After the Second World War, there was a fragile union among the allied nations. It should be mentioned that the main reason that held the US, the Soviet Union, and Britain together was Hitler, the common enemy. However, following the end of WWII, the Western allies seemed to have parted ways with the Soviet Union as well as its leader, Joseph Stalin. Unlike the Soviet Union, the United States was not broken by the war.
As a result, the US wanted to control global affairs after WWII. In this regard, the US took a strong position against the Soviet Union. On the other hand, the Soviets were concerned with reconstructing and defending themselves from another such dreadful disagreement, especially because millions of Soviet citizens perished in the war. All this resulted in the Soviets insisting on defensible borders and regimes sympathetic to its objectives in Eastern Europe. On the other hand, the US wanted a reinstatement of self-rule as well as sovereignty to Czechoslovakia and Poland, as well as other countries of Eastern and Central Europe.
As a result of the differences in the political shape of postwar Europe, there were a lot of misgivings and mistrust between the United States and the Soviet Union. One of these conflicts took place in Poland. The Soviets wanted a government that was subject to them, while Washington sought a more representative and sovereign regime, with a Western model. At a meeting named the Yalta Conference, which was held in February 1945, both Washington and Moscow differed over the way forward, because President Truman exposed his intention to support Polish self-government.
Towards the end, the World War II, several parts of Eastern and Central Europe were taken by the Soviet military forces. Consequently, the Soviets used their armed presence to shore up the activities of communist parties, especially in Eastern Europe. This was mainly aimed at humiliating independent parties supported by the West. Eventually, there was a serious growth of communist parties indebted Moscow. They in turn increased their power and authority in all countries in the region. Eventually, this ended in taking over the government of Czechoslovakia in 1948.
By and large, the open declarations made by the notable influential leaders, in essence, defined the commencement of the Cold War. In this regard, Stalin declared in 1946 that global tranquility was not possible due to the capitalist expansion of the global economy. On the other hand, in the presence of President Truman, Winston Churchill declared that an iron curtain had fallen on the European continent and that Britain and the US had to work together to defy Soviet intimidation.
Bearing in mind the several incursions of Russia and the Soviet Union at large from the West throughout history, Stalin thought of setting up a buffer zone, especially of submissive East European nations. Most of them had been occupied by the Red Army (Soviet Army) in the course of WWII. In many ways, the Soviet Union maintained control behind the “iron curtain” through security police, troops, as well as through its diplomatic service. Additionally, imbalanced trade deals with the East European nations gave the Soviet Union a leeway to have treasured wherewithal.
The Marshall Plan
As a result of the Soviet activities in Eastern Europe, there was Western resentment towards the Soviets. However, the United States could do nothing to stop the progress of the consolidation of the Soviet authority in that region. On its part, the United States had some success in halting the Soviet expansion in regions where the Soviet influence was more fragile. For instance, together with Britain, the US diplomatically supported Iran and forced the Soviet Union out of the northern part of Iran in 1946.
Additionally, efforts by the Soviet Union to acquire the region from Turkey and thereafter create a communist government in Greece were thwarted by the United States. This was after the United States extended military and fiscal support to countries under the Truman Doctrine of 1947. Later on, in the same year, the United States introduced the Marshall Plan for the fiscal recovery of other European countries. However, the Soviet Union prohibited the countries it subjugated from participating in the program. Eventually, the Marshall Plan was instrumental in reducing the Soviet influence in the countries that took part in the Marshall Plan, especially the nations of Western Europe.
Even though the Soviet Union gained some influence in a new satellite nation in East Germany, it, however, lost influence in Yugoslavia. The local communists in Yugoslavia came into power without the help of the Soviet Union. As a result, led by their leader, Josip Broz Tito, they refused to subject their country to the control of Joseph Stalin.
The Death of Stalin
After the death of Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, the new leader, began altering the conduct of the Soviet foreign policy to allow better relations with the West. He also introduced new approaches to the nonaligned countries. Khrushchev conceded the independence of Yugoslavia in 1955, thus engaging in a de-Stalinization campaign. However, this action provoked unrest in Eastern Europe, where the policies of Stalin were deeply rooted.
It should be mentioned that after the death of Stalin, relations between the United States and the Soviet Union oscillated between the periods of comparative respite and periods of anxiety and catastrophe, especially over Europe. In many ways, only after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, as well as the crumple of Soviet domination in Eastern Europe, the end of WWII was brought to Europe.
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