To what extent were Cold War tensions exacerbated by the Vietnam War thereby undermining US Soviet relations
Differences and rivalry exist between countries based on philosophical and political differences. Maybe there is rivalry that have existed between two countries with greater implications in the whole word than the rivalry between the Soviet Union and United States during the 20th century. These two nations were separated by the vastly different social, economic and political philosophies. The period of tension and rivalry between the Soviet Union and United States is termed Cold War. Cold war had the potential of causing the end of this world1. In the meantime, the Soviet Union was resenting the interventionist, arms buildup and bellicose rhetoric approach taken by the American officials to international relations. Cold War was escalating is such a hostile and tense atmosphere5.
The Cold War The Cold War was a proxy conflict lasting foe decades between communist nations led by Soviet Union and Unite states and non-communist nations led by United States. In this conflict, both nations were trying hard to dominate and control the entire world with their ideologies6. The war is known as Cold War since it never involved any actual or physical confrontation inform of shooting war between the two nations. In other instances, the competition and rivalry between the ideologies of the two nations were in the form of competing to land their man on the moon or even in the athletic competitions. The aim of these competitions was to demonstrate which nation was more superior. Basically, the Cold War revolved around five key points: it was a period of paranoia, suspicion, and tension which started after the end of World War II lasting until 1990s; Cold War was cultural, ideological and political struggle between the communist nations Asia and Eastern Europe and the west democratic capitalist nations; by the 1950s, the communist nations and capitalist nations of Europe were divided by the ‘Iron Curtain’ whereas the Asian hemisphere was being transformed by the Chinese communist victory; the foreign policy of the US was depending on the Truman doctrine and containment of the communist nations that had promised to support the nations from the risk of falling under communist regime; the interest of America soon turned to Vietnam in which Viet Minh and his closeness to China was at the risk of succumbing to the communist regime10.
The Relationship between American and Soviet Union after the Cuban Missile Crisis After the Cuban Missile crisis, both the Soviet Union and United States realized how close they were close to starting nuclear war. Although the withdrawal of the Soviet Union embarrassed Khrushchev, and some of the advisors of President John F. America did not believe what the Soviet Union was telling them regarding the Missile sites and the missiles since their evidence contradicted the claims by the Soviet Union. After the crisis, there was fear of nuclear destruction. As a result, both Soviet Union and America built there nuclear arsenal and had enough weapons that would destroy the world. After the crisis, the two sides stepped back from the harmful rhetoric and made attempts in finding a common ground15.
Because nuclear destruction was not beneficial to either of the sides, efforts were made to prevent the scenario. They did not want to remain a colony of France. From 1946-1954, Ho Chi together with his communists group engaged the French in fierce guerilla-like war. The United States began sending for help to the French against the communists group led by Ho Chi. United States was against another government led by communists in Asia. However, the communists’ forces in Vietnam captured French Fort in 1954. The intervention of the United States in the Vietnam War started after the Second World War. This later escalated into a full commitment from United States between 1955 and 1975. The involvement of the United States in the South Vietnam dated back 20 years of economic and political action20.
This had a common aim of ending the increasing domination of communism in Vietnam. During this time, United States was backing the French forces that were fighting in Vietnam. The eventual losers was the people of South Vietnam. Majority of the people who were left in Vietnam endured reeducation camps, forced labor, oppression and poverty. About 1. 5 people fled the nation after 1975 while some others perished while on a flight away from the nation. About 1 million people ultimately settled in the US while the common stereotype of Vietnamese-American was among the overachievement and assimilation24. The terrain and climate neutralized the control of air and technological superiority of the Americans. The Communists groups, having endured this land for centuries, had an upper hand over the Americans, especially since the American troops were coming from highly urbanized and industrialized environment28.
Domino Theory Domino theory was a policy of the Cold War which suggested that the communist governments in one country would quickly cause communists takeovers in the neighboring nations, with each of nations falling just a perfectly aligned rows of dominos. The American government justified its involvement in the Vietnam War using the discredited domino theory, in which it supported the non-communist South Vietnam. In fact, the failure by the US to prevent the victory of communists in Vietnam had less impact than the proponents of this theory had assumed, with the exception of Cambodia and Laos, communism could not spread across Southeast Asia. Eisenhower and his vice Richard Nixon believed in the Domino theory. That is the reason they supported Dinh Diem of South Vietnam, with the aim of ensuring that South Vietnam did not fall under communism.
According to Vice President Richard Nixon, if Indochina was to fall under communism, Thailand would be left in an almost impossible position33. This would also be true for Malaya with its tin and rubber. This was true for Indonesia as well. During the war, the war, the American military were running into the skies streaking with the surface-to-missiles and thick with the ack-ack salvoes. All the American aircraft waves were blasted from the skies as the Vietnamese were firing ceaselessly since they were aware that more of the Russian supplies were on the way37. Role and Perspective of American on the Vietnam War In a broad sense, the intervention of America in the Vietnam War was as result of two key phenomena in the postwar era: the start of the Cold War and dissolution of the colonial empires13.
The weakening of the European powers and rise of nationalism combined after the end of World War II destroying the colonial system that was an established feature of the politics of the world for centuries. The changes of such magnitude rarely occur, and if they do, they bring conflict and turmoil. The Vietnam War was largely perceived by the United States in terms of its conflict and rivalry with Soviet Union. The Vietminh and Ho were viewed by the officials of the United States as the instruments used by the Soviet drive to dominate the world, controlled and directed by the Kremlin of which its view was not challenged in any serious way until when America was involved in the full-scale intervention in the Vietnam War41.
There are particular reasons why the policy of the United States has attached significance and focus to Vietnam after 1950. According to the Domino Theory, the fall Vietnam is likely to cause loss of all the Indochina and Southeast Asia, and the implications extended beyond. Communists had taken over China. Involvement in large scale and direct war between the opposing powers would result into enormous damage to both belligerent powers. The third parties in such proxy wars may be the local governments supported or built by the opposing powers or terrorist groups, mercenaries, or armed forces that would strike opponents without causing a full-scale war. In the Vietnam War, the opposing powers were the Soviet Union and the United States while the third party was Vietnam44.
This is why the Vietnam War is believed to have played a key role in the exacerbation of the Cold War tensions and the rivalry between Soviet Union and United States The question of the causes of a war is usually complex, and for the Vietnam War, it is particularly so. The direct involvement of America in the War spanned for a period of about a quarter century from America’s decision to assist France to suppress the Vietminh revolution in February 1950 to the of Saigon in 1975, April45. Furthermore, the support provided by China and Soviet Union was neither unconditional, unlimited nor unequivocal. There is sufficient evidence that at several crucial points during the Vietnam War, the three countries never shared anything that approaches unanimity of purpose48.
All these are much clearer today than they were at the time of the war and for about 20 years, United States policymakers saw the Vietnam War as part of their extensive struggle with communists and communism. Another key assumption followed in which the loss of Vietnam by the United States would threaten their interest which was deemed vital. This is ironical because until 1940, Vietnam was of no significance to the United States and they had not shown any interest in Vietnam as well. The assumptions that were shared by the Harry S. Truman administration to Lyndon B. Johnson administration claimed that the conversion of Vietnam to Communism would cause a political disaster at home53. This assumption was also stemming from the perceived lessons in history: the divisive and rancorous debate after the loss of People’s Republic of China in 1949 as well as its exploitation by the Republicans at the 1952 polls54.
Thus, it was obvious that no democratic state, especially United States, that would survive after losing Vietnam to communism. It is important to note that the trends in supporting the Vietnam War were similar to those of the Korean War, another proxy war that was used to escalate the Cold War57. The use of containment policy in Vietnam seemed in retrospect misguided. The communist bloc was torn by the division among the nationalists from the outset. It was not a monolith. The international situation was not a zero-sum game. This exacerbated the Cold War because America was angered that Soviet Union were assisting their enemies against them. The Vietnam War was shown on TV, also called TV War, being the first war to be shown on a TV.
United States would then see their troops die on their national television. This angered United States and the anger of America was towards Soviet Union whom they accused of assisting Vietnam who was publicly humiliating and killing their troops. Also, the American troops lost hope and they were no giving 100% in the war61. The dominoes, outside Indochina never fell. On the contrary, the non-communist nations in the Southeast Asia prospered attaining unprecedented stability. In the 1970s, Soviet Union continued building up its military, and maybe spurred by the failure by the US to intervene Ethiopia, Zaire and Angola. Like the US, however, Soviet Union exceeded their grasp and were lured into Afghanistan65. Conclusion In summary, the image of Vietnam War comes through the fog of the politics of Cold War.
United States eventually lost the War and Vietnam became a communist state. This made Soviet Union very happy and even gave them the confidence to humiliate United States who had been angered already by the fact that the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China were offering assistance to Vietnam to fight against them. As a result, many American soldiers were killed in the war and they were embarrassingly defeated as well. Therefore, the Vietnam War exacerbated the Cold War tensions and undermined the relationship between Soviet Union and United States. References Becker, Stefanie. , San Diego State University, 2015. Cooper, Andrew F. , ed. Niche diplomacy: Middle powers after the Cold War. Springer, 2016. Fire Across the Sea: The Vietnam War and Japan 1965-1975.
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