1945–1952: The Early Cold War

The United States emerged from World War II as one of the foremost economic, political, and military powers in the world. Wartime production pulled the economy out of depression and propelled it to great profits. In the interest of avoiding another global war, for the first time the United States began to use economic assistance as a strategic element of its foreign policy and offered significant assistance to countries in Europe and Asia struggling to rebuild their shattered economies.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Harry Truman at the famous “Iron Curtain” Speech

In contrast to American unwillingness to politically or militarily entangle itself in the League of Nations, the United States became one of the first members of the international organization designed to promote international security, commerce, and law, the United Nations. The United States also took an active interest in the fate of the colonies the European powers were having difficulty maintaining. In addition to these challenges, the United States faced increasing resistance from the Soviet Union which had rescinded on a number of wartime promises. As the Soviets demonstrated a keen interest in dominating Eastern Europe, the United States took the lead in forming a Western alliance to counterbalance the communist superpower to contain the spread of communism. At the same time, the United States restructured its military and intelligence forces, both of which would have a significant influence in U.S. Cold War policy.