Assess to do so until the time
Assess the view that the disagreements about the Second Front were the most significant cause of tension between Russia and the West between 1941-5? Historians Gaddis and Maisky believe the disagreements about the Second Front were not the most significant cause of tension between Russia and the West between 1941-5. The Western Allies landing position in Europe, as proposed by Russia, has been branded as a major reason for tension between the USA, Britain and Russia by historians Phillips and Roberts.However, other historians including Vasori, Levering, Lafeber and Tucker have challenged this particular perspective, suggesting that other factors also played a part in causing tension. The conflicting ideology and individual roles and objectives of each of the powers could also be said to have contributed. The Second Front was, according to Philips and Roberts, a major source of tension between the USA, Britain and Russia during World War II.Philips states “To Stalin the need to open up a Second Front in Western Europe against Germany in order to relieve the pressure on the USSR in the East was a pressing necessity.
Yet the refusal of Britain and the USA to do so until the time was right led Stalin to be suspicious of their motives. ”1 Roberts backs up Philips’s argument up by pointing out that there had been numerous failed agreements by the Allies to land troops in order to create a Second Front in 1942, and the issue was discussed in the Tehran conference of 19432.However on closer inspection, neither argument is particularly strong. For example, although Philips points out that Russia was at risk of being invaded by Germany in 1941 and therefore had an strong reason for demanding the Second Front despite the fact that defeating Germany was not the USA’s or Britain’s main concern.
Churchill was concerned with the risk of casualties a Second Front would create. He also had military interests in North Africa during 19423 and Italy during 19434 and convinced Roosevelt that prospects in North Africa were more attractive than Europe and Stalin’s Second Front.By neglecting to mention the Allies different perspectives and aims, Philips and Roberts undermine their arguments.
Focusing on the Second Front as a cause of tension rather than being symptomatic of the tension surrounding other issues distorts the historical accuracy. Although the arguments conveyed by Philips and Roberts are, in places, convincing, other historians such as Vasori, Kolko, McCauley and Tucker have expressed opinions that other factors formed a major source of tension, in particular ideology.McCauley points out the ideologies that governed the Soviet Union and the USA were polar oppotsites “In Russian ideology, there was a ruling party and a ruling ideology. This party had a monopoly of political power. No dissenting voices were permitted. Where as the American ideology was pluralistic and there were myriad economic decision makers.
.. ”. Kolko backs up McCauley’s argument that ideology was a source of tensions and offers the following opinion: “The coalition against the Axis was born out of necessity rather than deliberation or choice, and only the common need to defeat a common enemy bound it together.Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States shared no single set of objectives other than this preeminent reality, no unifying political and economic peace aims. ”5 Here Kolko has a valid point and this can be shown by the fact that in January 1945 Stalin spoke to Comintern Leader Dimitrov and said: “the crisis of capitalism is evident…at present we are with one faction against the other, but in the future we shall be against this faction of the capitalists as well”.
This shows Stalin had no intention of maintaining the alliance and it could be said he even wanted it to fail. Although the analysis of the Allies by Kolko and McCauley offers an insight into the ideological standoffs that would have occurred at the time and highlight potential sources of tension, they also have fundamental weaknesses by neglecting the different aims and goals sought of Soviet Communist ideology and British and American capitalism. Neither McCauley nor Kolko mention idealism is essentially what the countries of the west used to govern the ideology of capitalism.Unlike McCauley, Kolko, Lee and Higham point out that capitalism was a driving force behind British and American policy. Britain wanted to guarantee the ability to rebuild it’s economy after defeating Germany whilst the USA loaned money to countries such as Britain through it’s policy of war economy6. Tucker strengthens the argument that the USSR was not the only major power driven by ideology.
He states “Constantly seeking to extend the orbit of American hegemony, the US had been the most expansionist of all great powers impelled by the inner drives of American capitalism” 7 .Tuckers view is correct and is supported by the Novikov telegram, the Soviet version of Kennan’s long telegram – both depicted the other side as driven by an instiable urge for world domination… Novikov worried about America’s global reach, and described the USA as trying to reduce Soviet influence in neighbouring countries in order to hamper the progress of communism there and to create conditions for the penetration of American capital into their economies. ADD EXTRA Westad brings balance to both sides of the argument.He notes “Varsori sees little chance of there not being a conflict between the US and West Europeans elites on the one hand and Stalin’s regime on the other, because of past ideological hostility… both East and West read into each other’s actions what beliefs and prejudices stretching back to be before the Russian Revolution told them- that the other side was aggressive”. 8 The fact Westad gives recognition to the actions of both parties makes this argument plausible and as such is the view held by the majority of historians.However Lundestad argues that ideology was not a cause of tension and it didn’t particularly matter. He states “BUT ideology is not constant, Marxism- Leninism contained many different strands – one day Stalin was opposing Nazi Germany; the next he signed a non-aggression pact with it.
And during the Cold War, one day Khrushchev combated capitalism, the next he emphasised peaceful co-existence with it ”. 9 Lundestad’s argument is not valid. Evidence to support this analysis can be seen when Molotov said ‘Stalin looked at it this way, World War I wrested one country from apitalist slavery; World War II has created a socialist system and the third will finish off imperialism’. This evidence demonstrates the flaw In Lundestad’s argument and undermines the credibility of his view. However, it is necessary to look at the specific goals of the Allies in order to form a complete illustration of the reasons underlying the tension because both Kolko and McCauley’s arguments are flawed.
Historians Gaddis, Levering and Barros and Gregor believe the goals of the Soviet Union was a factor that played a part in the tensions.Gaddis compares the goals and role of the Soviet Union to those of Germany: “…
where Stalin looked toward an eventual world proletarian revolution, Hitler sought immediate racial purification. Where Stalin was cautiously flexible, Hitler stuck to his perverse principles though thick and thin… ”10 Barros and Gregor back up this argument, offering the opinion that Stalin initially believed he would be allied with Hitler in 194111. Both views are valid and offer significant justification as to why the Western Allies would be reluctant to establish a Second Front.
This can be illustrated by The 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact12. The alliance between Hitler and Stalin certainly provided room for doubt but questions can be asked of Gaddis and Barros and Gregor’s willingness to blame Stalin for all issues and tensions at that point in time because negotiation was ultimately possible. This can be show by the fact the lengthy Tehran Conference of 194313 saw the Second Front finally accepted and for troops to be deployed in the spring of 194414 regardless of the fact the pressure had been eased on Stalin and the USSR by that point.Again, ideology undoubtedly created tensions and caused a distinct lack of trust amongst the Allies before the Second Front was even an issue. Historians Tucker and Williams argue that American action and the role of the Western Allies along with the course of the war had an impact on tensions between the USA, Britain and the Soviet Union. Tucker states “Constantly seeking to extend the orbit of American hegemony, the US had been the most expansionist of all great powers.
Impelled by the inner drives of American Capitalism, the nation’s leaders have sought to fashion a global environment onducive to the steady growth of the American economy…the most powerful nation on earth in 1945, the US tried to reshape the world to suit the needs of American capitalism…the US… must bear responsibility for beginning the Cold War ”. 15 This argument is supported by Williams who notes “Americans saw no contradiction in putting their self-interest to work to produce the well-being and the harmony of the world”. 16 Both of these arguments can be validated by William Averell Harriman, US Ambassador to the USSR, 1943-46 who can be quoted as saying ‘COME BACK TO THISHowever other historians including Gaddis, Levering and Lafeber believe American action was not the sole cause of tension.
Levering states “Another reason for the Cold-War – Soviet refusal to participate in the two US led institutions – the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund – that had developed from the 1944 Bretton Woods conference in New Hampshire. Stalin had thus decided that there would not be one cooperative world economy, as US officials had hoped, but rather two competitive ones”17 Gaddis backs up this viewpoint by noting “Soviet attitudes toward lend- Lease were particularly gailing..
. ith long lists of demands”18 However Levering fails to recognise and dismisses the fact that in July 1944 Soviet representatives attended the Bretton Woods conference that established the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, along with the fact they set the principles that were to encourage post-war recovery. These included price stability through fixed exchange rates, reductions in barriers to international trade and an integration of markets with government planning.
This is clear evidence of the two leaders attempting to reach a middle ground irrespective of their ideals.This evidence illustrates the flaw in Levering’s argument and therefore undermines the credibility of his view. In conclusion, the Second Front can be branded a symptom rather than a cause of the disagreements that occurred between the Allies during World War II. It embodied the ideology, conduct of the war, role of the Soviet Union and indeed the role of the Allies. As a reactive measure rather than a cause of dispute, it can be argued that the specific location of the Second Front may have been determined by the geographical locations of both sides, as well as taking logistical considerations into account.As one of many military manoeuvres, the Second Front called attention to the geographical needs of the USSR, the detachment of the USA and the split interests of Britain, which geographically lay with the USSR but economically with the USA. Political strategy played a huge part in the relationship between the Allies and the placement of the Second Front.
It was clearly the main cause of the disagreements. Not only did ideology govern the reasons for fighting the war in the first place but it was also the dominant element in relation to strategy.Regardless of the differences of opinions between academics and historians in relation to the causes of tension and disharmony between Russia and the West, there can be little doubt that ideology was at the root of the problems.
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