Read this article to learn about the crisis over Berlin and the division of Germany after the World Wars!
The Berlin Crisis:
By early 1948, the Western powers had started the process of the creation of a separate state of West Germany by merging the occupation zones of Britain, France and the United States.
These zones were also being brought under the European Recovery Programme under which the United States was to provide massive aid for the building of the economies of Western Europe devastated by the war.
The city of Berlin which came within the Soviet zone had also been divided into four zones, like the rest of Germany.
The three Western powers treated West Berlin as a part of West Germany which was being created as a separate state. The Soviet Union was opposed to this development. In June 1948, she closed the road which passed through the Soviet zone connecting West Germany with West Berlin.
The blockade of West Berlin was intended to force the Western powers to accept the Soviet position on Berlin. This created the danger of war because the Western countries were not willing to budge from West Berlin but they could not hold West Berlin without continuing supplies from outside.
The Western allies responded to this situation by conducting a massive airlift of supplies to West Berlin. The blockade continued for about 11 months during which period over 275,000 plane-loads of supplies of food and fuel were sent to West Berlin by the Western allies. Thus, the danger of hostilities was averted. The Soviet Union ended the blockade in May 1949.
In the meantime, a new Western military alliance had come into being. In April 1949, the United States, most countries of Western Europe—Britain, France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Holland, Norway, Denmark, Portugal and Italy—and Iceland and Canada formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
Through this alliance the Western countries launched a massive programme of rearmament to check what they called “Russian expansion” in Europe and to “contain” communism. During the next six years, the United States gave massive military aid to the NATO countries of Europe. In 1952, Greece and Turkey were also made members of NATO.
Two states in Germany:
In May 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) was formed with her capital at Bonn. The rearmament of West Germany also began although West Germany was made a formal member of NATO only in 1955.
The formation of a military alliance by Western countries within four years after the end of the Second World War was a major development which further increased the confrontation between the Western bloc and the Soviet Union.
A few months after the formation of West Germany, the Soviet zone of Germany became an independent state—the German Democratic Republic. Thus, by the end of 1949, the division of Germany had been formalised and two separate states emerged, each confronting the other. This division of Germany continued for over forty years. It ended on 3 October 1990 when Germany was reunited.
In 1955, when West Germany was admitted as a member of NATO, the Soviet Union and the East European countries ruled by Communist parties formed their military alliance which is known as the Warsaw Pact.
The Warsaw Pact countries, like the NATO countries, had a joint military command. In the meantime, the Cold War which initially had been confined to Europe had spread to other parts of the world and, besides NATO; other US-sponsored military alliances had been set up in other parts of the world.