Searching for an essay?

Browse the database of more than 4500 essays donated by our community members!

The Cold War – the conferences and the start of the Cold War

The Yalta Conference

– Introduction: by February 1945, it was clear that Hitler was going to be defeated. It also seemed that it would take longer to defeat Japan. One of the key American aims at Yalta was to get a Soviet commitment to enter the war against Japan. This puts Stalin in a strong bargaining position. Yalta is in Crimea and both Churchill and Roosevelt travel to Yalta for the conference, Stalin was the host.

It was clear even at Yalta that Roosevelt’s health was weak. The second front had been opened by the British Americans and others in June 1944, the second front which Stalin had been calling for, for so long. Therefore, the most important question facing the personalities of Yalta was the future of Germany. The Yalta Conference lasts only for one week; February 4 – 11

Decisions are taken at Yalta:

Writing service




[Rated 96/100]

Prices start at $12
Min. deadline 6 hours
Writers: ESL
Refund: Yes

Payment methods: VISA, MasterCard, American Express


[Rated 94/100]

Prices start at $11
Min. deadline 3 hours
Writers: ESL, ENL
Refund: Yes

Payment methods: VISA, MasterCard, American Express, Discover


[Rated 91/100]

Prices start at $12
Min. deadline 3 hours
Writers: ESL, ENL
Refund: Yes

Payment methods: VISA, MasterCard, JCB, Discover

1) Stalin agreed that once Germany surrendered after 90 days, the Soviet Union would declare war upon Japan. As a precondition, Stalin wanted Mongolian independence from China and recognition of Soviet interests on the Manchurian railway and at Port Arthur

2) These terms were agreed upon without China even being consulted. Roosevelt was also hoping that when it was formed, the United Nations could deal with this problem

3) Clearly, the biggest problem facing the Big Three was the future of Germany;

a. Germany would be divided into four zones and placed under military occupation; France, Britain, America and Russia

b. As the German capital, Berlin was deep in the Soviet zone, there was also be four- power occupation of Berlin. At Yalta, provisional lines of advance were agreed between the Soviet Union and the Western powers

4) Declaration on Liberated Europe; Peoples liberated from the Germans would have free elections to choose their own governments

5) The setting up of a new world organization, the United Nations Organization, which replaced the League of Nations

6) Eastern Europe was to be recognized as a Soviet Sphere of Influence, this was done to create a safety zone for Russia, which had lost 20 million Russians in World War II

7) As the Allies in 1945 were marching into Germany from the west and the east, they were finding concentration camps; the Big Three agreed to hunt down and punish Nazi War Criminals responsible for the genocide

Disagreements behind the scenes

I. Churchill, even at this stage, was suspicious of Russian Communism

II. On one hand, Britain had gone to war to defend the independence of Poland (to uphold her guarantee of Poland). On the other hand, Stalin wanted to move Polish borders westwards, taking some German territory (for security reasons). The difficulty was that Red Army troops controlled both Poland and Eastern Germany. In practice, Churchill persuaded Roosevelt to accept these new Polish borders as long as the USSR agreed not to intervene in Greece, where the British were fighting the Communists

III. In October 1944, at their Moscow meeting, there was the famous occasion when Churchill and Stalin tried to drink each other under the table and they reached the famous “Percentage Agreements”. For most of Eastern Europe, the percentages favoured Soviet influence, but the west (Britain) was given a majority percentage in Greece

IV. Roosevelt and Stalin seemed to get on well and the jokes seemed to be at the expense of Churchill

The Potsdam Conference

– Introduction: by the time of the Potsdam Conference, which began July 7, 1945, the war in Europe had ended and Hitler had been defeated. British and American troops had met Soviet troops along agreed demarcation lines in April 1945. When the lines had been drawn up at Yalta, they seemed to favour the Western Allies, but in practice, American and British troops had to withdraw from the territory they had occupied in accordance with the agreement. After the war, many strategists, military experts and historians such as Chester Wilmot argued that the Western Allies should have put more effort into marching east and seizing Berlin.

However, the counter-argument is that the British and American zones included the Ruhr (Germany’s industrial heartland), and that the Capital Berlin was more of symbolic value than strategic importance. It was decided to hold the conference at Potsdam because this had been Germany’s great military academy; they were making the point that Prussian militarism had been defeated and that Prussia as a state was abolished.

The war ended in a completely different way than that of World War I because Germany was defeated and under military occupation. In April 1945, President Roosevelt had died and was succeeded by his Vice President, Harry Truman. Truman was more anti-communist and much more suspicious of Soviet intentions

– Two features, in particular, influenced the mood of the conference, even before it began:

a) Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe. Eastern Europe had been liberated, mainly by Soviet troops. By July 1945, Soviet troops were in the Baltic States, Finland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania. The Soviet troops remained in these countries. Stalin had established a Communist government in Poland and Britain and the USA had protested against this.

The Polish government in London was not allowed to strongly influence events in Poland and it was the Lublin Polish Government, a Soviet puppet, which tended to produce the members of the Polish government. To Churchill and the British, Poland was of great importance (that was why they went into war), but it wasn’t that important to Truman and the Americans. It seemed that the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe was in contravention of the Declaration on Liberated Europe, which was issued at Yalta

b) The USA tested an atomic bomb in a desert in USA on July 16, 1945. At the beginning of the conference, Truman informed Stalin about the existence of this atomic bomb

– Halfway through the conference, Churchill was defeated in a general election and he was replaced at the conference by the new British Prime Minister, the Labor Party Leader Clement Attlee

Yalta: Stalin, Churchill, Roosevelt

Potsdam: Stalin, Churchill, Truman –> Stalin, Attlee, Truman

– Unlike at Yalta, the United States made little attempt to form a good relationship with Stalin. There was very little progress at the conference and two issues above all produced a deadlock:

1) Germany. Stalin wanted to cripple German power. There was a program of dismantling, where factories and industrial units were dismantled and taken to the Soviet Union. To the Americans, this was simply delaying the rebuilding of Germany and the reconstruction of a prosperous Europe. Stalin wanted high reparations from Germany; however, the Americans do not want to repeat the same mistakes made at the end of WWI. Truman was now very suspicious of Soviet intentions in Eastern Europe. Stalin believed that the Soviet was entitled to dominate Eastern Europe because of her suffering the Second World War

2) A program of the three D’s was established for Germany; Demilitarization, Democratization, Denazification. Making Russia democratic meant making it Communist; there would clearly be a disagreement over what democracy meant. There was agreement that German industry could be dismantled and again, there were going to be differences of interpretation of this. There was to be an allied controlled commission for Germany and Germany was to be put under military occupation. There was to be a series of meetings for the foreign ministers –> Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM), where America, Britain, the Soviet Union and France were to attend

Generally, Potsdam produced few decisions of importance

– The question of Germany was clearly all important. Final decisions upon Germany would depend upon a final peace agreement. In the event, this peace treaty never came about; there was no peace treaty with Germany at the end of the Second World War. It was the onset of the Cold War which made the agreement of such a treaty impossible. In theory, the agreements at Yalta and Potsdam maintained that there must be eventually an all-German government with which a treaty could be signed. Stalin repeatedly, and especially in 1948, reminded the allies of the commitment to an all-German government. Stalin clearly believed that it would be possible to achieve a pro-Soviet or Communist all German government.

This was the greatest fear of the Americans and the British. America would favour a pro-Western and Capitalist government. The distrust on both sides meant that in practice, the system of military occupation in four zones continued indefinitely. The allied powers were obviously highly suspicious of the German – Nazi past; Germany could not be trusted. Potsdam was a step further than Yalta at the beginning of the Cold War

Suspicions and Historical Animosities

1) There is the view that the Cold War was the normal state of affairs between the USSR and the West. America, Britain and France had sent troops to put down the Bolshevik Revolution. The Russians never forgot this and probably never forgave it either. In the 1920s, Britain and America did not fund Russian economic recovery and the appeasement policy of the 1930s was conducted separately from the USSR and perhaps, partly due to fear of Soviet Power

2) Stalin claimed that the Western powers had been too slow in opening the Second Front and this had put great strain on Russia

3) Firstly the allies did open a Second Front in Italy. Secondly, they opened the Second Front in France when there was a strong possibility of success. The allied response to this was to refer to the Nazi-Soviet pact and the fact that the Soviet Union had actually allied with Nazi Germany, divided up Poland between the Soviet and Nazi Germany and left Britain and France to fight Hitler alone

4) The claims that the allies gave little or no material help to the Soviet Union. Firstly, the British sent many supplies through the Arctic Convoys. But secondly, the Americans provided the Soviet Union with massive supplies of military hardware, weapons, ammunition, food and equipment. Thirdly, by the end of the war, the Americans had believed that they deserved a large quid pro quo from the Russians

5) The Russians claimed that the Americans opposed them over dismantling and other issues, but the American viewpoint was that the economies of Europe needed to be built up so that war debts could be repaid

6) The Potsdam Conference ended on August 2, 1945. At the conference, Truman informed Stalin of the possession of the atomic bomb. Four days after the conference, an atom bomb was dropped over Hiroshima, and on August 9, Nagasaki was bombed. On this view, Stalin felt that he had not been fully informed on nuclear developments. It could be argued that the dropping of the atom bomb as a means of exhibiting American power to the Russians. Moreover, it could be viewed as an American plot to win the war against Japan without Russian help. Stalin declared war on Japan, and Russia received the territorial rewards promised at Yalta, without Soviet forces having to fight

The Cold War and Ideology

– Ideologies are beliefs of belief systems, more specifically political and social ideas; how a state and society are organized

– Religion. America believed in the freedom of religion or conscience; America was mainly founded by Protestants, Catholics were traditionally very important in America, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, TV Evangelists, Muslims, etc… “In God we trust”. The USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) was an atheist state which banned religion; Marxism dialectical material –> avowedly materialist doctrine (there is no place for Religion here)

– America and the Four Freedoms; the Americans claimed that they had four freedoms that were not available in a Communist society.

1) Freedom of Speech

2) Freedom of Worship (religion, no matter what religion you had)

3) Freedom from Want

4) Freedom from Fear (no secret police or surveillance in America)

– Some Qualifying Points;

I. Roosevelt, the New Deal and Identification with the Soviet Union. Roosevelt’s new deal basically applied government deficit finance and Keynesian economics to try to stimulate the American economy and to solve the problem of the Great Depression. There was a huge program of public works. Actually, during the war, there was the idea that America and the Soviet Union followed the same ideals of caring for the common man and so on.

America made a huge commitment in terms of military and food supplies to the Soviet Union. At Yalta, Roosevelt and Stalin seemed to cooperate at the expense of Churchill. Armament expenditure in the Second World War, i.e. US government expenditure, had taken America out of Depression and by 1945 she was clearly the greatest creditor nation in the world. The USA generally was very suspicious of British intentions and the concept of the British Empire; the USA was opposed to the idea of formal empires

See also  A Midsummer Night's Dream Analysis

II. At Potsdam, the British representation changed from Churchill to Attlee. Attlee was the leader of the Labor Party; his party embarked on a very radical program, his program included state ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, e.g. iron, coal, steel, transport, etc…

They also introduced the welfare state with a National Health Service and state benefits for people who were unemployed and for other categories. Above all, there was the idea from Keynes of a planned economy. Ironically, the British government under Attlee was probably the most anti-Communist British government there had ever been. Ernest Bevin, a former trade union leader, was the most right-wing British Foreign Secretary of the 20th Century

III. Clearly from the time of Potsdam, the beginnings of the Cold War were much clearer than they were at Yalta. The main reasons for this were:

* The continued Soviet Military presence in Eastern Europe

* The Soviet attitude toward the dismantling reparations and German Industry

IV. The background to the events of the next 4- 5 years was set largely by Soviet actions in Eastern Europe. Although important in themselves, these policies in Eastern Europe alarmed the British and the Americans about Soviet intentions in Germany

Soviet Consolidation in Eastern Europe

a) Poland. Firstly, the Communists joined a Coalition government, but they became outright leaders in 1947 and the non- Communist leader went into exile. This set a familiar pattern

b) Hungary. Again, the Communists became the largest party in the 1947 elections. They imprisoned opposition politicians and attacked Church leaders

c) Romania. Romania had a communist prime minister and a left-wing coalition. In 1947 the communists abolished the monarchy

d) Bulgaria. There was a left-wing coalition in 1945. The leaders of the other parties were executed and the communists took power

e) the Baltic States. Estonia Latvia and Lithuania were all under soviet and communist rule. Finland hung on to a precarious independence

f) Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was under the Communist President Marshal Tito from 1945. He was extremely successful in preventing ethnic disputes in Yugoslavia. He made it clear that Yugoslavia would follow a policy independent of Moscow. Yugoslavia was expelled from the Cominform in 1948

g) Eastern Germany. East Germany was run by the USSR under Red Army control. Its political leaders wore grey suits, lacked any personality or individuality and were clearly puppets of the Soviet Union


=> To Truman, Attlee and Bevin, the Soviet Union was not living up to its commitments under the Declaration on Liberated Europe made at Yalta. Their fear was that Communist control would extend to Western Germany and Western Europe. The Communist parties poled huge votes in elections in France and Italy

Containment and the Truman Doctrine

1) George Kennan and the Long Telegram; February 22 1946

– A telegram sent from Moscow to Washington from George Kennan, the American Ambassador to the Soviet Union, explaining the threats of Communism and the Soviet Union. This telegram became very important because President Truman and other officials strongly agreed with this, and it was clear that America had to react and work on containing Communism all over the world

2) Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech; March 5, 1946

– Churchill makes a speech where he talks about an iron curtain descending within Europe from the (Stettin) Baltic in the North and to Trieste in the South

– The speech was agreed with the state department in advance and President Truman was in the audience at Westminster College, Fulton Missouri

– There was the idea that the iron curtain should not be allowed to expand

3) The British and American interpretation of Soviet Policy in Eastern Europe was as follows;

a. In most countries, a three phase policy of infiltration and control

i. Salami tactics to divide the opposition and strengthen Communism

ii. Control of the ministry of the interior giving control of police forces

iii. Interference at elections leading to Communist control of governments – arrest and imprisonment of opponents

b. By the end of 1946 – 47, the only country in Eastern Europe which resisted Communist control was Czechoslovakia. Under Marshall Tito, Yugoslavia was Communist but somewhat independent. Every Spring, the British Foreign Office feared a Soviet invasion of Yugoslavia

c. Eastern Europe and the formation of Satellite states was therefore a key element in the Containment policy

4) The Truman Doctrine

a. Truman put forward this doctrine in a speech to Congress on March 12, 1947

b. The immediate causes concerned Greece and Turkey – Britain had occupation forces in both these countries, but she had to withdraw because she did not have the financial resources. America agreed to pay the British Occupation Force in Greece and Turkey. In response, Truman produced the Doctrine

c. The speech was mainly about Greece and Turkey but led to the famous Doctrine and statement which amounted to an American commitment to support people’s resisting Communism anywhere in the world. The Truman Doctrine is a military doctrine

d. The Communists in Greece had tried to takeover in 1944, but the British army had prevented this and Stalin was studiously careful not to intervene in Greece. This was probably in accordance with the Percentage Agreements he had reached with Churchill in 1944 (they were both probably drunk). It was also a warning to the Russians

“I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures”

The Marshall Plan (European Recovery Program ERP), June 1947

– The Marshall Plan really begins with the Treasury Department on a purely economic basis

– Above all, the USA wanted to avoid the problems raised by reparations in the Versailles settlement at the end of WWI and the problems which caused the Wall Street Crash and Great Depression

– The USA believed there must be prosperous areas in the world by which America could trade

– The State Department under General George Marshall intervened however, took over the Treasury Department plan and developed it into what became known as the Marshall Plan or European Recovery Program

– This is to emphasize that the Marshall Plan was above all aimed at defending the Free World and opposing Communism in Europe. Political and foreign policy aims predominated. The economic aspects, although very important, were secondary

– It was believed that without financial assistance provided by the United States, Europe would fall into Communism; the idea that “Communism thrives on economic difficulties and poverty”. This was partly because Europe was in debt by over $ 11 billion to America

– Problems of homelessness, refugees, destruction of the infrastructure and debt plagued the European economy

– In France and Italy, the Communist party was especially important as they were getting lots of votes

– Marshall announced the plan in his speech at Harvard University on June 5, 1947. The plan was put to congress in December and as Marshall suggested spending $ 17 billion, at first Congress rejected the plan

– Events in Czechoslovakia, March 1948

1) Czechoslovakia was the last free independent and democratic state remaining in Eastern Europe

2) In March 1948, there was a Communist Coup and all non- Communist ministers were rejected from the government

3) Jan Masaryk was found dead on the pavement under a window. Perhaps he committed suicide; perhaps it was a case of defenestration or murder by pushing out of the window. The new Czech government was clearly a puppet of Moscow

4) Ernest Bevin, the British Foreign Secretary, wrote a series of cabinet papers emphasizing the Russian threat and one of these papers was called “The Threat to Western Civilization”. Bevin wanted to commit American military and economic resources to the defense of Western Europe

5) Events in Czechoslovakia may not have been orchestrated by Moscow, but served to increase the influence of all those in America and Britain who perceived a Communist threat to Europe

6) In the aftermath of events in Czechoslovakia, Congress approved the ERP payment

– Political and Economic Importance of the Marshall Plan

* Over the following four years, $ 17 billion of ERP aid was provided to the countries of Western Europe

* Russia and the countries of Eastern Europe were invited to take part in the program

* To the Russians, the Marshall Plan was almost an act of aggression against them. They rejected the aid and forced the satellite states to reject the aid

* The aid was channeled through important committees set up jointly with the Americans in each European country. Countries which especially benefitted were France, Italy, the Western zones of Germany and Britain

* It can be argued that Marshall Aid only helped to bring about a European economic recovery which was on the way anyway, especially under Monnet in France

* This view does not give enough importance to the psychological and symbolic aspects of the Marshall Plan. Especially important was the recovery and improvement of the European economic infrastructure

* Berlin especially by the early 50’s showed the difference in standard of living between Western and Eastern Europe. West Berlin had cars, supermarkets and night clubs, in comparison East Berlin was very backward

* There is the argument that Marshall Aid was purely selfish on America’s part as an attempt to build up Europe as a trading partner – it was certainly very successful in this respect

The Berlin Crisis, 1948 – 1949

* Causes;

a) In 1947, the US and British zones of occupation in Germany were combined into the Bizone

b) In early 1948, tripartite US- British- French talks on the future of Germany took place in London. It was decided that a separate West German state would be established with a separate currency. The French were very reluctant to agree with this as they feared a Soviet reaction

c) Through their spies the Russians learnt of these plans. Stalin considered them a breach of the agreements of Yalta and Potsdam

d) When the new currency was issued in Western Germany and West Berlin, Stalin decided to act

* The Berlin Blockade;

a) In June 1948, Stalin ordered the Blockade of West Berlin; the roads, railways and canals linking West Berlin to Western Germany were blocked. Stalin believed that this was a crisis which he could only win in one of two ways –

1. His main aim was to put such pressure on Berlin that the allies would be forced to agree to a CFM (Council of Foreign Ministers) in which the future of the whole of Germany would be discussed

2. If this tactic did not succeed, as West Berlin would run out of supplies the allies would have to evacuate it and leave it to Soviet control

b) The British believed that Berlin could not be supplied from the air. The Americans, and especially General Clay the American Military Governor, saw the crisis as simply a trial of strength which had to be won. From June 1948 onwards, the allied air- lift to Berlin led by the USAF brought supplies to Western Berlin. There was a constant stream of aircraft for the next 10 months, one landing every 30 seconds. Despite Stalin closing down coal and electricity supplies to West Berlin the airlift was successful. By May 1949, the amount of supplies in West Berlin was increasing and there was a reserve

c) In May 1949, Stalin called off the airlift and now expected a CFM for calling it off. Although a CFM eventually did meet, there were no extensive discussions on Germany


1) The Berlin Crisis was a critically important event. It was a crucial test of will and power – it was a key stage in determining the future of Germany

2) The Berlin crisis immediately preceded two events of incalculable importance for the future of Western Germany

a. The establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany

b. The establishment of NATO – North Atlantic Treaty Organization

The Establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany, 1949

1) All the preparations for this were made at the London Conference of February- March 1948

2) The Berlin Blockade was above all an attempt by Stalin to prevent the establishment of a separate Western German state

3) As early as May 1949, the British, French and American zones became the Federal Republic of Germany

4) The August Elections of 1949;

a. There were two main political parties in Germany; the Christian Democrats (the more conservative party led by Konrad Adenauer) and Social Democrats (the socialists led by Kurt Schumacher)

b. The British gave their support to the Social Democrats and assumed that they would win the elections. On the whole, the Americans favored the victory of the Christian Democrats because they wanted a more free economy

c. On August 1949, the Christian Democrats formed a majority coalition government under Konrad Adenauer

See also  Huck Finn Man's Often Concealed Shortcomings

d. Theodor Heuss was the first President of the Federal Republic, established under a Basic Law by the military authorities, but Executive Authority lay with Adenauer, the Chancellor

e. The years from 1949 were the years of the Wirtschaftswunde (the German Economic Miracle) with gains in productivity, GNP and prosperity of over 5% per annum, year after year. The Federal Republic and Western Berlin prospered greatly compared to the East – televisions, motorcars, supermarkets, night clubs, autobahns, foreign holidays, Mercedes, Porsche, Volkswagen ; this was normal for Western Germans but not Eastern Germans

f. Ludwig Erhard was the Finance Minster who had a great belief in free markets. Erhard and Adenauer formed the most important political alliance in Post- War German history

g. From the capital of the Federal Republic in Bonn, there was a new post- war political and economic structure. There was an extensive program of social benefits given to workers in Western Germany with high taxation

h. The Federal Republic was so called because of the existence of the various landers such as Hanover, Bavaria and North Rhine- Westphalia, which retained important rights over education and other aspects of administration. Until 1955, the Federal Republic was not a sovereign state and was still under the authority of the military governance. From 1955, the system of military governance came to an end, the allied High Commissioners to Western Germany became Ambassadors, and yet at the same time, British and American forces remained stationed in Western Germany. The German Federal Republic was largely defended from the East German and Soviet threat by American and British land and air forces

i. In October 1949, in response to the establishment of the Federal Republic, the German Democratic Republic was formed in Eastern Germany, including East Berlin. This was little more than a Soviet Satellite Communist State and its leaders were grey uninspiring figures such as Walter Ulbricht

– The Berlin Crisis, 1961;

* Causes;

1) The Berlin Crisis of 1948- 1949 had led to the formation of the Federal Republic of Western Germany

2) From 1949 onwards, West Germany and West Berlin enjoyed great material prosperity- supermarkets, televisions, motorcars and nightclubs

3) In 1955 Western Germany was allowed to join NATO. From 1951 onwards Adenauer had committed Germany to membership of the European Coal and Steel Community or Schuman Plan, and the growing Franco – German political and economic cooperation was forging a new Europe. The original six members of the European Economic Union (EEC) were France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. In 1957 this grouping was strengthened by the signature of the Treaty of Rome

4) In the late 1950’s Adenauer and President Charles de Gaulle formed an important political and personal alliance. Even so, at times the strong personality and authority of De Gaulle seemed to dominate this relationship

5) In the 1950’s travel between East and West Berlin was easily possible. However, the disparity of prosperity between East and West became so great that many people in Eastern Germany fled to Western Germany using Berlin as the point of access. In most years, 150, 000 – 200, 000 people did this. In 1953, the year of a Soviet crackdown in Poland and workers’ riots in East Germany, over 300,000 people fled from East to West. The Soviet defeat of the Hungarian uprising of 1956 also led to greater numbers leaving East Germany for the West. East Germany was losing her best skilled people, managers and workers

6) People in East Germany could visit West Berlin, could hear from their relatives in the West and could watch Western television programs- so they were aware about Western prosperity

7) In 1961, America had a new president, the young and inexperience John F. Kennedy. Khrushchev, the Soviet leader decided that he could intimidate and put pressure upon Kennedy

8) DON’T EVER MIX THEM UP: 1949 – Blockade Crisis, 1961 – the crisis of the wall

* The crisis of 1961;

1) Sunday 13, August 1961 East German soldiers put up a barbed wire barrier for the whole length of the border between East and West Berlin. It was quickly replaced by a concrete wall and all crossing points between East and West Berlin were closed – except for Checkpoint Charlie. Also, armed guards were posted at regular intervals along the concrete wall. Families were divided, some people couldn’t go to work, and there was chaos and confusion. Many people tried simply to cross the wall from East to West and hundreds were killed in the next three decades

2) The building of the wall was a desperate measure by East Germany and was called for less by Khrushchev than by the pitiless East German Leader Walter Ulbricht

3) October 1961; access to East Berlin had been guaranteed to the allies since 1945 so the building of the wall created a major crisis. Diplomats from the West and soldiers crossed into East Berlin to test Soviet Reaction. October 27; Soviet tanks pulled up at Checkpoint Charlie and prevented entrance from the West. At this point, US tanks faced the Soviet tanks. There was a tense situation and the two sets of tanks faced each other for almost 18 hours – one by one, five meters at a time, the tanks on opposing sides began to pull back

4) There was great relief. Khrushchev restrained Ulbricht from any strong reaction which could cause an increase in tension

5) “It is not a very nice solution but a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war” – John F. Kennedy

6) During the crisis, General Clay (the former American military governor) was called back from his business career to appear in Berlin as a symbol of Western support for West Berlin

7) John F. Kennedy visited Berlin in 1963 and made a speech next the Berlin wall. He said this, “There are some who say that in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the communists. Let them come to Berlin”. He also said “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner) –> Berlin stands for freedom and I stand for freedom

* Conclusions;

a. Berlin in the middle of Eastern Germany had been put under four power occupation in 1945

b. In 1948 -9 the Berlin Blockade crisis concerned not only Berlin but the whole future of Germany and was followed by the establishment of the Federal Republic and the Democratic Republic

c. In the period 1949 – 61, West Berlin became a showpiece of Western Capitalism and the success of the Federal Republic

d. The building of the Berlin Wall and the crisis which followed was both a dangerous situation which could have led to war and a symbolic event which signaled a much stronger separation of East and West Berlin

e. To the Soviets, this is a protective shell around East Berlin while the West presented it as prison wall

==> What was the importance of Berlin as a city to the Cold War, 1945 – 1965?

o Berlin was divided into four occupation zones; one Soviet zone and three Western zones

o Berlin as a city was isolated within East Germany and surrounded by Soviet territory

o Yalta and Potsdam agreements – transportation routes to and from West and East Berlin

o Countries such as Germany became purely satellite states

o Plans to set up a West German Federation – the need for a financial new currency – Stalin considered this to be illegal. This was justified by the Western Allies as a means of improving economy

o The launching of the Berlin Blockade; Stalin is trying to use Berlin as a means by which the whole question of the future of Germany could be reopened –> very tense situation with a high risk of war

o The establishment of NATO and the Federal Republic of Germany (Adenauer as the first Chancellor, and other important political figures)

o 1949 – 1961 –> West Berlin’s economic power as opposed to the East’s, a huge number of people moved from East Berlin to West Berlin because of the higher standard of living found in West Berlin. This eventually led to the building of the concrete wall to separate between the East and West. In 1961, the Soviets and Americans had a close war encounter when tanks on either side of the wall lined up against each other

NATO and the Warsaw Pact

– NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organization

– Ever since the Truman Doctrine there was the question of how this Doctrine could be put into effect and America did not want to be put in the position of being the only power left to impose the containment policy or to resist Communist aggression

– The Brussels Treaty of March 17, 1948 between Britain, France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands was a defense pact established mainly in response to US policy and as an organization which could be kernel of the European part of an Atlantic pact

– As the Berlin Crisis came to a halt, the NATO pact was formed in April 1949. The negotiations for this pact had taken place throughout the previous year. Important authors of this pact were Truman, Attlee, Dean Acheson and Ernest Bevin. Norway joined the pact. The Americans wanted Italy to join the pact although the British had many reservations but Italy did join NATO

– Portugal, although under the dictatorship of Dr. Salazar was admitted to NATO. The Azores were considered of great strategic importance. As a Fascist state, Spain was not allowed to join NATO. Sweden was invited to join the pact, but remained neutral. Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Denmark were all founder members. Western Germany was not allowed to join NATO as a founder member. The United States of America, Canada, Greenland and Iceland also belonged to NATO

– Article 3 of the NATO Pact: to achieve the aims of this treaty the parties will keep up their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack – each country must make a financial and military contribution to resist the spread of Communism

– Article 5: the parties agree that an armed attack one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against all of them – this is the key principle of NATO and was the motive for small nations such as Norway and Denmark to join the pact (for defense)

– The NATO treaty established a regional pact under article 51 of the United Nations Charter which allowed such pacts to be established

– The Soviet Union said that they also believed in North Atlantic defense and applied to join NATO. If Russia had joined, she would have been part of the military talks – therefore the allies did not accept Soviet membership. Europe was now divided into two hostile blocs

– NATO, even since 1949, has been the most important Western defense alliance treaty

– The Warsaw Pact was established in 1955, which was really a Soviet defense system in response to NATO. In 1955, the system of military governance came to an end and the Federal Republic of Germany was allowed to become a member of NATO

– The member states of the Warsaw Pact were the Soviet Union and her Eastern European satellites with the exception of Yugoslavia – Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and East Germany

– The Warsaw Pact looked formidable in terms of numbers, but its equipment perhaps was not as good as NATO equipment, and both sides had nuclear weapons. In practice, the Soviet Generals issued orders to the Warsaw

– pact

The Austrian State Treaty, 1955

– Austria had been divided into a four- power occupation in a very similar way to Germany. Vienna in the Soviet Zone also had four power occupation in the same way as Berlin

– In 1955, the Austrian State Treaty signed by Austria, the Soviet Union, the USA, Britain and France gave Austria her independence as a guaranteed neutral state. Austria did not apply to join NATO and for many years did not apply to join the European Union

– It is highly likely that the Soviets agreed to this settlement in the hope that a similar process might then be adopted in Germany


– COMECON: Council for Mutual Economic Assistance

– Its main aims was to coordinate the industry and trade of the Eastern European Countries

– In the late 1950’s Khrushchev expressed the view, “We will bury you” – he meant by this that the Soviet and Communist economies would easily overhaul the Capitalist economies. There was a tremendous belief in Socialist countries in State Planning

– The main idea was that the members of COMECON would trade with each other instead of trading with the west

– The Soviet Satellite states and the Soviet Union were the member states of COMECON

– In practice however, there was very little actual economic cooperation in COMECON. Decisions were mostly taken in Moscow and COMECON conferences, which gave the appearance of free negotiation usually followed the COMECON lead

– The system favored the USSR more than other members:

a) The USSR was given a market to sell its goods

See also  Qualifications Essay

b) It guaranteed the USSR a cheap supply of raw materials

c) Poland was forced to sell its coal to the USSR at one tenth of the market price

– Membership of COMECON was compulsory for all Eastern European States in the Communist Bloc (East Germany, East Berlin, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania)

– In 1964, COMECON set up a bank for socialist countries

– When the Soviet system collapsed and the iron curtain collapsed in 1990, COMECON collapsed with it and it no longer exists

– The establishment of COMECON was not a riposte (an answer to a challenge) to NATO or to the early stages of Western European Economic and Political Union; it was the Soviet answer to the Marshall Plan

The United Nations and the Non- Aligned Movement

– For the United Nations, see JCL’s printed notes =)

– The Cold War at times reduced the UN to a nullity in the first ten years of its existence. Far from dealing with the Cold War, the UN as a body simply became another place where the Cold War was fought out

– When the People’s Republic of China was proclaimed under Mao Tse Tung, the Chinese seat at the UN Security Council remained with Chiang Kai Sheik who now became leader on the small island of Formosa (Taiwan) to which he and his nationalist followers fled. This showed the power of the United States in the UN

– On any issue and any vote both Russia and America would expect certain states to give it political support

– At the beginning of the Korean War, the Soviet Union was boycotting the UN and only this allowed the USA to get approval from the Security Council for military action in Korea

– In every continent, the two sides in the Cold War sought supporters. Soon the Cold War became almost a strategic chess game in which each side sought military allies and strategic positions of strengths

– Many rulers and statesmen especially in African and Asian countries, did not wish to be drawn into the Cold War

– Following especially the ideas of Pandit Nehru, there was the idea that some countries could form a Non- Aligned Group and a Non- Aligned Movement

– Anti- colonialism was a particular feature of the Non- Aligned Movement; French actions in Algeria and actions by the Dutch in New Guinea, in opposition to Indonesia were particularly important flashpoints

– April 18- 24, 1955; a conference met a Bandung in Indonesia

– Members of the Conference; Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, Ceylon, People’s Republic of China, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam, North, Vietnam, South, Yemen

– President Sukarno of Indonesia particularly wanted to make a reputation as a Statesman at this conference. The most important states taking part were Indonesia, Burma, Pakistan and the People’s Republic of China

– There were three main aspects to the Bandung Conference

a) A condemnation of colonialism and neo-colonialism aimed mostly at the United States of America. The Conference however did not simply condemn American colonialism. There was a significant discussion of the events in Eastern Europe and the conference condemned colonialism “in all its manifestations”

b) The primary aim of this conference was to suggest that if countries suffering from colonialism or facing the threat of being drawn into the Cold War on one side or the other could combine together, they could form an independent third entity of non- aligned nations. There was particularly the hope that this could improve the situation in the United Nations. One important aim was the call for technical aid from the advanced nations to former colonial states without political commitments

c) The Bandung Conference was also called the Afro- Asian Conference and there was the idea that states in Africa and Asia had the most to fear from alignment in the Cold War. The People’s Republic of China played an important part in the conference and Zhou En Lai represented China. At this time, there was considerable Sino- Soviet tension and at the conference, there was the idea that Chinese Communism formed a more attractive version than Soviet Communism. Especially since Maoism seemed to suggest that a peasant revolution rather than one of the proletariat was possible

– Conclusions:

1) The Bandung Conference showed the desire of countries in Africa and Asia to retain a level of political independence from both the American and the Soviet blocs in World Diplomacy

2) In practice, the Bandung Conference had little effect. A very large number of the states which attended were later affected by civil war and unrest, and a great number of them actually did become participants in the Cold war on one side or the other

3) India in particular was somewhat successful in following a policy of neutrality in the Cold War, but generally the Non- Aligned Movement had little influence either within the United Nations or in wider world diplomacy

The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe – further considerations

– Through the Cominform, Stalin made sure that all Eastern European countries followed the same Soviet style policies. They were all one- party states; the Communist party was the only legal party and they all had a secret police. Each country had Soviet troops stationed there

– Their economies were run through COMECON

– In certain circumstances the Soviet Union showed itself ready to crush opposition with tanks;

a) June 1953, huge demonstrations across East Germany where Soviet tanks rolled in. 40 protesters were killed, 400 wounded and thousands arrested. There were similar protests in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania, all of which were treated the same

b) 1956 – Poland; there were riots in Poznan. 53 workers were killed by the Polish army. Khrushchev moved troops to Poland’s border. Poland gained a new leader called Gomulka. Gomulka made concessions to the Catholic Church but on the other hand, he was totally loyal to the Soviet Union. As a consequence, there was no direct Soviet intervention

c) 1956 – Hungary; Hungary was run by a hard-line Communist called Matyas Rakosi. The Hungarians even had to pay for the Soviet troops. The Hungarian Communist Party protested against Rakosi and he wanted to arrest 400 members of the party. The Kremlin wanted him to retire for health reasons. He was replaced by Gero, who was no more popular anyway

d) October 23, 1956: huge student demonstration at Hungary where they pulled down a statue of Stalin. A new government was formed under Imre Nagy. At this point, Soviet troops and tanks began to withdraw

e) Nagy’s plans were;

a. Free elections

b. Impartial courts

c. Farm land to return to private ownership

d. Total withdrawal of Soviet army from Hungary

e. Hungary to be neutral in the Cold War between East and West

f. Hungary to leave the Warsaw Pact

f) The Hungarians expected help from Britain and America, partly due to the broadcasts of Radio Free Europe but it never materialized

g) After a first round of street fighting in which the Magyars, using primitive rifles and Molotov cocktails forced the Soviet forces to withdraw from Budapest and indeed beyond Hungarian borders. However, despite appeals from the Magyars for help from the West, none was forthcoming

h) Finally, Soviet forces including tanks in overwhelming numbers re- entered Hungary and there was a second period of fighting in Budapest

i) November 1956; in two weeks of fighting, numbers of Hungarians killed was probably about 3000 with 7-8 thousand Russian soldiers killed. 200 thousand Hungarians fled to Austria. Nagy and his fellow leaders were put in prisons and executed

– Conclusions;

1) Perhaps it was that Nagy planned to take Hungary out of the Warsaw Pact and to be neutral in the Cold War which was the critical cause of the Soviet action

2) The Hungarians made desperate appeals for help from America and Britain but none were forthcoming. There were three main reasons for this;

a. The view that Hungary was in the Soviet Sphere of Influence

b. The Hungarian Revolt took place in the same year as the Suez Crisis and British and American diplomatic and military plans were based mainly upon the Suez Crisis. This made it easy for the Russians to reoccupy Hungary

c. The view that to give active direct military help to the Hungarians might lead to a major war between the Western Powers and the Warsaw Pact

d. The Hungarian uprising was another example showing that the satellite states were not willing participants in the Soviet experiment

e. In the aftermath of the crisis, Janos Kadar became the Soviet Sponsored Leader of Hungary. Kadar was for long considered a typical Soviet- appointed hard man. He crushed all resistance. Around 35 thousand anti- communists were arrested, 300 were executed. In time however, Kadar emerged as an imaginative and reforming leader – but he always maintained membership in the Warsaw Pact

The Prague Spring – 1968

– During the 1960’s a new mood developed in Czechoslovakia. In 1967, the Stalinist leader of Czechoslovakia resigned. Alexander Dubcek became the leader of the Czech Communist Party

– Dubcek favored;

a) Less censorship and more freedom of speech

b) Less secret police activity

c) To lessen the number of restrictions imposed by Communism

– Dubcek seemed to have learnt the lessons of the Hungarian revolt. Dubcek made it clear to Leonid Brezhnev, who had succeeded Khrushchev as Soviet Leader, that Czechoslovakia would remain within the Warsaw Pact and within COMECON

– Dubcek proposed a policy of “Socialism with a Human Face”. Intellectuals had a lot of influence and there were attacks on the Communist leaders as corrupt. Ministers were given critical interviews on television and radio

– Dubcek even talked of allowing the existence of another political party, the Social Democratic Party. This whole movement was known as the Prague Spring

– Two other Eastern European leaders put special pressure on Brezhnev to take action; Walter Ulbricht and Gomulka – they were concerned that the ideas would spread from Prague to their own countries

– There were Soviet, Polish and East German troop exercises as a kind of warning to the Czechs. Brezhnev considered economic sanctions but thought that could drive the Czechs to the West

– July – a conference between Soviet leaders and the Czechs;

a) Dubcek agreed not to allow a Social Democratic Party

b) In return, he said he would keep all the other reforms

– August – a conference of the other Warsaw Pact countries called on Czechoslovakia to maintain political stability

– August 20, 1968; Soviet tanks moved into Czechoslovakia and occupied Prague. Dubcek was dismissed from power and sent to work for the forestry ministry in Slovakia. In January, a young student, Jan Palach set himself on fire in protest of the ongoing events

– Conclusions;

1) Britain, France and America as well as other powers condemned the Soviet action but this was little more than vocal criticism

2) An attempt was made to organize action from the United Nations but again this was not successful

3) This had very serious effects on the image of Soviet Communism in the West

4) It seemed that “Socialism with a human face” was not possible within the Soviet system

5) Dubcek had accepted that Czechoslovakia must remain in the Warsaw Pact and in COMECON

6) Albania now resigned from the Warsaw Pact, but this was so unimportant that Brezhnev did not care

7) The Brezhnev Doctrine was established after the Prague Spring

The Brezhnev Doctrine

– In the aftermath of the Czech crisis, Brezhnev tried to define the new policy

a) Development in the direction of Capitalism could threaten the Socialist Commonwealth and then would become a problem of general concern for all Socialist countries

b) The essentials of Communism were defined as:

i. A one party state

ii. To remain in the Warsaw Pact

Cite this page

Choose cite format:
The Cold War - the conferences and the start of the Cold War. (2021, Apr 07). Retrieved March 22, 2023, from