSR[33].

American Policy Towards Third World Countries

The Soviet interpretation of American policy towards third world countries was similar to that one, shown in Eastern Europe. As the world was divided into two main parts – socialist and capitalist – former colonies were supposed to join one of two main camps. The desire of the nations which got a right to build their own independent states and not to be involved into the conflict of two superpowers became the main reason of the appearance of the Nonaligned Movement. But in the bipolar system of international relations it was mostly impossible. In Soviet approaches to the international relations those countries became the scene of battle between US and USSR. According to that concept the newly liberated nations had two options: (1) to be liberated completely, meaning to join socialist countries; (2) to be enslaved in a new form: formally independent but really dependent from imperialistic countries (former masters). That is why Soviet involvement to the third world countries was interpreted as the assistance and help, American involvement was intervention and enslavement.


The Cold War period was a time of very complicated relations between two systems – socialist and capitalist – when a great number of different conflicts developed between military alliances, economic unions, international organizations, and nations themselves. But the much greater influence of Cold War era was made on the outlook of the Soviet people, because, until now, the Cold War point of view is dominated in some post-Soviet societies. Unfortunately the image of living in the fortress, which is surrounded by enemies, is still very prevalent in these countries. That is why attempts to describe what was the origin of such attitudes to the outside world is not only of interest for the people outside the former Soviet, but of more importance for post-Soviet nations themselves to understand why it happened and to make sure it does not happen again.



[1] For example: The Alsace Soviet Republic, November 10-22, 1918 (A short-lived Soviet republic created during the German Revolution at the end of World War I in the province of Alsace, which had been part of Germany since 1871); The Bavarian (Munich) Soviet Republic, April-May 1919 (The short-lived attempt to establish a socialist state in form of a council republic in the Free State of Bavaria. It sought independence from the also recently proclaimed Weimar Republic); The Hungarian Soviet Republic, March-August 1919 (a Communist regime established in Hungary under the leadership of Béla Kun); The Persian Socialist Soviet Republic, June 1920 – September 1921 (widely known as the Soviet Republic of Gilan, a short-lived Soviet republic in the Iranian province of Gilan. It was established with the assistance of the Red Army.

[2] Zhdanov A. was a Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party

[3] Міжнародні відносини та зовнішня політика (1945-70-ті роки): Навчальний посібник [The International Relations and foreign policy (1945-1970s)] Либідь, Київ 2003, р. 32.

[4] Дипломатический словарь [Diplomatic dictionary], Издательство Наука, Москва 1986, Vol. 3, р. 536.

[5] Современные Соединенные Штаты Америки: Энциклопедический справочник [The Contemporary USA; the encyclopaedic handbook] , Политиздат, Москва 1988, р.263.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Александров B.B. (1988), Новейшая история стран Европы и Америки (1945-1986 гг.) [Vladimir V. Alexandrov, The Modern History of countries of Europe and America (1945-1986)], Высшая школа, Москва, р. 15.

[8] John Dulles, Statement on Liberation Policy, January 15 1953, full text at (last visit: 17.07.2009)

[9] Современные Соединенные Штаты Америки: Энциклопедический справочник [The Contemporary USA; the encyclopaedic handbook], Политиздат, Москва 1988, р.264.

[10] История дипломатии [The History of Diplomacy], Т.5., Москва 1979, p.562-569.

[11] Современные Соединенные Штаты Америки: Энциклопедический справочник [The Contemporary USA; the encyclopaedic handbook] , Политиздат, Москва 1988, р.266.

[12] Советский Союз в борьбе за разоружение: Сборник документов. [Soviet Union in the struggle for disarmament: Collection of documents] Москва 1977, р. 31-34.

[13] Дипломатический словарь [Diplomatic dictionary], Издательство Наука, Москва 1986, Vol. 1, р. 306.

[14] Eugene R. Wittkopf, Charles W. Kegley Jr., James M. Scott (2003), American Foreign policy: Pattern and Process, Thomson Wadsworth, p. 51.

[15] Современные Соединенные Штаты Америки: Энциклопедический справочник [The Contemporary USA; the encyclopaedic handbook], Политиздат, Москва 1988, р.268.

[16] Дипломатический словарь [Diplomatic dictionary], Издательство Наука, Москва 1986, Vol. 3, р. 517.

[17] Александров B.B. (1988), Новейшая история стран Европы и Америки (1945-1986 гг.) [Vladimir V. Alexandrov, The Modern History of countries of Europe and America (1945-1986)], Высшая школа, Москва, р. 207.

[18] История внешней политики СССР 1917-1985 [The History of the Soviet Foreign policy, 1917-1985] Издательство Наука, Москва 1986, Vol. 2, p. 120.

[19] Міжнародні відносини та зовнішня політика (1945-70-ті роки): Навчальний посібник [The International Relations and foreign policy (1945-1970s)] Либідь, Київ 2003, р. 30.

[20] All definitions are used as they were used in Soviet time

[21] Мальков В.Л. Первые письма с «холодной войны»: «Длинная телеграмма» Кеннана и аналитический обзор Новикова «Внешняя политика США в послевоенный период». // Международная жизнь – 1990. – №11. – С.154. [Mal’kov V. First letters from the Cold war: Kennan’s “long telegram” and analytical report of Novilov “American Foreign policy in the post-war period”, International Life, 1990, Vol.11, p.154.].

[22] История внешней политики СССР 1917-1985 [The History of the Soviet Foreign policy, 1917-1985] Издательство Наука, Москва 1986, Vol. 2, p. 123.

[23] For example: William O. Kellog W. American history: the easy way, Barron’s Educational series, 1995.

[24] The type of organizations for children and youth operated by a Communist party in the USSR and other socialist countries. See for example:

[25] CPSU – the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

[26] История внешней политики СССР 1917-1985 [The History of the Soviet Foreign policy, 1917-1985] Издательство Наука, Москва 1986, Vol. 2, p. 495.

[27] Большая Советская энциклопедия он-лайн [Big Soviet Encyclopaedia] //

[28] Современные Соединенные Штаты Америки: Энциклопедический справочник [The Contemporary USA; the encyclopaedic handbook], Политиздат, Москва 1988, р.279.

[29] Голяков С.М. Специальные каналы радиопропаганды США на службе психологической войны (к истории деятельности радиостанций “Свободная Европа” и “Свобода” 1949-1972 гг.): Автореф.дис… кан-та истор. наук. [Golyakov S. The Special channels of the US radio propaganda on the serve of psychological war (to the history of radio stations Free Europe and Freedom activity)] – Мoscow., 1974., p.22.

[30] Schulzinger R. American Diplomacy in the twentieth century. N.Y.-Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994, p.249.

[31] Качура Ю.Б. Югославия в концепциях и внешней политике США в 60-е гг.: Автореф.дис… кан-та истор. наук. [Kachura Yu. Yugoslavia in American concepts and foreign policy in 1960s] Кiev., 1989, p.11.

[32] Helmut Sonnenfeldt – State Department Counselor

[33] Schweizer P. Victory: The Reagan Administration’s Secret Strategy That Hastened the Collapse of the Soviet Union. 1994.


Also available “Enemy Images, Evidence, and Cognitive Dissonance: The Cold War As Recalled by Michiganders“; “The American Perspective of the Cold War: The Southern Approach (North Carolina)“; “The Polish Perspective of American Foreign Policy: Selected Moments from The Cold War Era“; “The Netherlands During the Cold War: An Ambivalent Friendship and a Firm Enmity“; “The Special Relationship: United States-Russia“; The U.S. Foreign Policy Establishment’s Perception of Poland (1980-1981)“; “Soviet Attitudes Towards Poland’s Solidarity Movement“; “After the Cold War: U.S.-Ukrainian Relations (1991-2000)“; and “The Paradox of Solidarity from a Thirty Years Perspective.

This article was originally published with the same title in Comparative Perspectives on the Cold War, Lee Trepanier, Spasimir Domaradzki, and Jaclyn Stanke, ed. (Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski Krakow University Press, 2010).

Maryna BessonovaMaryna Bessonova

Maryna Bessonova

Maryna Bessonova is an Associate Professor of History at Zaporizhzhya National University in Ukraine and a Senior Research at the Institute of World History Institute Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.

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