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Sample essay topic, essay writing: Rise Of The Superpowers (usa And Ussr) - 1878 words
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Rise of the Superpowers (USA & USSR) from events priorto and during WWII World War II: the process ofsuperpowerdom It is often wondered how the superpowersachieved their position of dominance. It seems that thematuring of the two superpowers, Russia and the UnitedStates, can be traced to World War II. To be asuperpower, a nation needs to have a strong economy, anoverpowering military, immense international political powerand, related to this, a strong national ideology. It was thiswar, and its results, that caused each of these superpowersto experience such a preponderance of power. Before thewar, both nations were fit to be described as great powers,but it would be erroneous to say that they were superpowersat that point. To understand how the second World Warimpacted these nations so greatly, we must examine thecauses of the war.
The United States gained its strength inworld affairs from its status as an economic power. In theyears before the war, America was the world's largestproducer. In the USSR at the same time, Stalin wasimplementing his 'five year plans' to modernise the Sovieteconomy. From these situations, similar foreign policiesresulted from widely divergent origins. Roosevelt'sisolationism emerged from the wide and prevalent domesticdesire to remain neutral in any international conflicts. Itcommonly widely believed that Americans entered the firstWorld War simply in order to save industry's capitalistinvestments in Europe. Whether this is the case or not,Roosevelt was forced to work with an inherently isolationistCongress, only expanding its horizons after the bombing ofPearl Harbour
He signed the Neutrality Act of 1935,making it illegal for the United States to ship arms to thebelligerents of any conflict. The act also stated thatbelligerents could buy only non-armaments from the US, andeven these were only to be bought with cash. In contrast,Stalin was by necessity interested in European affairs, butonly to the point of concern to the USSR. Russian foreignpolicy was fundamentally Leninist in its concern to keep theUSSR out of war. Stalin wanted to consolidate Communistpower and modernise the country's industry.
The SovietUnion was committed to collective action for peace, as longas that commitment did not mean that the Soviet Unionwould take a brunt of a Nazi attack as a result. Examples ofthis can be seen in the Soviet Unions' attempts to achieve amutual assistance treaty with Britain and France. Thesetreaties, however, were designed more to create security forthe West, as opposed to keeping all three signatories fromharm. At the same time, Stalin was attempting to polariseboth the Anglo-French, and the Axis powers against eachother. The important result of this was the Nazi-Sovietnon-aggression pact, which partitioned Poland, and allowedHitler to start the war. Another side-effect of his policy ofplaying both sides was that it caused incredible distrusttowards the Soviets from the Western powers after 1940.This was due in part to the fact that Stalin made severaldemands for both influence in the Dardanelles, and forBulgaria to be recognised as a Soviet dependant. The seedsof superpowerdom lie here however, in the late thirties.
R.J.Overy has written that "stability in Europe might have beenachieved through the existence of powers so strong that theycould impose their will on the whole of the internationalsystem, as has been the case since 1945..." At the time,there was no power in the world that could achieve such afeat. Britain and France were in imperial decline, and moreconcerned about colonial economics than the stability ofEurope. Both imperial powers assumed that empire-buildingwould necessarily be an inevitable feature of the worldsystem. German aggression could have been stifled early hadthe imperial powers had acted in concert. The memories ofWorld War One however, were too powerful, and thegeneral public would not condone a military solution at thatpoint.
The aggression of Germany, and to a lesser extent thatof Italy, can be explained by this decline of imperial power.They were simply attempting to fill the power vacuum inEurope that Britain and France unwittingly left. After theeconomic crisis of the 1930's, Britain and France lost muchof their former international standing--as the world marketsplummeted; so did their relative power. The two nationswere determined to maintain their status as great powershowever, without relying on the US or the USSR for supportof any kind. They went to war only because furtherappeasement would have only served to remove from themtheir little remaining world standing and prestige. Thecreation of a non-aggression pact between the Soviet Unionand Germany can be viewed as an example of imperialdecline as well.
Stalin explained the fact that he reached arapprochement with Germany, and not one with GreatBritain by stating that "the USSR and Germany had wantedto change the old equilibrium.. England and France wantedto preserve it. Germany also wanted to make a change in theequilibrium, and this common desire to get rid of the oldequilibrium had created the basis for the rapprochement withGermany." The common desire of many of the greatEuropean powers for a change in the world state systemmeant that either a massive war would have to be fought; orthat one of the great powers would need to attempt to makethe leap to superpower status without reaping theadvantages such a conflict could give to the power makingthe attempt. Such benefits as wartime economic gains, vastlyincreased internal markets from conquered territory, andincreased access to resources and the means of industrialproduction would help fuel any nation's drive forsuperpowerdom. One of two ways war could have beenavoided was for the United States or Russia to have takenpowerful and vigorous action against Germany in 1939.Robert A.
Divine, holds that "superpowerdom gives a nationthe framework by which a nation is able to extend globallythe reach of its power and influence." This can be seenespecially as the ability to make other nations (especially inthe Third World) act in ways that the superpower prefers,even if this is not in the weaker nation's self interest. Thequestion must then be raised, were the United States andRussia superpowers even then, could coercive, unilateralactions taken by them have had such significant ramificationsfor the international order? It must be concluded that, whilethey were not yet superpowers, they certainly were greatpowers, with the incredible amount of influence thataccompanies such status. Neither the United States nor theSoviet Union possessed the international frameworknecessary to be a super power at this time. It is likely thatframeworks similar to Nato or the Warsaw Pact could havebeen developed, but such infrastructures would havenecessarily been on a much smaller scale, and withoutinfluence as the proposed Anglo-American (English speakingworld) pact was. At this time, neither the United States norRussia had developed the overwhelming advantages thatthey possessed at the end of the war.
There are severalfactors that allowed them to become superpowers: apreponderance of military force, growing economies, and thecreation of ideology-backed blocs of power. The UnitedStates, it seems, did not become a superpower by accident.Indeed, Roosevelt had a definite European policy that wasdesigned from the start to secure a leading role for theUnited States. The US non-policy which ignored EasternEurope in the late thirties and forties, while stronglysupported domestically, was another means to Roosevelt'splans to achieve US world supremacy. After the war,Roosevelt perceived that the way to dominate world affairswas to reduce Europe's international role (vis-`a-vis theUnited States, as the safest way of preventing future worldconflict), the creation of a permanent superpower rivalrywith the USSR to ensure world stability. Roosevelt sought toreduce Europe's geopolitical role by ensuring thefragmentation of the continent into small, relativelypowerless, and ethnically homogenous states.
When viewedin light of these goals Roosevelt appears very similar to Stalinwho, in Churchill's words, "Wanted a Europe composed oflittle states, disjointed, separate, and weak." Roosevelt wascertain that World War Two would destroy continentalEurope as a military and economic force, removing Germanyand France from the stage of world powers. This wouldleave the United States, Great Britain, and the USSR as thelast remaining European world powers. In order to make itnearly impossible for France to reclaim her former worldposition, Roosevelt objected to De Gaul taking powerimmediately after the war. Roosevelt defended the Allies"right [to] hold the political situation in trust for the Frenchpeople." He presented General Eisenhower control ofFrance and Italy for up to a year, in order to "restore civilorder." As British foreign minister Anthony Eden stated, "..Roosevelt wanted to hold the strings of France's future in hishands, so that he could decide that country's fate." It seemsinexcusable that Roosevelt desired to hold an ally's nation intrust, comparable to Italy, who was a belligerent. It could beargued, however that they were taking the reigns of power,not from the resistance, but from the hands of the VichyFrench. It might be asked why Roosevelt did not plot the fallof the British Empire as well.
A cynical answer to this is thatRoosevelt understood that the United States was notpowerful enough to check the Soviet Union's power inEurope by itself. It made sense that because the UnitedStates and Britain are cultural cousins, the most commodioussolution would be to continue the tradition of friendliness, setout in the Atlantic Charter earlier. As far as economic ormilitary competition, Roosevelt knew that if he could openthe British Empire to free trade it would not be able toeffectively compete with the United States. This is becausean imperial paradigm allows one to sell goods in aprojectionist manner, finding markets within the Empire. Thisallows a nation to have restrictive tariffs on imports, whichprecludes foreign competition.
A nation, that is primarilyconcerned with finding markets on the other hand, is in amuch better position for global economic expansion, as it isin its interest to pursue free trade. The more generous, andlikely the correct interpretation is that Roosevelt originallyplanned to have a system of three superpowers, includingonly the US, the UK, and the USSR. This was modifiedfrom the original position which was formed before theUSSR joined the allies, that held for Great Britain to take aprimary role in Europe, and the United States to act as acustodial in Asia. Later, after it was seen that either theGermans or the Russians would dominate Eastern Europe,the plan was forced to change. The plan shifted from onewhere the US and Great Britain would keep order inEurope, to one where Great Britain and the USSR wouldkeep order in Europe as local superpowers, and the USwould act as an impartial, world wide mediator. Roosevelthoped for the creation of an Anglo-American-Russo worldpolice force.
However, Roosevelt, underestimated thepower of the Russian ideology. He believed that theRussians would back away from communism for the sake ofgreater stability and union with the West. Roosevelt saw theSoviet Union as a country like any other, except for herpreoccupation with security (the safety corridor in EasternEurope that Stalin insisted on), but he thought that that thiscould be explained by the cultural and historical backgroundof Russia. It was not thought unreasonable to request abarrier of satellite states to provide a sense of security, giventhat Russia and the USSR had been invaded at least fourtimes since 1904. It was felt that granting the Soviet Unionsome territory in Eastern and Central Europe would satisfytheir political desires for territory.
It was only afterexperiencing post World War II Soviet expansion, that theSoviet quest for territory was seen to be inherently unlimited.Roosevelt felt that the position in Eastern Europe, vis-`a-visthe Soviet Union, was analogous to that of Latin America,vis-`a-vis the United States. He felt that there should bedefinite spheres of influence, as long as it was clear that theSoviet Union was not to interfere with the gove ...
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