Early years (~1947-1962)

First steps to communist containment by the US

The exact date of the beginning of the Cold War is debated since the relationship between the US and the Soviet Union had been tense for a long time. However, it is generally considered that the Cold War began officially in 1947 when American President Harry S. Truman announced the Truman Doctrine. The foreign policy stated that the US would provide financial and military aid to countries which struggled under Soviet influence and were threatened with being taken over by communist groups. The policy was based on a broader strategy of Soviet containment, as Truman believed the US should support freedom in those countries that were threatened by Soviet expansion.

Later that year, the US initiated the Marshall Plan, a large rebuilding project across Europe. By 1951, the US had given billions of dollars in assistance, lending vital help for the rebuilding of Europe’s economy. The unofficial goal of the Marshall Plan was to contain the growing Soviet influence. However, to avoid creating further hostility with the Soviet Union, the US announced that it was sending help for humanitarian reasons.

Stalin rejected the aid and influenced other Eastern European countries to adopt the same stance, as he believed American money would help capitalism and hurt socialism. In reply to the Marshall Plan, in 1949, the Soviet Union created the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) to strengthen the economic relations between Eastern European countries and keep them away from American capitalism.

Communist containment and mutual military protection against the Soviet Union were also the main purposes of NATO, an alliance formed in April 1949 between the US, Canada, and 10 West European States. In response, Stalin formed a rival alliance with East European communist countries in 1955, called the Warsaw Pact. The pact was seen in the West as proof of the Soviet Union’s dominance in Eastern Europe, as well as of its powerful military capabilities.

The Berlin Blockade

Tensions between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies began to grow over their different visions for Germany’s future. While Stalin feared a future invasion and wished for a weak Germany, the US and the UK wanted Germany as a ...

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