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Berlin Blockade

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Discuss and account for one of the Berlin crises which erupted during the Cold War.

In this essay I will look at the Berlin Blockade of 1948. This was the first of two Berlin crisis's and has often been cited as the starting point of the cold war. The cold war has often been described as a clash of beliefs, between that of capitalist beliefs and that of communist beliefs. In 1948 Stalin ordered a blockage on all ground access routes between West Germany and West Berlin, effectively trying to starve out the inhabitants of West Berlin, which at the time were Western allies and Western Berliners. I will look at the events leading up to this blockage and the influence that these had on the subsequent crisis. I will look at some of the possible causes for this growing tension between the East and the West and the resulting effect that this tension had. Having done this I will look at the success of the Berlin airlift and the implications this had for future East and West relations. In concluding I will have looked at some of the events that lead up to and influenced the blockage of Berlin as well as some of the possible causes for tension that finally gave way to the Berlin blockage. Finally I will have discussed the success of the Berlin airlift and the subsequent implications that it had for East West relations.

After WWII and the reaching of the Potsdam Agreement, Germany was divided into four zones to be occupied by the US, British, French and Russians respectively. The Russians had an Eastern zone and the US, British and French divided the Western zones amongst themselves, these zones would later be called East Germany and West Germany. However Berlin the capital of Germany was also to be divided into four zones similar to that of Germany itself again with the Soviet zone being called East Berlin and the Western controlled zones being called West Berlin.

One of the first events that influenced the eventual Berlin blockade was the Soviet breaking of the agreements made at the Yalta conference in 1945 in which Russia had agreed to the implementing of democratic elections in liberated countries namely Poland. The Soviet setup communist government in Poland, this angered the Western allies but they conceded on the basis that poles living in London must form part of the government, this happened but the communists always won the majority vote. Stalin was determined to build himself a buffer zone of friendly countries surrounding the Soviet following WWII and saw communists governments as a way of doing this, "For the Russian people, the question of Poland is not only a question of honor but also a question of security. Throughout history, Poland has been the corridor through which the enemy has passed into Russia. Poland is a question of life and death for Russia." (Stalin, Yalta Conference 1945). This is the first sign of the deteriorating relationship between the two emerging super powers of the East and West and would soon lead to many problems that developed in post-war Europe.

Following this broken agreement and increasing Soviet Eastern control the US decided to implement the Truman Doctrine which was a pact made by the US to support both financially and economically any country that was under communist pressure, "I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures." (Truman Doctrine 1947) This was aimed at keeping both Greece and Turkey free of communist control. After a visit to Europe in 1947 by General George Marshall, Truman was informed that as a result of WWII the European economy was collapsing and that unless the US helped that Europe would turn communist. General Marshall called upon countries to put together a financial plan to help bolster the European economy. This was called the Marshall Plan. The plan was to raise $22billion and with the eventual help of congress they went someway to reaching that target. Stalin forbade any communist country from taking part. However despite this, the plan was successful in increasing the European economy and stopping the spread of communism (John D Clare, www.johndclare.net).

In 1947 both Britain and the US discreetly agreed to combine their two zones together and create what was to be known as the Bi-zonia which simply meant two zones. They argued that they did this to help rebuild the German economy which was currently crumbling due to the weight of reparations and the exodus of German machinery to the USSR. This was a breaking of the agreement made at Potsdam which stated that other allies should be informed of any changes being made to Germany. This put a further strain on East and West relations and had both the East and West trying to pull Berlin and Germany in Different directions. The West on one hand was trying to rebuild Germany economically as they saw their own economic success, and that of Europe as being inadvertently linked to Germany's. The Soviet on the other hand wanted to destroy Germany and halt any future growth of German military capacity (William Keylor 1996, p 61).

After further strain on the German economy as a result of the migration of Germans from Eastern Germany to Western Germany and the continual Russian drain on the German economy, American Congress voted for Marshall Aid and on March 31 1948 the Marshall plan was put into effect. It could be argued that the fear of further spreading of communism was the reason behind the success of the vote for Marshall Aid especially as it was not to long after communists took control of Czechoslovakia. Immediately after this the Russians began searching all rail and road traffic into Berlin.

Following secret meetings between the Western allies (US, French & British) at what was called the London Conference, an agreement was made to forge the three Western zones and form a single government which would later be known as the Federal Republic and to follow US economic reconstruction plans, which included the introduction of a new currency into Western controlled zones of Germany (www.germannotes.com).

On June 1 it was announced that the US and British were going to introduce a new currency into the Bi-zonia and West Berlin, the next day the Russians stopped all road and rail traffic into Berlin. There were several reasons cited for the implementation of this new currency one of which was to eradicate all the black market activities that were common of a single currency and faltering economy, also the West had hoped that the new currency would force the Soviet to change its economic stance. The new currency failed with the latter of these objectives, but instead along with the secrecy of the formation of the

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