Guoguo, aged 15

“Our work for peace must begin within the private world of each one of us. To build a world without fear, we must be without fear. To build a world of justice, we must be just.” – Dag Hammarskjöld  

This quote comes from a time when the UN had to try to keep peace in a world threatened by the Cold War. By 1949, what were the dangers to peace?

During the Second World War the USA and Britainhad been allies of the USSR against Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Japan. However, they were together only because of their common enemies. Although they were an alliance, they never trusted each other. Therefore, right after the WWII,USA and Britain quickly allied together to resist Communism (theUSSR). The hostility between theUSSRand the West originally came from their opposing ideologies – Capitalism and Communism. To a Communist, capitalism was seen as being responsible for the division of society in the West into different classes, and to the leaders of theUnited Statesand other countries in the West, Communism was a threat to the very basis of their societies.  This tension between them developed steadily especially during and after the Potsdam conference, which led to 45 years of fighting that involved hatred caused by propaganda and the nuclear arms race.

The hatred between the West and the USSR was not just because of their opposing ideologies; Propaganda also played a huge role in it. Even before WWII, the USSR had already started using Propaganda against the Capitalist countries including literature, posters, false reports that contain anti-Capitalism and anti-Western Countries message etc.. The Soviet usually described itself as a savior, however most of the time the Soviet was the real aggressor. Apart from these, the USSR government also used show trial as a major propaganda tool – it forced innocent people to confess to imaginary crimes (especially practicing espionage) in order to let people believe that the Capitalists were always with them, trying to harm them.

‘Stalin felt that in order to get public support for the thing he was doing, he had to convince a great many of the people – the common people and the party members that Russia was confronted with a conspiracy on the part of the major capitalist powers to undermine the Soviet government by espionage.’

—George Kennan, the US embassy Moscow spoke before the WWII.

Those unjust messages carried by the Soviet’s propaganda misled the people and caused unnecessary hostility between the countries, which might have ended up in war. It made the people in theUSSRthink of the Capitalist as a threat to the USSR.

Another important cause of the great tension of the Cold War is the nuclear arms race. On 17 July 1945, the United States successfully tested its first atomic bomb, and on 6 August 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped in Hiroshima, Japan. This new and terrifying weapon started a nuclear arms race between the powerful countries, which became a main part of the Cold War. Having seen the great damage made by an atomic weapon,USSRfelt insecure and vulnerable; so in September 1949,USSR tested an atomic bomb successfully, several years before the USA had thought it would. Although leaders in both USA and the USSR saw the danger of nuclear weapons, they had no choice but to keep developing the nuclear weapons – Since that time, both countries felt that they had to stay a step ahead of each other in order to safeguard their own interest. This is demonstrated clearly as president Truman said when being advised on the dangers of developing the H-bombs: “Can they do it?…If so, how can we not?? ”

The use of propaganda and the development of nuclear weapons, those two were the main threats to the peace of the world. The first one resulted in hatred and fear among the people in both the USSR and the West, which led to war; and the second one raised the tensions between the West and the USSR. In order to build a better world, we need to banish these two things completely. However, ideological conflicts are necessary for the development of the world, since all the ideologies have their own problems and limitations; so instead of fighting each other, different ideologies should co-exist in a more peaceful manner and let the people choose the way the want to live themselves.


About UN News Geneva

Sharing entires to the United Nations Peace Essay competitions run by the Information Service in Geneva in 2011
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