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Cause of the Berlin Crisis

By proge719 Jun 14, 2008 1503 Words
On June 15th 1961, Walter Ulbricht, Leader of the GDR, famously said “Niemand hat die Absicht, eine Mauer zu errichten!" ("Nobody intends to put up a wall”) however two months later the Berlin wall was up and at the climax of U.S, U.S.S.R political international relations. What began as one could describe as a “shotgun marriage” of the world’s two super powers, America and the Soviet Union, soon escalated out of error and miscalculation through both sides to a situation in which the world was put on the brink of a global nuclear catastrophe. This act would eventually cost America eight trillion dollars, affect the lives of nearly 100,000, ruin many others and lead America into the true horrors of south East Asia. America and the Soviet Union’s cooperation to defeat Nazi Germany during World War Two was always an alliance of convenience for the common good, and as the end of the war grew closer it only “magnified the growing distrust each great power harboured about the others intentions in an environment of ill-defined borders, altered allegiances, power vacuums and economic ruin.” This conflict between Capitalist America and the communist Soviet Union did not occur because of ideological differences, but rather they confronted each other through lack of understanding and miss-interpretation of each other’s foreign policy. Because of their different views over the future of Eastern Europe, how they perceived the other on the international stage and the Marshall plan what began as a coalition for the common good of both Countries soon climaxed into a Bi polar power struggle that would have implications throughout the world. One important miscalculation that was the first of many errors on both super powers foreign policies was there entirely different interpretations of what was to become of Eastern Europe after the destruction of Nazi Germany. This conflict was over whether post war Germany should be handled in Russia’s preferred repression or America’s rehabilitation to keep Germany pacified. The American state department worried about the long term financial difficulties happening throughout Europe and therefore saw strengthening the German industry to its former position as a positive. It continued support for a moderate peace as the best guarantee against future aggression. While it called for measures on August 1949 which would guarantee payment of “restitution and reparations to Germany’s victims, prevent reconversion of Germanys economy to war purposes and eliminate German economic domination in Europe” the plan also proposed integrating the defeated Reich into the type of economy envisaged by the Atlantic Charter. Washington officials knew what they wanted, “maximum possible self-determination for the people of the region without impairing the unity of the grand alliance.” However when the Big three meet in Teheran 1943 the full measure of Stalin’s determination to stop a future threat existing in Germany became apparent. Stalin repeatedly emphasised the need to destroy any hope of German rehabilitation and prevent rearmaments and at one point proposed to “liquidation of between 50,000 and 100,000 members of the German officer corp.” Furthermore Stalin envisioned buffer states in front of the U.S.S.R, which would help to defend the Soviet Union in case of a future European war and more importantly gave Stalin a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. At this time of the alliance Stalin took a view that “this war is not as in the past, whoever occupies territory can also impose his own social system as far as his army can reach.” Therefore both superpowers misconception of the future of Europe directly set in motion a conflict that would slowly boil up and escalate into the Berlin crisis. The error on both parts was that at Yalta both Super powers went away as the conflict over reparations and the treatment of Germany proved too deep to resolve. Instead of agreeing on an arrangement before the end of the war in which these policies would be implemented both super powers went to Eastern Europe and implemented their own policies on either area of influence, creating a future conflicting issue on both sides.

Furthermore the Marshall Plan, America’s principal plan for rebuilding and creating a stronger foundation for the allied countries of Europe was one of the pivotal acts that through misinterpretation destroyed Soviet American relations. The Marshall Plan became a four year program that would cost the American people approximately $13 billion dollars before it ended in 1952. Although its impact on the Western countries was a promising one, it severally destroyed the relationship between the two former allies the Unities States and the Soviet Union marking an important stage in the development of the Cold War. What began on June 1947 as a helping hand to Eastern Europe because William Clayton reported to Washington that "millions of people are slowly starving,” soon destroyed U.S, U.S.S.R relations. The Soviets perceived the Marshall plan entirely differently from that of America. They read these plans as a prelude to the “remilitarization of western Germany and its transformation into the armed instrument of America’s Anti-soviet coalition,” and Subsequent Soviet propaganda portrayed the plan as an American plot to subjugate Western Europe. The Soviet rejection of the Marshall Plan in summer of 1947 has long been viewed as the turning point towards the development of the Cold War. After 1947, it was no longer simply differences on individual issues that divided the members of the wartime anti-Hitler coalition. But the Soviet rejection of the plan was not merely the implementation of a policy of confrontation with the West, rather it was a backlash against what was perceived and misinterpreted as an American attempt to dominate the post-war world with economic aid and undermine the security of the USSR. The Soviet ambassador to the United States, Nikolai V. Novikov, emphasized the underlying political aspects of the Marshall Plan in a telegram to Soviet Foreign Ministry Molotov on June 24th: "...it is directed toward the establishment of a West European bloc as an instrument of American policy..." officials at the Kremlin felt that the United States was exploiting Europe's difficulties, that American imperialists wanted to gain control over the economies of those countries that participated in the Marshall Plan and they publicly warned that those who participated in the program would lose control of not only their economies, but also over their political sovereignty. This error of Soviet foreign policy; that the Marshall plan was an attack on the Soviets influence in Europe and not just financial aid was the final straw in the destruction of cooperation in the peace that followed the end the World War II so far as Soviet leaders were concerned. The tension was building for Russia who knew they would have to try something to drastically gain back their influence in Germany. More importantly the most pivotal point in the detereation of Soviet U.s relations was the miscalculation by the soviets attempting to stop the currency reforming happening in West Berlin. On 1 June, America and Britain announced that they wanted to create the new country of West Germany; and on 23 June they introduced a new currency into ‘Bizonia’ and western Berlin. The Soviets refused to accept this proposal, hoping to continue the German recession in keeping with their policy of a weak Germany. The Soviets refused to honour the currency, even in Berlin, but Allies had already smuggled two hundred and fifty million Deutschmarks into the city, and it quickly became the standard currency in the western zones. The new currency, along with the Marshall Plan that backed it, appeared to be able to revitalize Germany against the wishes of the Soviets. Worse, by introducing the currency into western Berlin, it threatened to create a bastion of economic resurgence deep within the Soviet zone. Although the currency reform in theory was the trigger of the Berlin crisis, in retrospect it was the soviets actions of suspending all rail, road and air traffic into Berlin from the west as an attempt to put pressure on the U.S to call off or at least modify their plans for unification and economic revitalising. Stalin thought this action would at least make America reconsider but in reality all it did was push the American Foreign policy into a hard-line anti-Soviet position. Stalin himself no longer trusted his former allies.

The Soviet-American relationship became characterized by substantial tensions, mitigated only by continuing negotiation and no clear action. The deterioration of relations within the Grand Alliance led to the great conflict known as the Cold War. From the Soviet misconception, the United States alienated the USSR through a series of challenges, culminating with the Marshall Plan, while in opposition the Americans viewed the U.S.S.R as an ideological identity only concerned with the takeover through military of Europe. This miscalculation on both sides was essentially what created the Cold War.

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