The Berlin Blockade and Airlift

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Why was there a crisis?

  • The superpowers were not united on a decision about what to do with Germany. Stalin wanted Germany to stay weak and communist while the other allies wanted to rebuild the country and keep it as one rather than keeping it divided up.
  • In 1945, Germany and Berlin were divided but the US part of Berlin was in the Soviet part of Germany. West Berlin was only accessible by road or rail links that went through the Russian zone.
  • After 1945, mistrust developed between superpowers. The West were worried about Stalin's 'sphere of influence' and the USSR worried about the West developing the atom bomb.
  • Stalin was hoping that communism would come out on top in Berlin elections. He hoped that the West may be persuaded to leave Berlin, but they were determined to prevent Berlin becoming communist.
  • The Marshall Plan was making the West look very wealthy. In contrast, the Russian zone was poor and suggested that communism was unsuccessful.
  • By 1948, the western allies combined their zones to create one bis capitalist zone.
  • The western allies brought a new currency (Western Deutschmark) to West Germany without consulting Stalin.
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What happened during the crisis?

  • In June 1948, Stalin closed all road and rail links to West Berlin from the Western zones of Germany. His plan was to cut off West Berlin from its supplies. He hoped that the western powers would give up and withdraw from Berlin.
  • Fearing that a military option was too risky, the West decided to airlft supplies into West Berlin. The airlift began on the 25th June 1948 and lasted for 11 months. Supplies for 2.5 million West Berliners were flown in daily.
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What were the results of the blockade?

  • Faced with western determination, and unwilling to risk war, Stalin gave in and lifted the blockade in May 1949.
  • All 'friendship' between the USA and the USSR was now over. The Cold War had properly begun.
  • The incident showed Stalin that he could not risk a war because the USA has developed the atom bomb but the Soviet Union had not.
  • Russia worked more determinedly to make an atom bomb and in July 1949, they tested their first 'A Bomb'.
  • Nervous of the Soviet Union, the West formed NATO in 1949.
  • Berlin was split into West (capitalist) and East (communist).
  • In 1949, Germany was permanently divided into West and East.
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