1.1 Theme 1 - Rivalry, Mistrust and Accord (ATL)

Theme 1: Rivalry, Mistrust and Accord

Here are some different activities that you can do for this theme within the topic of the Cold War. There is a mixture of source activities, summary activities, analytical activities, tasks to develop essay writing, individual and team work.

The second part of Theme 1 is here: 1.2 Theme 1 - Rivalry, Mistrust and Accord (ATL) 

Videos and teaching ideas for videos along with sample essays are covered on separate pages.  

Note that the specific polices of each of the US Presidents in carrying out containment are covered under Paper 3, Topic 16: ATL: Containment under Truman and Eisenhower and ATL: US Foreign policy - Kennedy to Carter

Guiding questions

How did events 1944 - 46 contribute to growing tension between the USA and the USSR?

Why did the USA and USSR emerge as superpowers in 1945?

Why was Europe divided politically, economically and militarily by 1949?

How important was ideology/economics/great power rivalry in the development of the cold war?

Why did the Cold War spread to Asia?

Why did North Korea attack South Korea in 1950?

What was the impact of the Korean War on international relations?

How successful was peaceful coexistence?

1. How did events 1944 - 46 contribute to growing tension between the USA and the USSR?

Despite being Allies in the war from 1941, tensions emerged during the war and at the war time conferences  which helped to lay the foundations for conflict after 1945.

As the Soviets advanced through Eastern Europe towards Germany, they 'liberated' countries from Nazi rule. As they advanced on Poland, the Polish underground resistance led by the Home Army  launched an uprising in Warsaw to coincide with the arrival of the Red Army. However the Red Army halted its advance when it got to the suburbs of Warsaw.

Task One

ATL: Thinking and research skills

Read the documents on this website page regarding British and American responses to the actions of the Red Army in not helping the Warsaw uprising in Poland as it advanced through Europe towards Germany

1. What can you learn form these exchanges about

    a. the attitude of the Soviet Union towards the situation in Poland

    b. the attitude of the British government towards the situation in Poland

    c. the attitude of Roosevelt

2. What hints are there that this event could impact on relations between America, Britain and the Soviet Union after the end of the war?

3.  What reasons could the Soviets have had for not helping the Polish underground resistance?

4. Also research the Katyn Forest Massacre which was uncovered in 1943. What were the reasons for the Soviets carrying out this massacre?

Note that there is an excellent BBC docudrama called Behind Closed Doors: World War Two.  Episode 4 is about the issue of Poland at the end of the war, negotiations between the West and Stalin over Poland and the attempts of the West to help the Warsaw uprising.  It is not on YouTube but can be found here.

Another useful video for showing the attitude of Roosevelt towards Stalin and the issue of Poland (along with timings and questions) can be found on this page: 5. Economic and diplomatic effects of the Second World War In this video David Reynolds explores the aims that Roosevelt had for the post war order and how this brought him into conflict with Churchill.

Task Two

ATL: Thinking skills

Watch this CNN Cold War video (episode 1) from 31 to 35 minutes where it covers the Yalta Conference

  1. What was the 'mistake' made by Roosevelt?
  2. Why were the Soviets in a strong position to take Poland and much of Eastern Europe?
  3. What decisions over Poland and Eastern Europe were decided at Yalta?
  4. What was decided about Germany and the war?

Task Two

ATL: Thinking skills

Go to The Churchill Archive where you will find a task on the extent to which the 'Big Three' at Yalta were united in their aims; there are several sources to help you in the task. (Also teacher's notes)

Also see David Reynold's video on Roosevelt on this page: 5. Economic and diplomatic effects of the Second World War for more discussion on how Roosevelt and Churchill differed in their approach towards Stalin's actions in Europe.

Task Three

ATL: Thinking skills

Continue watching the video above from 42 minutes 20 seconds

  1. What was Truman's attitude towards Stalin at Potsdam?
  2. How did this differ to what had happened at Yalta?
  3. Why did Stalin not have to join the war in the Pacific?
  4. Why was Stalin not surprised about the Atomic Bomb?

Task Three

ATL: Thinking skills

Read the following extract from John Lewis Gaddis' book, The Cold War.

What point is he making regarding the impact of the dropping of the A bomb on US-USSR relations?

In addition to seeing the bomb as shortening the war and thus denying the Russians any significant role in defeating and occupying Japan, Stalin also saw the bomb as a means by which the United States would seek to extract post-war concessions from the Soviet Union: 'A-bomb diplomacy is American policy'. There was something in this. Truman had used the bomb chiefly to end the war, but he and his advisers did indeed expect their new weapon to induce a more conciliatory attitude on the part of the USSR. They devised no strategy to produce this result, however, while Stalin quickly devised a strategy to deny it to them. He took an even harder line than before in pushing Soviet objectives, if only to demonstrate that the could not be intimidated. 'It is obvious,' he told his top advisers late in 1945, 'that ... we cannot achieve anything serious if we begin to give in to intimidation or betray uncertainty.' (Gaddis page 26, The Cold War, Penguin, 2005)

Task Four

ATL: Thinking skills and self management skills

Research further the issues discussed and the decisions taken at the two main conferences held at the end of the war. Complete the grid with your findings.

Grid on wartime conferences

Task Five

Thinking and research skills

Before doing the next task, watch episode 2 of the CNN Cold War series: the link and questions can be found here: 5. The Cold War: Videos and activities CNN Series 

Make notes on each of the following issues/events of 1944 - 46. In each case make sure you explain what happened or what the issue was and how it helped to raise tension between the USA and the USSR:

  • the Warsaw uprising
  • the opening of a second front
  • the dropping of the A bomb on Hiroshima
  • the role of the Red Army in Eastern Europe
  • Salami tactics
  • the issue of Germany
  • Soviet actions in Iran
  • Kennan's 'Long Telegram'
  • Churchill's Fulton Speech
  • Greek civil war
  • Growth of communist support in Italy and France

2. Why did the USA and USSR emerge as superpowers in 1945?

Task One

ATL: Thinking skills

1. Read the extracts on the attached sheet on why USSR and USA emerged as superpowers.

a. Decide what point each extract is making and whether it is giving a reason linked to military,economic, or political factors.

b. Create a mind map to show the military, economic and political factors which led the emergence of the superpowers; use the sources to give you detailed evidence. Can you think of any other factors?

c. In pairs discuss whether the fact that two powers had emerged as superpowers means that a clash was inevitable regardless of their differences in ideology. In other words, to what extent was the grown in tension after 1945 more about traditional Great Power rivalry?

Why did the USA and the USSR emerge as superpowers

3. Why was Europe divided politically, economically and militarily by 1949?

Note that episodes 2 and 3 of the CNN Cold War videos are excellent for helping students to understand the development of tension in the years up to 1949. Links and questions to go with the videos can be found here: Videos and questions: CNN Cold War Series

The years 1947 to 1949 saw a series of events that changed the face of Europe; the Grand Alliance broke down and in its place Europe became divided politically, militarily and economically. There were a series of key events that led to this breakdown. As you have seen, the war-time conferences and Stalin's actions in Eastern Europe and in Iran laid the foundations for conflict and sent warning signals to the West. These led to Kennan's telegram and to Churchill's Iron Curtain speech in Fulton, Missouri. However, tension increased significantly with the the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan and it was the Berlin Blockade which led to the political and military division of Europe.

Task One: Truman Doctrine

ATL: Thinking skills

Read this excerpt from the Truman Doctrine (the full speech can be found here)

1. Truman does not explicitly mention the Soviets here. However, what events in Europe is he referring to in this speech?

2. What, according to this speech, is the role that the US is now going to take in Europe?

3. With reference to origin, purpose and content, what is the value of this speech for historians studying the origins of the Cold War?

At the present moment in world history nearly every nation must choose between alternative ways of life. The choice is too often not a free one.

One way of life is based upon the will of the majority, and is distinguished by free institutions, representative government, free elections, guarantees of individual liberty, freedom of speech and religion, and freedom from political oppression.

The second way of life is based upon the will of a minority forcibly imposed upon the majority. It relies upon terror and oppression, a controlled press and radio; fixed elections, and the suppression of personal freedoms.

I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.

I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way.

I believe that our help should be primarily through economic and financial aid which is essential to economic stability and orderly political processes.

Task Two: Marshall Plan

ATL: Thinking skills

1. Watch the CNN Cold War video on The Marshall Plan (Episode 3) and answer the questions that go with it. These can be found here: 5. The Cold War: Videos and activities CNN Series 

2. In pairs examine these Soviet cartoons on the Marshall Plan; what is the overall message that these cartoons give re the Soviet view of the Marshall Plan?

This podcast from BBC History Extra has economist Benn Steil explaining in more detail the background to the Marshall Plan and its impact on Cold War relations and European recovery.

Task Three: Berlin Blockade

ATL: Research and self-management skills

Germany's geographic position in the centre of Europe and its potential economic strength made it an area of vital concern to all countries. In addition, the fact that it had been invaded on several fronts by several enemies meant that, unlike Japan, it was much more difficult to leave undivided at the end of the Second World War.

1. What decisions were taken at Yalta and Potsdam regarding Germany?

2. What were the aims of each of the following powers regarding Germany. Also explain why they had these aims.

  • USSR
  • France
  • USA
  • Britain

3. Why did the development of Cold War hostility make it more difficult to carry out the original aim of eventually unifying Germany?

4. In 1946, Secretary of State James F Byrnes gave a speech in Stuttgart, known as the 'Speech of Hope'. You can find a full text of the speech here.

What is the tone of this speech regarding US actions towards Germany? What promises does he make the Germans? Why might the Soviets feel uneasy about this speech?

5. General Clay wrote that 'Our first break with Soviet policy in Germany came over reparations'. What aspects of the reparations agreement that had been made at Potsdam caused disagreements?

6. What were Stalin's initial political aims for Germany? Why did these fail?

7. What was the significance of the West's decision to introduce a new currency into the Western sectors?

8. What were Stalin's aims in setting up the Berlin Blockade?

9. What were the results of the Berlin Blockade for (a) Germany (b) Berlin (c) the Cold War in Europe

Note that the Berlin Blockade was the first real 'crisis' of the Cold War and so you can use this in a 'crisis' essay.

Task Two
ATL: Self-management skills

Complete the attached grid to review the details, and significance of all of the key steps to the military, political and economic division of Europe 1945 - 49.

Grid for students to complete on the steps to the division of Europe, 1945 - 49

4. How important was ideology/economics/great power rivalry in the development of the Cold War up to 1949?

Students also need to consider the impact of ideology, economic rivalry, and fear and aggression in causing cold war tension. The following exercise is to get students to think about the events of 1945 - 49 in these terms.

Task one

ATL: thinking skills

1. Consider the grid which summarises the impact of ideological and economic factors on causing tension, as well as the fear and aggression of each power.

2. Now consider which country you consider is more to blame for the growth in tension. Bullet point the actions taken by the USA after 1945 which increased tension. Then bullet point the actions taken by the USSR.

Grid comparing the impact of ideology, economics, fear and suspicion in causing the cold war

5. Why did the Cold War spread to Asia?

'Had it not been for the fall of China and the Korean war, the Cold War as a fifty-year phenomenon involving the expenditure of billions of dollars and the destruction of millions of lives might never have happened' Randall B Woods

By 1949, it appeared that the US had been successful in containing communism; the USSR had been stopped in Berlin so the Truman Doctrine was working and was now supported by NATO. However two events shifted the balance in favour of the USSR: the USSR got the bomb and China fell to the Communist forces of Mao Zedong.

Both of these events had a profound effect on America in raising the government's fear of communism; simultaneously a Red Scare was taking place in the US which was heightened by these events and was to help shape the US response. The Red Scare heightened into a hysteria when Senator McCarthy accused members of the government as being Communist and triggered a witch hunt. (See ATL: Containment under Truman and Eisenhower)

One response of the US government was to draw up National Security Document 68 which set a new agenda for US foreign policy in the light of the new global threat.

Task One

ATL: Thinking skills

Read the conclusion of NSC 68 which can be found here.

What does this report identify as the threats facing the US?

What does it see as the aims of the USSR?

What solutions does it put forward to deal with the threats facing the USA?

How is this document both similar and different to that of the Truman Doctrine?

NSC 68 was not immediately implemented. Truman was reluctant to support a programme that would involve a massive increase of spending on defense; indeed the report called for 'annual appropriations of $50 billion, or not much below the former wartime levels'. However, the outbreak of the Korean War prompted action leading one state department official to comment 'Thank God Korea came along' - as this was the event that convinced the US public of the need for increased military spending. NSC 68 remained the basis of US foreign policy until the 1970s.

6. Why did North Korea attack South Korea in 1950?

Task One

ATL: Thinking skills

Read the extract below.

According to this extract, why was it difficult to create a united Korea after the Second World War?

The first 'hot war' of the Cold War started on 25 June 1950 when North Korea launched an invasion of South Korea with 90 000 soldiers. The roots of this conflict lay in the division of Korea after the Second World War. Japan had officially annexed Korea in 1910 and was still in occupation of Korea when the Second World War ended. The USA and USSR agreed to take joint responsibility for repatriating Japanese forces and generally establishing peace in the country. The country was divided along the 38th parallel with the USSR occupying North of this line and the USA occupying South of this line. This was intended to be a temporary arrangement. However the original plan of ultimately establishing a united Korea after a period of international trusteeship proved impossible to achieve due to growing Cold War hostility which meant that the USA and the USSR were less likely to co-operate, and the nature of the two administrations which emerged on either side of the 38th parallel. In the North, Kim Il-Sung, a young Russian-trained Communist was supported as leader by the Soviets. In the South, the elderly Syngman Rhee was supported by the US. Although these leaders were ideologically very different, both were nationalists who wanted to see a united Korea under their own leadership.

Although Truman saw Stalin as being responsible for the start of the war, the impetus for war actually came from Kim Il-Sung who put pressure on Stalin to support him in an invasion of the South. Stalin initially refused to help and only agreed after many appeals from Kim Il-Sung. Historians are unsure as the exact reason why Stalin changed his mind and agreed to help. Possibly it was because he was feeling more confident now that the Chinese had become Communist or he may have been worried about the US' new determination to turn Japan into a strong anti-Communist state; gaining influence over Korea would help to secure the Soviet position in northeast Asia. He may also have been working on the assumption that the US would not intervene as Acheson had not mentioned Korea in his 'perimeter speech'. Historian Gaddis sees this 'opportunism' of Stalin as an important factor. Meanwhile, Mao supported the invasion partly because Kim, on a visit to Mao, gave the impression that Stalin was more enthusiastic than he actually was, and also because he needed Stalin's support over his plans to invade Taiwan.

Thus both Stalin and Mao misjudged the situation; indeed historian Warren Cohen describes Stalin's actions in agreeing to support Kim as his 'most disastrous Cold War gamble'. Truman's response to the invasion was swift and resulted in a large UN force being sent to Korea to push back the North Korean forces.

Task One

ATL: Thinking and self-management skills

Create a mind map or other infographic to show the reasons why all of the key players got involved in this conflict.

(For a greater discussion on US aims and actions, look at this page ATL: Containment under Truman and Eisenhower under Guiding question 7)

For an activity on the military developments of the Korean War refer to guiding question 8 under ATL: Containment under Truman and Eisenhower 

For videos on the Korean War go to: Cold War Conflicts in Asia: videos 

7. What was the impact of the Korean War on international relations?

The Korean War globalised and militarised the Cold War. Warren Cohen writes that the war 'altered the nature of the Soviet-American confrontation, changing it from a systematic political competition into an ideologically driven, militarized conflict that threatened the very survival of the globe.'

As a result of the war, the US took the following actions:

  • Defence cuts in the conventional military forces were initiated by Eisenhower on the advice that nuclear weapons were an effective deterrent. This led to the policy of brinkmanship [see next activity].
  • West Germany was given membership of NATO in 1955 to strengthen its European alliance and in response to the Soviet's establishment of the Warsaw Pact alliance.
  • The recommendations of NSC 68 to triple the defence budget were now implemented.
  • The US established a new alliance bloc, SEATO (the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization) in 1954.  
  • The US signed a Treaty with Japan in 1952 which enabled it to maintain military bases in Japan.
  • The USA now committed itself to defend Taiwan; following the Korean War it sent Taiwan's Jiang Jieshi with military and economic aid and continued to recognise Taiwan as the only official Chinese state until as late as 1971.
  • China was now isolated by the United States.
  • The US became committed to supporting other regimes in Asia that it believed were resisting Communism; this would lead to US involvement in the Philippines and in Vietnam.

Task One

ATL: Thinking skills

1. In pairs consider the impact of the US' actions above on:

  • The USSR
  • China
  • For South East Asia
  • The Cold War in general

2. Create a mind map to show the overall results of the Korean War on international relations.

3. Why do you think that Warren Cohen describes the war as 'Stalin's most disastrous Cold War gamble'?

    8. How successful was peaceful coexistence?

    1953 saw a change in the international situation with the leaders of both superpowers changing. Following the death of Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev became premier and the Republican Eisenhower was elected in to office. Eisenhower was elected with the promise of bringing peace in the Korean War and an armistice was signed in 1953 also removing this as a major source of cold war conflict.

    For more detail and ATL on Eisenhower's New Look policy go to Paper 3, The Americas, Topic 16 ATL: Containment under Truman and Eisenhower

    Initally Khrushchev ruled as part of a triumvirate with Malenkov and Bulganin. Malenkov formulated the idea of 'a new course' with the West which was later picked up by Khrushchev who renamed it 'peaceful co-existence'. This new course was a move away from the Leninist doctrine of the inevitability of war between capitalism and communism. Khrushchev's 'Peaceful Co-existence' meant that Capitalism and Communism should accept the continuing existence of one another rather than using force to destroy each other. This did not mean that the USSR now accepted capitalism; rather that they had no need to risk nuclear war as capitalism would die out from its own weaknesses. Nor did it mean that Khrushchev intended to be any less confrontational towards the USA when the interests of the USSR were at stake - as you will see in his actions between 1956 to 1963.

    Task One

    ATL: Thinking and self-management skills

    1. Make detailed notes on each of the following in the 1950s. Make sure you indicate its role in increasing or decreasing tension.

    • New Look
    • Brinkmanship
    • Massive retaliation
    • Geneva summit
    • Open skies
    • Austrian State Treaty
    • Actions of CIA in Iran and Guatemala
    • Suez Crisis
    • Hungarian invasion
    • Eisenhower Doctrine
    • Sputnik
    • Gaither report
    • Khrushchev's visit to Camp David
    • U-2 incident
    • Paris Summit
    • Vienna Summit
    • Khrushchev's actions over Berlin

    2. Put all of these events onto a timeline. Put Soviet actions along the top and American actions along the bottom of the time line.

    3. Looking at your timeline - are there any years where there was a definite reduction in tension? Where is there an increase in tension? What factors undermined any chances of improved relations in this period? What conclusions can your draw regarding the extent to which there was an overall 'thaw' in hostility during this period?

    Note: see section on leaders for an activity on the actions of Eisenhower and Khrushchev for causing tension and there is an essay frame on Peaceful Coexistence here: Rivalry, mistrust and accord: essay writing exercises and essay plans


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