To try and understand the cause of the Cold War, it’s imperative that the roots be traced. Although it started in the 1950s, the rift between the United States and the Soviet Union began during World War II.
A Divided Europe
The last year of World War II saw the Russians advancing from the east and the United States in the west. By the end of the war, the eastern half of Germany remained in control of Stalin and the Soviets. The western end came under the influence of the US and her allies.
This situation would repeat itself all over Europe. Western Europe including Britain, France and Italy, would align themselves with the United States. In Eastern Europe, virtually all the countries became satellites of the Soviet Union. When assessing the cause of the Cold War, these alliances can be cited as one reason.
Competing Ideologies and Beliefs
The United States believed in democracy. They adhered to the policy of free enterprise, voting to choose leaders and freedom of expression. The Soviet Union on the other hand, adhered to the doctrine of Communism. Stalin and the Soviet leaders believed that the masses were incapable of choosing their leader. Therefore, ruling with an iron fist was necessary.
This ironclad rule would extend to its satellite countries. The Soviets would install leaders in Romania, Hungary and other Eastern European nations that were loyal to the USSR. They were also of course, Communists.
Distrust and Propaganda
Furthering the cause of the Cold War were the actions of both countries. Both assumed the very worst of each other. There were no peace or reconciliatory talks made by either side.
Both played up the threat from the other. They sent spy satellites and agents to check on the other’s activities. The media were also used. Radio, TV and films were used to attack the other. Various forms of propaganda were employed. Politicians would make unmistakable references and declarations, saying that the US / USSR were the threat to world peace.
The most dangerous aspect of the conflict was the arms buildup. While conventional weapons rearming were common, it had been superseded by the development of nuclear weapons. The cause of the Cold War included the massive military buildup. Both sides stocked up on atomic, hydrogen and nuclear weapons. ICBMs capable of hitting each nation were also developed.
Other Areas of Competition
The United States and USSR faced off in other areas. Both sides tried to extend their influence in Asia. This resulted in the Korean War in the 1950s. Although the US and USSR did not figure in the fight, the US supported the South and the USSR the North. The two countries would do their best to extend their influence on the other countries. Aside from Korea, another example of this would be Vietnam.
When studying the cause of the Cold War, it becomes apparent that there is no single reason. The development of new weapons and distrust of one another would lead to its spread.