Many historians agree that the Cold War was magnetized towards Germany, and thus the ‘German Question’ was at the root of the War. However, others regard the fact that because the Cold War expanded over such vast frontiers for such a long period Of time meant that the roots Of the war lay somewhere much deeper and complex than the issues in Germany. Their ideological differences meant the two superpowers could not comprehend the idea of cooperation after 1 945, causing them to compete for domination across the lobe and space in order for their ideology to be exported around the world.
It was their insistence in maintaining the balance of power which would fuel the Cold War and cause the Allies to turn against one another in deciding how to deal with Germany at the post-war peace conferences. ‘Who has Germany, has Europe’, Lenin allegedly claimed. Into the gap that Hitter’s defeated fascist regime had left stepped the two candidates most able in exercising a predominant economic and political influence over their former enemy; America and the USSR. During the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences in 1 945 the ‘Big Three’ concurred on a number of principles and practical steps regarding the post-war direction of Germany.
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The Allies’ main intention was to prevent Germany ever becoming a threat to European peace and security, in order to achieve this they composed a programmer consisting of four fundamental aims; identification, demonstration, decertification and decentralization. They also agreed on the division of Germany and Berlin into four separate occupation zones. However, the rest of the Peace Talks did not unfold in such a smooth manner; it was these talks over how to deal with Germany which highlighted the profound disparity between the USSR and America.
The war aims of the two superpowers in relation to Germany diverged fundamentally from one another; America sought reconstruction of its former trading partner into a prosperous democracy ready for business again, conversely the USSR sought rich compensation to match the disproportionate loses it had faced during the war; in this way Germany would be weakened and could therefore act as a buffer zone rather than as a potential threat of invasion. Disagreement gave way to mutual antagonism as the former allies took practical steps to realize their vision for Germany.
By 1946 tensions between the various occupying countries were mounting; it was clear to the USSR that reparations were not to be delivered from the western zones. During the spring of 1946 British and American concern over Soviet practices in East Germany were aroused when the East German Communist and Social Democratic parties were merged and their authority was seized by the newly formed Socialist Unity Party. Suspicions were not to end there; in the autumn of 1946 Stalin was alarmed by the discovery of Anglo-American discussions over the practicalities of fusing their zones into a Bygone.
The coalition of Anglo-American zones acted as a catalyst towards the formal division of Germany two years later. Relations continued to dampen during 1947 when West Germany was offered Marshall Plan aid, and in 1 948 when all three western zones instituted a currency reform. In response the Stalin cut off rail and road links to West Berlin. The western powers realized the importance of keeping control of Berlin. Thus, in response the West initiated a massive airlift of supplies to Berlin so that the Soviets couldn’t starve West Berlin into surrender. When Stalin abandoned the blockade in May 1949 the result Was a deepening of the
East-West divide, and the eventual creation of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic. As Stalin’s Iron Curtain became ‘permanent’ the Cold War became more confrontational and the rival superpowers embarked on an arms race. In 1949, in attempt to resist the USSR the Allies set up an intergovernmental military alliance, NATO, which would act as a system of collective defense against any external party. Six years later Khrushchev would set up a similar organization for eight Communist states in Central and Eastern Europe, the Warsaw pact.
All of a sudden the war had become much colder as the former allies faced one another with large scale, military alliances for which Germany was expected to provide a likely battleground. As time progressed the differences between East and West Germany become increasingly apparent; unlike the democratic West, the GIRD was monopolized by the Soviet-backed Communist party, the Socialist unity Party of Germany. In June 1953 the uprising of East Germany was violently suppressed by the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany and Politicized.
Matters in East Germany continued to deteriorate, and the problem of emigration from East to West became increasingly severe, entering the East’s economic growth even further. In an extreme attempt to rectify East Berlins diminishing population, Khrushchev prevented people from leaving by fortifying Western borders with the Berlin Wall in August 1961. The Berlin Wall was the symbol which characterized the East-West division; an ominous manifestation of an ideological divide in the form of bricks, mortar and barbed wire. The wall not only divided Berlin. Over the following years, it became a symbol of division – the division Of Germany, the division of Europe, the division of communist East and democratic West. The Communists presented the wall as being a protective shell. The West presented it as a prison wall. ‘ Many perceived the ‘temporary division that the wall created as a permanent division. As a result it tackled the issue of East Germany’s declining population, and subsequently stabilized the Cold War in Germany.
Although Germany still remained very tense and sensitive, Khrushchev describing it as the testicles of the West’, it was a managed tension which allowed for increasing contact and trade. As focused switched from Germany to elsewhere in the world, a Berliner in 1961 may have viewed vents from then onwards in Germany with mild surprise. In just four years after the surrender of Germany to the Grand Alliance the allies had turned against one another, polarities Europe into an East-West divide which would remain at the centre of the Cold War until the Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989.
From a European perspective Germany would have appeared very much at the centre of the Cold War tensions; symbolically it was where the Cold War both started and ended with the tense Potsdam Conference in 1 945 and then the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. To those expecting superpower infiltration, Germany seemed like the ideal battleground. However, looking at the Cold War on an international scale it is evident that there Were roots elsewhere.
Despite the continued East-West tension in Berlin, the second half of the Cold War was relatively peaceful in Germany compared to the rest of the world where the Cold War ravaged the homes and lives of non- Europeans. But what was it that spurred the Cold War on for so many years and when did it actually start? Many historians trace the origins of the Cold War back to when the Grand Alliance fell apart at the end of the Second World War. In some respects, both superpowers were very similar to one another; they both entered the war due to surprise attack, and had each been born in revolution.
Both states also advanced across vast frontiers and were the first and third largest countries in the world. Finally, both superpowers embraced ideologies with global aspirations and had leaders who believed their ideology was superior and should be exported and who perceived the other as an expansionist security threat. However, this is as far as their commonalities stretched. Lenin had overthrown the Provisional Government in the October Revolution. The USSR became an authoritarian society; its highly centralized command economy, single-party regime stood for everything America’s democratic government did not.
Later, in March 1947, Truman announced his ‘Truman Doctrine’ which depicted a frightening world in which the US faced the evil communist ideology, and stated that America was obliged to ‘support free people who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures’. Truman believed that ‘totalitarian regimes’, such as the Soviet union’s, coerced the ‘free peoples’ within, and that by doing so international ace and the security of the United States was threatened.
The disparity between the two nations ultimately meant that under natural circumstances they were better suited as rivals rather than allies. Their incompatible systems meant that the victors would either have to cease being who they were or give up much of what they’d hoped to attain by fighting the war. What the superpowers were aiming to attain was superficially very similar; their post-war objectives were both based around obtaining security. Stalin believed security for himself, his regime, his country and his ideology were he four most essential objectives.
He was well aware that in order to obtain security in this form he would need continued Anglo-American goodwill. However, he was also acutely aware of the self-destructive cycles of ‘boom and bust’ that Marxist theory said that capitalism seemed to move in. Stalin believed another capitalist crisis was about to arise, in which case the capitalists would then rely on the communists. Stalin’s grand vision therefore was to restore the balance of power in Europe in such a way that most benefited himself. Similarly, America’s key objective was obtaining security.
In order to serve as a model for the rest of the world to prevent future wars and keep peace, the US could no longer remain apart from it; it would therefore have to abandon its policy Of isolationism. This was a fundamental turning point in IIS foreign policy, and it would soon have its effect on the Cold War, as it meant that presidents no longer were restricted on how far and when they could commit the IIS overseas. Relations within the Grand Alliance were already tense in to October 1944 when Churchill agreed that the USSR would have predominant influence in the European countries it had occupied during the war.
Roosevelt, angry that he had not been consulted on the Stalin-Churchill deal, protested against it. Matters worsened when Stalin insisted on taking a third of Pollard’s territory and imposed a pro-Soviet government there, against plans for a government of ‘national unity’ made at Yalta. Britain and America were becoming increasingly wary of Stalin. Two weeks before his death, Roosevelt described Stalin as having ‘broken every one of the promises he made at Yalta’. The flaws within the Grand Alliance had proved too much once the war was over. It had been an alliance based on negative cohesion in order to defeat moon enemies.
Each of its members used the Alliance as an instrument to position themselves for maximum influence in the post war world and to ensure that the balance of power wasn’t tipped out of their favor. Had their ideologies been less adversarial then perhaps the alliance may not have fragmented and turned against one another in the way that it did. However, communism and capitalism were such polar opposites on the political spectrum that the probability of the allies continuing to cooperate in post-war conditions was very unlikely.