Cold War in the period 1945-1949 Essay
Cold War in the period 1945-1949
The Cold War is a prolonged state of tension and hostility held between the two major powers, namely the Soviets and the Americans after post-world war-two period. The term “turning point” implies that the Berlin blockade caused a turn of events and instigated the outbreak of the Cold War. Therefore, the statement made is only accurate to the extent that the Berlin Blockade was the direct factor regarding the outbreak of Cold War, yet it was not the only factor that sparked it off. Rather, it was the interplay of contributing factors such as mutual misunderstanding, conflicting security interests, willingness to support armed forces over and above those heeded for defence purposes, as well as the “doomsday rhetoric”. Therefore, it is portrayed that the Cold War was not the product of one event or incident, but rather of the fundamental clash of ideologies and interests between the two powers.
The Berlin Blockade was the direct cause of the Cold War, stemming from the unhappiness of the Soviets over the issue of Germany in particular, thus proving to be a turning point in the Cold War. Stalin was unhappy over the Allied plans in Western Germany as stipulated by the Marshall Plan, such as the currency reforms as it would actually stifle the Soviet’s chance in increasing its sphere of influence into that area. The blockade therefore was an attempt made by the Soviets to diminish Western influence in Germany. However, the plan backfired due to the US superiority in air, using the Berlin airlift to transport the supplies into their own zone. This directly had negative repercussions in worsening the relations between the two powers, causing the definite split of Germany and leading to the outbreak of Cold War, showing how the Berlin blockade was the turning point in the outbreak of Cold War, by which it was the final straw that actually cemented the Cold War.
Despite the Berlin Blockade being the direct factor that caused the outbreak of Cold War, one cannot neglect the factor that actually led to the Berlin Blockade: the disagreement over the German issue. The German issue was split into two areas: the question of reparations for Russia and the territorial and political boundaries drawn. In terms of reparations, the relations between both powers were strained due to the switch of US presidents that resulted in the US going back on its word as agreed in the various wartime conference. At Yalta, Russian demand for $20 billion of reparations from Germany was rejected, with Roosevelt only permitting $10 billion in principle. This however was rejected yet again by his successor, Truman, who was not in favour of it. At Potsdam, the issue was further aggravated when Truman’s secretary of state Byrnes asked Russia to obtain compensation from its own zone, which specialized in agriculture.
The Soviet Union was only entitled to 25% of Germany’s industrial equipment and Byrnes feared that Soviet’s demand for high reparation would delay Germany economic recovery at the US taxpayers expense. This increased resentment, as the Soviets felt compelled to increase its sphere of influence over Germany and extract more resources. This however was misinterpreted by the US as an expansionist attempt made by the Soviets, confirming their power hungry image. Based on the above mentioned factor, it is evident to see how the issue of Germany played a vital role in straining the relations between both powers, causing more misinterpretation as well as resentment felt for each other, finally culminating in the Cold War.
The disagreement over the future of Germany was also one of the factors that led to the outbreak of the Cold War. Stalin wanted the split of Germany to be fixed at the Ode-Nesse line, in which Churchill and Roosevelt disagreed, as it would give Poland extra land at the expense of Germany. The presence of Soviet troops at the line angered the US because it was seen as a unilateral action taken by the Soviets, and that there should be no “Soviet aggrandizement at Germany’s expense.” This led to the breakdown of the Grand Alliance and facilitated the outbreak of the Cold War.
On the other hand, the US also carried out unilateral actions in Germany causing further discontentment, leading to the outbreak of the Cold War.
This was seen in the case of the formation of Bizonia, by which the West wanted to bring the Western zones of Germany into one economic unit. This was to integrate Western Germany with Western Europe, in hopes of cutting Western Germany off from the Communist East. This move cemented the partition of Germany and was a move that the Soviets disapproved as it would limit Soviet influence in West Germany. This caused further tension between the two powers, finally resulting in the Cold War.
Apart from the issue of Germany, the actions taken by the Soviets as well as the US also played a vital role in aggravating the tensions held between both powers, causing the Cold War to break out. For one, Soviet activities in Poland were a contentious event, which caused suspicion and strain in the relationship between the US and the SU. This brings into question the issue of the security dilemma, by which for the Soviets, Poland and Eastern Europe were central to her security, as put through by Stalin as “the question of Poland is not a matter of honour but life and death.” Despite obtaining control of the Baltic States and having the 1918 border with Poland restored, Stalin felt that SU needed friendly states around her for security, which required them to be communist.
At Yalta, it was promised that “free elections” would be held in the Eastern European states. However, the term “free elections” were different in principle, causing tensions. Roosevelt also refused to formally acknowledge the “Percentages agreement” concluded with Britain in 1944, increasing the friction between both parties. This made Stalin more determined to consolidate control over the Eastern European states, in which Stalin reduced the power of the London Poles by increasing communist members in the Lublin committee, heightening the tension and resentment. Truman and Byrnes demanded at Potsdam that Stalin have “free elections” in Europe based on how the US interprets the term, such as multi-party and fair election, which were rejected by the Soviets. This led to increased schism between the Soviets and the US, by which the relationship was placed under great stress, which in turn contributed to the outbreak of the Cold War.
US actions in Europe also contributed to the increasing rivalry and hostility felt between the two parties, which led to the outbreak of the Cold War. The events surrounding the issue of economic reconstruction also played a role in fostering ill will, leading to the eventual outbreak of the Cold War. The US allowed the golden opportunity to work jointly with the Soviets to slip by, in which the US under Truman wanted to highlight the Soviet dependence on the US aid rather than portraying the Soviet as a worthy partner. The lend-lease scheme, which the SU was dependent on to rebuild its economy, was cancelled in 1945. Congress also reduced the request for a 6 billion loan to q 1 billion.
Furthermore, the loan was also conditional, in which the US demanded open markets to facilitate the free access of US goods and intellectual materials into Eastern Europe. This further heightened the tension, as the Soviets interpreted the US actions as “dollar diplomacy” in which the US was using its financial position as a way to dominate Soviet economic affairs. This caused the SU to retaliate by refusing to join World Bank and IMF, as earlier agreed at the Bretton-Wood meeting due to the reduction in loan. Therefore, the “dollar diplomacy” used by the US served only to further heighten the unhappiness as it aimed to make the Soviets an adversary rather than a valuable partner in the world stage, laying the frameworks for the outbreak of the Cold War.
The development and testing of the atomic bomb and the use of US nuclear diplomacy also further facilitated the onset of the Cold War. This was seen in two events, namely the liberation of Japan and nuclear diplomacy. The atomic bomb allowed the US to liberate Japan without the help of the Soviets, causing the SU to lose its chance in having a foothold in East Asia. This led to worsening of relations as it went against the Yalta conference where it was agreed upon that the Soviets would have a hand in the liberation of Japan.
Furthermore, the Soviets were not consulted regarding the issue. Truman also used the atomic bomb in a bid to intimidate Stalin into complying with the US demands of having free elections in Eastern Europe. Stalin however was undeterred and was determined to “catch up” with the US. The US refusal to share the nuclear technology with the Soviets or establish joint control of the weapons as stated in the Baruch Plan also worsened relations as the Soviets began viewing the US as a bully. Therefore, the US use of the atomic bomb in Japan, as well as the implementation of the “nuclear diplomacy” clearly proved how it worsened the relations between the two powers, bringing about the outbreak of Cold War.
Leadership changes in the US in April 1945 from Roosevelt to Truman closed opportunities for future cooperation and negotiation between the two parties, culminating in the Cold War. Truman adopted a more hardline approach regarding the dealings with the Soviets, in which he felt that cooperation was impossible. This translated into a non-accommodative approach towards Russia and the harsh measures taken by the US in dealing with the Soviets, causing the worsening of relations between them, leading to the outbreak of the Cold War.
The US containment policy also aided in worsening the relationship between the US and the SU, causing it to be a direct factor in the outbreak of the Cold War. Containment was an effort taken by the US to restrict communism from spreading further through the use of mainly monetary means. The two policies, namely the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan were proof of that. The Truman Doctrine stemmed from the perception that there was a compelling need to restrict Soviet influence in Greece and Turkey. This prompted action from Congress, by which 400m was approved for both countries. Even though this policy was successful in eliminating the Soviet influence, it laid the basis for further Soviet discontent and the eventual Cold War.
The Marshall Plan, which involved the German issue, was also one of the factors that led to the outbreak of the Cold War. The MP extended developmental aid to all countries, in hopes of reviving the European economy. Though it was open to all, the clauses stated by the US were found to be unfavorable to the Soviets. This compelled the SU to tighten its influence on Eastern Europe, giving rise to negative perceptions on both sides. Soviets were also unhappy with the currency reforms in Western Germany, as stipulated by the MP, which led to the direct cause of the Cold War, the Berlin Blockade. Therefore, it is clear that the Marshall Plan also contributed to the outbreak of the Cold War.
Finally, differing ideologies and government system also perpetuated the outbreak of the Cold War. The differing views and goals of the two different political systems led to actions that seemed to be at odds and detrimental to the Westerns or Soviet interests. This led to misconceptions between both sides especially in regards to foreign policy intentions that culminated into a reaction-counter reaction measure, leading to the outbreak of the Cold War.
In conclusion, based on the above-mentioned factors, it is seen that the Berlin Blockade was the direct reason for the outbreak of the Cold War. With many factors linked to the Berlin Blockade, such as the Marshall Plan as well as the German issue, the statement is therefore accurate to that extent. However, other factors must not be neglected, as it was fundamentally the combination of factors that led to the outbreak of the Cold War, such as the misinterpretations, conflicting security interests, willingness to support armed forces over and above those heeded for defence purposes, as well as the “doomsday rhetoric”.