Historic Spotlight: Setting the Stage for the Red Scare

A meeting in Potsdam, Germany, July 1945 between Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin (Right), President Harry S. Truman (Center), and Winston Churchill (Left).

Photo credit to Encyclopædia Britannica

A meeting in Potsdam, Germany, July 1945 between Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin (Right), President Harry S. Truman (Center), and Winston Churchill (Left).

Nicholas Silva, Layout Editor

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The time between the end of the Red Summer of 1919-1920 and the Red Scare was marred by the second World War. However, it also saw many steps towards peace and national development. Employment rose, and the United Nations was officially formed in an attempt to prevent future conflict. Nonetheless, this period of relative peace was not especially destined to last.

In July 1945, Joseph Stalin, President Truman, and Winston Churchill met in Potsdam, Germany, a city on the border of the German capital of Berlin. The goal of this conference was to discuss peace in Europe and further action against Japan. However, the meeting was a failure, with very little actually being done.

It was not long before any remaining peace dissolved. In 1947, British forces were recalled from their posts in the Mediterranean, leaving Greece and Turkey exposed. Greece itself was already experiencing a communist civil war, and so it was feared that this region was ripe for Soviet take over.

In the first stages of a foreign policy known as the Truman Doctrine, President Truman asked Congress to produce funds to help aid Greece and Turkey. Despite criticism, Congress produced $400 million, which helped to effectively stabilize the region for the time being. This set the precedent for the United States to step in and protect other countries from communist influence.

The United States began sending aid across Europe to help the region recover after the war. At the same time, Truman was working to rapidly develop a plan to contain the Soviet Union, having recognized the potential threat they posed.

The United States began to reinforce western Germany, and the Soviets countered by creating a surface blockade to Western controlled areas. The United States countered with air dropped supplies until the Soviets backed off. However, the Soviet containment policies didn’t work across the board. Much of China was lost to communist rebels.

To help regulate the Soviets, the United States helped to form the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, known as NATO, which was originally composed of twelve allied nations, and served to regulate the Soviet Union, and resist communist aggression.

Then the Cold War began in earnest. In 1946 the United States created the Atomic Energy Commission to research further atomic technology and strengthen the United States nuclear arsenal. In 1949 the United States brought all of its military branches under the roof of the Department of Defense. Later that year, the Russians detonated a nuclear device of their own, shepherding the arms race.

Thus, the stage was set for the next Red Scare to begin in earnest, with grave consequences, shaping American policy and world affairs for decades to come.


Stay tuned for the final installment in this series, the Red Scare, which will be posted soon.