The collapse of the war- time alliances

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1. The Yalta conference was held in February 1945 because by then the three allies had felt confident that Germany was defeated and that it was safe to begin a series of conferences to decide what would happen after the war.

2. The iron curtain was the term used referring to the symbolical, ideological and physical division of Europe into two separate areas by Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union.

3. Soviet Union wanted to control Eastern Europe after 1945 so that they would act as a ‘buffer zone’ or cushion for any future attack from west and that he could spread communism throughout Europe.

4. At the 1945 Potsdam conference, the future of Germany was discussed by the main powers at the time, Harry S. Truman, Joseph Stalin and Clement Attlee. Germany was split into 4 zones with the Soviet Union, Great Britain, USA and France each getting a piece. Germany was obliged to pay off only 20 billion in German property, current industry products and work force. The Cold war prevented the full payment.

5. The Berlin blockade was the separation of the Soviet zone of Berlin from West Berlin and West Germany on 24th June 1948. Stalin cut of all rain and road links to West Berlin in order to starve Berlin to surrender. During this period of time, special airlifts had been sent with supplies of everything West Berlin needed. Eventually Stalin backed down and on 12th May 1949 ended the blockade.

6. One of the ways that the USA had helped European economies to recover was the Marshall aid where the US government sent $13 billion worth of aid to rebuild their economies. Western European countries experienced a pot-war boom and they all had democratically elected governments and strong trading links.

7. Through out the Second World War the Russians and Americans joined forces to defeat Nazi Germany. It seemed as Stalin and Roosevelt had built a friendly and trusting relationship. However feelings did not last long as the two countries had become suspicious of one another. The American’s thought that the Soviet Union would continue invading the rest of Europe spreading communism, and the Russians suspected that the Americans weren’t really participating and just waiting until the Nazis were all beaten by the Soviet Union. From this point on the two superpowers relationship plummeted and things just went downhill.

At the Yalta conference it was agreed that Berlin would be split up into four zones. Stalin had owned his own part of Berlin and was extremely angry that he had to split it with the other three countries. Stalin also disliked that free elections were set up in Europe. This would mean that people could vote for whoever they wanted and be in the way of communism spreading.

After that came the Potsdam Conference. At this meeting there wasn’t so much of decision making but of arguing. Arguments came up such as the details of the boundaries between the zones in Berlin and communism coming to power in the countries of Eastern Europe. Also huge disagreements came about the amount of reparations Soviet Union should receive from Germany. Russia could have taken anything they wanted from their Soviet zone in Berlin and received 10% of industrial equipment from the western zones. Stalin never received these reparations as the US had thought this was too much. Now it wasn’t just Stalin that was getting angry with all these decisions, it was Truman as well. He was getting angry because Stalin had arrested the non-communist leaders of Poland and replaced them with his own.

Next up, the US set up the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. These ideas were both acts of containment. The Truman Doctrine set up in February 1947 sent weapons and aid to any country struggling to fight communism such as Greece. George Marshall who set up the Marshall Plan in April 1947 thought that the whole of Europe were about to turn communist so he decided to give them $17 billion to get the economy of Europe back up and running again. Read about Satellite Nations Cold

Not long after Truman’s Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan, Stalin started a Berlin Blockade. Stalin thought that when the US, France and Great Britain joined their zones up to make a new country called West Germany and also introduced a new currency there, they were breaking the rules they had made at the Yalta conference. Stalin reacted by cutting off all rail and road links to West Berlin as an attempt to starve West Berlin to surrender.

Just when relations couldn’t get any worse between the two superpowers they had to start an arms race. Both the US and Soviet Union were competing to build the most technologically advanced and most powerful nuclear weapons to prove their strength. At the end of this race both sides ended up with hundreds and thousands nuclear bombs but without any good reasons to fire at each other. So they came up with MAD which meant Mutually Assured Destruction. This meant that each side had enough missiles to destroy each other and that if the opposing side fired a bomb at you the other side would release one straight away starting a nuclear war.

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