Why did events in Germany between 1945-1961 cause tensions between the USA and USSR? Explain your answer.
The main problem why Germany caused tensions between the USA and the USSR was because both USA and the USSR had different views on the political future of Germany. The USA wanted Germany to be a democratic government with free elections. They wanted a strong Germany. In contrast, the USSR wanted Germany to be kept weak and a communist government with party dictatorship and under Soviet influence. This is because the USSR had been invaded by Germany during World War I and World War 2. They were determined to keep Germany weak.
Another main problem why Germany caused tensions between the USA and USSR was because they had different economic systems and both countries wanted Germany to be run along their own vision for Germany. For example, the USA was run on capitalist ideas. In 1948, they wanted to merge the French, British and US zones into a single zone with a single economic currency. They also wanted capitalism and a strong West German economy. In contrast, the USSR was a command economy. They wanted to keep Germany’s economy weak because Russia had lost almost 26 million dead in World War Two and they demanded war reparations even from the British and US Zones of occupation. They hated the idea of economic union and a single economic currency for Germany, even refusing to join in economic reforms for Germany.
The different US and USSR views on how Germany should be run therefore resulted in various incidents which increasingly caused tensions between the USA and the USSR.
For example, during the Berlin Blockade between June 1948 and May 1949, Stalin ordered the closing of railways, roads and all other alternative routes into West Berlin. This was Soviet response to both Marshall Plan and USA’s offer to help Berlin have a common currency. It was also a response to the union of the British and US zones known as Bizonia. Again, fearing that Germany would rise to power, USSR prevented aid from the West from reaching West Berlin but obstructing all routes into West Berlin, hoping that the people in West Berlin would surrender to the USSR. Therefore this produced tension in Germany in 1948.
The US reaction over the Berlin Blockade also resulted in tensions. For example, the USA tried to prevent the Berlin Blockade having a negative effect on West Berlin by introducing the Berlin Airlift. The US President Truman flew in tons of food, fuel and other necessities into West Berlin. This produced tension over Germany because if any of these planes were shot down by Soviet missiles, it would result in a full-scale war between the USA and the USSR.
Another example of how Germany caused tension between the USA and the USSR was the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961. The Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev demanded that USA prevent East Berliners from migrating to West Berlin. Many East Berliners and professionals like teachers, professors, lawyers, doctors and scientists fled to West Berlin and from there, migrated to West Germany. About 3 million left East Germany. In order to prevent the flood of talent from leaving East Germany, Nikita Khrushchev ordered that a Wall be built between West and East Berlin. This was called the Berlin Wall. Land mines, barbed wires were installed near the wall, prevent anyone from escaping into West Berlin. This wall produced tensions because US President John F Kennedy declared his support for West Berliners (but did little else). If the USA reacted with military action, this would have again led to a war between the USA and the USSR.
The Berlin Blockade, the Berlin Airlift and the Berlin Wall were examples of how events in Germany would have led to a ‘hot war’. If a war was likely to break out, it was going to be over Germany. This explains why thousands of US and Soviet troops, as well as nuclear missiles were deployed there.
The basic root cause for these tensions however lie much deeper, the USA and the USSR both had different ideas of how a reunified Germany should look like. Those views were very sharp and intense. Should it be democratic or communist? Should it be a command economy or capitalist? This was the basic cause for tensions.
“The US narrow-minded fear of communism was the most important reason responsible for Cold War tensions between 1945-1961?”. How far do you agree with this statement? Explain your answer.
Narrow minded fear of communism refers to US fears that communism was a world-wide threat which was intended on spreading communism all around the world. It was based on the idea that communism was an aggressive ideology masterminded by the USSR.
This narrow-minded fear for communism was seen in Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech where former British PM Winston Churchill warned that the USSR was determined to expand its sphere of influence in Europe. This same narrow-minded fear was shown in the Truman Doctrine where US President Harry Truman announced that he would send aid to any country fighting against communism anywhere and everywhere in the world. The same narrow-minded fear of communism was also seen in Marshall Plan, which provided financial help to Europe to help them become prosperous and anti-communist. These measures led to increased tensions because the USSR retaliated with the formation of Comecon and Cominform. The main point lies in the fact that narrow-minded view of communism also made the USSR intensely suspicious of the USA, thereby worsening Cold War tensions.
There were however other causes for Cold War tensions. One such cause was the nuclear military alliances formed during the Cold War. This was an important cause for the Cold War the formation of military alliances like NATO in 1949 and Warsaw Pact in 1955 o made the Cold War tensions rise. NATO was a military alliance formed by USA and 11 other countries aimed at defending Europe from Soviet Attack. Communist countries formed their own military alliance called Warsaw Pact. It led to tensions because now if war broke out, many countries would be involved. Indeed, the whole of Europe and North America would be involved because NATO and Warsaw Pact covered these countries. This made the situation tense.
The last reason for Cold War tensions the Soviet sense of security. Russia had been invaded twice by Germany in the 20th century resulting in 23 million deaths. The result was that from 1945 – 1949, the USSR set up communist governments throughout Eastern Europe without holding free elections. For example, in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and East Germany, communist governments were formed and democratic politicians placed in concentration camps or exiled. Soviet actions were the result of Soviet sense of security because they wanted to prevent a reunified Germany or an aggressive Western Europe from attacking USSR again. They wanted to use Eastern Europe as a buffer zone of satellite states which would be influenced by communism and friendly to the USSR. This action however, led to Cold War tensions because the West interpreted these actions as Soviet aggression. It made them introduce Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine discussed earlier.
To me, I think that Soviet sense of insecurity was the most important cause because the root cause for all the tensions in Europe in the Cold War came from here. The USSR had promised to hold free elections in 1945 at the Yalta and Potsdam Conference but did not do so. The USSR had failed to hold these elections because of the Soviet sense of insecurity. Instead they set up communist governments in Eastern Europe which made the USA interpret these actions as a broken promise, leading to worse relations as the years went by. The root cause was Soviet sense of insecurity and their actions. This root-cause explains why the USA developed a narrow-minded fear of communism and reacted in the way that they did.
US narrow-minded fear is not as important a cause as Soviet sense of security. This is because it is not a root cause. It is a reaction to foreign policy actions already committed by the USSR. For example, the Berlin Airlift was a reaction to events like the Berlin Blockade where Soviet troops cut off railway lines and communication networks between West Germany and Berlin to starve Berlin into surrender. US narrow-minded fear was a reaction, not a cause. The cause was deeper – Soviet sense of insecurity had led to the Berlin Blockade.
Similarly, military alliances are symptoms of the Cold War. It was an example of how the Cold War became worse. It was not a roots cause. The cause for the Cold War goes deeper. Why did they have military alliances? It was because there was suspicion. Why was there suspicion? It came from Soviet sense of insecurity and their foreign policy in Eastern Europe of setting up communist governments there. Therefore to me, Soviet sense of insecurity remains the most important cause for tensions in Europe.