After the War

What caused the tension between the Soviet Union and the US after the war?

Relationship between the Soviets and the USA

As you know the relationship between the Soviets and the US, the big contenders for the world leader position have always been up and down the road.

Relations between the Soviet Union and the United States were driven by a complex interplay of ideological, political, and economic factors, which led to shifts between cautious cooperation and often bitter superpower rivalry over the years.

The distinct differences in the political systems of the two countries often prevented them from reaching a mutual understanding of key policy issues and brought them to the brink of war.

Before War (Early Cooperation)

After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the ensuing civil war produced acute food shortages in Russia. Wartime devastation was compounded by two successive seasons of drought and by 1920 the Soviets were facing famine and appealed worldwide for food aid to millions of starving people.

In 1921, President Warren Harding of USA appointed Herbert Hoover, then secretary of commerce to organize the relief effort (American Relief Administration).

Under Hoover’s terms, the ARA was to be a completely American-run relief program for the transport, storage, and delivery of relief supplies (mainly food and seed grain) to those in the famine region.

This remarkable humanitarian effort was credited with saving many millions of lives. Hoover and his ARA were later honored by the Soviet government for the care and generosity that the United States had shown in this desperate crisis.


Despite deep-seated mistrust and hostility between the Soviet Union and the Western democracies, Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 created an instant alliance between the Soviets and the two greatest powers in what the Soviet leaders had long called the “imperialist camp”: Britain and the United States.

Three months after the invasion, the United States extended assistance to the Soviet Union through its Lend-Lease Act of March 1941.

Lend-Lease was the most visible sign of wartime cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union. About $11 billion in war matériel was sent to the Soviet Union under that program.

Additional assistance came from U.S. Russian War Relief (a private, nonprofit organization) and the Red Cross. Nevertheless, the program did not prevent friction from developing between the Soviet Union and the other members of the anti-Hitler alliance.

The Soviet Union was annoyed at what seemed to it to be a long delay by the allies in opening a “second front” of the Allied offensive against Germany.

With Stalin’s takeover of Eastern Europe, the wartime alliance ended, and the Cold War began.


In the midst of starting of the war, In 1939 the Nazis secretly signed an unofficial pact (a Nonaggression pact)with the Soviets for the agreement of claiming and dividing the lands of Poland between them, west for the Germans and the east for the Soviets.

Then there happened the ‘December War’  against Finland in December. This didn’t go well with the Americans and led President Franklin Roosevelt to condemn the Soviet Union publicly as a “dictatorship” and to impose a “moral embargo” on the export of certain products to the Soviets. 

December War (Winter War) Nov30,1939 – March12,1940

Winter war also called the Russo – Finnish war, waged by the Soviet Union against Finland at the beginning of World War II following the conclusion of the German-Soviet Nonaggression pact(August 23, 1939).

During the 1920s the Finnish government, wary of the threat posed by the Soviet Union, pursued a defense alliance with Estonia, Latvia, and Poland.

However, that effort was squelched when the Finnish parliament chose not to accept the agreement. The Finnish-Soviet nonaggression pact of 1932 was directed at the same concern but failed to stop Finnish fears of Soviet expansionism.

Following the invasion, defeat, and partitioning of Poland by Germany and the Soviets in 1939, the Soviet Union sought to push its border with Finland on the Karelian Isthmus westward in an attempt to buttress the security of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) from potential German attack.

The Soviets also endeavored to gain possession of several Finnish islands in the Gulf of Finland and to secure a 30-year lease for a naval base at Hanko (Hangö).

The Soviet proposals for those acquisitions included an offer to exchange Soviet land. When Finland refused, the Soviet Union launched an attack on November 30, 1939, beginning the Russo-Finnish War.

The formal end of the Soviet-Finnish conflict came with the signing of a peace treaty in Paris on February 10, 1947.

Viewpoints of the countries :

Even though they were allies during the war there were many commons mistrusts among both of them and Stalin alleged that the west’s mainly the British and the USA were deliberately not helping the Soviets much when it was fighting Germany. Here is the little mistrust which later turned them into enemies.

Soviet viewpoint 

  • The Soviets wanted to make sure that they never again face an invasion. Germany had invaded in 1914 and 1941. Stalin wanted to protect Russia.
  • Stalin wanted compensation as the USSR had suffered the loss of 28 million soldiers.
  • Stalin did not trust the West as they had fought against the Communists in the Civil war of 1918-1919.
  • Stalin believes that the British and the USA wanted Russia to destroy itself fighting Germany.

USA Viewpoint

  • The USA and Britain had fought six years fighting Germany. They did not want to see another dictator take control over Europe.
  • There was a fear that Stalin would treat the people of Eastern Europe badly. Britain was very angry about the way that Russia had treated Poland by setting up a pro-communist government in Poland.
  • The Yalta Conference(meeting of the heads of governments of the allies to discuss the post-war reorganization) was held in February 1945. The allies had to decide how Germany is going to be ruled :
    • Germany was divided into four zones. France, the USA, USSR, and Britain would occupy each zone. France accepted as one of the powers as allies did not want USSR to have much land.
    • Berlin would also be divided between four allies
    • Poland’s borders were changed. Poland was given land in the west taken from Germany and lost land to the USSR.
    • Stalin promised to hold free elections in Eastern Europe that were occupied by the Soviets.
    • USSR would join the war against the Japanese.

The misshapen time (1945)

When Roosevelt was the president, he and Stalin understood very well that they had worked together to maintain peace, and neither instigated the other. In fact, they had an agreement that the US will provide aid to help the Soviets to repair the damages post WW2.

When Roosevelt died, his vice-president Harry.S. Truman had no idea what was going on. He was not even aware of the atomic bomb development the USA has been working on.

Truman thought he alone could only defeat the Japanese by throwing the bombs, whereas the US and Soviets had a pact that Soviets would attack Japan from the North, especially, Manchuria. 

In a meeting(Postdam) between Truman, Churchill, and Stalin he tried to show his authority by saying he has a bomb which far superior. In the course of time, this encouraged the nuclear arms race, the biggest reason for the tensions.

The Yalta conference, Feb 4-11 1945 (Crimea conference)

The aim of the conference was to shape a post-war peace that represented not just a collective security order but a plan to give self-determination to the liberated peoples of post-Nazi Europe.

The last meeting of Roosevelt with Churchill and Stalin. To discuss the treatment of the Polish problem: the Western-allied leaders abandoning their support of the Polish government.

They agreed that Poland should be compensated in the West for the eastern territories that USSR had seized in 1939. 

This conference eased a little bit of tension between the US and Soviets but this didn’t stop here.

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