Lesson Objectives:- The Monroe Doctrine
- The Era of Internationalism
- Containment Policy
- Cold War conflicts
- The end of the Soviet Union
After the Revolutionary War, it was hardly feasible for the United States to be involved in foreign affairs. We needed time to grow the new country we had just formed and start expanding our own borders. Louisiana was purchased in 1803 and Texas was annexed in 1845. Parts of Mexico were added in 1848 and then Alaska in 1867. Hawaii was annexed in 1898.
This general attitude towards foreign policy was best defined by the Monroe Doctrine, a policy statement made by President James Monroe in 1823. He declared that the United States would not accept any new European intervention in the Western Hemisphere. In return, the United States would not meddle in European affairs.
This was an example of Isolationist Foreign Policy, a policy of abstaining from an active role in international affairs or alliances, which characterized U.S. foreign policy toward Europe during most of the 1800s.
Winning the Spanish-American War in 1898 added Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines to our properties abroad. We joined World War I in 1917. One motive was that Germany was sinking ships headed to Britain even if they were American passenger ships. After World War I, for a time, we went back to our isolationist ways.
When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, that effectively ended isolationism and we were back at war. We emerged from the war with our economy even stronger than it had been before the war. This combined with the possession of nuclear weapons meant we had become the world's superpower.
To eliminate Adolf Hitler, the Soviet Union and the United States had become temporary allies. The war was barely over, however, before the Soviet Union began to install Communist governments all over Eastern Europe. In response, the United States helped rearm Western Europe. The Cold War had begun.
The Cold War with the Soviet Union brought about the Containment Policy. Containment was a U.S. diplomatic policy adopted by the Truman administration to contain Communist power within its existing boundaries.
It was expressed clearly in the Truman Doctrine, a policy adopted by President Harry Truman in 1947 to halt Communist expansion.
There was no actual direct military conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union, but the Truman Doctrine did lead us to enter military conflicts in two Communist-led countries.
We entered the Korean War to prevent a South Korean defeat. Just as we were about to defeat North Korea, China entered on the North's side. That created a stalemate and an armistice was signed in 1953 leaving North and South Korea as two separate countries as they are to this day.
A similar situation took place in Vietnam and we entered to help the South against Communist North Vietnam. We lost 58,000 troops and left the war in 1973 before it was over. The North defeated the South and became one Vietnam.
In 1962, Cuba expressed fears of an American invasion so the Soviet Union placed missiles there. Instead of invading, President Kennedy set up a Naval blockade around the island. The Soviet Union agreed to remove its missiles and the United States agreed not to invade Cuba.
We finally entered a period of Détente, which is a French word meaning, "a relaxation of tensions." The term characterized U.S.-Soviet relations as they developed under President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
A series of arms agreements were signed between the U.S. and the Soviet Union starting with the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT 1) in 1972. These agreements were designed to reduce the amount of offensive weapons each side could deploy. With the absolute power to annihilate each other, it was in both sides’ interest to limit their own abilities.
The current limit with Russia is set to 1,550 warheads for each country under an agreement called the New START, signed by President Obama and then-Russian president Dmitry Medvedev in 2010.
The Berlin Wall came down in 1990 and Germany was unified. The Soviet bloc appeared to have been released from Soviet Control. And then almost overnight, the Soviet Union itself dissolved the day after Christmas, 1991.
Vladimir Putin became president of Russia in 2000. He was elected the second president after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He engineered elections so that one of his supporters became president for one term in 2008 and then Putin took back over in 2012.
The concerns the U.S. has at this point is over Russia's aggressiveness. Under Putin, Russian troops entered Georgia in 2008 and also annexed part of the Ukraine in 2014. Reluctant to risk military conflict with Russia, President Obama responded with a series of sanctions.