Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

The outcome of the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg trial for espionage in 1951 and their subsequent execution in 1953 was directly related to the political climate at that time. The governmentís evidence against the Rosenbergs was not overwhelming, but due to a combination of fear and political pressure, the guilty verdict was inevitable. Even though Julius did not deliver the secrets of the atomic bomb to Moscow, nor did they cause the Korean War, as Judge Kaufman claimed, the pair were sentenced to death. Their death confirmed their guilt because America would never kill innocent people. Their execution also reinforced the heinous nature of their crime and other soviet spysí crimes as well. The fear of communism and the cold war sealed the fate for Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

The cold war was the general term for the post-1945 political, ideological, strategic and military conflict between the western allies led by the United States and the Soviet Union and other communist countries. 1 This global confrontation was fuel by mutual fear and distrust. Both camps defaulted on postwar agreements which, led to further alienation.2 The end of WWII saw Europe economically devastated and in political turmoil. 3 The defeat of Germany left the European continent vulnerable to outside influence. In addition to the economic strength shown by the western allies, the United States not only had nuclear capabilities, but also without hesitation used the power twice. 4

The Soviet Union, in an effort to contract the economic and military might of the United States and its allies, set about tightening its grasp on the east European countries it had occupied during WWII. 5 In the years between 1945 and 1948 the Soviet Union gained control of Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia. The Soviet Union hoped that by adding these separate governments and militaries, it could offset the United States nuclear capabilities and provide its western boarder with a buffer zone. 6 Though the Soviet Union was actively developing its own nuclear capabilities, the communist power realized that the U.S. had used its atomic bomb with devastating results. 7

Although the United States was putting much fear into the hearts of many Soviets, the post WWII conflict was affecting the United States in much the same way. The United States was worried about the leader of the Soviet Union and his power over many countries. 5 The United States would come to realize that this would not be an easy fight to win.

The leader of the Soviet Union at that time was a man named Joseph Stalin. He had much control over peopleís ideas and beliefs and he used that to his advantage. 8 The United States feared his leadership because of his power and his dishonesty. Stalin went back on his word to create a more democratic government inside the Soviet Union, and took total control of Poland when he said he would not at the Yalta conference in 1945. 5

Iran became the starting point of East-West confrontation. The United States and the Soviet Union had occupied parts of Iran during WWII in order to protect allied oil supplies. Both countries agreed to withdraw at warsí end. But in 1945 the Soviet Union refused to withdraw its troops. The conflict ended in 1946 when the USSR pulled out its troops in return for oil rights in Iran. 9 Later in 1946, Stalin gave a speech declaring ideological war against the West. 10 To counter Stalinís aggressive actions in 1947, the president proposed the Truman Doctrine. The Truman Doctrine was designed to give military aid to Greece in its battle against communist-backed rebel forces. 11 It also gave economic aid to Turkey, whose economy was being stressed by the need to maintain a large army in order to resist the USSR and its demand for a naval base within its boundaries. President Trumanís pitch to Congress was meant to scare the American people into action. It succeeded in getting the Greek-Turkish aid bill passed and it also set the tone for the cold war. Less than a year later the United States pressured Iran to take back the previously granted oil rights to the USSR, thus creating more suspicion between the two superpowers.

After seeing favorable results from the Truman Doctrine, the