The Potsdam Conference was held at Cecilienhof in Potsdam, from July 17 to August 2, 1945. This conference was held after the defeat of Germany, however while the war against Japan was still going on. Participants were the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States. The three powers were represented by Communist Party General Secretary Joseph Stalin, Prime Ministers Winston Churchill, later replaced by Clement Attlee and President Harry S. Truman. Churchill was in a general election in Britain and replaced by Atlee. The Potsdam conference was designed to provide the eastern and western boundaries after WW2 as it was incomplete, however Stalin used this to take over all of Eastern Europe. Soviet troops had occupied most of Eastern Europe and stayed there. Part of East Germany was taken over by new communist government in Poland, which had support of Stalin. There had been no free elections, which was against what was agreed at Yalta. On 16 July the Americans successfully tested the atom bomb. Stalin was not told immediately and it was clear that the USA was not going to share this secret with its allies, which had increased Stalin’s suspicions. The division of Germany and the treatment of war criminals agreed at Yalta were confirmed at Potsdam. However, the cooperation of wartime had come to an end. The alliance between the USSR and the West appeared over. On reparations it was decided that each country could take its own reparations from its own occupied zone, but the Western powers did allow the USSR to receive industrial equipment and goods from their zones.
Another contributing factor to the cause of the Cold War was the dropping of the atom bomb. The Americans were suffering massive casualties in taking the Japanese islands and defeating Japan. To prevent further casualties, President Truman made the decision to use the atom bomb. On 10 August 1945 the war against Japan ended after the B29 bomber Enoler Gay dropped the first atomic bomb, ‘Little Boy’ on Hiroshima on 6 August. Three days later, they dropped another bomb, ‘Fat Man’ on Nagasaki. These were the only times nuclear weapons were used in war. The firestorm in Hiroshima ultimately destroyed 13 square kilometres of the city. Almost 63% of the buildings in Hiroshima were completely destroyed after the bombing and nearly 92% of the structures in the city had been either destroyed or damaged by blast and fire. In Nagasaki the nuclear bombing did nevertheless prove devastating, with approximately 23% of Nagasaki's buildings being consumed by flames, but the death toll and destruction was less than in Hiroshima. Estimates of casualties from Nagasaki have generally ranged between 50,000 and 100,000. Stalin had promised to declare war on Japan in return for receiving territory in the Far East war against Japan. Truman informed Churchill at Yalta about the USA’s proposed use of the atom bomb on Japan, but although Stalin was made aware of the successful testing of the bomb, he was not told that the Americans planned to use it against Japan. The soviets joined the war against Japan on 8 August and made some gains in the Far East, but they weren’t allowed to share in the defeat of Japan.
Soviet expansion in Europe was seen by the US as Stalin trying to spread communism, which to an extent was true. The capitalist US were afraid of communism, which eventually led to the Red Scare. As a result of soviet expansionism, the US decided to set up 'Marshall Aid,' which set up funds for the countries of Eastern Europe at threat of falling to communism, much to Stalin's dismay. Also, Stalin's expansionism was a problem as he was trying to take Poland and Germany, Poland, the country that England had entered WWII for in the first place. The real problem came to a head when Stalin infringed on the "declaration on liberation Europe" which stated that eastern Europeans countries had the freedom to choose the type of government under which they lived. Soviet expansionism really did stem the whole cold war - it brought to the forefront the US's fear of communism and total hostility - the proxy war began over Marshall Aid, and the Berlin Airlift in 1948, which were as a result of soviet expansionism.
Other contributing factors were the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine. The Truman Doctrine was the name given to a policy announced by US President Harry Truman on March 12th, 1947. The Truman Doctrine was a very simple warning clearly made to the USSR that the USA would intervene to support Greece and Turkey with economic and military aid to prevent their falling into the communism. This is often considered as the start of the Cold War and the start of the containment policy to stop Soviet expansion, which was a significant part of the Cold War. For years Britain had supported Greece, but was now near bankruptcy and was forced to radically reduce its involvement. In February 1947, Britain formally requested the United States take over its role in supporting the Greek government. The policy won the support of Republicans who controlled Congress and involved sending $400 million in American money, but no military forces, to the region. The effect was to end the Communist threat, and in 1952 both countries (Greece and Turkey) joined NATO, which was a military alliance that guaranteed their protection.
The Marshall Plan was the other half of the Truman Doctrine. The economies of Europe had been ruined by the Second World War and governments in France and Italy were being threatened by strong communist parties. Truman sent George Marshall to Europe to see the situation first-hand. He reported back that Europe would need around $17 billion to aid its recovery. Congress was on the point of refusing this when the events in Czechoslovakia played a part. In 1948 the communists carried out a purge of non-communists and Jan Masaryk, a minister who supported the West, was murdered. The communists took full control in Czechoslovakia. This decided Congress: they granted the money. Marshall Aid certainly rescued the economies of the West. It was given to sixteen countries and was used first of all to improve agriculture and then to build up and industry. Britain and France received the most. Stalin prevented any communist countries in the East from receiving it. President Tito in Yugoslavia defied Stalin and received Marshall Aid, and as a result was expelled from Cominform in 1948. The Soviets claimed that the Marshall plan was dollar imperialism and that the Americans were using dollars to bribe European countries so that they would become more dependent on the USA and join them against the USSR. In this way it increased uncertainties between the USSR and USA and contributed to the Cold War.
A sixth factor that contributed to the cold war was the Berlin Blockade, followed by the Berlin Airlift. The Berlin Blockade was one of the first major crises of the Cold War. At Yalta, it had been agreed that Germany should pay reparations to the allies for damage caused during the war. When the war had ended, the USSR confiscated many of the resources of its zone. Stalin wanted to keep Germany weak. Truman began to think that a recovered Germany would be a good barrier to the expansion of the USSR. The three western zones were merged to form one which had alarmed the Soviets. The difference between the relative prosperity of the western zones and the poverty of the east was clear. In 1948, Britain and the USA decided to set up a new currency for west Germany. The USSR was not involved in this decision and Stalin argued that it was against what had been agreed at Potsdam. Berlin had been divided into 4 zones, but was 160km inside the Soviet zone. West Berllin was recovering, however East Berlin was still weak. Stalin decided the whole of Berlin should belong to the soviets. By 23 June all routes into west Berlin were closed by Stalin. No food supplies could reach the west. His plan was to starve all the people of West Berlin & force them to withdraw to East Berlin.
The Berlin Airlift had started just three days after the Berlin Blockade, on 26 June 1948. Truman was not prepared to allow his policy of containment fail, which caused a problem for the Americans, as they were afraid that if they gave way on West Berlin, the Soviets would threaten West Germany next. Stalin had cut off all West Berlins electricity supplies, and their rations decreased rapidly. West Berlin had about 6 weeks of food and fuel left and the people would starve if the USA didn’t hand over to the Soviets. It was estimated that about 4000 – 5000 tonnes of supplies would be needed every day to feed the West Berliners, but the British and American planes were only flying in 600 tonnes a day, however once they had got used to the air corridors, they increased to around 8000 tonnes a day. Throughout the Berlin Airlift, seventy-nine American and British pilots had lost their lives as they had to fight the ice and fog and had to ensure that they didn’t stray out of the air zones. Stalin tried all he knew to persuade the West Berliners to give up the struggle. By winter, 1948, electricity & gas supplies were cut off, however Stalin promised the West Berliners extra rations if they moved to the East. Only 2% of them actually went along with his bribe and moved to the East. Stalin had considered attacking British & American planes, but didn’t want it to look as though it would be a declaration on war & was afraid of the nuclear weapons, so on May 12 1949, he accepted that his plan failed and lifted the Airlift.
The USA did not return to its policy of isolation in 1945; it played its full part in the reorganisation of Europe. Before the war, there were several Great Powers. The war clearly left the USA and USSR as the strongest powers in the world – the new superpowers. They had fought on the same side in the Second World War, united by Hitler’s policies, but the alliance was an uneasy one. Even towards the end of the war, suspicions between them began to grow. This was because they had different political systems and different ideologies. The main differences between the USA and the USSR was that the USA was a Capitalist country and the USSR was a communist country. The USA was a democratic country with free elections, led by an elected president, and the USSR was a one-party state led by a dictator. There were elections, but you could only vote for the communist Party. The USA wanted reconstruction to make Germany a prosperous democracy and a trading partner however the USSR wanted to wreck Germany, take huge reparations for the damage done during the war, and set up a buffer of friendly states around Russia to prevent another invasion in the future.