Here is your essay on Cold War!
At the Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam conferences, agreements had been reached by the leaders of Britain, USA and the Soviet Union on many questions relating to the future of the liberated countries of Europe.
The council of foreign ministers set up at the Potsdam Conference discussed the terms of the peace treaties with the Axis Powers and their allies. By 1947, agreements were reached and treaties were signed with Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Finland.
The Allied occupation of Austria was ended in 1955 when a treaty was signed with Austria. On the question of Germany and Japan, however, no agreement could be arrived at.
While the Western countries signed a treaty with Japan in spite of Soviet objections, the differences over Germany became a major source of conflict between the West bloc led by USA, and the Soviet Union. Soon after the war, the wartime alliances had begun to wear out and a period of Cold War, or armed truce, had set in.
The Beginning of the Cold War:
Many historians trace the origins of the Cold War to the year 1917, when the Bolshevik Revolution took place. As has been stated before, many Western countries had sent their troops to Russia to destroy the new Soviet government that had been set up after the revolution.
The foreign interventions had, however, failed and had ended by 1920. After that the Soviet Union was ostracised by most Western countries and it had taken them many years to recognise the Soviet government and establish diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.
After the triumph of fascism in Germany, the Western countries had hoped that Germany’s aggression would be directed against the Soviet Union. They had, therefore, followed a policy of appeasement of the Axis powers and had refused to have any alliance with the Soviet Union to resist aggression.
During the war, and particularly after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Soviet-British-US alliance was formed which led to the defeat of Germany and other Axis Powers.
This alliance, however, even during the war, had not been free of tensions. The US and Britain conducted their military operations jointly under a unified command and they took their own independent decisions.
This was particularly clear on the question of the opening of the ‘Second Front’ which, the Soviet Union felt, was being deliberately delayed. Differences over the future of Europe, for example on Poland, had emerged early during the war.
Though most of these differences had been sorted out at the conferences at Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam, the Western suspicions of the Soviet Union had persisted. The Soviet victories against Germany in Eastern Europe had created a feeling of unease among the Western countries.
The British were particularly alarmed at the Soviet army’s advance towards Berlin, although Berlin fell within that part of Germany which, by common agreement, had been allocated to the Soviet Union to liberate. Churchill tried hard to pressurise the US President to direct General Eisenhower, Commander of the Allied troops, to march towards Berlin rather than Leibzig.
Communist Governments in Eastern Europe:
The developments in Eastern Europe revived the pre-war Western fears of communism. At Yalta, Britain, USA and the Soviet Union had issued a “Declaration on Liberated Europe”. According to this Declaration, the three Allied Powers were to assist the liberated countries of Europe to create democratic institutions through free elections.
To begin with, in the countries liberated by Soviet armies, coalition governments were set up which included communists as well as others. Within three years, however, other parties were eliminated from the governments of all these countries which came under the exclusive control of Communist parties and their close allies.
The communist domination of the governments in Poland and Czechoslovakia particularly aroused British and US indignation at what they considered was a Soviet betrayal of promises regarding democratic institutions and free elections.
In 1946, the provisional government of Poland, which included Polish leaders who had been associated with the anti-Soviet Polish government based in London, was split. In the elections which were held later, the two parties which later merged to form the Communist Party (called the Polish United Workers’ Party) won about 90 per cent of the seats.
The leaders of the main opposition party alleged that the elections had not been free and that thousands of their workers had been arrested. In Czechoslovakia, a coalition government had been formed in May 1946.
The government included communists as well as leaders of other parties. In February 1948, the communists demanded that the government should be reconstituted as some of the government parties were alleged to be harbouring fascists.
The President of Czechoslovakia, Eduard Benes, reconstituted the government under immense pressure; it was alleged, of the Soviet Union. A communist- dominated government then came to power.
Similar developments took place in Bulgaria*, Romania and Hungary. In Yugoslavia and Albania, communists who had led the national resistance, had come to power.
Thus, seven countries in Europe had governments dominated by communist parties and the Soviet Union was no longer the only country in the world to be ruled by a communist party. Britain and USA were particularly concerned at these developments which, they viewed as a danger to what they called the “Free World”.
Developments in Germany:
The developments in Germany further aggravated the differences between the Soviet Union and the Western countries. Germany had been divided into four occupation zones, each under the supervision of the Soviet Union, USA, Britain and France.
At the Potsdam Conference, Germany had been visualised as a single economic zone with a common currency. Gradually, however, Germany became divided into two parts —the three zones under USA, Britain and France becoming one, the western part, and the Soviet occupation zone becoming another, the eastern part.
The economic unity of Germany was broken with the western part stopping the despatch of industrial machinery to the eastern part and the latter ending the supply of agricultural goods to the former. Each part now had a separate currency.
The political and economic policies followed in each part became different. In the eastern part large landholdings were confiscated and redistributed among peasants, many industries and mines were nationalised, and German communists, who had been living in exile since the fascist takeover, and other parties and groups who were willing to form an alliance with them were encouraged.
In the western part, a capitalist economy developed with massive US aid and political parties and groups which were hostile to communists and the Soviet Union became dominant there. The policies followed in the western part were now based on the fear of communism and the Soviet Union.
By 1947, Germany had been divided into two distinct economic and political parts. Later this division was formalised with the setting up of two independent states.
Civil War in Greece:
Another development which brought about the Cold War was the civil war in Greece. It has been mentioned in the previous chapter that communists had been a major force in the resistance movement against the fascist occupation of Greece.
However, the British troops which had been sent to Greece wanted to restore the rule of the king who was brought back. This led to a civil war. There were 10,000 British troops who fought against the Greek communists in the civil war.
Early in 1947, however, Britain decided to withdraw from Greece. She informed the United States that she could no longer bear the burden of supporting the Greek government in the civil war.
The British withdrawal of military and financial support to the Greek government would have almost certainly led to communist victory in the civil war. The US government decided to take the “burden” of supporting the Greek government in the civil war upon itself She also supported Turkey which, it was thought, was threatened by the Soviet Union.