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Lecture five: Origins of the Cold War, 1945-48

Main issues in Post Second World War Word

1)US and USSR biggest powers in post-war world, Britain also important

2) Could these powers work together to create a post-war peace ?

3) Would ideological/economical and practical differences drive them apart?

4) Start of the Cold War by 1948? Was this inevitable?

It was also characterised by a new balance of power, lack of trust, move away from collective security and the moral highground of the League of Nations to appeasement and the return of selfish power politics. All these things led to a catastrophic war where not only millions of soldiers died but also millions of civilians perished, ethnic cleansing and displacement were commonplace. Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 created the Grand alliance where Soviet Union entered the war with Britain and America followed soon afterwards with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. For long periods of the war the Soviets were the only state fighting the Nazis on land until the opening of a second front in Northern France in July 1944. As a result of the Soviet defeat of the Nazis in the East, the USSR became the strongest European power and was in a very strong position as their armies by 1944 occupied huge sections of Central and Eastern Europe, on the other hand America showed itself to be as strong as the USSR with its economic funding of the war effort. In the middle of all of this was Britain, which was not as strong a power as it had been but still had fought the Nazis since day one. It was these three powers and the relationships between them which were most important in post-war Europe (and by extension the world). These powers had all fought together against Germany, but what would happen when peacetime came? Was there any way for the powers to continue to work together to maintain a peaceful Europe and world or would ideological, economical and practical difference drive these powers apart? This is the theme of today’s lecture – how the three allied powers moved from a position of respect to a divided Europe in 1948. We will look at the following issues – first of all. Hopefully this will give you a good way in to the issues at the beginning of the cold war. Along the way we will see how American drives for a new moral order (like that of Woodrow Wilson) and Soviet desires to maintain their power base in Central and Eastern Europe pushed the world into the cold War.




The Soviet Approach to the Post War International Order

Ò Soviets in a dominant position in East-Central Europe – allows them to dictate terms

Ò 1) Security through spheres of influence

Ò 2) Each of the Big Three to be responsible for security in areas of vital interests

Ò 3)Soviet vital interests

a) in Eastern and Central Europe particularly Poland and Romania because friendly governments there could only be obtained through Soviet imposed regimes

The American Approach to the Post War International Order

Ò America in a position of power – huge military, economic support to the allied cause

Ò 1)American President FDR seeks a moral foreign policy – similar to Woodrow Wilson post WWI – international organisation to be set up

Ò 2)Security to be achieved through the new United Nations

Ò 3)But more pragmatic than Wilson - securing of vital interests still important

- 'Guiding voice' in Latin America and the Pacific

- Make sure Central/Eastern Europe has democratic governments

The British approach to the Post War International Order

1)Britain the weakest of the 'big three'

Ò 2)Want to secure their empire

Ò 3)Worried about American moral foreign policy

Ò 4)But still much closer to US than USSR

Ò 5)Vital interests

Their Empire, the Middle East and the Mediterranean

- Leads to (in)famous deal with Soviets in October 1944

The Yalta Conference (sometimes called the Crimea Conference) was held in February 1945, just before the Second World War was over. It was when the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (Winston Churchill), the President of the United States (Franklin D. Roosevelt) and the dictator of the USSR (Joseph Stalin) all met and talked about what to do with Germany. The Yalta Conference was an important part of European History.



The Potsdam Conference was a meeting of the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States in Potsdam, Germany from July 17 to August 2, 1945. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (Winston Churchill), the President of the United States (Harry S. Truman) and the leader of the USSR (Josif Stalin), all met to talk about Germany on July 1945 and were going to discuss what should happen to it now that the Second World War was over.

The first conference was held at Yalta, but the allies did not agree on anything very important. However, a lot had happened since the Yalta Conference. Firstly, the USA had a new president named Harry Truman. He was much tougher on Communism than the previous president, Roosevelt, had been. This was a problem for Stalin. Also, Churchill had been voted out and was replaced by Clement Attlee. Stalin saw himself as far more experienced than these new leaders. Stalin also caused trouble, as some of what the allies agreed on at Yalta was that Poland should have a neutral government. Stalin had killed the neutral government leaders and replaced them with ones that would listen to him. This meant that there were a lot of problems at Potsdam.

Cold War replaces tension and confrontation 1948

Ò 1)Political attempts at agreement superseded by ideological confrontation from 1946 onwards

Ò 2)Rhetoric replaced by more concerted propaganda campaigns, 1948

Ò a)Creation of Cominform – September 1947 – Zhdanov – 'two blocs have been formed'

Ò 3)US Containment ends as a purely defensive strategy, 1948 – protect Western Europe/Japan

Ò 4)Soviets focus on Eastern Europe

Ò 5)Ideological confrontation of the cold war set up

Ò 1)1945-46: the Cold War developed from different approaches to the nature of the post-war world

Ò 2)Initial aims of the great powers to work together

Ò 3) But clashes over spheres of interest, ideology and moral principles in foreign policy drives them apart

Ò 4)US and UK always more natural partners but brought together by events of 1945-7

Ò 5) Co-operation in 1945 moves towards confrontation and securing of vital interests 1946-49


Go through the conclusions. Different spheres of influence, different ideological concerns (moralism of US foreign policy). Others have a much less moral policy.

Ideology becomes crucial in Europe for the first time since the thirty years war. (well of course apart from the French revolution) We will see what happened in the Cold War next week.


Date: 2015-01-29; view: 1010

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