The main emphases of the foreign policy of the United States from World War 2 to the present day have been the containment of the Soviet Union and its allies, military domination, expansion of economy, the War on Terror, and overall stability. The paper is focused on the foreign policy during the Cold War, and basic peculiarities of American foreign policy of the end of the XX – the beginning of XXI century.
The origins of Cold War are preceded from the World War 2; tense rivalry between America and Russia became more evident. In contrast to the Soviet Union, America’s policy was oriented not only to the military domination, but to the economic expansion, as well. The collapse of the USSR outlined a new era in the foreign policy of the United States, connected with terrorism and peaceful Obama’s strategy.
During the World War 2, the U.S. and the Soviet Union were the allies, but there were some signs of tense relationships between them. According to Brinkley (2009), the nature of such global phenomenon, as Cold War, is in tension between the Soviet Union and U.S., expressed in military rivalry:
“The Cold War was a profound event in the history of the twentieth century and, like World War II, reshaped the world order in important ways. The intense rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union – and between democratic capitalism and communism – divided much of the world into two not-quite-warring camps” (Brinkley, 757).
Thus, the nature of Cold War predestined the rivalry of the both super-countries in the world arena. What are the origins? Most historians believe that “both the United states and the soviet union contributed to the atmosphere of hostility and suspicion that quickly clouded the peace” (Brinkley, 758).
As Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin had different visions of the postwar picture, the sources of Soviet-American tension should be found in Atlantic charter of 1941. After the war, in 1945, these politicians signed the agreement on the Yalta Conference.
Nevertheless, the visions of the Soviet Union and those of Anglo-American were different: “…the Soviet Union moved systematically to establish pro-communist governments in one Central or Eastern European nation after another” (Brinkley, 759). Thus, the global struggle of America and Russia was inevitable.
The failure of Potsdam agreement led to the tenser situation: as the Soviet Union fortified its positions, the U.S. claimed their containment doctrine, directed against the Soviet Union. The adopted Marshall Plan was beneficial for the United States:
“An integral part of the containment policy was a proposal to aid in the economic reconstruction of Western Europe. There were many motives: humanitarian concern for the European people; a fear that Europe would remain an economic drain on the United States if it could not quickly rebuild and begin to feed itself; a desire for a strong European market for American goods” (Brinkley, 762).
Consequently, while the Soviet Union outlined strengthened its communistic power and search the allies, the U.S. tried to get most part of Western Europe as its ally. Western Europe served a shield against the Soviet Union. In 1949, twelve countries signed an agreement, and there appeared North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), intended to defend the United States and Western Europe against military attack of the enemy.
It speeded up the process of creation an alliance of communist governments (Eastern Europe), realized in 1955, by Warsaw pact. The explosion of first atomic bomb by the Soviet Union, frightened the United States, and made it strengthen the non-communist world position. Non-Aligned Movement, intended to limit Soviet expansion, was established; there started continuous ideological struggle of the two super-countries.
America’s military domination led to the military conflict, realized in the Vietnam War (1955-1975). The military opposition of North Vietnam, supported by the Communists, and South Vietnam, supported by the American government. Although, it resulted in the victory of the Communists, nevertheless, it coasted extremely high. Although, this war was painful for Americans, as well: the U.S. lost 55,000 people (Brinkley, 811).
The period in American economics of 1950-1960, Brinkley named as “the economic miracle” that was characterized by intensive economic growth (Brinkley, 780). The technological development, caused by economic growth, influenced the high level of American Air Force, and weapons – bombs, rockets, and missiles.
Also, there was the growth of industrial and cultural centers of the United States, the success of the labour movement, the explosion of science and technology, technical progress, and the dawn of the computer age. Nevertheless, the Soviet Union did not want to go behind, and launched the first satellite “Sputnik” into outer space. “Explorer I” was American answer to it; moreover, the United States created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
In addition, Americans were the first people who footed on the surface of the Moon: in “1969, Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, and Michael Collins successfully travelled in a space capsule into orbit around the moon” (Brinkley, 787). The massive cultural development ideologically influenced the Soviet Union that had another vision on culture, limited by communistic ideals.
Gradually, the face of affluent American society was changing: the civil rights movement, population minority’s activity, antiwar demonstrations, general disappointments of American society, the crisis of Cold War (the Soviet Union placed its nuclear bombs on Cuba), etc. weaken the power of the United States. Also, there was the crisis of authority: the impeachment of Nixon (caused by the Watergate crisis) negatively influenced the American position in the world arena that showed signs of its economic decay.
Though, in 80-ies, Reagan influenced the revival of the overall American situation. Elected in 1980, this president “became a symbol of a new kind of confident conservatism that would soon have enormous influence in the United States and in many other parts of the world” (Brinkley, 871). The roots of American economic success were in the reliable power of free market. Also, he strengthened foreign policy:
‘The Reagan administration supported opponents of communism anywhere in the world, whether or not they had any direct connection to the Soviet Union. This new policy became known as the Reagan Doctrine, and it meant, above all, a new American activism in the Third world” (Brinkley, 884).
Reagan’s successful policy and economics reflected on the prosperity of America. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union was losing its position, in 1989, it dissolved into separate independent countries, and there was “…the collapse of communist regimes all over Europe and in other parts of the world” (Brinkley, 890).
The Cold War ended, and the situation in the world changed. The United States was on the way to the stabilization: free trade continued, the government protected the national interests in the world arena, there grew a concern for human rights.
The age of globalization started, and the United States faced with other foreign policy crises: the military conflict in Kosovo. The Operation Allied Force (in other words, NATO) caused bombing of Yugoslavia that raised many controversial points to be discussed. In terms of the military and economic partnerships, the USA created a major non-NATO ally, now it includes fourteen nations.
On the turn of the centuries, there were some essential issues for the politic and economy of the United States, but one of them deserves particular attention. In September 11, 2001 one of the most horrible events in American history took place. It faced with the open military aggression, caused by nuclear terrorism in which the United States was engaged.
In the same day, there were several catastrophes: two commercial airliners crashed into Manhattan’s towers, and another commercial airliner crashed into the building of Pentagon. These dreadful catastrophes were:
“… the result of a single, orchestrated plan by members of Al Qaeda, a previously little-known Middle Eastern terrorist group. The attacks they launched profoundly affected the United States and the world. They made what came to be known as the “war on terrorism” a central issue in American life” (Brinkley, 893).
In answer to this terroristic act, Bush started a continuous Iraq War that lasted seven years, till 2010. The aim of this war was the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by invasion of American troops and those of the allies of the United States. There were many deaths either on the side of Iraq or the USA; that caused many critical opinions concerning the American foreign policy and unfair behavior in relation to Iraq.
In 2008, with the election of a new president Barack Obama, a foreign policy changed its strategy, demonstrating the peaceful character. Modern foreign policy of the United States is characterized by the “post-modern orientation” (Viotti, 8). It is based on the decrease of military confrontation, economic partnership, and friendly relationships with all countries of the world.
Positive thinking of Obama in the world arena realizes “the core of an American foreign policy grounded on liberal principles” (Viotti, 38). Thus, the 44th president of the USA holds out a hope for the stability, terrorism prevention, and successful world trade.
Taking into consideration all mentioned above, some conclusions can be made. After the World War 2, the USA started the Cold war foreign policy that oriented to the containment of the principal enemy – the Soviet Union. The military dominion and economic expansion of the US were two main strategies that time.
After the collapse of the USSR, America faced the nuclear terrorism, realized in the terroristic act of Al Qaeda and the Iraq War. Realizing possible consequences of the previous foreign policy of the USA, Barack Obama tries to establish peaceful strategy, and decrease the American military confrontation.
Taking into account previous mistakes, a new administration intend to stabilize the foreign policy and economy of the US, directed to the prosperous and peaceful existence.
Brinkley, Alan. American History: A Survey.13th ed., vol. 2. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009. Print.
Viotti, Paul. American Foreign Policy. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2010.