Historians attribute the occurrence of the conflicts in the 20th and 21st centuries to misperceptions among the nations. In this view, historians argue that Word War I, World War II, and the Cold War among significant wars rode on misperceptions among the major nations of the world. Misperception is a nation’s wrongful interpretation of the other nations in terms of actions and behavior.
The misperception between the Soviet Union and U.S after the WW II was the main cause of Cold War. After the WW II, the America rose to become the most powerful nation in the world, however, the USSR perceived this negatively, which resulted into fierce rivalry between the two nations and the war hang on this misperception.
Misperception; the cause of the Cold War
After the WW II, America emerged the most powerful country. Being the most powerful in the world therefore, the U.S was determined to spread the doctrine of capitalism to most nations in Europe. The USSR perceived this move as the United States’ attempt to control and colonize the other nations.
Since colonization and its effects, had spread across the world towards the end of First World War, USSR did not want the U.S. to bring back such situation in the world. In response, USSR began to spread communism to the close allies of the U.S. According to Ingimundarson, “the Soviet Union started to spread communism to the Western Europe countries, which were U.S capitalist territories” (1994, p.56).
Since the U.S was committed to combat any international influence in the region, severe rivalry between the two powers arose. Because of the superiority the U.S had gained in terms of economics and politics, USSR viewed it as a threat to communism in the world. In order to strengthen communism, USSR stretched beyond Europe with particular target to the U.S capitalist territories.
This led to clash of the two powers in Asia where communism controlled China and Korea. On its side, the U.S viewed USSR’s communism as outdated and autocratic and the U.S authorities had to do whatever possible to decimate its spread.
The U.S government developed Marshal Plan through which it provided support to the European nations and the rest of the world to discourage the spread of communism and embrace capitalism. Therefore, the rivalries preceding the Cold War were result of misperceptions between the USSR and US.
The two powers misperceived the technological advancement by the either side. In a step to strengthen its security, USSR invested significantly in military technologies. It was the first to design one of the most powerful weapons in history. In fact, the U.S started making hydrogen bombs immediately after USSR had constructed its own.
The U.S perceived the USSR’s military expansion as a threat to its security and that of the world. As a result, the U.S government strongly invested in armament and by the end of 1980’s, its nuclear arsenal had greatly grown. Economically, the U.S technological advancement in economy elicited uncertainties to the USSR authorities. To USSR, the economic expansion aimed to attract the third world countries into capitalism.
Since the expansion of capitalism created discontent among the Soviets, they developed competitive economic strategies. This further increased rivalry between the two nations, which precipitated into Cold war.
Stein clarifies that, “in order to maintain its economic dominance in Europe, America developed the Marshal Plan that offered financial support to these regions to ensure that they purchased the U.S products” (1992, p. 470). However, Soviet Union viewed this as a means to spread America’s dominance in the world.
The plausible truth is; America’s Marshal Plan was just a marketing strategy to capture and control a considerable international market. The plan did not aim to colonize any country at all. Due to their misperception, USSR vetoed its states from this plan.
The continued logic implantations between the belligerents resulted into growth in antagonism. The antagonistic activities led to formation of two rival groups in the world: the communist and the capitalist communities. The division of Germany into West and East blocks through the Berlin wall evidenced this rivalry.
The wrongful judgment of the other nations and their acts is what historians refer to as misperception. The Cold War occurred as result of the misperception between the USSR and the U.S. The Soviet Union viewed the U.S economic expansion as strategy to colonize the world while the U.S perceived the USSR’s communism as a threat to the expansion of capitalism.
Moreover, the U.S viewed USSR’s military advancement as a threat to its close allies such as Western Europe and Asia. The U.S technological advancement elicited discontent among the Soviet Union territories and resulted into competitive responses. The Soviet Union’s ascend into the moon was purposely to set standards and challenge the U.S technological achievements.
Because of these misperceptions, rivalry grew between the belligerents in support of their ideological allies. These rivalries led into splitting of Germany. They further resulted into arm’s race between the capitalists and communists, which culminated into what historians have come to refer to as the Cold War. It is therefore justifiable that misperception played a major role in the Cold war.
Ingimundarson, V. (1994). Cold War Misperceptions: The Communist and Western Responses to the East German Refugee Crisis in 1953. Journal of Contemporary History, 29(3), 463-481.
Stein, A. A. (1992). When Misperception Matters. Journal of World Politics, 34(4), 41-103.