Quite a while ago I wrote an essay for college on the causes of the First Cold War (Seeing as in some schools of thought, the Cold War can be split into 2 distinct "conflicts" or stages) looking primarily at it from an economic standpoint.

In the end I summarised that the cold war was caused by a mixture of factors that included the relative delay in the western allies fighting on mainland Europe (Stalin push for D-Day to happen much earlier than it did), the massive difference in casualties (at it's worst it could have been as much as 15 Soviet deaths to every allied death), the fact that Europe's and Russia's economies were decimated by WW2 where as the US doubled it's GDP and profited off of the Lend Lease Programme, Stalins/Russia's Xenophobia and ideological differences.

So, my question to you is: To what extent was the Cold War caused by economic differences? or was the Cold War caused more by the the political strain between the US/UK and Russia over the events of WW2, particularly the rush for Berlin etc? or could it have been the US fear of Communism/Soviet fear of Capitalism?

As a side note, much of my research came from two books - "Inside the Kremlins Cold War" - Zubok and Pleshakov and "Russia, America and the Cold War" - McCauley.

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    Basically, you've done a great job listing the causes in steeply ascending order ofimportance... :) May 27, 2013 at 18:16

1 Answer 1


The cold war started even before the end of WW2, in fact the distrust between the USSR and the western powers predates WW2 and can be traced back to the Russian civil war where the western powers favoured the whites rather than the eventually victorious reds.
They were allies of necessity, not love, and even in the 1920s and '30s there was an active undercover war going on between intelligence agencies of the USSR and the west, espionage and counter espionage, which eventually culminated in the 1950s in the false accusations against McCarthy when he exposed a large part of the historical Soviet spy network in the US government for what it was to the great discomfort of many in high office.
So no, economics did not cause the cold war. They no doubt played a part in some countries when deciding which side to favour (think some African dictator currying favour with both the US and USSR to see who would give him the most jet fighters and tanks to decide whether to allow one or the other basing rights).

  • +1 on this answer - I think it is fundamentally correct - the cold war was decidedly a political conflict, not an economic one. But I have a bone to to pick: The cold war started even before the end of WW2 - No. Distrust and suspicion do not make a cold war. Hard to call it a cold war when Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill were allies enjoying the weather together in Yalta as they tried to decide how to divide up Europe...
    – user2590
    Aug 20, 2014 at 7:33
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    @Vector even while they were trying to decide that they were playing powergames and not trusting each other... The photo of them sitting together in the sun in Yalta was a scene set for the press to show all was nice, much like Reagan and Gorbachev parading in front of the cameras smiling when they just had failed to reach an agreement in Iceland.
    – jwenting
    Aug 20, 2014 at 7:34
  • Regardless, there was no cold war - they were allies - that probably precludes the idea of a cold war. No, things were not "hunky dory" but "cold war" is a specific term with a specific meaning - check out Wikipedia: Cold War: It was "cold" because there was no large-scale fighting directly between the two sides, although there were major regional wars in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan that the two sides supported... It's a war without direct shooting (for the most part).
    – user2590
    Aug 20, 2014 at 7:38
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    @Vector I'd call them associates rather than allies. Think "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". It's well known that Churchill especially seriously mistrusted Stalin, either Churchill or Roosevelt (can't remember which) despised de Gaulle, etc. etc. But they had a common goal and they knew they needed each other to achieve it, FOR NOW.
    – jwenting
    Aug 20, 2014 at 7:49

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