Why did the USA and USSR become rivals in the period 1945-1949?

what events led to USA and USSR becoming rivals

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Communism and Capitalism

The USA and USSR had been allies in the war, but their political ideals were opposed to each other.

The USSR was a communist state of one-party government in which there were no free elections and the state owned industry and agriculture.

The USA were democratic and capitalist, in which governments are elected by free elections and industries are privately owned and run for profit.

The Soviets believed the west wanted to destroy communism.

The west believed the Soviets wanted to convert the world to communism.

These fears were one of the reasons behind the cold war.

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The Yalta Conference, February 1945 1

The three allied leaders - Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill, met at Yalta in February 1945 and agreed to divide Germany into four zones, with the USA, USSR, GB and France each occupying one zone.

Since Berlin would be in the Soviet zone it was decided that Berlin would also be divided in to four.

Stalin was to have an influence in eastern europe but these countries would be allowed to have free elections.

Despite agreeing on most issues the Allies were divided on others.

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The Yalta Conference, February 1945 2

The issue was Poland. Soviet troops had already liberated Poland and a communist government had been estabilished. Stalin insisted the need for a friendly government to protect them for Germany.

However the took this to mean a Soviet Dominated goverment. They persuaded him to include polish exiles to be included in the government who were opposed to communism.

the exiles were ignored and Stalin refused to allow free elections

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The Potsdam Conference, July 1945 1

By the time the Allies met again Germany had been defeated and relations between the East and West were much colder.

Roosevelt had died and had been replaced by Truman. Churchill had been defeated in an election by Attlee. Truman did not get on with Stalin and the tension between them increased the tension between the two nations.

Many of the decisions reached at Yalta were confirmed at Potsdam and it was agreed that Germany was to pay reparations in the form of equipment and materials, mostly to the USSR, to compensate fo war loses.

At first the Allies agreed that Germany should be kept weak. However they later realised that a weak Germany would be easy prey for Soviet expansion. So they decided that Germany should be strengthend.

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The Potsdam Conference, July 1945 2

Stalin viewed this with suspicion - he continued to weaken the Soviet zone by stripping it of all usefull equipment and machinery.

The West sent industrial goods to the USSR as promised but Stalin failed to send back coal and food. This angered the West.

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USSR and Eastern Europe: the Iron Curtain

The USSR's actions alarmed the Americans.

After the defeat of Japan , communist governments were set up in: Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania.

The communists' success in gaining power in these countries was in some cases only achieved by using military force, not through free elections as had been agreed at Yalta.

To the Americans this showed that Stalin'a plan was to spread communism throughout Europe.

in March 1946, Churchill referred to the division of east and west as the descending of an Iron Curtain between the two sides.

The Iron Curtain was not a physical barrier, but a political and economic division between the communist states of the East and the capitilist countries of the West.

Churchill' s purpose was to convince America that it needed to keep a military prescence in europe to prevent the spread of communism.

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The Truman Doctrine

In 1947 communists were threatening to take control in both Greece and Turkey.

The USA had no wish to stand by while communism spread to other countries.

In March 1947 Truman made a speech in which he said that the USA would help any nation threatened by communism.

The USA would take the lead in the containment of Soviet expansion.

The American congress anounced $400 million of aid to Greece and Turkey. This helped the Greek government defeat the communists.

The Americans also installed ballistic missiles sites on the Turkish border with the USSR. The Soviets were even more alarmed as they had no nuclear weapons.

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The Marshall Plan

The Marshall plan aimed to help Europe recover from the war. The USA feared that impoverished countries would fall to communism.

To prevent this the Americans set up the Marshall plan to provide economic support where ever it was needed - including in the East. This was of interest to America because it would make Europe strong trading partner.

The Marshall Plan was a fund of $15 billion for Europe. Stalin denounced the Marshall plan as economic imperialism - claiming that the USa was trying to spread its influence by controlling the industry of Europe.

Sixteen nations asked the USA for help, this included Britain and West Germany. The aid often arrived as machinery and fertilisers. By 1952 most European economies were on their way to recovery.

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The Marshall Plan

Stalin was unhappy with this development. He insisted that Soviet satelites should withdraw thier applications for Marshall Aid. Stalin saw the Marshall Plan as a crude attempt by the USA to dominate Europe.

His fear and suspicion intensified the Cold War and further increased divisons

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The Cominform

In 1947 communist leaders from all over the world were summoned to a conference in Warsaw, where the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform) was created.

This was designed to spread communism and protect communist states from US agression.

In 1948, Stalin ordered Comminform to expel Tito, communist leader of Yugoslavia, because he would not give in to Stalin's wishes.

This shows that Stalin wanted complete control of the communist world and would allow no oppostion.

The USA saw cominform as a serious challenge to the West.

Relations between the Superpowers deteriorated further.

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The post-war divison of Germany

After the Second World War, the growth of tension between the superpowers encouraged the Western allies to modify their policy towards Germany.

They had initially agreed with the Soviet Union that Germany was a threat and should be kept weak.

However they now saw that the USSR was a greater threat. A weak Germany might be taken over by the USSR but a strong Germany would be a barrier.

In addition, only with a strong Germany could the European economic system improve.

The west now favoured strengthening Germany through industrilistion and reunification.

Reperations payments, which were weakening Germany, would be ended and there would be a speedy return to democracy.A new German currency would be introduced. The USSR saw this as a betrayal of earlier agreements whereby the Allies would make decisions about Germany jointly.

The USSR had not be consulted about this and became increasingly suspicious.

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The Berlin Blockade 1

Berlin was divided into four zones of occupation. As the city was in the Soviet area, the West depended on the USSR to keep open the routes in and out of the city. But it was decisions by the West which triggerd a crisis in the Cold War.

Stalin continued to extraxt reparations from the Soviet zone of Germany but the other were beginning to recover due to Marshall Aid.

By 1948 Britain, France and America had joined their zones together and were planning to establish a new currency to aid recovery.

This was not what Stalin wanted. He saw a strong Germany as a threat to the USSR. His response was to close all roads, canals and railways between the West and West Berlin in 24 June 1948.

Stalin wanted to force the West to give up West Berlin by starving the two million inhabitants, who only had enough food and fuel for six weeks.

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The Berlin Blockade 2

Truman was faced with having to give up Berlin of face going to war. But giving up West Berlin meant giving in to Stalin. A less agressive policy was devised to keep the people of Berlin from starving.

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The Berlin Airlift 1

West Berliners needed over 4,000 tons of fuel and other supplies a day if they were to survive th blockade.

The allies used three air corridors. By septembe, aircraft were landing in berlin every 3 minuets, day and night.

The soviets tried to putr more pressure on the Berliners by cutting off electriciy supplies and offering extra food rations to people who moved to East Berlin. Only 2% did this showing people were ready to undergo hardship to remain part of the West.

Stalin realised the Allies were determined to keep the airlift going. He could only stop it by shooting down planes. Soviet planes did track supply planes to make sure they were not leaving the air corridors but he dared not shoot them down as this would have been an act of war.

Stalin called off the blockade in May 1949. The West had shown how determined it was to hold off communism. The Blockade was costly to the allies but it ended the ill feeling between the Americans and the Germans.

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The Berlin Airlift 2

Any hopes of a united Germany were ended for the time being.

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