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History Paper 3: Origins of the Cold War

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Introduction

"An unnatural alliance that was bound to fall apart after the defeat of the common enemy." To what extent does this statement explain the origin of the Cold War? It was a Spring day in April 1945 when Soviet and American troops met at the river Elbe in Germany, both sides blissful at the prospects of the war's end. Indeed it was not only the symbol for the fall of the Third Reich, but also the "beginnings of a beautiful friendship", which alas, was not to last for long. As the war was drawing to rapid close in Europe, the Grand Alliance had triumphed, and led by the "Big Three" - Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin - the Allies had managed to overlook ideological differences in order to defeat the Nazi menace in Europe. Yet it was not long after Germany's official surrender on May 8, 1945 that the Allied relationship began to fall apart; indeed the fruits of discord were visible as early as Potsdam in July, and rapidly deteriorated, eventually culminating with the breakdown of the Grand Alliance by the autumn of 1947 and the effective beginning of the Cold War. Yet from the beginning the alliance was indeed "unnatural"; the Soviets and Western Allies were driven by different purposes, aims and initiatives, and their confrontational interactions over post-war settlements, economic aid and the German question proved the Grand Alliance to be essentially incompatible with the absence of the common enemy they saw in Hitler. ...read more.

Middle

With Bizonia created from the US and British occupation sectors, it was clear that the economic necessities of Germany were the Western Allies top priority. In the Moscow Conference of Foreign Ministers in March 1947, the Russians made an effort to destroy Bizonia, by demanding that a central German administration under the four-power control should be set up. Yet British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin realized that this would only delay the economic recovery of Bizonia and maneuvered the Americans to accept that political unity in Germany could only be realized after economic recovery. This new fundamental rift between the Americans and Soviets was not exclusively ideological; rather it more than anything, it was a practical discord over the future of a dual-aligned Europe. Britain, with prolonged war, had lost its influence upon the Mediterranean states by 1947, and the strength of Communist parties in Italy and France were increasing as Germany was stuck in economic paralysis. Firmly believing that poverty was the stepping stone to Communism, Truman proclaimed his famous doctrine, pledging to prevent the "subjugation of free peoples" everywhere. Indeed the crux of American foreign policy of the early Cold War was born here: Truman's goal was not to undermine the Soviet Union, but to contain it by establishing a chain of democratic (and US-aligned) states. The viable result of the Doctrine in post-war Europe was manifested in the form of the Marshall Plan, which aimed to provide aid to Europe in order to foster the aforementioned "economic integration". ...read more.

Conclusion

of one or the other: rather the entire scheme of post-war discord was a result of the misunderstanding and lack of cooperation. While neither side was ever willing to go to war with one another, it was the dogmatic judgment on both sides due to an ideological factor that caused Soviet-American relations to rapidly depreciate. By the end of 1947, it was almost unequivocally clear that the Grand Alliance was in its last stages. With no fascist threat to bond the Soviets and the Western Allies, the relationship between the two blocs rapidly disintegrated with Stalin determined to carve East Europe into satellite states under his iron fist. Similarly, the Western Allies were essentially concerned with ensuring that Communism did not spread further West, and through the Truman Doctrine of containment as well as the Marshall Plan, enormous economic aid was provided to nations such as Greece, Turkey, Italy, France and Britain. Inevitably these diverging interests soon melted into confrontation, clearly highlighted by Soviet-American tensions over the German question. The breakup of the London Conference of Foreign Ministers in December of 1947 marked the ultimate end of four-Power cooperation, with only the alternatives of a Western alliance as options. Indeed in a bit more than two years after defeating Germany and Japan, the once-powerful alignment broken apart amidst bitter recriminations, with Churchill's Iron Curtain firmly descended upon the river Elbe, where the Allies had once shook hands. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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