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THE ORIGINS OF THE
COLD WAR IN EUROPE AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ATOMIC BOMB 1917-1950
If the First World War had its origins in the settlement of Europe after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1, then the Cold War had its genesis in the success of the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. It would seem beneficial to trace the key developments in this struggle, for the schism between ‘East’ and ‘West’, rival economic and political systems that competed for hegemonic status for the nearly seventy years, can be sourced to this crucial time in world history.
Initial responses to the March upheavals in Petrograd were favourable in the United States, for it was felt by Woodrow Wilson’s administration that this change of leadership would enable the Russians to fight Germany more efficiently. In January 1917, an autocratic monarch, Nicholas II, flanked by the nobility, church, army and bureaucracy ruled the Russian Empire. The outbreak of World War 1 saw Russia side with Britain and France against Germany and Austro-Hungary. The socialist parties in Europe had formed the Socialist International, pledged to keep the peace, now turned patriotic and supported their respective governments. This ended the International. V. I. Lenin, in exile abroad, denounced the war as an imperialist war, but initial support inside Russia came from a broad spectrum of Russian society. The prosecution of the war stretched the Tsarist system to breaking point. In Petrograd (St. Petersburg but re-named to give it a less German-sounding name) a bread queue formed on 23 February. This swiftly turned into a massive demonstration. The Tsarina wanted the demonstrators severely dealt with. The Dumas* implored the Tsar to form a new government. The Duma fractured as it agonized over what to do, as the Tsar was intransigent and some members formed a Provisional Government. It tried to persuade the Tsar to abdicate in favour of his brother or son. The Tsar dithered. They pronounced themselves the new government of Russia. People rejoiced in the streets. The troops now sided with the people, the secret police and informers began to lose themselves and their records and in the USA Woodrow Wilson felt that with sensible progressive conservatives at the helm the Russians could be a more effective fighting machine. The Russian people felt that they were on course to attain parliamentary democracy and were more in favour of fighting German autocracy. Socialists in Western Europe saw the bourgeois revolution as the seedbed for a more radical revolution.
However, the fissures opened in Russian society by the overthrow of the Tsar’s regime led to social conflict and polarization of society. Without the backing of the army and his network of spies and secret police, the vacuum left by the Tsar’s demise saw no obvious contenders for the leadership of the country. This polarity extended to divisions between town and country, worker, employer, peasant and proprietor, soldier, and officer, even the different nationalities within the empire and this led to a three-pronged debate within the country. The main topic centred on the war and what to do about the disastrous course of the war for the dismayed Russian armies. Next, there was discussion about property relations and third, who was to be in charge of this newly liberated nation. Initially, there was no clash of interests in the February upheavals because everyone was relieved to see the end of tsarist rule. However, when the ‘what now?’ question arose, there was a clash of interests, as people debated what the nature of the new society should be.
Lenin returned from exile in April 1917 and saw that the end of Tsarism merely released a flow of problems. He called for an exchange of power from the Provisional Government to the Soviets and to end the war. Lenin offered a radical solution to a new set of problems. The workers and the soldiers nearly left the more ‘professional’ revolutionaries behind, so Lenin, leader of the Bolsheviks, threw open party membership and some 180,000 joined them by October 1917.
The Provisional Government in Petrograd and the Petrograd Soviet clashed over the issue of the war. The idea from the Soviet was that the Russian army was less about annexing territory, more about defending her territory from imperialist aggressors. In May 1917, the Provisional Government’s Foreign Minister published a note to the allies saying that the government intended to prosecute the war as under the tsar. The Petrograd Soviet objected. A series of demonstrations took place and the Foreign Minister resigned. The Russian army was close to anarchy anyway-soldiers deserted, fraternized with the Germans or wanted to mount an offensive against the Germans. The Petrograd Soviet issued Soviet Order Number One, who abolished flogging and established the soldier’s right to form committees to engage in the officer’s decision-making. Officers mow feared lynching; there were arguments over rations, assigned duties, and punishments and so on. The generals were in despair. An offensive was launched after Kerensky, then minister of War, toured the front and stirred up enough positive morale, but this faded and turned into a rout. Thousands of soldiers deserted and there was a new government with Kerensky at its head. The generals wanted Order Number One repealed, because they believed the army was just a rabble and they could not meet the government’s demands for victory when the men were anarchic.
The army deserters were largely peasants who fled back to their farms. Peasants across Russia were seizing land and this contravened the Provisional Government’s notion of waiting for a more legitimate form of debate to decide about the ownership and distribution of land. Food supplies dwindled as the struggle for the farms took place in the summer of 1917. In the cities trade unions were formed. Employers began to bargain effectively for the first time with employers over wages, hours and conditions of work. The Soviets and the unions established arbitration. Production came to a standstill as employees struck in the face of perceived recalcitrance by employers. Factory committees, successfully taking on the bourgeoisie in bargaining, became the preferred models for the country. Radical solutions were seen as the way forward. The bourgeoisie was firmly represented in the Provisional Government and this element saw bargaining with any of the workers’ groups as suspect. If workers’ control was the answer in industry, then surely, the people began to reason; the Soviet model must be the supreme authority in the land. This led to the demands for the end of the Provisional Government and power to be transferred to the Soviets across the land.
Both wings of the party, Menshevik and Bolshevik hailed the February revolution as a bourgeois revolution. In time, they reasoned; the socialist movement would develop. Lenin and Trotsky both argued that the whole of Europe was ripe for socialist revolution. The old order had “lost the mandate of heaven”. The weakest link in the capitalist chain was Russia. If, with the aid of the ripe European proletariat, Russia could snap the chains of capitalist bondage, the rest of the continent would follow suit. Lenin won over the Bolshevik ranks with this view.
In the United States, Woodrow Wilson stood before the Congress on 2 April and asked it to declare war on Germany. In his appeal, Wilson noted the “wonderful and heartening things that have been happening within the last few weeks in Russia.” Wilson believed that the various upheavals in Petrograd and across the Russian Empire in 1917 were beneficial to world peace as democratic nations could administer both order and justice in the post-war settlement. The Russians, now freed from the yolk of autocracy, could participate in this post-war “league of honour.”
In the early summer of 1917an, initial Congress of all the Soviets was still dominated by moderates. Nevertheless, in mid-June a Congress of Factory Delegates produced a Bolshevik majority and on July 3 a demonstration organised by the Bolsheviks quickly turned into a call for the end of the Provisional Government, an end to the war, and a transfer of power to the Soviets. Trotsky and others were arrested; Lenin fled in to hiding.
The right, led by General Kornilov , struck first as he and a coalition of industrialists and aristocrats marched on Petrograd to expurgate the Bolsheviks and install a strong, rightist, government. A Red Guard was formed to defend the Revolution. However, the right-wing coup failed and the arms that were given out by Kerensky to the people were still in the public domain. Trotsky and others were released from jail and by September, the Petrograd Soviet had a Bolshevik majority. In Moscow and Minsk, there was a similar following to the Bolsheviks and significantly, the navy went over to the Bolsheviks in the Baltic.
In early October 1917, the Petrograd Soviet was calling for an end to the war, power transfer to the Soviets away from the Provisional Government and Lenin, still in hiding, wrote a stream of letters to the Central Committee of the party asking it to seize power before Kornilov had a chance to re-stage a right-wing coup. The Second Congress of Soviets was due to meet on October 25. This proved to be a catalyst. Trotsky engineered Bolshevik victory through the formation of the Military Revolutionary Committee. Kerensky had ordered a strategic withdrawal of Bolshevik sympathisers, including certain ships, away from Petrograd. The MRC countermanded the order and the Aurora sailed up the Neva and anchored opposite the Winter Palace, seat of the Provisional Government. Kerensky sent troops to shut down the Bolshevik press, but troops loyal to the Bolsheviks prevented this. After an overnight occupation of all key points in Petrograd and the surrounding of the Winter Palace, there was little that the Provisional Government could do and gave up. The Second Congress opened and declared that power had passed to the Soviets. Lenin slipped into the Congress and a new government was formed, the Council of People’s Commissars. Lenin was elected Chairman. The Council quickly passed a resolution that opted to end the war against Germany and the abolition of the private ownership of land. There was a deal of fighting in Moscow*, as resistance to the Soviet take over mounted, but in essence the Bolsheviks had seized power. The West began to watch and wonder.
Europe seemed rife for a left-dominated revolution in 1918. Socialist parties had as their power base the ever-expanding working classes, newly liberated soldiers joined the swollen ranks of unemployed as wartime economies scaled down and demobilization left millions with time on their hands to ponder their fate. The world just needed a signal, socialism would replace capitalism, and the meaningless four years of suffering of the war would at least count for something. The October revolution in Russia seemed to offer that spark. Communism seemed to have the mandate of history to ensure that it would triumph over capitalism. The zealots of the left felt that this was the beginning of world proletarian revolution, not just freedom from Tsarist autocracy and inequalities. The First World War ended in near-anarchy for the defeated “Triple Alliance” with the demise of the thrones of the Hohenzollern, Hapsburg, Ottoman and Bulgarian regimes. The anti-war sentiments that had caused a drift to the socialist peace camp from 1914 to 1918 now saw a surge in support for the left across Europe. As the Internationale had it: ‘Peoples hear the signals’. The signals reached Cuba, where tobacco workers formed Soviets, Spain, Beijing, and Cordoba in Argentina, where student-based revolutionary movements formed. Mexico, where Zapata, Marx and Lenin became iconographic. The Petrograd revolution had spread its essentially anti-war ideology all the way to the Rhine. The Germans, war weary and desperate, ousted the Kaiser and Liebknecht and Luxemburg established a Communist party in Germany.
In Britain, the reaction to the Bolsheviks was distinctly unwelcoming. Winston Churchill quickly established himself as the country’s leading anti-Bolshevik, defining the new regime in Russia as Britain’s primary future antagonist and, even before the Armistice in 1918 had advocated strengthening the newly defeated German army against this new menace. In a speech during the Paris Peace Conference, Churchill said, “The essence of Bolshevism as opposed to many other forms of visionary political thought is that it can only be propagated and maintained by violence.” In the United States, the sudden overthrow of the Provisional Government in November 1917 came as a shock to the Americans and their allies. The proclamations from the new regime about withdrawing from the war and abolishing private ownership of land provoked nothing more than bluster or indifference. When it became clear by December 1917 that the Bolsheviks were firmly entrenched and could not be overthrown by the Russian establishment, three courses of action were open to the West. All were designed to keep Russia fighting. The first was a clandestine support of anti-Bolshevik forces. President Wilson approved clandestine financial aid to a Cossack army in the south. This force was found to be not effective enough to mount a threat to the Bolsheviks. The second idea was to land forces in Siberia, which came more from the French, but Wilson was less than enthusiastic and did not trust the motives of the Japanese, who offered aid. The third plan was to open informal diplomatic relations with the Bolsheviks. The aims here were to stop the Germans transferring troops from the east to the western front. The Germans and Russians were negotiating a peace at Brest-Litovsk, but this tactic failed.
Wilson’s response was his Fourteen Points, a new plan for international relations. There was a call for open diplomacy, self-determination and a no punitive war settlement. The idea behind these points was that diplomacy, settlements in the past had caused resentments and led to alliances, and entanglements that led to war, as the 1870-1arrangements had led to the First World War Wilson envisioned a League of Nations to offer the world collective security, with a council to interfere in case of breakdowns, to elect if necessary to ‘outlaw’ rogue states. The point about this liberal and Christian vision was that it offered a riposte to the Bolshevik plan of a revolution to bring about one world. The sixth point called for “the evacuation of all Russian territory and such a settlement of all questions affecting Russia as will ... (obtain) for her the independent determination of her own political development and national policy.”
Wilson believed that the principles he enunciated, American values, were those of the world. President G W Bush espoused similar values when answering the rhetorical question of what prompted terrorists to attack the homeland in 2001. Those values were ‘freedoms’-of speech, of democratic choice, assembly, debate, religious tolerance-all of which made America “the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world.”
Wilson’s doctrinaire approach to international relations included intervention, sending troops and arms to the “White” Russian cause in their struggle to oust the Bolshevik interlopers. US presidents and its generals have never shirked at imposing the US vision of the world on countries that failed to match up to their concept of how a nation “should” be. * This interference was at odds with the Wilsonian doctrine of self-determination. Wilson sent troops to North Russia, with strict instructions not to fight the Bolsheviks, but they were placed under the command of the British, who ordered them to fight. The Canadians, French, Italians, Chinese and Japanese all sent troops, together with 70,000 Czech exiles who had fought the Germans on the side of the Russian forces. This was not bureaucratic bungling or imperialist opportunism: there was simply a loathing of Bolshevism on the allied coalition. The Bolsheviks had come to power by force, they had concluded a separate peace with Germany and the actions of the anti-Bolshevik forces were, in Wilsonian terms, necessary to attain self-determination for the Russian people. What they achieved was a poisoning of relations between the West and the (understandably) paranoid Russian people for decades to come.
The next phase of the relationship between the West and the Russian people was characterized by diplomatic non-recognition by the United States from 1920-1933, caused by the deep ideological differences that separated them. The Bolshevik state stressed the monolithic nature of capitalism and that there would be massive antagonism from such states to the young Soviet republic, although Lenin played Germany and Britain and Japan and the USA off against each other. Lenin offered economic gain to the USA in the form of access to Siberian timber, coal and railway construction, if the anti-Bolshevik interdiction would cease. The USA failed to respond to this offer, nor did Japanese-American rivalry forestall interference, although these two nations enjoyed an uneasy relationship. This was in no small part due to the ‘Red Scare’ of 1919, a xenophobic reaction to the Bolsheviks and the fear of alien subversion. Industrial strikes in Seattle in February 1919 paralysed the city. Protracted, sometimes violent strikes followed, especially when the Boston police force went on strike in September 1919, leaving the city vulnerable to mobs of unruly, sometimes drunken, workers out for revenge on employers. Some homemade bombs were posted to politicians and leading industrialists. Fears of a Communist takeover mushroomed when explosions occurred simultaneously in eight different cities.
A series of repressive measures was aimed at radicals and dissenters of all political hues. Congress and the New York State legislature expelled duly elected Socialist members. Thirty-two states passed laws making membership of the IWW and other syndicalist organizations a criminal offence. A crusade by the Attorney General, A. Mitchell Palmer saw the arrest of 9,000 people, allegedly radicals. All were held without trial. Some 500 radicals were deported to Russia. Lenin and the Bolsheviks wanted not socialist sympathisers, who had emerged from the war enormously, radicalized and strengthened and who favoured joining the Third International, founded to replace the broken Second International. Instead, Lenin wanted a global corps of disciplined, committed activists who would prepare the peoples of the world for global revolution. Socialist parties who were unwilling to adopt this radical stance were refused admission to the Third International. In the perceived battle ahead, Lenin wanted only soldiers in his ranks, not reformists or opportunists. This attitude was the root of the fear of Communism in ’the West’, although it was clear that by 1920 a Bolshevik revolution was not on the agenda for Europe or America. The Red Army had won the Civil War that followed the 1917 revolution and was, by 1920, sweeping towards Warsaw, seemingly hell-bent on spreading the revolution by force throughout Europe. However, the Red Army was turned back at the gates of Warsaw and the Western Front was relatively subdued thereafter. When Stalin succeeded Lenin as Chairman of the Party in 1924, there was more emphasis on re-building the economy and with forging links with other states, for the USSR could not exist in isolation. World revolution now belonged to the speeches and dreams of the recent past. Indeed, Stalin simply would not tolerate revolution if the USSR could not control it and if it did not conflict with the interests of the USSR itself.
The internal strife and terrible miseries of the peoples of the USSR in Stalin’s drive for ’Socialism in One Country’ has been well documented and needs just a brief overview here. It is important to note these internal developments though, for they explain how the drive to modernity enabled the USSR to combat and later repel the Nazi forces from 1941 and sweep westwards into Berlin by 1945, the onset of the Cold War proper. In 1927, Stalin saw that the only way to ensure that to achieve a level of social wealth to satisfy basic needs was to invest in heavy industry. Heavy industry would provide the power and machinery without which the provision of everyday amenities and the consumer goods industry would merely inch along. There was little credit from abroad for investment, so saving would have to finance the drive forward. Higher taxes and gathering the harvests at gunpoint as was the case in 1928 (the towns had to be fed and any surplus exported for cash) were temporary measures. Stalin believed that the kulaks, or wealthy peasants, were not selling all their grain to the state until it was scarce and then sold it at high prices. Stalin wanted large, well-equipped collectives to produce the grain and a programme began to bring swathes of land under state control. Industrialization began to accelerate, as the first five-year plan was underway. Targets were raised, wages were kept low, health and safety legislation ignored, as the cry “whoever is not with us is against us” was resurrected. Stalin shipped blame for poor grain supplies on the kulaks. Slippages in production in industry were blamed on bourgeois specialists, dilettante artists and intellectuals-anyone who might be deemed ‘counterrevolutionary’-so that a blame and fear culture sprang up. Denouncements and show trials began as Bolshevism was replaced with Stalin's interpretation of Marxism. Criticism of Stalin’s leadership, of “the Revolution from Above”, led to trials, executions, torture and exile to the Siberian Gulags, prisons with savage work and punishment regimes and often-brutal guards. All decision-making was centralized, Stalin’s veto the ultimate word; paralysis resulted as fear of accusations of counterrevolutionary activity stopped or stagnated initiatives. The main instrument of terror was the NKVD, the Commissariat of Internal Affairs, Stalin’s version of the Chaka, Lenin’s enforcers of Bolshevik ideology and policy. The apotheosis of the NKVD came during the Great Terror of 1936-8, with the purging of the Officer Corps, the higher ranks of the Party, intellectuals and others accused of plotting against Stalin’s regime. Yezhov, the Commissar of the NKVD, oversaw the arrest and trial, imprisonment and torture of an estimated eight million souls. About ten per cent of those arrested were shot. By 1939, Stalin halted the purge of the Party* and Yezhov was replaced by Lavrenty Beria, but the Soviet Union was a personalized dictatorship, controlled until his death in 1953 by Stalin.
The USSR found allies on the global stage from the mid-1930’s because pragmatism drove ideologically disparate nations together in alliances that always made for uneasy bedfellows. The USA had a common interest with the USSR in as much as both had to fight the increasingly expansionist Japanese nation. Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 also re-awakened fears of eastward expansion by Germany. When F D Roosevelt was elected for his first term in 1933, recognition of the USSR seemed inevitable. The policy of not giving diplomatic recognition to the new regime had not altered the internal politics, nor re-configured the external behaviour of the Soviet State. Roosevelt was impatient with ineffective policies: he also abandoned Prohibition as the new administration adopted practical and pragmatic policies. The USA had adopted an isolationist stance in international affairs, withdrawing in on itself after victory in World War 1 and Wilson’s orchestration of the peace settlement in 1919. As Germany and Italy succumbed to Caeserism in the 1930’s and Japan had challenged the League of Nations over Manchuria, so Roosevelt saw the need to extend a welcoming hand to the USSR.
The Soviet Foreign Minister, Litvinov, visited Washington in November 1933, but there was little forward progress made, although Roosevelt did warn Litvinov that he saw Germany and Japan as the specific enemies of peace. Roosevelt did posit that the two nations could “stave them off”, although the USA could not go to war. There was friendly rhetoric at the Soviet’s departure and the first US Ambassador to the Soviet Union was William C. Bullitt, who was given a lavish welcome by Stalin.
However, there was a swift souring of relations, caused by a misunderstanding of Roosevelt’s intentions towards Japan and what the USA might do to help the USSR in the event of Japanese aggression in the East. Public and Congressional opposition to any overseas involvement by the USA in a war in any case precluded any such commitment.* Roosevelt did view the Japanese situation with extreme caution and hoped that the normalization of Soviet-US relations might inhibit the Japanese expansionism, but in no sense could he take any direct or indirect action. There was a deal of wishful thinking on the part of the Soviets in this scenario, compounded by a lack of sophistication on their part when it came to analyzing the Americans’ responses and the confusion caused by Roosevelt’s “table talk”, at odds with US policy. Ambassador Bullitt had to make it clear to Stalin that “moral support” was about all that the Soviets could expect from the USA in the East. This chilled the atmosphere in Moscow and Bullitt noted, “The honeymoon atmosphere (had) evaporated completely.” The US Embassy staff also observed the beginnings of the Terror and two junior members of the mission in Moscow, C. E. “Chip” Bohlen and G. F. Kennan witnessed the show trials and gathered intelligence about the machinations of the NKVD. Both these men were significant players in shaping the foreign policy of the USA in the early stages of the Cold War, 1945-50. Another diplomat, L. W. Henderson was convinced that the USSR wanted to establish a global network of socialist republics and to control leftist world revolutionary movements. Bullitt was of the opinion that the communism was a militant faith and was the engine for world revolution and the murder of all those who failed to subscribe.
This was the position of the USA before 1941 and the Nazi invasion of the USSR. It is usefully objective here to note that the embryonic Soviet state had suffered an invasion by three Army Groups of the counterrevolutionary army in 1919*. Stalin was a fledgling Central Committee member in 1919, fighting to save Petrograd, a blunt and uncompromising commissar. Three years of cruel and desperate conflict shaped the attitudes of the new leadership of the new state. Imperialist capitalist powers attempted to club the infant regime into submission. The civil war was a clash of ideologies, social forces and a military conflict to be won. The party acted as an agent of mobilisation, going to the people and getting them to dig defences, help with the harvest, or join the militia. The winning of the Civil War created ’militarized socialism’ the mindset that all veterans of this time of struggle held to be self-evident that war and struggle were part of the natural order of things. Stalin kept faith with enough of these veterans of the early struggle, in spite of the fact that a significant number were incompetent. The result of this mindset was that the people of the USSR were almost perpetually “at war” even in times of peace. This is another factor that was carried forward to the post-Second World War geopolitical scene.
The drift to war with the forces of European fascism, personified by Hitler and Benito Mussolini, created two sets of mismatched partnerships, that of the Nazi-Soviet pact and the Grand Alliance after the July invasion of the USSR by Hitler and the December bombing of Pearl harbour by the Japanese, the Japanese attack propelling the USA into a war which would see it emerge as the global hegemonic power in 1945. The Nazi-Soviet pact was concluded because Stalin had seen that after Munich and “Appeasement”, neither Britain nor France would oppose Hitler’s plans for territorial gains in the Sudetenland. Indeed, Stalin believed that there were some in the West who would not be sorry if Hitler’s proposed drive eastwards rolled through the USSR. This was confirmed, in Stalin’s mind, by the way the Western powers dithered over reaching agreement with the USSR over thwarting Hitler’s designs on Poland. Stalin was pragmatic enough to entertain the non-aggression pact because it bought time for his armies, decimated by the purges of many competent officers and industry to begin to tool up to produce arms. Indeed, after the Germans had laid Poland to waste in a Blitzkrieg campaign, the Soviets swiftly annexed territory east of the Curzon line of settlement and this land was a buffer zone in case Hitler turned eastwards. The twenty-two months between Hitler’s swift conquest of Poland and Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, saw Stalin exploiting every chance to gain first, space and then, time. Stalin failed to respond to the invasion in 1941 because he was desperate to avoid provoking an early attack by Germany after the swift collapse of the Western powers in the spring and summer of 1940. Mobilisation would have been just such a provocation. The Soviets suffered appalling losses, thanks to this immobility. In sixteen weeks, they lost 2 million men and women as the German army groups steamrollered across the steppes and suffered 1 million casualties. To put this into perspective, between September 1939 and June 5 1944, Britain lost more through road deaths than they did military action. Once again, Germany was the mortal threat, scarcely twenty years after humiliation and economic ruin. Hungary and Romania also conspired to join in the planned dismemberment of the Soviet Union. Stalin had a long memory. What Stalin concluded from the decimation and genocide conducted by the Wehrmacht, Order police and SS in the east was a series of points which translated into the first phase of Cold War strategy for the Soviets. Stalin believed that a defence of the homeland needed a very large army, a “steamroller”, which would overwhelm the opposition. For example, there were 188 Soviet divisions in the field in June 1941 compared to Hitler’s 166 and by August, the Soviets had placed 260, but still suffered successive defeats and retreats until the winter of 1941 halted the Axis advance. Next, Stalin wanted to go on the offensive, waging war on the enemy’s territory, seizing the initiative politically too, being proactive is good for morale. Third, Stalin wanted space to fall back and re-group and to stretch enemy supply lines. The Wehrmacht and its allies covered 600 miles in four months, 1,000 by August 1942 and this, combined with the weather, attacks on the long chain of supplies to the Germans, broke the back of the attack. Fourth, the USSR has long borders and they need to be secure-Japan posed a threat to Siberia and in the cold war, China and the USSR had prolonged border skirmishes. Finally, the “Great Patriotic War” justified the need for vast, indigenous military-industrial capacity, should the USSR ever face another threat from the capitalist west. The effectiveness of the Red Army, driven on by the NKVD “minders”, who shot anyone who did not obey orders, or fell victim to Stalin’s suspicions, drove right into the heartland of Western Europe and it was a juggernaut that caused consternation among the Western alliance.
The relationship between Stalin and his allies, Roosevelt and Churchill, was essentially mutual suspicion mixed with mutual personal admiration for some of the characteristics that had driven these men to the prominent places that they held on the world stadium. For example, at the Teheran summit between the ‘Big Three’ in November 1943, Roosevelt and Stalin agreed that ’Overlord’, the invasion of the Reich territories, should be initiated by a cross-Channel force. Churchill wanted a belly attack from the Mediterranean, using troops that were essentially already in situ. Churchill was outvoted. Stalin and Roosevelt winked at one another. Stalin exerted charm and surprising graciousness to be guests and Roosevelt was one over. Stalin could thus play Roosevelt off against Churchill. Churchill could use his charm on Stalin in one-on-one meetings. The paranoia his allies induced in Stalin was enhanced by two factors. The first was over what Stalin believed to be deliberate procrastination by the West in forming the Second Front, the invasion of France. He felt that the USSR was slowly hemorrhaging fighting forces and materiel as it had halted and then begun to roll back the fascists that had almost conquered his country. From the western allies’ point of view, it was a question of ensuring that planning, training and preparation and so on were all as thorough as possible. The second point of contention for Stalin was the development of the atomic bomb, supposedly secretly, by the USA and Britain. The Anglo-American alliance to develop an atomic bomb was forged by the exigencies of the war. There was a supposed nuclear threat from the Nazi’s and there was a shotgun wedding of British research and American resources. The fact that British physicists had theorized about how an atomic bomb might quickly be built, it was believed that the Germans must possess the knowledge.
The high stakes at issue during the war did not prevent officials in Britain and the USA from considering the post-war implications of their atomic energy decisions. In 1941, the British felt that the work was too important to be carried out in partnership with the USA and should be undertaken at home. Lord Anderson, Lord President of the Council and the minister responsible for the development of the bomb, recommended that Britain work with the USA. This was because the British could take up the work again after the war at a more advanced stage than it would have been if Britain went solo.
The Americans were suspicious of sharing the wealth of this particular scientific nugget. J. B. Conant, president of Harvard and assigned to provide a full-scale review of the project’s likely success, believed that the cooperation should stop, because the American believed that the British were more interested in the post-war applications of atomic energy. In fact, in January 1943, the Americans altered the rules governing the partnership, on “orders from the top.” Churchill was disgruntled with this arrangement and took up the matter directly with Roosevelt, for “restricted interchange” made it obvious that the Americans were thinking about post-war relations with its ally. Churchill believed that the spectre of Soviet post-war military power would ultimately shape the nature of the diplomatic relations between the USA and Britain as well as the rest of Europe. Churchill asserted that if the Germans or the USSR ever possessed the A-bomb, it might be used for “international blackmail.” The inference was that the Russians or the Germans might develop a useable bomb before a solo American project-the British were necessary to offer scientific knowledge and win the race to detonate an atomic bomb first.
However, Roosevelt, persuaded to a great extent by Harry Hopkins, eventually allowed the British to become members of a full partnership in the development of the atomic bomb. After August 1943, Roosevelt did not consult his atomic weapons advisors on the diplomacy involved in nuclear strategy; he had already told Churchill at the Quebec conference of July that the British would share the atomic bomb. This was because both men privately believed that the key to post-war diplomacy was going to be military strength. Roosevelt wanted an Anglo-American international force to police the world and enforce the ideas of democracy and liberal-democratic capitalism on the globe that had done so much for the prestige of the old British Empire and for the developing US one. Roosevelt believed that the doctrine of “overwhelming superiority” would ensure no potential aggressor would ever make good any threats to world peace.
This short narrative now needs interrogation, for the idea that Roosevelt and Churchill could hope to maintain an Anglo-American monopoly of the bomb begs the question as to whether Roosevelt thought it might provoke an arms race with his ideologically polarized temporary ally, Stalin. Roosevelt was never in an easy position. If he continued to exclude Stalin from the programme, then the post-war world should see the USA in a hegemonic position militarily and diplomatically. Alternatively, Roosevelt could tell Stalin and perhaps involve the USSR in a plan to control the possible proliferation of nuclear warheads. In the context of Cold War studies, the key question is whether Roosevelt seriously wanted wartime collaboration as groundwork for post-war cooperation. The US leader was aware that the Soviets were engaged on a fact-finding mission, using espionage and Communist sympathisers to help their knowledge base expand. In Britain, “fellow travellers” of the Communist Party like Klaus Fuchs, a scientist and employee of a key atomic weapons research establishment, passed secrets to the Soviets. Many were idealists, who believed that if both sides had the bomb, then stalemate would exist and the world would be free from conflict. Ultimately, Roosevelt seemed to favour amassing overwhelming military power and using this potential to control the peace of the world.
However, Roosevelt died in office in April 1945, and Harry S Truman succeeded the presidency. Truman was only vaguely aware of the Manhattan Project and did not know that there was an atomic bomb being developed on US soil. Truman told Stalin at Potsdam, in July 1945 that the US had successfully tested an atomic bomb, Stalin expressed little surprise. Stalin did express the thought that now Truman was trying to put pressure on the USSR. Stalin berated his chief scientist, Kurchatov, for not having advanced the bomb’s development faster and promised material inducements (as well as the ever-present threat of NKVD “assistance”) to the few thousand workers on the project. When Beria, Stalin’s head of the NKVD, expressed concern about giving so many so much freedom, Stalin quipped, “Leave them-we can always shoot them later.”
Worried that the Americans might someday attack them, Stalin insisted that facets of Soviet bomb manufacture be hidden in bunkers and even under a lake. By the late summer of 1949, the USSR successfully detonated its first atomic bomb, thus providing a deterrent against possible deployment of such a weapon by the USA.
This chapter continues by examines something of the key developments of the early years of the Cold War. The important point to note is that the rift that occurred between the USA, Britain and the USSR was neither desired nor expected in the immediate aftermath of World War 2. The optimistic view from the Foreign Office was that the wartime partnership would settle the differences that came between them and continue as a force for continuity in peacetime. The Joint Intelligence Committee, designed to co-ordinate information, was convinced in 1944 that’ ... Russia (sic) will welcome a prolonged period of peaceful relations with the British Commonwealth and the USA ...’ The newly elected Labour government of 1945 was viewed with some dismay by the USSR. Molotov, the Soviet Foreign Minister, told his newly appointed British counterpart, Bevin, that ’Churchill and Eden used to be friends of the Soviet Union’, whereas Prime Minister Attlee and his Foreign Secretary were ’old-fashioned imperialists’. The Americans were uneasy about the type of socialist reforms Attlee’s minister would undertake. The Coalition Government had publicly spelled out the reasons why it was important to defeat Germany, but now there was a difference of opinion in the Labour Government about how Germany and the Germans should be treated. Some felt that all Germans were responsible for allowing Hitler to come to power, while others wanted a more moderate approach.
Many in the Labour Party hoped for sound relations with the USSR after the war, but there were a substantial group, like Michael Foot, who wanted Bevin to steer a more independent course, away from both the USA and the USSR. Whatever the intentions of the new Foreign Secretary, at Potsdam Bevin made it clear that Britain was to take the lead as the major player on the European stage. Britain was not to be ‘barged about’. Bevin was keen to follow the policies of the Coalition Government and wanted swift and just reconstruction and to prevent the Soviet Union from replacing Nazi Germany as Europe’s totalitarian state. Since the third year of the Second World War there had been lively debate about the role that Britain would play in Europe. Planners wanted to settle the German dilemma effectively, which had not happened at the end of the First World War. Appeasement was viewed universally in Government circles as a terrible mistake, a type of moral cowardice. The Chiefs of Staff of the three services saw the USSR as the main threat to any future peace, politicians and soldiers alike did not want to see the USA withdraw from Europe, for the obvious might of the US forces, and economy was a huge advantage.
The Chiefs of Staff and the Foreign Office cooperated briefly in a committee called PHP, or Post-Hostilities Planning. The PHP committee concluded that the major long-term threat to British security was the USSR and believed that if the ‘USSR should develop hostile intentions towards us ... we should require all the help we could get from any source ... including Germany’. The PHP and CoS both favoured a divided Germany under Allied control, with Britain holding the Ruhr, the major industrial centre and key to any possible German resurgence. The Foreign Office only agreed with this idea when they feared that the USSR, who wanted Germany divided, might suspect an Anglo-German plot if Britain spoke against the idea.
The debate about Cold War origins is one about perceptions and intentions. The questions relate to what drove Soviet and Western foreign policies. The degree to which the conflict was an ideological struggle or the quest for world hegemony, the extent of the influence of military or economic needs on political decisions and the impact of the key personalities on the start of the conflict. Further misgivings centre on the idea that the conflict was inevitable or that there could have been a better outcome. Each side was trying to get a clear understanding of the others intentions, yet this period of uncertainty crystallized into a Cold War in which each side conducted its planning on the basis that that its worst assumptions about its adversary were correct.
With regard to Soviet foreign policy, there are clear paradoxes that undoubtedly led to confused responses on the part of western governments. In 1945, the Western Powers understood that the Soviet leadership was preoccupied with post-war security and recognised that it had legitimate demands regarding its immediate neighbours and the former Axis powers. There was also awareness that the Soviets needed peace: the war had battered the infrastructure of the USSR and had been devastating in human terms. In spite of all this, Soviet Union emerged as the sole challenger to British hegemony in the west and the British were not sure they could face down the Soviets in Europe, for they too had lost wealth and strength prosecuting the war for six years. The USA had emerged the strongest power after the end of hostilities, holding the ace in the strategic and diplomatic deck, the atomic bomb. The Grand Alliance, that uneasy set of bedfellows that had united to fight fascism across the globe, was quickly at odds. Soviet forces had overrun much of Eastern Europe and were advancing westwards in early 1945, while the combined forces of the Western allies had barely reached the Rhine. This led Churchill to speculate that the outcome of the war might prove to be “more disappointing than the last”.
These fears were based around the concept of the Soviet regime spreading revolutionary Communism in Europe, while the Soviets were concerned with erecting a buffer zone of territories along their western border, in order to buy time and organise defences, should Germany ever threaten to invade again. The further westward the Soviet sphere of influence could extend, the more comfortable Stalin and the Politburo would feel. Western diplomats pondered alternative explanations of Soviet actions, focusing on the nature of the Soviet system. The fact that it sought its legitimacy from the teleological goals of the radical left in general and of world communism in particular was a persistent concern. This made it possible to interpret the actions of the Kremlin as determined by ideological needs to achieve that revolution which according to Marxist-Leninist dogma would alone ensure the security and the survival of the Soviet system.
The keystone of contention lay in Germany, because it was here that the Soviet vision of the post-war settlement came into conflict with that of the USA and its allies. The USA had only experienced direct assault upon its territory once, at Pearl Harbour, while the USSR had been subjected to Hitler’s Rassenkreig, in which Communists, Jews and soldiers, together with civilians of both sexes and all ages were shot. The Americans had justified the shedding of their son’s blood by saying that the war had been about liberating Europe from Hitler. Stalin was determined to exact reparations from Germany and to ensure that, by taking territory and reducing the strength of her infrastructure Germany could never again become a player on the European stage. To this end, Stalin was determined to secure the land he had annexed from Poland in 1939, and as compensation, give to the Poles the German territories which ran beyond the river Oder. He also aimed to reintegrate into the USSR the Baltic provinces and territory, which the USSR had lost to the Finns in 1941. Stalin wanted to bring both Romania and Bulgaria within the Soviet sphere of influence. He wanted to establish regimes in eastern Europe that were friendly to the USSR, even if it meant establishing a Communist government in states such as Poland and Romania, while in Hungary and Czechoslovakia he was prepared, initially at least, to tolerate governments where communists were in the minority.
At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the three wartime leaders met to discuss among other affairs, the plans for the occupation of Germany by the near-victorious powers. Churchill insisted that France be included as one of the occupying powers. Each was allotted a zone, including a share of Berlin, which was deep in the Soviet zone of occupation in the east. The decision was taken to set up the United Nations. Poland proved to be a major point of issue, which forced all sides to compromise in their final agreements. These agreements could be read differently by the USSR and the Western powers. Poland would lose some territory to the USSR, but would receive territory in the North and West; the Provisional Government was to include politicians from the London-based exiles; elections were to be held as soon as possible. The terms were so vague that the Soviets were able to stretch them without ever seeming to break the rules. Stalin saw Poland as a corridor for an attack on the USSR by either Germany or the Western European powers, so he was bound to ensure that a Communist government was in place.
In May 1945, the war in Europe ended and there was a power vacuum caused by the defeat of the Axis powers. Churchill, ever suspicious of Stalin, wanted the Americans to take and hold Berlin and Prague, but the new President, Harry Truman, would not see any more American soldiers killed for political reasons, so both capitals were occupied by Soviet troops.
Stalin was in any case pragmatic. He firmly believed in zones of influence. Provided that the key buffer states of Poland, Romania and Bulgaria were Communist, he was ready to be flexible about Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Finland and in Italy and France he told the Communists to engage with the democratic coalitions. In fact, Churchill had privately conceded to Roosevelt that Eastern Europe was really a matter for the Soviet Union, but Stalin’s vigorous defence of his interests in Poland began to alienate the Americans and British by the summer of 1945.
The Grand Alliance began to break up in the summer of 1945 at the Potsdam conference and was finished by the autumn of 1947. The alliance had no common cause, nor mutual enemy, nor could it agree on key principles. Truman took a tougher stance than his late predecessor take and was less inclined than Roosevelt to let Eastern Europe become a Soviet sphere of influence. Not only did he begin to criticise Soviet policies, but he also ended the lend-lease programme, which cut off valuable food and other materials to a weakened Soviet state.
The Potsdam Conference July of 1945 was dominated by three factors: Germany, Poland and the ramifications of deploying the atomic bomb. As there was no central German Government, an Allied Control Council was established on which the Commanders-in-Chief of the armies of the four occupying powers would sit. To avoid being outvoted by the three Western powers, the Soviets insisted that each commander should have total responsibility for his own zone. This effectively stopped the Control Council from exercising any real power in Germany. There was no agreement about the amount of reparations that the USSR should be paid. The Soviets had already begun to strip their zone of plant and raw materials, but the British and Americans believed that the German economy should have enough vibrancy so that it could pay for imported food and raw materials. The lack of a common reparation policy made the partition of Germany more than ever likely, for there was less likely to be a joint four-power economic policy.
The atomic bomb was tested at Alamogordo, New Mexico, on 16 July 1945, and only after this did Truman agree to a summit. The power of the bomb was such that the USA no longer wanted the USSR to fight against Japan, but more importantly, that the bomb might be a lever to force Stalin to make greater concessions in Eastern Europe. The bombs were dropped on live targets. It has been suggested that this was to impress upon Stalin their destructive capabilities, as against a demonstration over a deserted island in the Pacific. Stalin became instead more defensive and suspicious of the USA, and drove his scientists ruthlessly on to make the USSR a nuclear power as soon as possible.
Germany was a country of great economic and military potential, so neither side could allow the other to dominate it. Although Stalin was initially cooperative in the plan to create a new democratic Germany, there were misgivings among the Western allies that the Soviets would easily surrender their zone of occupation. There is a thesis promulgated by one German historian that claims that Stalin’s approach was not fully understood by his servants in the Soviet Zone, who tended naturally to rely on local German communists and who perceived middle-class Germans as a class enemy. The NKVD (the forerunner of the KGB, the state security police) swiftly arrested anyone who failed to comply with Soviet dictates and that this created a climate of ‘latent fear’.
This atmosphere made a voluntary amalgamation of the revived German Social Democratic party with the Communist party impossible without the use of force. The union of the two was vital because together they created a strong, friendly, party in Germany. It took 20,000 arrests of Social Democrats to ‘persuade’ the Central Executive of the Social Democrats to merge with the Communists, to form a new party, the Socialist Unity Party by a vote of 8 to 3 in February, 1946. There was a referendum in Berlin on the decision to merge in March 1946, for members of both parties. In the Soviet sector of Berlin (the East) they shut down the polling stations, but in the West voting went ahead, and 82 per cent of the Social Democrats opposed the union. This did nothing to allay the West’s suspicions about Stalin’s intentions. Stalin took stock of the situation in Germany, and in the spring of 1946 issued a directive to his officials, instructing them that the next stage of the ‘Sovietization’ of Germany would be to first, ensnare Greater Berlin and then the Western Zones. Stalin believed that the Western allies would end their occupation of Germany as soon as they could because of the large financial burden it placed upon them. If that happened, he believed that the guarantees agreed on at Potsdam would be abandoned and that an aggressive and capitalist Germany would re-emerge.
The problem of reparations finally came to a head in the spring of 1946. The Western Zones had taken the majority of refugees expelled from Poland and Czechoslovakia because they were German, or had somehow co-operated with the former Nazi regime. To ease the financial burden, the British and Americans were anxious to encourage a moderate German economic recovery, simply to enable them to pay for their food imports. Until that point was reached, the Western Allies decided that it would be sensible to delay shipping the quotas of machinery and raw materials to the Soviets. General Lucius Clay, the Military Governor of the American Zone, announced that there would be no more deliveries until an overall plan for the German economy was formulated. The Soviets felt that the West was pressurizing them to agree to a reconstructed German economy within an international capitalist system. Their response was to Sovietize 213 German firms, so that all profits went straight into the USSR’s coffers. Molotov, the Soviet Foreign Minister, demanded that the USSR be paid the equivalent of 10 billion dollars in reparations. James Byrnes, the US secretary of state, replied that reparations would only begin again once Germany had a trade surplus that would cover the cost of food and raw material imports. Byrnes offered to integrate the American Zone economically with the other three Zones, but only Britain, financially on the edge, accepted. This was a major step in the beginning of the division of Germany between East and West. Bizonia was the name accorded to the economic unit formed by the British and Americans and was the next sticking point at the Moscow Conference of Foreign Ministers in March-April 1947.
This conference saw the Soviets attempt to destroy Bizonia by demanding that a new central German administration be established under Four-Power control. Bevin, the British Foreign Minister, managed to persuade the Americans that political unity could only be achieved after economic stability had been achieved. This forced the Soviets into a corner, for they knew that reparations would be delayed, so they had no option but to reject the scheme, which was what the Western powers hoped they would do.
The economic differences between the two parties only came to complete irresolution because each drew a political inference from them. The Soviets feared a reconstructed Germany that could be used against them; the British were worried that their Zone was so materially depressed that Communism might take a hold there. This fear was exacerbated by intelligence that the Soviets were intent on using their Zone as a likely base for the ‘Communisation’ of the rest of Germany. These were not the most rational of times, with Soviet pressure detectible from the Gulf to Paris. Bevin felt that the key to German recovery lay in the Ruhr, where he wanted to exclude any possibility of Soviet intervention, although the USSR expected to be a participant in the administration of the rich resources to be found in Germany’s industrial heartland.
Britain faced economic ruin by the end of 1946. Forced to police Palestine, Egypt and India, together with the long delay completing the post war settlement, Britain was forced to keep troops in Italy, Germany, the Middle East and Asia. America had hoped for Britain’s military assistance in the Eastern Mediterranean, but by 1947, the post war loan she had negotiated with the USA of £3.75billion had almost gone. The winter of 1946-7 was also severe: blizzards brought mining, and transportation and industry to a halt for about five weeks and the weather effectively ended any hope of swift recovery in Britain. Financial and military aid to Greece and Turkey, where Communist influence at the Eastern edge of the Mediterranean was strong, was Britain’s assigned role after the cessation of hostilities. Britain, desperate, told the USA that its financial aid to the two countries would have to end by March 31 1947.
Truman became concerned that Communist influence would spread along the Mediterranean, where civil wars had broken out in Greece and Italy. Truman decided to reinforce the non-communist factions by granting money and materials to those countries that wished to participate, regardless of their alignment or apparent sympathies. To do this, he had to secure money from a willing Congress, and so on 12 March, 1947, Truman stood before Congress and made a deliberately dramatic speech in which he detailed the political and economic situation in Europe, showing how the continent was dividing into two hostile camps, ‘the one based on the will of the majority, and is distinguished by free institutions, representative government, free elections, guarantees of individual liberty ... The second ... is based on the will of the minority forcibly imposed upon the majority ... It relies on terror and oppression, a controlled press ... fixed elections and the suppression of personal freedoms’.
Truman had received the now-famous ‘Long Telegram’ from George Kennan, US special advisor on Soviet affairs since his appointment by Averill Harriman in 1944, where he was posted to Moscow. The 8,000-word telegram gained currency in Washington after it was telexed on 22 February 1946. The thesis of the dispatch was that the whole basis of Soviet policy towards the USA was of permanent hostility toward the Western capitalist powers. The telegram reaffirmed Truman’s view that strong countermeasures were needed to counter Communism.
In 1947, Kennan was head of the newly created Policy Planning Staff. He published an extended version of the telegram, entitled ‘The Sources of Soviet Conduct’ in the journal Foreign Affairs in which he suggested that the USA deal with the USSR by a policy of “long-term patient but firm and vigilant containment”. Stalin initially believed the speech was propaganda, but containment soon became important US policy initiatives, which lead in turn to an aid package, the Marshall Plan.
Since 1945, the USA had been pumping cash into Europe to prevent widespread famine and economic meltdown. By 1947, influential American politicians and journalists were beginning to voice the opinion that, only through political and economic integration could Western Europe solve the whole complex of problems facing it. This would create a large, potentially prosperous market, which could act as a barrier to the further spread of communism, and perhaps in time entice those states aligned with the USSR into the capitalist, liberal-democratic fold. Such a union might even serve as a vehicle for the integration of Germany.
The Truman administration believed that there would be an attraction to the Communist system if prolonged economic misery haunted Europe. The aid programme became the keystone of the overall policy of containment. Speaking at Harvard in June 1947, the US Secretary of State, George Marshall, urged all European countries to prioritise their economic needs, so that the USA could integrate economic and material aid on a broad scale. The USSR refused to participate; claiming the proposal was a “new venture in American imperialism”.
The Soviets had asked financial credits from the USA, but without any conditions involved. Britain and France argued that it might be easier to facilitate union if a joint European programme was drawn up, as against each country sending in a separate list of needs. Acting on Stalin’s orders, Molotov, the Soviet Foreign Minister, left the Conference, for Stalin recognised that US economic influence would undermine Communism in the East. Bevin, who had done much to engineer this break, observed that Molotov’s departure marked the beginning of the breakup of Europe into two camps. This was also the year that the phrase “Cold War” gained popularity, having been uttered by Democratic Party financier Bernard Baruch.
On 16 July 1947 detailed negotiations on the Marshall Plan began in Paris, where sixteen European countries sat down to justify individual agenda. Stalin stopped any Eastern European countries attending, although Turkey and Greece sent representatives. The Western European states wanted 29 billion dollars, far more than Congress was prepared to give. There were other sticking points, so Bevin called a sub-meeting in Paris, in which the Americans set the pace and it was agreed that Germany’s economic recovery was essential for the general well-being of Europe. Stalin’s decision to put pressure on the Eastern European states to boycott the Paris conference marked the end of his attempts to cooperate with the USA and maintain the wartime alliance. In September he invited the leaders of the Eastern European and French and Italian Communist parties to a conference in Poland, to set up COMINFORM, an agency designed to coordinate the policies and tactics of all Communist parties in Europe. Andrei Zhadanov, Stalin’s representative, reflected global opinion, when he informed the delegates that the world was now divided into two camps, one led by the imperialist USA, bent on the enslavement of Europe, the other, the anti-imperialist and democratic camp, led by the USSR. From now on, all sympathisers with the USSR would be obliged to model their societies on the Soviet system, with no room for cooperation with more moderate, socialist or liberal parties.
Churchill had made his famous ‘Iron Curtain’ speech at Fulton Missouri, on 5 March 1946. Perhaps it is worth reflecting on the state of Europe at that time, because there were, in fact individual communist parties in Yugoslavia and Albania. Poland and Romania were effectively Soviet satellites, while in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Finland and Bulgaria; Stalin exerted control that is much more moderate. After COMINFORM, Stalin began to impose a uniform pattern on Eastern Europe. Klaus Larres claims that Churchill believed that Stalin sought not to provoke yet another war, and in 1948 Churchill told the Commons that he hoped that Britain and the USSR would “arrive at a lasting settlement” using “formal diplomatic processes”.
The London Council of Foreign Ministers in the late autumn of 1947 saw the USSR still trying to avoid the division of Germany, while the Americans vigorously supported the idea of Western European integration, and had at least temporarily resigned themselves at least to a division of Germany. The USSR wanted the resources of the Ruhr at their disposal, but the Ruhr was in the West, so the Communist sympathisers in France and Italy were instructed to organise strikes and this fuelled the mistrust of the Western powers of Soviet intentions in Germany. In Germany itself, the Soviets tried to rally public opinion against the Marshall Plan then send delegates from the Communist party to the London conference to reiterate Soviet demands for a new German central government. Bevin refused the delegation entry to Britain, because they were overwhelmingly Communist and did not reflect true West German opinion.
The London Conference broke up amidst bitter recriminations on 15 December 1947. The Soviets accused the West of violating the Potsdam Agreement and of denying the USSR of its rightful reparations, while the Western Powers rejected Soviet claims for a central German government, fearing it would fall under Soviet influence. All hope of Four-Power cooperation now evaporated, and instead the formation of a Western alliance, the creation of a West German State and closer economic cooperation in Western Europe, seemed to be the only options. All three policies were interlinked, depending ultimately on the successful integration of a West German state into a Western European alliance linked to the USA and ranged against the USSR.
The proposed revival of Germany was a threat to the security of the French, so the British came up with a plan for the formation of a ‘Western Union’, theoretically a defensive alliance against Germany, but the reality was ‘a screen behind which to consider defences against Russia’. On 17 March Belgium, Britain, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands signed the Brussels Pact. Without mentioning the USSR by name, it promised mutual defence against an aggressor from any quarter. Truman intended to ‘refashion Western Europe in the image of the USA’. The US government was convinced that once an economically integrated and politically united Western Europe existed, it would rapidly become wealthy. This would keep the USSR at bay and provide a large market for US exports. In the spring of 1948, the US Congress approved a programme for $5billion as the first instalment of the Marshall Plan. Britain refused to surrender any power to a supranational organisation, so the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) developed into the European Economic Community without Britain until the 1970’s.
By the summer of 1948, COMINFORM had removed all traces of political, cultural, military and economic diversity from those nations within its fold. There is not sufficient space here to detail the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in February 1948, nor the split with the USSR by Tito’s Yugoslavia, but the overall uniformity of COMINFORM shaped the notion of a Europe swiftly dividing into two ideological camps. Britain, France, the USA and the Benelux countries attended the conference in London of February-June 1948. The purpose of this conference, which dragged on with a six-week break in the middle, was to establish the conditions for the establishment of a federal West German government. France hated the thought of a revived Germany, although was greatly reassured when the Ruhr was administered by the Western Allies, the West Germans had to accept an occupation statute, giving the Allies control over most areas of the country’s political, military and economic lives. The Americans, newly-committed to the tenets of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance, assuaged French fears, and on June 7 the West Germans were authorised to draft a constitution for a democratic state, with a new currency, the Deutschmark. The Soviet response was to print the Ostmark for the Eastern Zone, which further distilled the outline of two distinct states.
Berlin was the issue over which the Cold War crystallized into full-scale diplomatic and military crisis. Stalin hoped he could put pressure on West Berlin, which was vulnerable, as it was dependent on rail and road links running through the Soviet Zone for the bulk of its supplies. By tightening controls on the movement of people and freight from the West, Stalin believed he could make the USA and its allies change their position overall German question. On the night of 23-4 June, the Soviets implemented a full blockade of the city, cutting road and rail links and supplies of electricity from the East.
The Western response was unsure. The USA ‘seemed almost paralysed by fear’ It was Bevin who provided strong leadership, suggesting strong counter-measures because Bevin was determined to maintain the impetus for setting up a West German state, while avoiding war. When General Clay, the US Military Governor, suggested sending an armed convoy through the Soviet blockade, Bevin warned of a probable armed clash with the Soviets. Instead, Bevin convinced the Americans that Berlin could be supplied through aircraft carrying all the necessary supplies, travelling along the three air corridors, or flight paths allotted to the West by the Soviets in 1945. He did welcome back the US air force to bases they had left some three years previously, although they were not carrying nuclear weapons. The fact that they were B-29 bombers, capable of reaching across Europe from East Anglia, strengthened the West’s hand. Within a month, Western transports were flying in 2,000 tons of food, coal and raw materials, although the target was 5,000 tons, in order that the city could survive the bitter East Prussian winter. This was foreseen as a task beyond the men and machines of the transport lifeline, so in August 1948 the three Western Powers sent their ambassadors to Moscow, where Stalin, capitalising on what he perceived as weakness, was uncompromising in his demands. The talks collapsed, as neither side would give way. The Soviets did not want a West German state; they demanded that Berlin be included in the economic system of the Soviet Zone, a basis for the wooing of the population of the Western sector into the Soviet political fold.
The winter of 1948-9 was quite mild, so the US C54 and other types of cargo planes were able to shift some 8,000 tons a day into the city, about 1,000 aeroplanes flying along the three air corridors. In February 1949, the Western Powers declared the Deutschmark to be the sole legal currency in West Berlin. Stalin had to cut his losses, giving an interview to an American journalist, in which he declared that the blockade would be lifted if there were a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers. The blockade was officially lifted on 12 May 1949, although there was no agreement on any other point of contention. Stalin was not prepared to prosecute a war over Berlin, it seemed, and the presence of sixty B-29 bombers in England certainly helped dissuade him.
The Berlin blockade convinced the Americans that they should be involved in the defence of Western Europe. From the spring of 1948 through early 1949, they gradually planned a North Atlantic-Western European military alliance. It became clear that the military alliance was intimately linked with the establishment of an independent West German state, mainly because without the military alliance, the French would not have tolerated a revived German state. Truman had to reassure Congress that the USA would not go to war without its consent. The key Article in the treaty was Number 5, which stated that, ‘each treaty member will take such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain security in the North Atlantic area’. The French found this to be too weak, invoking instead Article 3, which called for ‘continuous self-help and mutual aid.’ This would have involved the might of US forces in any threat to Western European security.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO, was created on 4 April 1949 in Washington, with the US Congress approving military assistance programmes for the armed forces of Western Europe. This ended the fear in the West that the USA would retreat into isolation from global affairs as it had done after 1918.
The elections for the new West German Bundestag took place in August 1949. The Soviets were reluctant to create a separate East German state, if there was one day a chance of stopping American plans for West Germany and one day creating a pro-Soviet Germany. However, the Soviets began to realise that the only option was to create a pro-Communist state.
By March 1949 the Communist party in the East was ready to establish its own independent state structure, with a constitution already drafted and approved. It was a one-party dictatorship; however, with candidates all representing the views of the Communist SED party. In May 1949, the elected Congress met and by October, after the Soviets realised that the Communist party in the West had poor support, showing only 5.7 percent support among the Western voters in the elections of August. Thus, the government of the new state was formed and the Soviets ended their military occupation of the Zone.
Berlin was now a divided city in a divided country in a divided continent. It would seem that the division of Germany was inevitable, the more that the USA became involved with the establishment of Western Europe on political, economic and military fronts, what has been called ‘empire by invitation’ by the historian Geir Lundestad. For Stalin the creation of a potentially independent West German state was a serious setback. East Germany has been described by one historian as an ‘unwanted child’, and Stalin always viewed the DDR as a temporary structure which he would be happy to dismantle, if he could somehow create a neutral Germany, removed from the influence of the USA. Kennan warned in September 1948 that, by moving so quickly to establish an independent West German state, there would be ‘an irrevocable congealment of Europe into two military zones ... Instead of the ability to divest ourselves gradually of the basic responsibility for the security of Western Europe, we (the USA) will get a legal perpetuation of that responsibility’. It is clear that the West preferred an independent, economically stable West German state and this formally divided the European continent into two ideologically opposed camps and saw the beginning of the Cold War in a form recognisable until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
The Cold War took many turns from 1949, although there is not the space to analyze them in this work. The frisson of nuclear weapons available to both sides from 1949 onward and the development of ballistic-missile delivery systems from 1957, when the Soviets sent Sputnik into orbit, precipitated the deadliest arms race in mankind’s history. The world was potentially at the mercy of a conflict in which escalation to nuclear war would have wreaked havoc upon its populations and environment. It is to this scenario that this work now turns, with almost exclusive reference to British policies and tactics in the nuclear age of Cold War diplomacy
J. L. Gaddis, Russia, The Soviet Union and The United States: An Interpretive History, 2nd Ed. (1978, 1990), McGraw Hill, p. 59.
*Duma-a local parliament
M. McCauley, Politics and the Soviet Union, (London, 1977), p.90.
McCauley, ibid, pp. 41-2.
N. Stone, The Eastern Front 1914-1917, (London, 1975), pp. 282-288.
McCauley, op cit, p. 45.
E. J. Hobsbawm, Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century 1914-1991, (London, 1994), pp. 55-8.
R. S. Baker and W. E. Dodds (eds.), The Public Papers of Woodrow Wilson: War and Peace (New York, 1927), I, pp.12-3.
Gaddis, ibid, pp. 58-9.
L. Kochan, Russia in Revolution, (Paladin 1970), pp. 44-7.
Kochan, ibid, pp. 51-5.
It is as well to point out that the Russians operated on the Julian calendar, so the February revolution took place in March under the more commonly used Gregorian system and the October revolt was on November 7th in the “West”. As the metric system was born out of events in 1789 in France, the October revolution changed Russian orthography, demonstrating the profundity of its meaning in the country.
McCauley, ibid, p. 48.
* The capital of Tsarist Russia was St Petersburg, renamed Petrograd for the duration of the war. When Lenin died in 1924 it became Leningrad. From 1941-45 it was St Petersburg, then Leningrad again and after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989-90 it once more became St Petersburg. Moscow became the capital because it was a safe distance from the fighting that went on until November 1918 in Europe and was a difficult target for the anti-Communists to reach in the Civil War.
I. Kershaw, Hitler: Hubris 1888-1939 (London 1998), pp. 98-9.
F. J. Harbutt, The Iron Curtain: Churchill, America and the Origins of the Cold War, (Cambridge, Mass., 1986), pp. 157.
M. MacMillan, Peacemakers: The Paris Conference of 1919 and its Attempt to End War (London, 2001), p. 75.
B. M. Unterberger, “President Wilson and the Decision to Send Troops to Siberia”, Pacific Historical Review, XXIV, (February 1955), 63-8.
MacMillan, ibid, p. 23, Gaddis 1978, pp.70-1.
M. W. Davies and Z. Sardar, Why Do People Hate America? Reading, (2002), p. 137.
* This is demonstrated by the fact that, between 1918 and 1941, US military personnel were dispatched to no less than thirteen different countries and twice were used to quell unrest at home: West Virginia in 1920-1 and in Washington in 1932. Since World War 2, the USA has sent troops to seventy-one different locations, from Korea to Vietnam to Iraq to impose its notion of democracy on the world. Source: http://www.zmag.org/CrisesCurEvts/Interventions.htm
N. G. Levin, Woodrow Wilson and World Politics: America’s Response to War and Revolution (New York, 1968), pp. 43-5.
C. Lasch, “American Intervention in Russia: A Reinterpretation,” Political Science Quarterly LXVII (June 1962), 217-23; E. P. Trani, “Woodrow Wilson and the Decision to Intervene in Russia: A Reconsideration,” Pacific Historical Review, XXXVI, (November 1967), pp. 435-48.
Gaddis, 1978, pp. 88-9.
M. A. Jones, The Limits of Liberty-American History 1607-1992, (Oxford, 1995), pp. 422-3.
Jones, op cit., p. 433.
Hobsbawm, ibid, pp. 69-70.
S. Sebag Montefiore, Stalin: In the Court of the Red Tsar, (London 2003), pp. 177-254; A. Bullock, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives, (Oxford, 1991, 1998), pp. 377-8; P. Brendon, The Dark Valley-A Panorama of the 1930’s, (London, 2000), pp. 198-9.
See R. Conquest, The Great Terror, London (1968, 1990) and The Harvest of Sorrow, (New York, 1986), E. H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution 3 Vols, esp. Vol 3, Socialism in One Country.
McCauley, (1978), pp. 103-4.
A. Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch (London, 1962); The Gulag Archipelago (London, 1973-8). GULAG was the acronym for Chief Administration of Corrective Labour Camps.
The figures for the Terror are best guess figures, based on R. Conquest, The Great Terror, (Macmillan, 1968).
* To fully appreciate this period, it is best to read accounts already cited above and Man Is Wolf To Man (2002), the autobiography of a Pole who fought for the Russians but fell victim to NKVD paranoia and was exiled to a Gulag.
J. MacGregor Burns and S. Dunn, The Three Roosevelts-The Leaders Who Transformed America, (London, 2001), p. 349.
E. B. Nixon (ed.), Franklin D. Roosevelt and Foreign Affairs: 1933-1937, (Cambridge, Mass., 1967), I, pp.126-9.
Gaddis, ibid, 1978, pp. 122-3.
R. Dallek, Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932-1945, (New York, 1979), pp. 20-2.
* In any case, the US failed to keep notes about the Soviet Ambassador’s meetings with Roosevelt, so there should be caution when considering Soviet accounts.
Dallek, ibid, pp. 24-6.
W. C. Bullitt, (ed.), For The President: Personal and Secret Correspondence between Franklin D. Roosevelt and William C. Bullitt, (Boston, 1972), pp. 72-3.
Bullitt, op. cit., pp. 77-8.
Gaddis, 1978, pp. 128-9.
Bullitt, ibid, pp.86.
M. Von Hagen, Soldiers in the Proletarian Dictatorship: The Red Army and the Soviet Socialist State, 1917-1930, (Ithaca, 1990), pp.534-5.
R. J. Overy, Russia’s War, (London, 1997), p. 4.
* As was the case in 1941: Army Groups North, commanded by Field Marshals Loeb; Centre, commanded by Bock and South, commanded by von Runsted.
Banners in the streets of Moscow proclaimed, We are all working as in time of war, Brendon, (2000), p. 207.
M. MccGwire, “National Security and Soviet Foreign Policy”, in M. P. Leffler and D. S. Painter (eds.), Origins of the Cold War, (London, 1994), pp. 58-9.
Overy, (1997), pp. 34-72.
L. Deighton, Blitzkrieg, (London, 1970), p. 34.
For detailed accounts of these atrocities see C. Browning, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution (Cambridge, 1992), M. Burleigh and W. Wipperman, The Racial State: Germany 1933-1945 (Cambridge, 1991).
MccGwire, ibid, p. 60.
M. MccGwire, “The Genesis of Soviet Threat Perception”, in Leffler and Painter (eds.), 1994, 1-38.
Overy, ibid, p. 81.
J. L. Gaddis, The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941-1947, (Columbia, 1972), pp. 199-201, 206, 207-9.
Sebag Montefiore, ibid, pp. 414-7.
Soviet casualties were out of all proportion to those of either the USA or Britain, with some 35 million dead. Of these: 11,144,088 killed 18,344,148 casualties and 16,900,000 civilian casualties.
M. Gowing, Britain and the Atomic Bomb, (London, 1964), Pt 1, App 1.
This was impractical for two reasons: first, Britain had not the natural or financial resources and two; the Germans could have bombed any weapons manufacturing plant by accident or design.
“Minute from Sir John Anderson to PM, 30.7.42”, in Gowing, ibid, App. 3, pp. 437-8.
The Harry Hopkins Papers: J. B. Conant to Vannevar Bush (Conant’s superior), A-Bomb folder, FDRL; “US-British Relations on S-1 Project,” November 13, 1942, Atomic Energy Commission Document 310.
“Excerpt from Report to the President by the Military Policy Committee, December 15, 1942, with Particular Reference to Recommendations Relating to Future Relations with the British and Canadians,” in Manhattan Engineer District Files*, National Archives, AEC Document 310.
*This was the code name for the project and the Oakridge complex that developed the bomb.
M. J. Sherwin, “The Atomic Bomb and the Origins of the Cold War: US Atomic Energy Policy and Diplomacy, 1941-45,” American Historical Review, 78 (October 1973), pp. 55-67.
H. Bundy, “Memorandum of a Meeting at 10 Downing Street on July 23, 1943,” in L. Groves, “Diplomatic History of the Manhattan Project”, National Archives, annex 11.
R. E. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History (New York, 1948), pp. 202, 704.
Gowing, ibid, App. 4.
Foreign Relations of the United States, 1941, (Washington, D. C., 1958), Vol. 1: 363, 365-6.
Sherwin, ibid, 57.
J. L. Gaddis, We Now Know: Re-Thinking Cold War History (Oxford, 1997), p. 94.
M. J. Sherwin, “The Atomic Bomb”, in M. Leffler and D. S. Painter (eds.), Origins of the Cold War, (London, 1994), p. 87.
B. J. Bernstein, “The Atomic Bomb Decision and the Cold War”, in T. G. Paterson and R. J. McMahon (eds.), The Origins of the Cold War (Lexington, Mass., 1991), p. 124.
Gaddis, 1997, p. 96.
D. Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb: The Soviet Union and Atomic Energy, 1939-1954, (New Haven, 1991), p. 132.
Ibid, p. 211.
S. J. Alga, Target America: The Soviet Union and the Strategic Arms Race, 1945-1964, (Novato, California, 1993), p. 95.
Ibid, p. 52.
S. Greenwood, Britain and the Cold War, 1945-91, (2001), p. 6.
PRO CAB 81/124, JIC (44) 366 of 22/8/1944.
Hugh Dalton’s diary, 5/10/1945, quoted in A. Schaim, Britain and the Origins of European Unity 1940-1951 (Reading; Graduate School of Contemporary Studies, 1978) p. 114.
D. Williams, Labour Britain and American Progressives (Fabian publication, 1948).
M. R. Gordon, Conflict and Consensus in Labour’s Foreign Policy 1914-1965 (1969).
M. R. Gordon, ibid, T. Burridge, British Labour and Hitler’s War (1986).
House of Commons, Debates, 20/8/1945, vol. 413.
A. Bullock, Ernest Bevin: Foreign Secretary (1983) p. 25.
Bullock, ibid vol ii, p. 349.
K. Sainsbury, ‘British Policy and German Unity at the End of the Second World War’, English Historical Review 94 (1979).
T. Burridge, ‘Great Britain and the Dismemberment of Germany at the end of the Second World War’, International History Review 3/4 (1981).
A. Deighton, The Impossible Peace: Britain, the Division of Germany and the Origins of the Cold War (1990) p. 17.
COS (44) 822(0), 09/09/1944, CAB 21/957.
T. Sharp, The Wartime Alliance and the Zonal Division of Germany (1975) p. 65.
G. Ross, ‘Foreign Office Attitudes to the Soviet Union, 1941-45’, Journal of Contemporary History, 16/3 (1981)
M. P. Leffler, ‘Economics, Power and National Security: Lessons of the Past’, in A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War (1992).
M. Kort, The Columbia Book of the Cold War (1998) p. 17.
M Leffler, A Preponderance of Power: National Security, The Truman Administration, and the Cold War (1994) pp. 33-44.
J. L. Gaddis, We Now Know: Re-Thinking Cold War History (1997) pp. 53-59.
D. Williamson, Europe and the Cold War, 1945-91 (2001) p. 1.
Williamson, ibid, p. 17.
J. Laver, The Eastern and Central European States, 1945-92 (1999) Ch. 4.
Williamson, op. cit, p. 29.
H. Feiss, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin (1953) pp. 144-67.
V. Volkov, ‘The Soviet Leadership and South Eastern Europe’ in N. Naimark and L. Gibianskii (eds.), The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe, 1944-49 (1997) p. 56.
Volkov, ibid, p. 60.
Gaddis, We Now Know (1997) p. 113.
J. L. Gaddis, Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Post War American National Security Policy (1982) pp.15-17.
J. W. Young, The Cold War in Europe 1945-1991 2nd. Ed. (1991) pp. 14-15.
M. Smith, Emperor’s Circle (2000).
Gaddis, (1982) p. 17.
W. Loth, Stalin’s Unwanted Child: The German Question and the Founding of the GDR (1998) p. 25.
Loth, ibid p. 62.
Williamson, op cit. p. 40.
M. Kort, The Columbia Book of the Cold War (1998) pp. 158-60.
J. W. Young, op cit. pp. 14-15.
C. S. Maeir, The Cold War in Europe, 3rd edn (1996) pp. 177-184.
S. Greenwood, Britain and the Cold War 1945-91 (2000) pp. 22-25.
Greenwood, op cit. pp. 33-37
Williamson, op cit, pp. 42-43.
Kort, op cit, pp. 138, 173-174.
“The Sources of Soviet Conduct”, Foreign Affairs xxv (July 1947), 566-572, see also G. Kennan, Memoirs pp. 354-357.
Kort, op cit, p.25.
Gaddis, (1982) pp. 37-38.
Kort, op cit, p. 151.
Foreign Minister Molotov quoted in several sources. The most comprehensive treatment of the “Marshall Plan” is M. J. Hogan, ‘The Marshall Plan’ in, C. S. Maier (ed.), The Cold War in Europe, 3rd edn (1996).
M. McCauley, The Origins of the Cold War (1983), p. 74.
Greenwood, op cit, p. 38.
J. L. Gaddis, Russia, The Soviet Union and The United States: An Interpretive History, 2nd ed. (1990), p. 165. The phrase may have come from the respected journalist Walter Lippmann, by way of the fourteenth century writer Don Juan Manuel.
Young, op cit, pp. 37-44.
McCauley, op cit, p. 74.
Williamson, op cit, pp. 45-51.
House of Commons Debates, 5th series, vol 446, 23 Jan 1948, cols. 560, 561.
K. O. Morgan, Labour in Power 1945-51 (1984) pp. 133-46.
Williamson, op cit, p. 56.
T. P. Ireland, Creating the Entangling Alliance: The Origins of the North Atlantic Alliance (1981), p. 64.
M. Hogan, The Marshall Plan, (1987), p. 89.
Young, op cit pp. 40-46.
P. Merkl, The Origins of the West German Republic, (1963), G. Lundestad, ‘Empire By Invitation? The United States and Western Europe, 1945-52’, Journal of Peace Research, vol 23 (Sept 1986), pp. 263-277.
T. G. Paterson, Meeting the Communist Threat: America’s Cold War History, (1988), pp. 18-34.
A. Schlaim, ‘Britain, the Berlin Blockade and the Cold War’, International Affairs, pp. 1-14 (Winter, 1984), p. 4.
Williamson, op cit, p. 61.
N. M. Naimark, The Russians in Germany: A History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation 1945-50, (1995), pp. 46-76.
Schlaim, op cit, p. 6.
Williamson, op cit, p. 64
McCauley, op cit, pp. 165-201
Ireland, op cit pp. 112-13
Lundestad, op cit, pp. 268-73
Young, op cit, pp. 18-22
Loth, op cit, pp. 255-27
Lundestad, op cit p. 276
Loth, op cit (1998).
G. Kennan, in Williamson (2001), p. 67
porary History, 16/3 (1981)