How the Cold War Shaped the United States Foreign Policy

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  966 Words
Date:  2022-05-06


Foreign policy is used as a determinant as to how America carries out its relations with other countries. It is fashioned to further their national interests around the world which are there to assure of her security in many aspects. Her national interests shape the foreign policy which ranges from political, economic, military, ideological as well as their humanitarian benefits.

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An Overview of the Cold War and its Effect on the US Foreign Policy

The cold war can be said to be a period of heightened tension as well as competition between the superpowers of that time which had no direct military involvement. The tension was between the Capitalist bloc spearheaded by America and Communist bloc, which was led by the Soviets. Before the cold war period, the U.S had adopted an isolationist foreign policy which she used to protect her interests. The policy was threatened by communism prior and during the period of the cold war (Desch, 2008). Evidently, the foreign policy that guarded America's interest has changed over time, a phenomenon that is depicted by the US overall national interest. After the cold war, her main national interest was to protect its independence to avoid getting colonized by their neighboring power wielding European nations. As documented in the Monroe Doctrine, her central foreign policy was to cut off any attempts by the European countries to continue colonizing the Western Hemisphere (Foner, 2008).

Throughout the nineteenth century, America's efforts were geared towards creating a country that covered the continent which led to them, avoiding any foreign entanglement. The U.S became greatly industrialized, and with this confidence, she began looking for new international markets as well as new colonies (Desch, 2008). After the foreign policy of isolationism became outdated, the policy of intervention or containment, a policy that made sure communism did not spread beyond the countries the U.S already had their influence under was adopted. After the World War two, a drastic change in her foreign policy was witnessed as above mentioned. This saw them initiate the founding of the United Nations, where they pumped in a lot of cash through the Marshall Plan to bring the war-torn European countries to their feet. Through this, new alliances were created, the main one being the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

According to Forner (2008), the main agenda of United States' foreign policy after the cold war made sure that the Soviet Union and its communist ideology was contained. The cold war saw America and her allies compete with the Soviets and her allies ideologically, politically, militarily, as well as economically. To show their prowess in military power, they both formed huge military armies and went into a manufacturing spree of nuclear weapons. The tension was never enough to take these two giants into war, but it sparked ugly Vietnamese and Korean wars with the United States. The cold war came to a near end when the Soviet Union and her allies exhausted their coffers, which meant they could not compete effectively with the mighty west. This unexpected event left America as the only power wielding giant in a new world that was no longer governed by the ideology of putting the Soviet Union and her allies in check. Below is an evolution of the American foreign policy.


This policy did not end with the U.S victory over the Soviets in the World War two, but instead, it made this America's foreign policy for the rest of the century. The cold war, which was a period of military tension, political conflicts as well as economic competition still existed after the World War Two (1939-1945) between the two blocs. Nonetheless, there were no physical military clashes between them, but instead, they took this conflict to another new level, which was in the nuclear arms race and technological advancements (Forner, 2008).

Truman Doctrine and Containment Policy

This foreign policy set by the then U.S. President Harry S Truman on the 12th of March, 1947 and stated that the United States of America would give economic and military aid to Greece and Turkey to make sure they do not lean on the Soviets side. This policy was to prevent the growth and expansion of communism to other new nations. The United States of America and her allies used the containment of communism as their main weapon leading to the formation of new alliances such as NATO (Forner, 2008).

Marshall Plan

This plan was funded by the United States to place into operation a quick recovery of European countries from the war that had crippled most of them economically as well as militarily. The Soviets, however, attempted to frustrate these efforts by supporting some of the pro-communist countries economically as well as militarily (Desch, 2008).

Reagan Doctrine

During the 1980's, the United States heightened economic, military as well diplomatic pressure on the Soviets, a move that came at a time when they were experiencing economic stagnation. The then USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev introduced two policies meant to bring about reforms, mainly the reconstruction in 1987 and the openness in 1985 (Desch, 2008). In 1991, the cold war came to an end with the collapse of the Soviet Union, which left the United States of America as the dominant superpower


After the Cold War, different constitutional principles have shaped the United States of America foreign policy protecting and advancing her interests to the rest of the world. Thus, it can be deduced that the cold war led to a shift in America's foreign policy from that of isolationism to one of intervention.


Desch, M. C. (2008). America's liberal illiberalism: The ideological origins of overreaction in US foreign policy. International Security, 32(3), 7-43.

Foner, E. (2008). Voices of freedom: A documentary history. In E. Foner, Voices of freedom: A documentary history. (p. 57). New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

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How the Cold War Shaped the United States Foreign Policy. (2022, May 06). Retrieved from

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