The relations between the West who were France, Britain and the U.S.A and the East who were the Soviet Union, changed dramatically during 1945 to 1948 as they went from fighting against Hitler and the Nazi’s to fighting against each other. The main problem was their opposing views. The West believed in capitalism where as East believed in it was right to live as communists. These views became a problem after the war had ended and the future of Germany had to be decided. To describe the relations between these wartime allies, events that occurred between 1945 and 1948 concerning the East and West must be examined, starting with from the end of the war.
In February 1945 the allies successfully invaded Germany and the Nazis. The Red army, who was the Soviet Union’s army, reached Berlin first, despite the Prime Minister of Britain, Churchill wanting the West to. He wanted to race Stalin who was the leader of the Soviet Union to the German capital as the West would have an advantage at the peace conference at Yalta. This was evidence of a slight division between the West and East even before the war had ended. During the invasion of Germany plans to end the the future of this country had to be decided, so Stalin, Churchill, and the president of the U.S.A met at the seaside resort of Yalta, in the Soviet Union. Here they discussed plans for ending the war and making a settlement. They agreed that the people of the countries liberated from Nazis rule should be allowed to set up their own democratic, independent government. They also decided that Germany and Berlin should be divided into four zones and each part would be occupied by one of the allies. Another issue that was agreed on was that 20 billion dollars would be taken from Germany as reparations and half of the money would be given to the Soviet Union. The overall effect that the Yalta peace conference had on the relations between the East and the West was positive as there was much agreement, and the leaders seemed to co-operate with each other as they had worked closely during the war.
The main reason the Yalta conference was successful was because the leaders had worked well together throughout the war, and so they knew each other, and appeared to be ‘friends’. But this was about to change, as in March 1945 President Roosevelt died so Truman took over to as the new president of America. This effected relations, as Truman was very suspicious of Stalin. Also Churchill was defeated in the general election in July and Atlee was elected as the new Prime Minster of Britain. He also added to the suspicions of Stalin.
The change of leaders had a major effect on relations between the East and West and this was displayed at the Potsdam conference in July that year. Truman, Atlee, and Stalin met to re- discuss issues concern Germany and Europe. Here the leaders worked together for the first time and they disagreed on many issues. Also they did not draw up a peace treaty with Germany, they did not agree a frontier between Poland, or re- confirm the promise that that made at Yalta to allow democratic elections in Eastern Europe. They did re- agree for Berlin to be split into four zones, and for no further talks to take place about the future of Germany This conference put strain on the relations between these wartime allies, and increased Truman’s and Atlee’s suspicions on Stalin.
In August 1945, America dropped two atomic bombs in Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, Japan. The superiority of the weapon forced the Japanese to surrender and resulted in the end of the Second World War. This action also had a significant affect on relations between the U.S.A and the Soviet union as President Truman did not inform Stalin that they were going to drop the atomic bomb, and he also made Stalin oblivious to the fact that the bomb had been tested during the Potsdam conference, a month before. This showed that Truman’s suspicions of Stalin were very strong even before he met him and that his intentions at the conference was not to agree or remain allies with this communist leader. Stalin thought the U.S.A were trying to demonstrate to him and the Soviet Union that they were more powerful. Overall the atomic bomb showed that the Soviet Union were beginning to be isolated and that they no longer had say in what decisions the West made.
After the war, the Soviet Union liberated Eastern European countries from Nazi rule. They did this because they wanted allies to feel supported and protected as Russia was a pariah country and so established governments in these countries, which were friendly with the USSR. This affected relations as Truman viewed the Soviet’s occupation of Eastern Europe as a blatant threat of the spread of communism. This also demonstrated that Soviet’s knew that the West no longer trusted them and so felt threatened. The Soviets occupation of Eastern Europe led Western countries U.S.A and Britain revealing publicly their true views about the Soviet Union and Stalin.
In 1945, Prime minister of Britain at this time, Winston Churchill made a speech telling President Truman that an iron curtain has been drawn in Europe and he said, “we do not know what is going own behind it”. He also said the countries that lie east of the line would soon be completely in the hands of the USSR. Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech became known to the world and it was made publicly clear that Stalin and the Soviet Union were seen by the West as the enemies, and had to be controlled. This probably angered Stalin as the speech portrayed him as the ‘bad guy’. Another extremely significant speech that was made during this these years was by President Truman in 1947. The speech was about a civil war in the only Eastern European country that escaped the Soviets control, Greece. The civil war was between the communists and the Royalists. The Royalists received guns from Britain to stop the communists from winning, but in 1947, Britain couldn’t afford to give this aid, but without it the Royalists would be defeated. So President Truman said that the USA must not allow this to happen and so gave 400 millions dollars to the Royalists which helped them to finally win. In his speech he said that the USA had to give the money to stop the spread of communism, and that it needed to be contained which meant communism shouldn’t spread to countries that were not already communist. This speech was know as the Truman Doctrine and was the first definite attack against communism.
What followed was a much bigger attempt to stop the spread of communism in Europe. The idea was to inject massive aid into countries so did not have to turn to communism if they had good food, homes, and jobs. George Marshall, the secretary of state, proposed this plan and so it was called the Marshall plan. Over four years the USA gave 17 billion dollars to 16 European countries and also Yugoslavia. The aid was used to rebuild war damage and to build industry. The USA managed to gain from the Marshall plan as the European countries spent the money on goods such as machines, materials and even mules from America so the money was put back into the economy and so the USA had a boom. The Marshall plan was put the Truman Doctrine into practice and demonstrated to the Soviet Union that the USA and the West were very serious about containing communism. Stalin detested the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan and he views were made very clear. He thought the aid were signs of America’s plan of world domination. The Marshall plan and the Truman Doctrine had a massive effect on relations between the East and West as this was the first time the West publicly acted against communism and it displayed clear signs of a war; capitalism against communism.
Germany was the only thing that the East and the West shared; though the way they planned to run their zones was very different. The East wanted to keep their zone of Germany and sector of Berlin weak, because they feared being invaded by Germany again. Also they ran their sector as communists. However, France, USA and Britain wanted to rule their sectors of Germany and Berlin as capitalists and wanted to recover from the war. The West tried to make their sectors strong because they didn’t want to recreate the conditions where the Germans became desperate enough to support a Hitler figure again. They tried to do this by introducing a new currency called the D- mark that replaced the old mark, which had dropped in value through inflation. The changes that the west made strengthened the economy in the Western zones made the capitalists zones wealthy. This posed as a real threat to the East as they feared that if the Western zones became rich and strong, then the Germans would once again be able to threaten the Soviet Union.
The relations between the East and the West have dramatically deteriorated over three years as the east and west were allies fighting against Hitler in 1945, but in 1947 the west were acting against the east, and displaying to the world that they were the enemies. The change in leaders definitely had the most impact on relations as President Roosevelt had a closer relationship with Stalin, but when he died and President Truman took over, his suspicions were too high for the East and West leaders to remain allies. But the main division that started this century of fear was the fact that the West belived in capitailism and the East believed in communism.