THE LATEST THINKING
The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.
Myths about Russia/Soviet Union (Part II)
Truman's ploy to drop atomic bombs on Japan to make the Russians more pliable did not work. His hard line stance against the Russians led directly to the Cold War, whereby America viewed Russia as the enemy. It need not have been this way.
Over the objections of the majority of his generals, Truman went ahead and dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki for two reasons. First he wanted to test the bombs in a real-life scenario, and second he wanted to send a brutal message to the Soviets that America was an enemy to be feared.
In deciding to drop atomic bombs on Japan, much was made of the potential for heavy American casualties during an invasion of Japan. Honoring his pledge to Roosevelt at the Yalta Conference, the Soviets joined the war against Japan in August.
Some argue that the Japanese feared the Soviet army more than atomic weapons and were ready to surrender, obviating the need for invasion if assurances could be made regarding the fate of the Japanese Emperor, a god-like figure to the Japanese people. However, tough guy Truman adhered to the demand for unconditional surrender instead of telling the Japanese they could keep the Emperor. Like other American myths, the bombs had nothing to do with Japan’s surrender.
Nor did the atom bombs make the Soviets any more pliable. On the contrary, it made the Soviets neurotic and the mistrust toward the U.S. grew quickly.
It forced the Soviets to maintain a very large army over extensive territories to lessen the potential losses from another U.S. nuclear attack. By sending a ruthless and unnecessary message to the Soviets that America was unrestrained by humanitarian considerations and would use the bomb against them if they continued to interfere in Europe and Asia, Truman cemented the arms race and the Cold War.
U.S. belligerence toward the Soviets heightened. Here are just a few examples:
· Roosevelt had talked openly and post-war loans to help the Soviet rebuild. In the end the loans were a paltry sum compared to what was given Britain.
· Soviet policies in Eastern Europe were heavily criticized despite America’s exclusionary policies in Italy, Greece and Japan.
· Communist hating Lieutenant General Lesley Groves was still in charge of the nuclear program and threatened a preemptive strike against anyone who attempted to build atomic bombs.
· The propaganda against the Soviet Union was so intense that in 1946 26 percent of Americans believed the Soviets were out to conquer the world. This despite the enormous structural and economic problems the Soviets were facing at home.
· The Soviets were isolated at the United Nations.
· The West insisted on rebuilding West Germany which made the Soviets very nervous.
· When the Soviets stayed in northern Iran a little too long, Truman threatened to drop an atom bomb on them.
· The U.S. continued to test nuclear weapons.
· The U.S. cut off desperately needed reparations payments from West Germany
To counter the supposed Soviet threat, the Truman Doctrine was an American foreign policy initiative that promised U.S. political, military and economic assistance to all democratic nations under threat from external or internal authoritarian forces. It was promulgated to counter the invented menace of Soviet geopolitical expansionism.