In the aftermath of the Second World War two power blocs formed in Europe, one dominated by America and capitalist democracy (though there were exceptions), the other dominated by the Soviet Union and communism. While these powers never directly fought, they waged a 'cold' war of economic, military and ideological rivalry which dominated the second half of the twentieth.Pre-World War Two
The origins of the Cold War can be traced back to the Russian Revolution of 1917, which created a Soviet Russia with a profoundly different economic and ideological state to the capitalist and democratic West. The ensuing civil war, in which Western powers unsuccessfully intervened, and the creation of Comintern, an organisation dedicated to the spreading of communism, globallyfuelled a climate of mistrust and fear between Russia and the rest of Europe/America. From 1918 to 1935, with the US pursuing a policy of isolationism and Stalin keeping Russia looking inward, the situation remained one of dislike rather than conflict. In 1935 Stalin changed his policy: afraid of fascism, he tried to form an alliance with the democratic Western powers against Nazi Germany. Thisinitiative failed and in 1939 Stalin signed the Nazi-Soviet pact with Hitler, which only increased anti-Soviet hostility in the West, but delayed the onset of war between the two powers. However, while Stalin hoped Germany would get bogged down in a war with France, early Nazi conquests occurred quickly, enabling Germany to invade the Soviet Union in 1941.
The Second World War and the PoliticalDivision of Europe
The German invasion of Russia, which followed a successful invasion of France, united the Soviets with Western Europe and later America in an alliance against their common enemy: Adolf Hitler. This war transformed the global balance of power, weakening Europe and leaving Russia and the United States of America as global super-powers, with massive military strength; everyone elsewas second. However, the wartime alliance was not an easy one, and by 1943 each side was thinking about the state of Post-war Europe. Russia ‘liberated’ vast areas of Eastern Europe, into which it wanted to put its own brand of government and turn into soviet satellite states, in part to gain security from the capitalist West.
Although the Allies tried to gain assurances for democratic electionsfrom Russia during mid and post war conferences, there was ultimately nothing they could do to stop Russia from imposing its will on their conquests. In 1944 Churchill, Prime Minister of Britain, was quoted as saying “Make no mistake, all the Balkans apart from Greece are going to be Bolshevised and there’s nothing I can do to prevent it. There’s nothing I can do for Poland, either”. Meanwhile theAllies liberated large parts of Western Europe in which they recreated democratic nations.
Two Superpower Blocs and Mutual Distrust
World War Two finished in 1945 with Europe divided into two blocs, each occupied by the armies of, in the west America and the Allies, and in the east, Russia. America wanted a democratic Europe and was afraid of communism dominating the continent while Russia wantedthe opposite, a communist Europe in which they dominated and not, as they feared, a united, capitalist Europe. Stalin believed, at first, that capitalist nations would soon fall to squabbling among themselves, a situation he could exploit, and was dismayed by the growing organisation among the West. To these differences were added fear of Soviet invasion in the West and Russian fear of the atomicbomb; fear of economic collapse in the west versus fear of economic domination by the west; a clash of ideologies (capitalism versus communism) and, on the Soviet front, the fear of a rearmed Germany hostile to Russia. In 1946 Churchill described the dividing line between East and West as an Iron Curtain.
Containment, the Marshall Plan and the Economic Division of Europe
America reacted to...