Emergence of two power blocs: Part I

Emergence of Two Power Blocs: Part I

  • Towards the end of the war, the harmony that had existed between the USSR, the USA and the British Empire began to wear thin and all the old suspicions came to the fore again.
  • Relations between Soviet Russia and the West soon became so difficult that, although no actual fighting took place directly between the two opposing camps, the decade after 1945 saw the first phase of what became known as the Cold War. This continued, in spite of several ‘thaws’, until the collapse of communism in eastern Europe in 1989-91.
  • What happened was that instead of allowing their mutual hostility to express itself in open fighting, the rival powers attacked each other with propaganda and economic measures, and with a general policy of non-cooperation.
  • Both superpowers, the USA and the USSR, gathered allies around them: between 1945 and 1948 the USSR drew into its orbit most of the states of eastern Europe, as communist governments came to power in Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Albania, Czechoslovakia and East Germany (1949).
  • A communist government was established in North Korea ( 1948), and the Communist bloc seemed to be further strengthened in 1949 when Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) was at last victorious in the long-drawn-out civil war in China (see Section 19.4).
  • On the other hand, the USA hastened the recovery of Japan and fostered her as an ally, and worked closely with Britain and 14 other European countries, as well as with Turkey, providing them with vast economic aid in order to build up an anti-communist bloc.
  • Whatever one bloc suggested or did was viewed by the other as having ulterior and aggressive motives. There was a long wrangle, for example, over where the frontier between Poland and Germany should be, and no permanent settlement could be agreed on for Germany and Austria.
  • Then in the mid-1950s, after the death of Stalin (1953), the new Russian leaders began to talk about ‘peaceful coexistence’, mainly to give the USSR a much-needed break from its economic and military burdens. The icy atmosphere between the two blocs began to thaw: in 1955 it was agreed to remove all occupying troops from Austria.
  • However, relations did not improve sufficiently to allow agreement on Germany, and tensions mounted again over Vietnam and the Cuban missiles crisis (1962).
  • The Cold War moved into a new phase in the later 1960s when both sides took initiatives to reduce tensions. Known as detente, this brought a marked improvement in international relations, including the signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty in 1972.
  • Detente did not end superpower rivalry, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 heightened international tensions once more. The Cold War came to an end in 1989-91 with the collapse of the Soviet Union.


  • The Cold War was a state of political and military tension after World War II between powers in the Western Bloc (the United States, its NATO allies and others) and powers in the Eastern Bloc (the Soviet Union and its allies in the Warsaw Pact).
    • Historians have not fully agreed on the dates, but 1947–1991 is common.
    • It was termed as “cold” because there was no large-scale fighting directly between the two sides, although there were major regional wars in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan that the two sides supported.
  • The Cold War split the temporary wartime alliance against Nazi Germany, leaving the USSR and the US as two superpowers with profound economic and political differences: the former being a single-party Marxist–Leninist state, and the latter being a capitalist state with generally free elections.
  • The two superpowers never engaged directly in full-scale armed combat but they each armed heavily in preparation of a possible all-out nuclear world war. Each side had a nuclear deterrent that deterred an attack by the other side, on the basis that such an attack would lead to total destruction of the attacker: the doctrine of mutually assured destruction or MAD.
  • Aside from the development of the two sides’ nuclear arsenals, and deployment of conventional military forces, the struggle for dominance was expressed via proxy wars around the globe, psychological warfare, propaganda and espionage, and technological competitions such as the Space Race.
  • Origins of the term:
    • The first use of the term to describe the specific post–war geopolitical confrontation between the USSR and the United States came in a speech by Bernard Baruch, an influential advisor to Democratic presidents.
    • Newspaper columnist Walter Lippmann gave the term wide currency, with the book The Cold War; when asked in 1947 about the source of the term, Lippmann traced it to a French term from the 1930s.
  • A self-proclaimed neutral bloc arose with the Non-Aligned Movement founded by Egypt, India, Indonesia and Yugoslavia; this faction rejected association with either the US-led West or the Soviet-led East.

Events which evolved into Cold War

Russian Revolution:

  • As a result of the 1917 Bolshevik takeover, Soviet Russia found itself isolated in international diplomacy.
    • Leader Vladimir Lenin stated that the Soviet Union was surrounded by a “hostile capitalist encirclement”, and he viewed diplomacy as a weapon to keep Soviet enemies divided, beginning with the establishment of the Soviet Comintern, which called for revolutionary upheavals abroad.
  • Subsequent leader Joseph Stalin, who viewed his USSR as a “socialist island”, stated that it must see that “the present capitalist encirclement is replaced by a socialist encirclement.“
    • As early as 1925, Stalin stated that he viewed international politics as a bipolar world in which the Soviet Union would attract countries gravitating to socialism and capitalist countries would attract states gravitating toward capitalism, while the world was in a period of “temporary stabilization of capitalism” preceding its eventual collapse.
  • Bipolarity is a distribution of power in which two states have the majority of economic, military, and cultural influence internationally or regionally.
    • Often, spheres of influence would develop. For example, in the Cold War, most Western and capitalist states would fall under the influence of the USA, while most Communist states would fall under the influence of the USSR. After this, the two powers will normally maneuver for the support of the unclaimed areas.

Mistrust before Second World War:

  • Various events before the Second World War demonstrated the mutual distrust and suspicion between the Western powers and the Soviet Union, apart from the general philosophical challenge the Communists made towards capitalism.
    • There was Western support of the anti-Bolshevik White movement in the Russian Civil War.
    • In 1926 Soviet funding of a British general workers strike caused Britain to break relations with the Soviet Union.
  • Other factors that led to mutual distrust:
    • Stalin’s 1927 declaration of peaceful coexistence with capitalist countries receding into the past;
    • Conspiratorial allegations during the 1928 Shakhty show trial of a planned British- and French-led coup d’état;
      • In the Shakhty Trial (1928), 53 engineers and technical specialists were accused of sabotage and treason for acts allegedly carried out since 1920; all the evidence was fabricated by the secret police.
    • American refusal to recognize the Soviet Union until 1933;
    • Stalinist Moscow Trials of the Great Purge, with allegations of British, French, Japanese and Nazi German espionage.

Suspicion during Second World War:

  • The Soviet Union initially signed a non-aggression pact with Germany. But after the German Army invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 and the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the Soviet Union and the Allied powers formed an alliance of convenience.
  • Britain signed a formal alliance and the United States made an informal agreement.
  • In wartime, the United States supplied both Britain and the Soviets through its Lend-Lease Program. (Proposed in late 1940 and passed in March 1941, the Lend-Lease Act was the principal means for providing U.S. military and other aid to foreign nations during World War II.)
  • However, Stalin remained highly suspicious and believed that the British and the Americans had conspired to ensure the Soviets bore the brunt of the fighting against Nazi Germany.
    • Western Allies had deliberately delayed opening a second anti-German front in order to step in at the last moment and shape the peace settlement.
    • Thus, Soviet perceptions of the West left a strong undercurrent of tension and hostility between the Allied powers.

Differences of principle:

  • The basic cause of conflict lay in the differences of principle between the communist states and the capitalist or liberal-democratic states.
    • The communist system of organizing the state and society was based on the ideas of Karl Marx; he believed that the wealth of a country should be collectively owned and shared by everybody. The economy should be centrally planned and the interests and well-being of the working classes safeguarded by state social policies.
    • The capitalist system, on the other hand, operates on the basis of private ownership of a country’s wealth. The driving forces behind capitalism are private enterprise in the pursuit of making profits, and the preservation of the power of private wealth.
  • Ever since the world’s first communist government was set up in Russia (the USSR) in 1917, the governments of most capitalist states viewed it with mistrust and were afraid of communism spreading to their countries.
    • This would mean the end of the private ownership of wealth, as well as the loss of political power by the wealthy classes.
    • When civil war broke out in Russia in 1918, several capitalist states – the USA, Britain, France and Japan – sent troops to Russia to help the anti-communist forces.
    • The communists won the war, but Joseph Stalin, who became Russian leader in 1929, was convinced that there would be another attempt by the capitalist powers to destroy communism in Russia. The German invasion of Russia in 1941 proved him right.
  • The need for self-preservation against Germany and Japan caused the USSR, the USA and Britain to forget their differences and work together, but as soon as the defeat of Germany was clearly only a matter of time, both sides, and especially Stalin, began to plan for the postwar period.

Stalin’s foreign policies contributed to the tensions:

  • His aim was to take advantage of the military situation to strengthen Russian influence in Europe. As the Nazi armies collapsed, he tried to occupy as much German territory as he could, and to acquire as much land as he could get away with from countries such as Finland, Poland and Romania.
  • In this he was highly successful, but the West was alarmed at what they took to be Soviet aggression; they believed that he was committed to spreading communism over as much of the globe as possible.

US and British politicians were hostile to the Soviet government:

  • During the war, the USA under President Roosevelt sent war materials of all kinds to Russia under a system known as ‘Lend-Lease’, and Roosevelt was inclined to trust Stalin.
  • But after Roosevelt died, in April 1945, his successor Harry S. Truman was more suspicious and toughened his attitude towards the communists.
  • Some historians believe that Truman’s main motive for dropping the atomic bombs on Japan was not simply to defeat Japan, which was ready to surrender anyway, but to show Stalin what might happen to Russia if he dared go too far.
  • Stalin suspected that the USA and Britain were still keen to destroy communism; he felt that their delay in launching the invasion of France, the Second Front (which did not take place until June 1944), was deliberately calculated to keep most of the pressure on the Russians and bring them to the point of exhaustion. Nor did they tell Stalin about the existence of the atomic bomb until shortly before its use on Japan, and they rejected his request that Russia should share in the occupation of Japan.
  • Above all, the West had the atomic bomb and the USSR did not.

Which side was to blame?

  • During the 1950s, most western historians blamed Stalin.
    • He argued that Stalin’s motives were sinister, and that he intended to spread communism as widely as possible through Europe and Asia, thus destroying capitalism.
    • Kennan advised a policy of ‘containment’ of the USSR by political, economic and diplomatic means. The formation of NATO and the American entry into the Korean War in 1950 were the West’s self-defence against communist aggression.
  • On the other hand, Soviet historians, and during the 1960s and early 1970s some American historians, argued that the Cold War ought not to be blamed on Stalin and the Russians.
    • Their theory was that Russia had suffered enormous losses during the war, and therefore it was only to be expected that Stalin would try to make sure neighbouring states were friendly, given Russia’s weakness in 1945.
    • They believe that Stalin’s motives were purely defensive and that there was no real threat to the West from the USSR.
    • Some Americans claim that the USA should have been more understanding and should not have challenged the idea of a Soviet ‘sphere of influence’ in eastern Europe.
      • The actions of American politicians, especially Truman, provoked Russian hostility unnecessarily.
      • This is known among historians as the revisionist view; many believed that the Cold War was mainly caused by the USA’s determination to make the most of its atomic monopoly and its industrial strength in its drive for world hegemony.
    • The main reason behind this new view was that during the late 1960s many people in the USA became critical of American foreign policy, especially American involvement in the Vietnam War.
    • This caused some historians to reconsider the American attitude towards communism in general; they felt that American governments had become obsessed with hostility towards communist states and they were ready to take a more sympathetic view of the difficulties Stalin had found himself in at the end of the Second World War.
  • Later a third view – known as the post-revisionist interpretation – was put forward by some American historians, and this became popular in the 1980s.
    • They had the benefit of being able to look at lots of new documents and visit archives which had not been open to earlier historians.
    • The new evidence suggested that the situation at the end of the war was far more complicated than earlier historians had realized; this led them to take a middle view, arguing that both sides should take some blame for the Cold War.
    • They believe that American economic policies such as Marshall Aid were deliberately designed to increase US political influence in Europe.
    • However, they also believe that although Stalin had no long-term plans to spread communism, he was an opportunist who would take advantage of any weakness in the West to expand Soviet influence.
    • The crude Soviet methods of forcing communist governments on the states of eastern Europe were bound to lend proof to claims that Stalin’s aims were expansionist.
    • With their entrenched positions and deep suspicions of each other, the USA and the USSR created an atmosphere in which every international act could be interpreted in two ways.
      • What was claimed as necessary for self-defence by one side was taken by the other as evidence of aggressive intent.
      • But at least open war was avoided, because the Americans were reluctant to use the atomic bomb again unless attacked directly, while the Russians dared not risk such an attack.

Situations at the end of the World War II (1945–47)

  • The Allies disagreed about how the European map should look, and how borders would be drawn, following the war.
    • Each side held dissimilar ideas regarding the establishment and maintenance of post-war security.
    • The western Allies desired a security system in which democratic governments were established as widely as possible, permitting countries to peacefully resolve differences through international organizations.
  • Given the Russian historical experiences of frequent invasions and the immense death toll (estimated at 27 million) and the destruction the Soviet Union sustained during World War II, the Soviet Union sought to increase security by dominating the internal affairs of countries that bordered it.
    • During the war, Stalin had created special training centers for Communists from different countries so that they could set up secret police forces loyal to Moscow as soon as the Red Army took control.
    • Soviet agents took control of the media, especially radio; they quickly harassed and then banned all independent civic institutions, from youth groups to schools, churches and rival political parties.
  • Stalin also sought continued peace with Britain and the United States, hoping to focus on internal reconstruction and economic growth.
  • The Western Allies were divided in their vision of the new post-war world.
    • Roosevelt’s goals- military victory in both Europe and Asia, the achievement of global American economic supremacy over the British Empire, and the creation of a world peace organization – were more global than Churchill’s, which were mainly centered on securing control over the Mediterranean, ensuring the survival of the British Empire, and the independence of Central and Eastern European countries as a buffer between the Soviets and the United Kingdom.
  • In the American view, Stalin seemed a potential ally in accomplishing their goals, whereas in the British approach Stalin appeared as the greatest threat to the fulfillment of their agenda. With the Soviets already occupying most of Central and Eastern Europe, Stalin was at an advantage and the two western leaders vied for his favors.
  • The differences between Roosevelt and Churchill led to several separate deals with the Soviets. In October 1944, Churchill traveled to Moscow and agreed to divide the Balkans into respective spheres of influence.
  • At Yalta, Roosevelt signed a separate deal with Stalin in regard of Asia and refused to support Churchill on the issues of Poland and the Reparations.
  • Allied negotiations concerning the post-war balance took place at the Yalta Conference in February 1945, albeit this conference also failed to reach a firm consensus on the framework for a post-war settlement in Europe.

Development of Cold War between 1945-1953

  • Yalta Conference (February 4–11, 1945):
    • Yalta Conference was major World War II conference of the three chief Allied leaders, USA President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Union Premier Joseph Stalin, which met at Yalta in Crimea to plan the final defeat and occupation of Nazi Germany.
    • At the time it seemed to be a success, agreement being reached on several points.
      • A new organization – to be called the United Nations – should be set up to replace the failed League of Nations.
        • The United Nations organization charter had already been drafted, and the conferees worked out a compromise formula for voting in the Security Council.
      • Germany was to be divided into zanes – Russian, American and British (a French zone was included later) – while Berlin (which happened to be in the middle of the Russian zone) would also be split into corresponding zones. Similar arrangements were to be made for Austria.
        • German military industry would be abolished or confiscated, and agreed that major war criminals would be tried before an international court, which subsequently presided at Nurnberg.
        • The determination of reparations was assigned to a commission.
      • Free elections would be allowed in the states of eastern Europe.
      • Stalin promised to join the war against Japan on condition that Russia received the whole of Sakhalin Island and some territory in Manchuria.
    • However, there were ominous signs of trouble over what was to be done with Poland.
      • When the Russian armies swept through Poland, driving the Germans back, they had set up a communist government in Lublin, even though there was already a Polish government-in-exile in London.
      • It was agreed at Yalta that some members (non-communist) of the London-based government should be allowed to join the Lublin government, while in return Russia would be allowed to keep a strip of eastern Poland which she had annexed in 1939.
      • However, Roosevelt and Churchill were not happy about Stalin’s demands that Poland should be given all German territory east of the rivers Oder and Neisse; no agreement was reached on this point.
    • After the agreements reached at Yalta were made public in 1946, they were harshly criticized in the United States.
      • This was because, as events turned out, Stalin failed to keep his promise that free elections would be held in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. Instead, communist governments were established in all those countries, noncommunist political parties were suppressed, and genuinely democratic elections were never held.
    • At the time of the Yalta Conference, both Roosevelt and Churchill had trusted Stalin and believed that he would keep his word.
      • Neither leader had suspected that Stalin intended that all the popular front governments in Europe would be taken over by communists.
      • Roosevelt and Churchill were further inclined to assent to the Yalta agreements because they assumed, mistakenly as it turned out, that Soviet assistance would be sorely needed to defeat the Japanese in the Pacific and Manchuria.
      • In any case, the Soviet Union was the military occupier of eastern Europe at the war’s end, and so there was little the Western democracies could do to enforce the promises made by Stalin at Yalta.
      • The formulation by American delegation member James F. Byrnes, soon to be secretary of state (1945–47), was apt: “It was not a question of what we would let the Russians do, but what we could get the Russians to do.”
  • In April 1945, President Roosevelt died and was succeeded by Harry S. Truman, who distrusted Stalin and turned for advice to an elite group of foreign policy intellectuals.
    • Both Churchill and Truman opposed, among other things, the Soviets’ decision to prop up the Lublin government.
  • Following the Allies’ May 1945 victory, the Soviets effectively occupied Central and Eastern Europe, while strong US and Western allied forces remained in Western Europe. In Allied-occupied Germany, the Soviet Union, United States, Britain and France established zones of occupation and a loose framework for parcelled four-power control.
  • The 1945 Allied conference in San Francisco established the multi-national United Nations (UN) for the maintenance of world peace, but the enforcement capacity of its Security Council was effectively paralysed by individual members’ ability to use veto power. Accordingly, the UN was essentially converted into an inactive forum.
  • File:Map-Germany-1945.svg
  • The Potsdam Conference (July 1945):
    • The atmosphere here was distinctly cooler. The three leaders at the beginning of the conference were Stalin, Truman (replacing Roosevelt, who had died in April) and Churchill, but Churchill was replaced by Clement Attlee, the new British Labour prime minister, after Labour’s election victory.
    • The war with Germany was over, but no agreement was reached about her long-term future.
      • The big questions were whether, or when, the four zones would be allowed to join together to form a united country again.
      • She was to be disarmed, the Nazi party would be disbanded and its leaders tried as war criminals.
      • It was agreed that the Germans should pay reparations towards repairing the damage they had caused during the war. Most of ‘reparations’ were to go to the USSR, which would be allowed to take non-food goods from their own zone and from the other zones as well, provided the Russians sent food supplies to the western zones of Germany in return.
    • It was over Poland that the main disagreement occurred.
      • Truman and Churchill were annoyed because Germany east of the Oder-Neisse Line had been occupied by Russian troops and was being run by the pro-communist Polish government, which expelled some five million Germans living in the area; this had not been agreed at Yalta.
    • Truman did not inform Stalin about the exact nature of the atomic bomb, though Churchill was told about it.
      • A few days after the conference closed, the two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan and the war ended quickly on 10 August without the need for Russian help (though the Russians had declared war on Japan on 8 August and invaded Manchuria). They annexed south Sakhalin as agreed at Yalta, but they were allowed no part in the occupation of Japan.
  • Nuclear Bomb and Hydrogen (Thermonuclear) Bomb:
    • The first nuclear weapon was created by U.S. during the Second World War.
      • Scientists of the Soviet Union were aware of the potential of nuclear weapons and had also been conducting research on the field.
      • The Soviet Union was not informed officially of the Manhattan Project (U.S. government research project (1942–45) that produced the first atomic bombs.) until Stalin was briefed at the Potsdam Conference on July 24, 1945, by U.S. President Harry S. Truman, eight days after the first successful test of a nuclear weapon.
    • Despite their wartime military alliance, the United States and Britain had not trusted the Soviets enough to keep knowledge of the Manhattan Project safe from German spies: there were also concerns that, as an ally, the Soviet Union would request and expect to receive technical details of the new weapon.
      • When President Truman informed Stalin of the weapons, he was surprised at how calmly Stalin reacted to the news and thought that Stalin had not understood what he had been told.
      • In fact Stalin had long been aware of the program. A ring of spies operating within the Manhattan Project had kept Stalin well informed of American progress. They provided the Soviets with detailed designs of the implosion bomb and the hydrogen bomb.
    • The first Soviet bomb was detonated on August 29, 1949.
    • Both governments spent massive amounts to increase the quality and quantity of their nuclear arsenals.
    • Both nations quickly began the development of a hydrogen bomb and the United States detonated the first hydrogen bomb on November 1, 1952. Again, the Soviets surprised the world by exploding thermonuclear device in August 1953
  • Differences between Yalta and Potsdam
    • There were huge differences between Yalta and Potsdam – the issues were the same, but the goodwill to overcome them was gone, because the countries no longer needed to stick together.
Yalta Potsdam
Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin Attlee, Truman and Stalin
Germany to be split into four zones. Arguments about the details of the boundaries between the zones.
Germany will pay reparations. Disagreements about the amount of reparations Russia wanted to take. It was agreed that Russia could take whatever it wanted from the Soviet zone, and 10 per cent of the industrial equipment of the western zones, but Britain and the US thought this was too much.
A government of ‘national unity’ to be set up in Poland, comprising both communists and non-communists. Truman was angry because Stalin had arrested the non-communist leaders of Poland.
Free elections in the countries of eastern Europe. This part of the agreement was called the Declaration of Liberated Europe. America and Britain were alarmed because communists were coming to power in the countries of Eastern Europe.
Russia would help against Japan when Germany was defeated. Truman dropped the atomic bomb so that Japan would surrender before Russian troops could go into Japan. America had the bomb in July 1945, but Truman did not tell Stalin about dropping it. When he saw how he had been tricked, Stalin was furious.
  • Beginnings of the Eastern Bloc:
    • During the opening stages of World War II, the Soviet Union laid the foundation for the Eastern Bloc by directly annexing several countries as Soviet Socialist Republics that were initially ceded to it by Nazi Germany in the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, 1939 (named after the Soviet foreign minister and the German foreign minister). These included eastern Poland, Latvia, Estonia , Lithuania, part of eastern Finland and eastern Romania.
    • In the months following Potsdam, the Russians systematically interfered in the countries of eastern Europe to set up pro-communist governments.
      • This happened in Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Albania and Romania.
      • Tn some cases their opponents were imprisoned or murdered; in Hungary for example, the Russians allowed free elections; but although the communists won less than 20 per cent of the votes, they saw to it that a majority of the cabinet were communists.
    • The Central and Eastern European territories liberated from the Nazis and occupied by the Soviet armed forces during World War were added to the Eastern Bloc by converting them into satellite states, such as
      • East Germany,
      • the People’s Republic of Poland,
      • the People’s Republic of Bulgaria,
      • the People’s Republic of Hungary,
      • the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic,
      • the People’s Republic of Romania and
      • the People’s Republic of Albania.
    • The Soviet-style regimes that arose in the Bloc not only reproduced Soviet command economies, but also adopted the brutal methods employed by Joseph Stalin and Soviet secret police to suppress opposition. In Asia, the Red Army had overrun Manchuria in the last month of the war, and went on to occupy the large swathe of Korean territory located north of the 38th parallel.
    • British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was concerned that, given the enormous size of Soviet forces deployed in Europe at the end of the war, and the perception that Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was unreliable, there existed a Soviet threat to Western Europe.
    • The Eastern Bloc was the name used by NATO-affiliated countries for the former communist states of Central and Eastern Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact.
  • File:EasternBloc BorderChange38-48.svg
  • “Long Telegram” and “Iron Curtain Speech”:
    • George F. Kennan’s “Long Telegram“:
      • In February 1946, George Kennan, the American charge d’affaires in Moscow, sent an 8,000-word telegram to the Department of State detailing his views on the Soviet Union, and U.S. policy toward the communist state.
        • It helped to articulate the US government’s increasingly hard line against the Soviets, and became the basis for US strategy toward the Soviet Union for the duration of the Cold War.
        • Kennan’s analysis provided one of the most influential underpinnings for America’s Cold War policy of containment.
    • Stalin frightened the West further by a widely reported speech in February 1946 in which he said that communism and capitalism could never live peacefully together, and that future wars were inevitable until the final victory of communism was achieved.
      • However, Russian historians have claimed that the speech was reported in the west in a misleading and biased way, especially by George Kennan, who was the US charge d’affaires in Moscow.
      • Churchill responded to all this in his famous “Iron Curtain” speech at Fulton, Missouri (USA), in March 1946, in which he repeated a phrase he had used earlier: ‘From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent‘.
        • Claiming that the Russians were bent on ‘indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines’, he called for a Western alliance which would stand firm against the communist threat.
        • The Iron Curtain symbolized the ideological conflict and physical boundary dividing Europe into two separate areas from the end of World War II in 1945 (which lasted until the end of the Cold War in 1991). The term symbolized efforts by the Soviet Union to block itself and its satellite states from open contact with the west and non-Soviet-controlled areas.
        • The speech drew a sharp response from Stalin, who revealed his fears about Germany and the need to strengthen Soviet security.
        • The rift between East and West was steadily widening and Stalin was able to denounce Churchill as a ‘warmonger’. But not everybody in the West agreed with Churchill – over a hundred British Labour MPs signed a motion criticizing the Conservative leader for his attitude.
    • Novikov telegram:
      • In September 1946, the Soviet side produced the Novikov telegram, sent by the Soviet ambassador to the US; it portrayed the US as being in the grip of monopoly capitalists who were building up military capability “to prepare the conditions for winning world supremacy in a new war”.
    • On 6 September 1946, James F. Byrnes delivered a speech in Germany repudiating the Morgenthau Plan and warning the Soviets that the US intended to maintain a military presence in Europe indefinitely.
      • The Morgenthau Plan, first proposed by United States Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, advocated that the Allied occupation of Germany following World War II include measures to eliminate Germany’s ability to wage war by eliminating its armament industry, and the removal or destruction of other key industries basic to military strength.
  • The Russians continued to tighten their grip on eastern Europe
    • By the end of 1947 every state in that area with the exception of Czechoslovakia had a fully communist government.
    • Elections were rigged, non-communist members of coalition governments were expelled, many were arrested and executed and eventually all other political parties were dissolved. All this took place under the watchful eyes of secret police and Russian troops.
    • In addition, Stalin treated the Russian zone of Germany as if it were Russian territory, allowing only the Communist Party and draining it of vital resources.
    • Only Yugoslavia did not fit the pattern: here the communist government of Marshal Tito had been legally elected in 1945. Tito had won the election because of his immense prestige as leader of the anti-German resistance; it was Tito’s forces, not the Russians, who had liberated Yugoslavia from German occupation, and Tito resented Stalin’s attempts to interfere.
    • The West was profoundly irritated by Russia’s treatment of eastern Europe, which disregarded Stalin’s promise of free elections, made at Yalta.
      • And yet they ought not to have been surprised at what was happening: even Churchill had agreed with Stalin in 1944 that much of eastern Europe should be a Russian sphere of influence.
      • Stalin could argue that friendly governments in neighbouring states were necessary for self-defence, that these states had never had democratic governments anyway, and that communism would bring much-needed progress to backward countries. It was Stalin’s methods of gaining control which upset the West, and they gave rise to the next major developments.

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