The Yalta conference (February 1945):
It was clear that Germany was losing the European war so the allies’ leaders met at Yalta to plan what would happen to Europe after Germany´s defeat. Despite their differences Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill agreed in some matters:
Stalin agreed to enter the war against japan.
They agreed that G would be divided into four zones: American, French, British and soviet.
They agreed to hunt down and punish war criminals who were responsible for the genocide.
The big 3 joint the new United Nations organization with the aim to keep peace after war.
They agreed that Eastern Europe should be seen as “a soviet sphere of influence”.
The only disagreement was what to do about Poland.
The Potsdam conference (July-august 1945)
As a second conference of the allied leaders was arranged for July 1945 in the berlin suburb of Potsdam. In the 5 months since Yalta a number of changes had taken place which would affect relationships between the leaders.
.Stalin’s armies were occupying most of Eastern Europe. Stalin’s troops controlled the Baltic States, Finland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Rumania and refugees were fleeing out of these countries fearing a communist takeover. Stalin had setup a communist government in Poland. B and USA were against this. Stalin insisted was a defensive measure against possible future attacks.
.America had a new president. In April 1945 Roosevelt died. His vice-president, Truman, replaced him. Truman was much more anti-communist and was very suspicious of Stalin.
.The allies tested an atomic bomb. On July 1945 American tested an atomic bomb at a desert site in the USA. Truman informed Stalin about it
Disagreements: there were 3 main disagreements in the Potsdam conference.
.They disagreed over what to do about with G. Stalin wanted to cripple G to protect the USSR. Truman did not wanted to repeat the same mistake of the treaty of Versailles.
.They disagreed over reparations. SV was devastated so Stalin wanted compensation from G. Truman was not agreed.
.They disagree over Soviet policy in Eastern Europe. Truman became very unhappy about Russian intentions and soon adopted a “get tough” attitude towards Stalin.
Iron curtain: the Potsdam conference ended without complete agreement on these issues. By 1946 Poland, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria and Albania had communist governments and were loyal to Stalin. Churchill describe the border between soviet controlled countries and the west as an iron curtain.
Stalin tightens his control: communist governments established throughout Eastern Europe, Stalin gradually tightened his control in each country. The secret police imprisoned anyone who opposed communist rule. In 1947 Stalin set up the communist information bureau or Cominform to co-ordinate the work of the communist parties of Eastern Europe.
The cold war: By 1946 the wartime friendship between the allies had broken down. It had been replaced by suspicious and accusation.
The distrust between the USA and the USSR was soon so great that leaders were talking in public about the threat of war between the 2 countries. Both increased their stock of weapons. Both sides took every opportunity to denounce the policies or the plans of the other. A propaganda war developed. In this atmosphere of tension and recrimination people began to talk about a cold war.
USSR: elections: were held but only one party, candidates were from communist party. Industry: owned by state, had grown rapidly in the 1920 -30, standar of living lower than in the USA, communist state individual rights: less important than the good of society.
USA: elections: free democratic elections. Industry: capitalist, business and property were privately owned. Individual rights: free of control by the government, many Americans were bitterly opposed to communism.
The reaction of the west: the western powers were alarmed by Stalin’s takeover of Eastern Europe. They agreed that Eastern Europe would be “a soviet sphere of influence” and that Stalin would heavily influence this region. They had not expected such complete communist domination. Stalin saw his policy in Eastern Europe as making himself secure, but Truman could only see the spread of communism. By 1948, Greece and Czechoslovakia were the only eastern Europeans countries nor controlled by communist governments, even Italy and France vulnerable to communist takeover.
Greece: when the Germans retreated from Greece in 1944 there were two rival groups: the monarchists and the communists who wanted to rule the country. The communist wanted Greece to be a soviet republic. The monarchist wanted the return of the king of Greece. The British supported the monarchists and the king return to power. In 1946, communist tries to take control of Greece by force. A Civil War was quickly developed. The British could not afford the cost of such war. Truman stepped in. By 1950 the royalist were in control of Greece.
The Truman doctrine: under the Truman doctrine the USA prepared to send money, equipment and advice to any country which was in the american view, threatened by communist takeover. His aim was to stop communism from spreading. This policy became known as containment.
Marshall aid: Europe had a ruined economy. The countries of Europe owed 11.E billion to the USA. Churchill describe Europe as a rubble heap, a breeding ground of hate. Marshall suggest that about $17 billion would be needed to rebuild Europe’s prosperity. In December 1947, Truman put his plan to congress, for some time the congress refuse to grant this money. Many Americans were concerned by Truman’s involvement in foreign affairs and because it was a lot of money.
Czechoslovakia: communist took over the government of C. They came down hard in march 1948. The congress accepted the Marshall plan and made $17 billion available over a period of 4 years. The Marshall aid was an extremely generous act by Americans, but it was also motivated by American self interest. They wanted to create new markets for american goods. Stalin´s view was that the ani-communist aim behind mashall aid would weaken his hold on eastern Europe. And also felt that would make them more dependent on dollars
Why did the Soviet Union blockade berlin?
Despite the early years of the cold war, the two sides had never actually fired on one another. But in 1948 they came dangerously close to war.
Germany had become a headache for the western allies. Stalin feared a recovering Germany and wanted to keep it cripple. But it was clear to the allies that Germany could not even feed its people if it wasn’t allowed to rebuild industries. Britain France and the USA combined their zones in 1946 to form one zone, West Germany. In 1948 they reformed the currency and within months there were signs that Germany was recovering. Stalin felt that the USA handling of western Germany was provocative, he felt that he could stamp his authority in berlin. In June 1948, Stalin blockade all the supply lines, cutting off the two million strong population of western berlin from western help. Stalin believed that this would force the allies out of berlin and make entirely dependent on the USSR.
If us tanks did try to ram the road blocks or railway blocks, stalin would see it as an act of war. The only way into berlin was by air. In june 1948 the allies decided to air lift supllies. By may 1949 the blockade of berlin would not make the western allies give up berlin, so stalin reopened communication.
Why was NATO set up?
During the berlin blockade war between the USRR and the USA seemed possible. The western powers met in Washington and signed an agreement to work together. The new organization they formed in april 1949 was known as NATO (north Atlantic treaty organization).
A divided Germany.
As a result of the berlin blockade, Germany was firmly divided into two nations. In May 1949, the British, French and American zones became the federal republic of Germany (West Germany). The communist eastern zone was formed into the German democratic republic in October 1949.
A power of symbol. Germany would stay a divided country for 41 years. Berlin would remain a powerful symbol of cold war tensions. From American point of view an oasis of democratic freedom in middle of communism and from soviet point of view an invasive cancer growing.
A pattern for the cold war. The berlin blockade set out a pattern for cold war confrontations. The two superpowers and their allies has shown how suspicious they were of each other; how they obstruct each other in almost any way they could; how they would bombard each other with propaganda. Each had shown that it was not willing to go to war with the other. The berlin blockade established a sort of tense balance between the superpowers.