The Red Army: The Cause of the Cold War
To a large extent, the Red Army occupation of Eastern Europe was the greatest cause of the Cold War. This is due to several reasons. For one, the Red Army was responsible for maintaining the division of Europe which set the stage for conflict and balanced power between the two superpowers. The Red Army also allowed the Soviet Union to enforce its political and economic ideology on its occupied countries, which added to the fear of communist expansion. Additionally, the might of the Red Army proved a great threat to US security, prohibiting trust to develop between the two superpowers and forcing preparation on the part of the US against possible Soviet aggression.
Finally, the Red Army really formed the foundation of the Soviet Union’s status as a global superpower; without it, the balance of power would clearly have been tilted toward the United States. The Red Army maintained the division of Europe, fostering tension there between the Soviet Union and the United States. By 1949, “the Soviet Union had concluded twenty-year bilateral treaties of friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance with Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Romania… [granting] the Soviet Union rights to a continued military presence on their territory.”1
These satellite states “depended entirely on Soviet military power” to remain under the influence of the USSR.2 The division of Europe itself into spheres of conflicting ideological and political systems set the stage for the Cold War, but the division was formed because of the Red Army. Without the military power of the Soviet Union, the United States could have easily absorbed several of the Eastern Bloc countries through its fiscal influence after World War II. Complete US influence over Europe at the very least would have eliminated a major source of struggle in the early development of the Cold War, and laid the foundation for a speedier outcome because of the imbalance of power among the Soviet Union and the United States. However, the Red Army caused the Cold War be creating the circumstances for prolonged struggle and tension in Europe.
Furthermore, the presence of the Red Army in Europe caused the Cold War by fueling fears of communist expansion and convincing the United States government to create strategies of containment. The complete dependence of Moscow’s satellite regimes on the presence of the Red Army identify it as a direct cause of the spread of communism in Europe. However, it was additionally an indirect cause of communist expansion in other parts of the world because it established the European models. The development of this foundation for the global rising of communism frightened many capitalist nations, especially the United States. Even by 1947, “There was a growing consensus in government that aggressive communism posed a threat to vital US interests.”
The implementation of several left-wing regimes by the Red Army, as well as the possibility of global uprising to follow the European models, prompted action by the United States to secure the influence of capitalist ideology around the world while attempting to suppress communist ideology. Eventually forming policies of containment, a defining characteristic of the Cold War, the origins of these strategies can be traced back to the power of the Red Army. Without the Red Army to establish the initial slew of leftwing regimes in Europe, communism could hardly have “spread” at any rapid rate, and wouldn’t have aroused such concern to the American public and government officials. The simple might of the Red Army also helped cause the Cold War because it prompted the United States to be wary of the USSR, and be prepared for war.
The idea of Soviet power as “impervious to the logic of reason” and “highly sensitive to the logic of force” coupled with the figure of 1 million Red Army soldiers distributed just among the USSR’s satellite regimes in Eastern Europe created quite a scare among US officials. Some would argue that the US advantage of the atomic bomb in the development of the Cold War drastically reduced the threat of the Red Army. However, despite the technological edge of the United States, the country was “manpower-poor” (especially compared to the USSR), which meant that the Red Army still posed a significant threat to national security and interests.
More than enough troops stationed in Eastern Europe could have conquered several of the nations to the west of them, and this ever-present possibility created a situation where the United States not only couldn’t trust the Soviet Union, but also needed to prepare for imminent attack. The Red Army caused the Cold War because it fostered fear as one of the defining characteristics of the time, and especially when the USSR developed their own atomic bomb, the Red Army became a daunting force to the United States. It helped inspire the military increases established in the 1950s through NSC-68, and was the most threatening aspect of the USSR in the early Cold War. In essence, the Red Army is the reason why the Soviet Union even became a superpower after World War II, powerful enough to oppose the United States in the ensuing conflict of the Cold War.
Absent the might of the Red Army, Stalin couldn’t have hoped to match the fiscal influence of the United States to influence Europe; he couldn’t have created a balance of power there, nor establish communist regimes to oppose the interests of the United States and instill fear of communist expansion. Manpower was the most significant advantage of the Soviet Union and the greatest threat to the US. The Red Army was ultimately the greatest cause of the Cold War because it formed a power capable of opposing the United States in the aftermath of World War II.