Russian and Eurasian studies Essay Example

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USSR-US rivalries during the Cold War

During the World Wars, the USSR and the U.S. were allies. During their alliance, the two became highly suspicious of each other. After the World Wars, the two superpowers were entangled in ideological and military influence competition that has been branded as the Cold War. During the Cold War, each of the two superpowers was busy building weapons and identifying regions where they could extend their influence for purposes of having more bargaining powers in diplomatic circles. This paper is a critique of the claim that the Soviets were trying to maintain the status quo during the Cold War.

After the World Wars, the USSR was insecure and thus it was looking to acquire and expand communism influence across the globe. Soviets therefore offered monetary and military support to communist revolutionaries in unstable states or conquered their neighboring countries. The USSR was therefore not seeking to maintain the status quo as far as communism influence is concerned. To exemplify the bid by the Soviet Union to expand ideological influence, consider the fall of China. The nationalist government that was nominally democratic had fought a decades-long civil war with communists. Nationalists received arms and financial support from the U.S. while communists received support from the USSR. The USSR ensured that communist revolutionaries defeated the nationalist government by providing arms and financial support and by having its own men on the ground. The nationalist government was the one in power and thus maintaining the status quo would require that it is not dethroned.

In 1961, the U.S. wanted to overthrow Castro’s government in Cuba. After failure of a training program for revolutionaries, the U.S. tried severally to assassinate Castro. Castro started strengthening relations with the USSR leading to installation of Soviet missiles in Cuba.1 This almost led to a nuclear World War III. The USSR acted without provocation by the U.S. and thus installation of the nuclear weapons in Cuba cannot be considered to be aimed at maintaining a status quo.

In the year 1979, USSR invaded Afghanistan after the U.S. successfully formed ties with Pakistan. After the invasion, the Soviets brought social and military reforms that were viewed by some sections of the Afghan populace as oppressive. The invasion led to worse poverty and uprisings that led to the death of an approximate one million Afghans. This led to the emergence of the Mujahideen fighters who engaged the USSR, with support from America, until the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan. It can be argued that if the USSR sought to maintain the status quo during the Cold War, they would not have invaded Afghanistan.

In cases where the USSR could not influence a country because of the existence of a section of anticommunist population in it, they provided weapons, financial support and even troops to help fight for communism. For instance, during the Vietnam War, the North of the country was communist while the South was anticommunist. The North was supplied with weapons by China and USSR while the U.S. supplied the South with weapons. As the Vietnam War progressed, both the USSR and the U.S. sent troops to the country. Similarly, East Germany was communist while West Germany was anticommunist. The communists built the Berlin wall preventing Easterners from crossing over to the West because Soviets were oppressive in East Germany. Such involvement in the Vietnam War and attempts to control East Germany also disapproves the claim that the USSR was trying to maintain the status quo during the Cold War.

During WW II (Second World War), the U.S. had developed, tested and even used atomic bombs against Japan in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. After the end of the World Wars, and as the Cold War started, the USSR was busy developing its own atomic bombs. If the USSR sought to maintain the status quo, one would expect that it would not develop such weapons in a bid to change the situation. It was practically impossible for the USSR to attack the U.S. using its atomic bomb developed in 1949 atomic bomb because nuclear missiles were not available then. However, the USSR would use the atomic bomb to gain bargaining power in diplomatic meetings. That is, the U.S. was no longer able to lord its superiority in terms of nuclear capability over the USSR in diplomatic meetings. This shows that the USSR was not satisfied with the status quo of the U.S. having an upper military hand.

After the USSR developed its own atomic bomb, Truman sought to regain a better bargaining position by developing the hydrogen bomb, which is deadlier than the atomic bomb. The USSR, on learning that the U.S. government had developed the hydrogen bomb, built its own in 1953. These two events set the stage for an arms competition between the USSR and the U.S., where each side was trying to outsmart its rival in developing the most destructive weapons. This rivalry, often referred to as an arms race, lasted for decades until the Cold War ended.

From the discussion above, it is apparent that the USSR was not trying to maintain a status quo during the Cold War. The USSR made a couple of unprovoked decisions in a bid to increase its ideological influence across the globe. An example is its invasion of Afghanistan after diplomatic alliance between the U.S. and Pakistan, and the Cuban nuclear crisis during which it installed nuclear missiles in Cuba. Additionally, the USSR developed an atomic bomb during the Cold War period simply because the U.S. had had and used atomic bombs during WWII. The soviets could not attack the U.S. with their newly developed atomic bomb but they went ahead and built it. In addition to this, the USSR built a hydrogen bomb after the U.S. built one and engaged in a weapons building competition that lasted for decades.


“Sparknotes”. The Cold War (1945-1963): Summary of Events.

1 “Sparknotes”. The Cold War (1945-1963): Summary of Events.