Angel Portillo

Why Today Matters

Why Today Matters is written by Berryville resident Angel Portillo. Portillo is an undergrad at University of Arkansas, seeking his bachelor's degree in History. His column appears in the Tuesday Midweek edition of Carroll County News. He can be reached at aporae@gmail.com.

May 22, 1947: The spark that started the long Cold War

Thursday, May 24, 2012

From the late 1940s until the early 1990s, the world was divided into three sections.

The first one was comprised of the United States and its Western, Capitalist allies.

The second part was made up of the Soviet Union and its Eastern Communist allies.

The third section included the rest of the world that did not align with either the U.S. or the Soviet Union.

Currently, with the fall of Communism, or the "Second World," we now only have the "First World" (developed) countries and the "Third World" (developing) countries. This is how these terminologies came to be used.

The Cold War, to put it short, was a competition between the United States and the Soviet Union to attract the Third World countries to their sphere of influence.

Many scholars explain the event of May 22, 1947, as the start of this ongoing tension. On this date, the Truman Doctrine went into effect.

So what was the Truman Doctrine? It was a speech given by the 33rd U.S. President Harry Truman to Congress in order to approve an economic aide package for Greece and Turkey consisting of $400 million. The fact that the aide was for $400 million was not significant as were its true intentions.

President Truman reasoned that it was the duty of the United States to "support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressure." Furthermore, the fact that these "totalitarian regimes" coerced "free people" represented a threat to international peace and national security, he said.

These words were the ones that started it all. Truman managed to win over Congress and the $400 million in monetary assistance was given to Turkey and Greece.

On the other side of the world, these words were seen as a challenge. Joseph Stalin, who ruled the Soviet Union with an iron fist, decided to alienate himself and his country from the West. The Cold War had begun.

One thing we have to know is that for historical events there cannot be a monocausal explanation. In other words, an event like the Cold War, with its extensive impact on the world, was not caused by one thing. There were many other factors that contributed to its escalation.

And even though the Cold War was not actually a "war" in the traditional sense, every country in the world did not feel secure as a result of the nuclear weapons these two powers possessed. The fear was that this rivalry could have brought serious confrontations.

As I said, there were many other reasons behind it, but the implementation of the Truman Doctrine on May 22, 1947, to fight Communism definitely was a major spark for the Cold War.

This period of panic, distress, and suspicion that lasted approximately 45 years was all but a ticking time bomb that fortunately did not explode -- and believe me, we should be thankful it did not.

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Why Today Matters is a new column written by Berryville resident Angel Portillo. Portillo is an undergrad at University of Arkansas, seeking his bachelor's degree in History. His column will appear on Tuesdays.