For the terminally confused, or those a little bit unsure of the course of events between l9l8-l939, here is summary #1 for Cold War:
In these introductory sessions, we have tried to establish that the Cold War actually began a long time before l945. In l9l7, President Woodrow Wilson took the United States into World War I, declaring his intention not just to bring peace, but to “make the world safe for democracy.” That was a very ambitious plan. The same year, in October, Vladimir Lenin and the Bolshevik(Communist) party seized power in Russia, announcing their own grand scheme: to bring to the world a socialist revolution, in which landowners, factory owners and rich people of all stripes would be deposed in favor of peasants and workers and the dispossessed of the earth. The Bolshevik vision was hostile to Wilson’s, in that the bedrocks of “democracy,” as Wilson understood it—free markets, private property, etc.—precluded a lot of what the Bolsheviks wanted, e.g. deposing all wealthy people and creating a world in which no one had an excess of money or resources.
These two visions came into direct conflict in l9l8-l9l9. First, the Bolsheviks appeared to be realizing their objective of bringing revolution to the world with brief successes in Hungary and Germany. These revolutions were short-lived and ultimately brutally crushed, but they frightened the leaders and citizenry of the two countries. Then, the American and British decided to send an intervention force to north Russia. The official reason was to guard ammunition stores sent by the American and British governments to the previous Tsarist government during the war. Unofficially, it was hoped that the appearance of the troops would strike fear into the hearts of the Bolsheviks, and/or that the troops would be able to engage the Bolsheviks and defeat them militarily. After the Bolshevik demise, in theory, there would emerge an acceptable non-Communist government. The intervention failed to dislodge the Bolsheviks, and the intervention troops returned home. But the Soviet Union and its citizens never forgot about it and viewed it as a hostile act, an attempt to destroy their revolution and their new society. Because of this, a lot of scholars say the Cold War began with the north Russian intervention of l9l8.
After l9l8, the active hostility between the two nations waned. The Soviets had a tremendous challenge in establishing their regime, dealing with the consequences of the civil war that followed the revolution, trying to teach a largely illiterate citizenry to read and attempting to decide who would lead them—Vladimir Lenin, the leader, died in l924 and there was no clear successor. Officially, the leadership still believed in bringing the revolution to the entire world, but most people knew this would be impossible for a long while. In the United States, there was widespread disillusionment with foreign affairs, since the World War had ended so badly and President Wilson’s campaign on behalf of the League of Nations and the Versailles peace treaty had failed. Neither nation engaged much with the other.
In the late l920s and l930s, relations improved somewhat. The United States experienced the stock market crash and quickly became mired in a terrible economic depression. At the same time, the new Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, launched a crash industrialization drive in the Soviet Union, which was draconian, even cruel in its intensity and scope, but which did achieve tangible results, at least at first. Some Americans went to the Soviet Union to work on the industrial campaign and were impressed with the enthusiasm and zeal; others read a lot about the USSR and concluded that it represented the future, since capitalism appeared to be dead. For their part, the Soviets often talked of their industrial plant as being a “second America,” and they modeled several of their industrial enterprises after industrial cities in the U.S., e.g. Gary, Indiana and Pittsburgh, Pa.
Hint: this cordial period was short-lived, ending on August 23, 1939, when the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact with Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. More to follow...