“The actions of individual leaders had a significant impact on the development of the Cold War”. Discuss with reference to two leaders, each from a different region.


Truman and Stalin can certainly be considered amongst the most significant leaders in the development of the cold war, with Truman pioneering America’s new foreign policy and international involvement that we can still see today, to Stalin’s actions in Europe and Asia that were notably responsible in escalating the cold war tensions between the two powers.

One significant impact on the cold war that Truman was responsible for was America’s radical change in foreign policy, which first manifested itself in the form of the Truman Doctrine. Truman announced his “Truman Doctrine” to Congress on March 12, 1947, a response to the Soviet Union expanding its sphere of influence through Eastern Europe. The Truman Doctrine was implemented as a means of countering the Soviet geopolitical expansion, by stating America would support the nations threatened by Soviet communism, further pledging to aid Greece and Turkey. Truman taking a hard line against the USSR became the foundation of America’s new foreign policy, shifting the US’ attitude towards the Soviet Union from a relaxed co-existence to a containment of communist expansion. The Truman Doctrine was joined by the Marshall plan, in which the United States invested 13 billion into numerous European countries aimed to help rebuild postwar Europe, which led to Stalin creating Comecon in October of 1948. Furthermore, Truman was responsible for leading the Berlin airlift in 1948, a campaign that delivered food and supplies to the city in response to the Soviet imposed blockade. Whilst it ended successfully, it resulted in a significant increase in tensions with the USSR, further developing the cold war on an international level. However, one of the most significant impacts of Truman’s foreign policy of containment was the outbreak of the Korean war. Along with marking the first proxy war between the two powers, it was also the first and only time the United Nations would get militarily involved in an armed conflict. After the North Korean invasion of the Southern peninsula, the United States led a UN military force in the war against the northern invaders. This armed conflict, ‘puppeteered’ by the United States and Soviet Union, resulted in the rapid escalation of cold war tensions, which would be soon followed by a number of proxy wars and actions in Europe. Before 1947, the US was isolationist. Truman’s radical change of American foreign policy resulted in the US joining the world bank, NATO, UN, and a plethora of other international associations. Without Truman, the United States would not have been involved in rebuilding the European economy, and certainly would not have been able to guarantee the Asian prosperity we see today.

Where Truman’s impact on stemmed from his reactions to these cold war crises, Stalin was significant due to being the main perpetrator of said events. In 1948, Stalinist forces took control over Czechoslovakia, with Stalin also backing the communist forces in the Greek Civil War and making territorial claims in Turkey, all of which instigated American responses that further increased tensions between the two countries. One of Stalin’s most significant actions was the blockade of West Berlin, which resulted in Europe becoming divided into two opposing sides – the US-backed NATO in the West, and USSR driven Warsaw Pact in the East. The Berlin Blockade developed the cold war tensions from being sheer political disagreements, to opposing pacts that entailed members agreeing to go to war if any of them were to be attacked. Along with unnecessarily giving the green light to allow North Korea to invade the south, Stalin can even be said to have caused the outbreak of the cold war in the first place, having taken an aggressive stance against the West at Yalta with his sphere of influence and inability to cooperate with the other leaders, along with his rapid Soviet expansion in Eastern Europe. As stated by the late [sic] Andrew Roberts, “Stalin embarked straight on to the cold war as soon as the world war was over”.


“The actions of individual leaders had a significant impact on the development of the Cold War.”

In 1950 Stalin gives the green light to North Korea and invade South Korea heightening the tensions between the two powers: America and Russia. Both Truman and Stalin played crucial roles in creating radical and important changes that set the course of the Cold War. Due to Stalin’s significant actions in the years 1947 to 1950, Truman had no choice but to counter the aggressive Soviet leader. By looking at Stalin and Truman, one can see how one action from one leader influenced the other, creating a domino theory of events that made the Cold War what we know it as today.

Truman played a crucial role in the development of the Cold War in. The Truman doctrine in March 1947 was created, providing economic means in order to contain communism. Truman had even stated that it was now “America’s duty” to interfere. The late Tony Judt believes that the doctrine was as much directed towards Britain as it was Stalin, never the less, the doctrine changed the very definition of American foreign policy. One can see the significance of this when considering that before the doctrine America was isolationist, therefore, getting involved in any way created a very radical and crucial change in America’s foreign policy. Truman also created the Marshall plan in March of 1948. This was sparked by the British telling Truman that they were declaring bankruptcy, meaning that they could no longer afford to keep their soldiers in Greece. The initial ask was 17 Billion dollars for aid, which was not given by the government who were not fond of the idea. It was not until USSR invaded Czechoslovakia that the Marshall aid was agreed to for 13 Billion. However, Stalin did not want countries under his rule to receive money, which can be seen through the creation of Comecon – this allowed Stalin control of the Communists countries in Europe. To understand how important Truman was as a leader, one can look at his elections: To many it seemed unlikely Truman would win, which can be seen in the Chicago Newspaper with the headline ‘Dewey defeats Truman’ before the president has been announced. Despite this, Truman was elected President in 1948. If Truman hadn’t had won the election, there would have been no Marshall plan. Truman’s leadership can also be seen in the Berlin Blockade where he had absolute control over America’s response to the crisis. It Truman was the one who ordered the airlift, despite having the military go against it. This led to the creation of NATO and showed American leadership - United States could ensure the balance of power in Europe. In conclusion without Truman and America would not have been a part of European recovery.

If Truman was seen to have a significant impact of the Cold War, then Stalin must hold equal significance because it was Stalin who has begun all of the crises. Stalin had created Comecon, initiated the Berlin Blockade and unnecessarily gave North Korea the ‘Green Light’ to allow them to attack South Korea. The impact on Korea can still be seen to this day, where there is still a division between North and South. The late Tony Judt argues that Stalin’s biggest mistake was not accepting Marshall Aid - there was nothing that was stopping him from accepting it. He could have helped to rebuild Germany in way in which everyone else had supported, he could have gotten allies for example France. Instead he chose to create the war for his own domestic policies. Stalin has used Potsdam to his advantage in order to further his own policies. He took this opportunity to as Stalin had been the only one who was there for all three conferences Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam. In Yalta, he had agreed to have democratic elections, in which he signed the declaration of liberated Europe. However, this was never done – going back on everything Stalin had agreed on. This also leads to the iron curtain. Churchill responded to the iron curtain arguing that that was not what they had agreed on and it was definitely not what they had fought for. 100,000 Americans and British did not die just so people in Poland could go swiftly from one dictator to another. This suggests that Stalin was the one creating the crises with his significant actions which lead to others responding as well.

In conclusion, both leaders’ actions influenced not only the Cold War but how they responded to each other’s decisions. With every aggressive act that came from Stalin, came an equal counter attack from Truman. 


"The actions of individual leaders had a significant impact on the development of the Cold War"

The cold war was at its peak during the reign of Truman and Stalin. President Truman adopting an explicit attitude of anti-Soviet policy with his Truman Plan, historic tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union erupted which shows how the Cold War developed so quickly under both leaders Stalin and Truman. By using Truman and Stalin this essay will argue that both leaders had a significant impact on the development of the cold war as they acted in their independent capacity to further their country's personal interests.

Firstly, looking at Truman one could argue that he was significant in the development of the Cold war as he introduced a hard-line foreign policy. This is significant as before Truman came to power America was an isolationist country that wished to remove itself from any conflict with other countries. Truman changed that by introducing the Truman Doctrine in alignment with the Marshall plan that was focused on promoting Capitalism and Democracy abroad. Truman strongly believed in the threat of communism and with Britain, a capitalistic and democratic country, being weak and bankrupt meant America needed to ensure that there wouldn't be a loss in support. Therefore, he initiated the Truman doctrine which stated that through the USA, military and economic means would be used to stop the spreading of communism and contain it to the USSR. In spite of the fact that he said he had no personal experience in foreign matters, Truman convinced the USA to support the Truman Doctrine, which formalized an arrangement of Soviet control and the Marshall Plan, which was designed to help modify postwar Europe. To get Congress to spend a large amount of money important to restart the weak European economy, Truman utilized an ideological contention, contending that Communism thrives in financially denied territories. This triggered a change in the Cold war as it meant that Truman would do anything to prevent communism from growing. In 1947 the introduction of Marshall aid ensured that the 13 billion USD would be used to rebuild Europe and ensure a reduction in poverty. However, the aid triggered Comecon, a response from the USSR that would prevent Eastern European countries from accepting the Marshall aid that they were offered. The quick changeover meant that a response to all these events sparked the blockade which was a crisis that meant that Truman had to take action in creating the airlift in beating Stalin.

If Truman only reacted to Stalin without creating his own decisions, why did he still play a large role in the development of the Cold War? The Soviet Union had created communist supporting governments in Eastern European countries which implied growth in support for Stalin. Truman saw this as a threat as he and the allies feared the spread of communism which assisted in the creation of the Truman Doctrine, Marshall aid, and the Berlin blockade and airlift. Stalin is said to have been the main reason for the development of the Cold war to escalate tensions between the countries, as the development was so drastic and quick. Stalin was taking over Eastern Europe through "Salami tactics" which included alliance systems and threats to rival countries.  When Czechoslovakia became communist in March of 1948, this led to the response of the Truman Doctrine.

The actions of both leaders meant that the escalation of tensions of the Cold war was significant. Truman specifically worked with the Marshall plan in order to rebuild Europe whereas Stalin took money out of Eastern Europe, in a plan known as Comecon, to rebuild Russia and encouraged trade and industry within Eastern Europe while discouraging trade with the West. Which was used to encourage economic development in Eastern Europe. Truman designed the Truman Doctrine in order to promote and defend capitalism abroad. Compared to Stalin who initiated the Berlin Blockade which aimed to keep all Eastern European citizens in Berlin from seeing how capitalism could improve their lives. Stalin's ultimate aim was to force Western influence out of Berlin altogether and to make it communist.  In response to the Berlin, Blockade, Truman initiated the airlift to continue the capitalist support that he encouraged and promoted. The East saw the other capitalist citizens and their quality of life.  This meant that Stalin had to forcefully prevent this and invaded Czechoslovakia.

In conclusion, both leaders had direct actions that resulted in escalating tension between the USA and the USSR. Therefore the development of the Cold war meant that both leaders made significant decisions that meant that in their respective countries they had unilateral positions that left no room for compromise. 


The actions of individual leaders had a significant impact on the development of the Cold War. Discuss with reference to two leaders, each from a different region.

Truman was known for his anti-communist attitude and anti-Soviet policy, which led to tensions between the United States and the USSR, and eventually ended up as the so called Cold War. In 1947, when the Truman Doctrine was introduced, tensions between the two nations reached its peak, as the Doctrine was offering financial and military aid specifically to countries threatened by communism and hence the Soviets. This obviously angered Stalin and only stirred up more anger. Stalin started the Berlin Blockade in response, which quickly collapsed. Both Truman and Stalin had an impact on the development of the cold war, as they only provoked each other and increased tensions leading to more war and bloodshed.

President Harry Truman and his foreign policy took a hard line against the Soviet Union, once they started noticing that the USSR was expanding its influence and politic into Eastern Europe. Truman managed to meet the American public opinion with his actions and turned a whole nation against another one. It was common belief that the USSR intended upon world domination through expanding its influence. Due to that belief, Truman received a lot of support when he introduced the Truman Doctrine, which sought to provide financial, economic and military aid to those nations threatened by Soviet communism in Europe. This obviously angered Stalin and only provoked more tension between the USSR and USA. Fleming argues that the Truman Doctrine was “a formalization of the long-term goals of Truman himself”. The US felt threatened by Stalin’s ambitions for world domination and used the policy to make their intentions and opinions very clear to the USSR. This showed Stalin, that the USA would remain in Europe and always protect it against Communism. The Truman Doctrine was the fundamental reason for the long-term conflicts between America and Russia, and for the outbreak of the Cold War.
Another significant impact of Truman was in connection with the Korean War. In June 1950, Kim Il-Sung attacked South-Korea. Stalin “planned, prepared and initiated” the invasion and was therefore responsible for the outbreak of the Korean War. Truman sent aid to South Korea, supporting them against Stalin and North-Korea, which eventually led to Stalin and the north-Koreans to retreat and the stopping of the invasion. Stalin however insisted on Korea and China continuing to fight, even though both nations were exhausted and did not see a reason to fight. Truman did not do anything against that.
In 1948, Stalin blocked off all railway and street access into and out of Berlin, in hope of driving the Allies out of Berlin and Western Germany, to introduce his communist politic and as a response to Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine. He was starving Berlin of food and supplies, causing many citizens to die from hunger and the cold. This turned Germany and most of Europe against him, making it harder for Stalin to proceed with his ambition for world domination. The Allies eventually started an airlift, providing Berlin with supplies and food on a massive scale. This lasted for about a year, until Stalin eventually caved in and opened access to Berlin again. However, the airlift continues for several months after that, which increased tensions between Stalin and Truman massively, as Stalin had been embarrassed and degraded in front of the whole world.
When it became known in September 1949, that the USSR had successfully tested a nuclear bomb, the USA immediately took action and produced a hydrogen bomb. This resulted in an arms race between the USSR and USA. The American bomb was primarily to show off their strength to Russia, and to intimidate Stalin to not start a war with them, otherwise they would be destroyed. This caused even more tension between the two nations, as Stalin felt that America was not taking him seriously and making another attempt to publicly degrade and embarrass him, to show off their strength. When Stalin used North-Korea to indirectly start a dispute with America, Truman responded with nations that were against communism, supporting South-Korea and ending the impact of Russia on North-Korea; Stalin was shut down one more time.

In conclusion, Truman had a major impact on the development of the Cold War, especially with his foreign policies and his anti-communist policies. Stalin tried numerus times to beat America and takeover Eastern Europe, however he failed every time and only provoked the outbreak of the Cold War with his many attempts to make Europe communist.