- Despite mutual distrust and enmity between major democracies of the West
and the Soviet Union before World War II, the Soviet Union became an ally
of Great Britain (and United States) after the German army marched into Soviet
land in 1941.
- Reasons for the distrust and enmity before World War II:
Following the surprise invasion of its territory by Germany on June 22,
1941, the Soviet Union became an ally of Great Britain (and United States
after it entered the war).
During the war there were agreements about the post-war world. According
to the Yalta Agreement among the Big Three (Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin),
it was agreed
- The ideologies of the democracies and of Soviet communism were sharply
opposed to each other. In addition, the democracies found many of the
practices of Stalin's Soviet system to run counter to its most fundamental
- During the Russian Revolution the United States, Great Britain, and
some other countries tried -unsuccessfully- to stop communists under Lenin
from gaining control over Russia.
- The United States refused to recognize the Communist government in the
Soviet Union until the 1930's.
- After Hitler took control of Germany, Stalin believed major powers of
Western Europe and the United States would not help the Soviet Union if
it were attacked by Nazi Germany, especially after the 1938 Munich Agreement.
- Communist Parties in the Western nations had linkages to the Soviet
Union's Communist Party and its efforts to spread communism throughout
- In 1939, Stalin and Hitler, who had been enemies, signed a non-aggression
When World War II ended, the United States and Soviet Union had become the
world's dominant powers, and those countries distrusted each other and took
actions the other side viewed as hostile.
- The people liberated from Nazi rule in Europe were to be allowed to
set up their own democratic and independent governments.
- Zones would be controlled by the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and France. Berlin
would also be divided into four separate zones with each of the four Allies
controlling a zone
- The eastern part of Poland was to go to the Soviet Union to strengthen
Soviet defenses, and land from eastern Germany was given to Poland to
compensate Poland for the land it had to give to Soviet Union.
- Russia was to assist the Allies in the Far East in their struggle against
- A United Nations was to be set up to promote world peace.
The United States took strong measures to contain the spread of communism:
the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan.
- After learning that the United States had atomic bombs and how destructive
those bombs could be, Stalin felt an urgent need to strengthen Soviet military
- Because, the Soviet Army drove the Nazis from Eastern Europe the Soviet
Union was in a position to occupy several nations between it and Germany.
It set up pro-Soviet regimes in those nations for security reasons. The
United States and its allies viewed such behavior as inconsistent with the
Yalta agreement (see 1.c (1) above).
- Discussions in the United Nations between the United States and Soviet
Union tended to be harsh and belligerent.
- Winston Churchill's "Iron Curtain Speech" in Fulton, Missouri, made it
very clear that there was a major conflict between western democracies and
the Soviet Union.
Germany became a hot spot: It was divided into two nations, the Soviet Union
blockaded Berlin, and the allies responded with an airlift
- The Truman Doctrine was applied to Greece and Turkey. At the end of World War II, Greece was devastated
and in a state of civil war. British occupation forces tried to maintain
peace, but it was difficult. Local communists tried to take control of the
country with help from nearby communist countries. The United States responded
in 1947 with the Truman Doctrine, which provided economic and military aid
to Greece and Turkey, nations that were threatened by communist insurgents.
- The Marshall Plan was designed to prevent the spread of communism in Europe.
The Truman administration in 1947 adopted the Marshall Plan-a European
Recovery Program supported by massive U.S. foreign aid. The Soviet Union
refused to let nations under its control participate in aid from the Marshall
Both the U.S. and the Soviet Union developed and began producing hydrogen bombs in the early 1950's.
In 1950 the Korean War began, presenting difficult choices for the United
States, the United Nations, the Soviet Union, and China.
- The Berlin Blockade was constructed by the Soviets in 1948. The Soviet Union was alarmed and closed off roads.
- The Berlin Airlift was a response to the Berlin Blockade. The Truman administration responded with the Berlin
Airlift. The Soviet Union could have responded in many ways. It could have
gone to war, for example. Instead, it chose to permit the airlift to take
place, and finally in 1949, about ten months after the Berlin blockade had
begun, it decided to permit traffic to resume to the city.
- Germany becomes a divided nation.
- (1) The allies (U.S.A., U.K., and France) decided to strengthen Germany
in order to contain Soviet expansion. They set up a single currency (the
Deutsch Mark) for the three zones they controlled, began rebuilding the
country, and formally established the German Federated Republic.
- (2) The Soviet Union, which was invaded by Germany in both world wars
with immense casualties, feared a strong Germany, dismantled German factories
in its zone, took the machinery back to the Soviet Union to strengthen
itself, and established a pro-Soviet state in its zone, which it called
the German Democratic Republic.