The breakdown of the Grand Alliance- Tehran Confer
Before the Cold War, America, the USSR and Britain worked together as members of the Grand Alliance (created in 1941 to defeat the Nazis). However, due to the differences between communism and capitalism (Capitalist USA and Communist USSR), the relationships within the Alliance became increasingly uneasy.
Tehran Conference 1943
The Tehran Conference was designed to make plans for the reconstruction of Europe following WW2. The 'Big Three'- American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Russian leader Joseph Stalin- agreed that the USSR should have a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. This meant that communism would be respected in the areas. As a result, the USSR would not be threatened by any of it's neighbouring countries. Equally, Western Europe would be a British/American sphere of influence, where capitalism would be dominant.
However, the Big Three did not agree on the future of Germany, as Stalin believed that the country should be punished (reparations and land) for starting the war. This would mean that the country was never again a threat. However, Roosevelt and Churchill believed that Germany should be rebuilt, as one of the causes of WW2 was the country's poor economic status following WW1.
The Breakdown of the Grand Alliance- Yalta Confere
The Yalta conference marked the high point of the Grand Alliance. The Big Three made the following descisions:
- Stalin agreed that Russian troops would help America defeat Japan once Hitler had been defeated
- Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to establish a communist government in Poland
- The 'Declaration on Liberated Europe' committed the USSR, America and Britain to work for democracy in Europe
- The Allies agreed to establish the United Nations, an organisation committed to maintaining peace
- The 'Big Three' Restated their agreement that the USSR should have a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe.
However, there were important issues that divided the 'Big Three'- for example, although they all agreed to work for democracy, there were significant disagreements over what democracy meant. Stalin thought that a democratic government had to be Communist, as only they represented the working people. Roosevelt however, believed that a democracy involved a number of poarties competing to win the people's support in free elections.
The breakdown of the Grand Allience- The Potsdam C
The Potsdam conference was the third, and final meeting of the Grand alliance. They addressed the question of the government of Europe following the German surrender. There was much discussion over the future of Germany, and eventually the Allies agreed to ban the Nazi party and to prosecute all surviving Nazis as war criminals. Germany was also reduced in size by a quarter, and was divided into four zones allocated to France, Britain, America and the USSR.
However, the USSR wanted to impose heavy reparations on Germany, whereas America wanted the country to be rebuilt. As a compromise, each ally took reparations from their zone. Stalin was not happy with this, as his zone was far poorer than the others, and also had less industry. It was therefore agreed that Stalin could have a quarter of the industrial equipment from the Western zones, as long as he paid for much of it with East German raw materials such as coal.
The success of the Yalta conference was largely based on Stalin's good relationship with Roosevelt. However, Roosevelt died soon after the second meeting, and was replaced by Harry Truman, who was far less willing to compromise with Stalin. This lead to further tensions at the Potsdam conference.
Truman tried hard to assert his authority during the conference. He started by postponing the meeting to give American scientists more time to test the first atomic bomb. Following the successful test, Truman became arrogant and tried to dominate the meeting, as he knew that America possessed the ultimate weapon. However, he was surprised when Stalin showed no particular interest in the bomb. In fact, stalin already knew about it, and had instructed Soviet scientists to develop their own as early as 1940. News of the American bomb made Stalin more determined than ever to protect the interests of the USSR. His plan was to create a 'buffer zone' (communist area in Eastern Europe between capitalist west and the USSR) to shield the USSR from any threats of capitalism.
Truman's arrogance and Stalin's determination made the relationship at the centre of the Grand allience turn sour. Further strain was put on the Big Three by the USSR's actions in Poland. Stalin had previously agreed so set up a government in Poland consisting of both Communists and Capitalists. However, it soon became clear that he had broken his word. Although the Potsdam Conference appeared to be a sign of unity between the three super powers, insiders were aware of the bitter divisions between America and the USSR.
Fear of War
During 1946, it became increasingly clear the Europe had been divided between Capitalism in the West, and Communism in the East. Stalin and Churchill responded with a 'war of words', showing that the former allies now viewed each other with great suspicion. Churchill gave a speech known as the 'Iron Curtain speech' during a trip to America. Everyone understood that Truman supported what he had said. Churchill had suggested that Europe had been separated by the differences between Communism and capitalism, and Stalin was to blame. Stalin responded by suggesting that Churchill was the warmonger, and that he and the friends of Britain bore striking resemblances to Hitler and his allies.
It became clear that the two sides had started to view each other as opponents rather than as allies. Truman and Stalin were both concerned about the breakdown of the Grand Allience and the threat of war. Both asked for secret telegrams from their embassies to help understand how the other was thinking. The 'Long Telegram' brought worrying news to Truman from the American ambassador in Moscow. It suggested that Stalin had given a speech calling for the destruction of capitalism, and that there could be no peace with the USSR while it was opposed to capitalism. Lastly, the telegram suggested that the USSR was building up it's military power. However, 'Novikov's Telegram' from the Soviet Ambassador of America suggested to Stalin that America wanted to dominate the world, and that following Roosevelt's death, the American government was no longer interested in co-operation with the USSR. It was also mentioned that the American public was being prepared for war with the USSR.
The Truman Doctrine
By the end of 1946, the Grand Allience was all but over. However, the Truman Doctrine is seen as the unofficial start to the Cold War. Following the 'Long Telegram', Truman asked the US military to assess the strength of the USSR's army. He learned that the USSR was in no position to wage war, but instead thought that Stalin would try to encourage communist revolutions across Europe. after WW2, much of Europe was devastated and many people were suffering great hardships. In such conditions, communism was highly appealing. The Truman Doctrine therefore set out to address the threat. It stated:
- The world had a choice between communist tyranny and democratic freedom
- America had a responsibility to fight for freedom wherever it was threatened.
- America would send troops and economic resources to help governments that were threatened by communists
- Communism should not be allowed to grow and gain territory.
The Truman Doctrine was important as it suggested that America, rather than the United Nations, had a responsibility to protect the world. Previously, America had tried to isolate itself from the rest of the world's affairs- the Truman Doctrine suggested that this had been changed. As well as this, the doctrine suggested that Communism and Capitalism were in opposition.
The Marshall Plan
The Truman Doctrine stated that there could be no further co-operation between Capitalism and Communism. It also implied that although America would not invade the USSR, it would make every effort to stop the spread of Communism. Truman was therefore committed to containment. He described containment and the Marshall Plan as 'two halves of the same walnut'. He meant that America had a duel strategy for dealing with communism- firstly, containment aimed to beat communism through military force. Secondly, the Marshall Plan committed $13 billion of american money to rebuild shattered economies in Europe. By encouraging prosperity, the Marshall Plan would weaken the attraction of communism, as the idea of sharing wealth would be less popular. In order to qualify for the Marshall Plan, European countries would have to agree to trade freely with America. It was therefore beneficial to the US economy.
European leaders met at the Paris conference of 1948 to discuss the American offer, as many were keen to recieve Marshall Aid. However, representatives from the USSR walked out of the meeting, claiming that America was trying to split Europe into two camps. They claimed that Marshall Aid was the first step in creating a military allience that would wage war on the Soviet Union. Stalin also insisted that countries inside the soviet sphere of influence refuse the help offered by the Americans. However, 16 countries welcomed the offer, seeing it as a way to rebuild their economies and defeating communism in their own countries.