The early Cold War (1945-1952)

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Classe(s) : Tle ES - Tle L - Tle S | Thème(s) : The USA and the world since the "Fourteen Points"
Corpus Corpus 1
The early Cold War (1945-1952)




> timelines and maps, p. I-III

The United States emerged from World War II as one of the two foremost powers in the world. In contrast to its unwillingness to entangle itself in the interwar years, it led the “free world” to counterbalance the communist superpower, the USSR. How did the USA express its power from 1945 to 1952?

1 Economic power

A Gold exchange standard

 In 1944, Bretton Woods provided a system of fixed exchange rates based on the US dollar (>card18). Because the USA held $26 billion in gold reserves (65% of the total), the dollar became the only currency linked to gold, at the rate of $35 per ounce.

 As all currencies were defined in relation to the dollar, the US currency was the world currency. Since 1945, most international transactions have been denominated in US dollars.

B European Recovery Program

keyword The Secretary of State is considered to be the US government’s equivalent of a Minister for Foreign Affairs.

 In the immediate post-World War II period, Europe remained under the rubble. In June 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall issued a call for using US money to rebuild Europe.

 Fanned by the fear of communist expansion, Congress passed the Economic Cooperation Act in March 1948 with a grant of over $12 billion for the rebuilding of Western Europe. Large-scale financial aid packages became an integral part of US foreign policy.

2 Military power

A The Truman Doctrine

 The Truman Doctrine arose from a speech delivered by President Truman in March 1947. The President asked Congress to support the Greek government against the communists by providing $400,000,000. He also requested the dispatch of American personnel and equipment to the region.

 Truman deemed* that offering assistance to preserve the polit­ical integrity of democratic nations and contain* Soviet expansive* tendencies was essential for American foreign policy. Containment became the basis of US strategy.

 This policy might be symbolized by the American answer to the Berlin blockade organized by the Soviet Union from April 1948 to May 1949. The Western Allies (USA, UK and France) organized an airlift* to carry supplies to West Berliners.

B Rollback diplomacy

 In 1952, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected and appointed John Foster Dulles as Secretary of State.

 Both of them relied on clandestine CIA actions to rollback* communist influence in Asian countries. During the Korean War (1950-1953), the Americans attempted to push North Korean forces beyond the 38th parallel. It was the first step in a policy of “rollback” rather than containment.

3 Soft power (>card23)

 The American government influenced the film production and exportation. For example, the Blum-Byrnes agreements were a series of commercial French-American agreements, signed in 1946. They aimed to eradicate France’s debt to the USA and obtain new credit in exchange for opening French markets to American products, especially movies.

 The American way of life refers to a national ideology promoted by the declaration of Independence (1776) and its principles of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. It also refers to a quality of life symbolized by appliances, cars and material goods. The American dream, the idea that upward mobility is achievable by any American through hard work, is also part of the American way of life.

  • expansive = expansionniste
  • blockade = blocus
  • airlift = pont aérien
  • to deem = considérer
  • to contain = contenir
  • to rollback = repousser