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History 9067/3: International History, 1945-1991

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On 24 June 1948, Stalin of the Soviet Union, or USSR, blocked all ground and water access from West Germany to West Berlin. In response, the US brought supplies into West Berlin from the air. This, known as the Berlin airlift, lasted for almost a year. Then, on 12 May 1949, the blockade, considered ineffectual, was lifted. Indeed, this entire episode, which came to be recognized as the Berlin Crisis of 1848-49, though significant in itself, was in fact merely the final stage in the process of the division of Europe. This is to say that as an isolated event, the Berlin blockade is noteworthy: it highlights the main features of the Cold War, and marked the climax of incipient Cold War tensions. Yet when viewed from the larger picture, or the macro-perspective, one realizes that it was actually only one of a series of developments, or more specifically, the ultimate step in a concatenation of events, taking place over a duration of time that eventually divided Europe into what Andrei Zhdanov termed the ?two camps?. These ?two camps? refer to those who were pro-US and those who were pro-USSR, even hinting at the perceived new bipolar world order. However, one may not consider the blockade the ?final stage?, for there were other events after it that did consolidate the division, such as the formation of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG or West Germany), the German Democratic Republic (GDR or East Germany), and NATO. In analyzing the Berlin Crisis (and for that matter any event that played a part in dividing Europe in the early stages of the Cold War), it is hence necessary to grasp the significance of the event in isolation, as well as to understand the role it played in the complex chain of events that split Europe into two factions. I will limit my discussion to the time frame of 1945, which saw the end of the Second World War, to 1955 (the Warsaw Pact).

[...] This series then culminated in the Berlin Crisis of 1948-49. This brings me to the other perspective, that the Berlin Crisis was nonetheless only one development in a series of others that ended with the division of Europe. Walker, in fact, continues: United States opened the service by proposing the Marshall Plan. The Soviets returned the serve by convening the Cominform, and launching the strikes to stop it The West's reply was to militarise what had hitherto been an economic relationship with Western Europe. [...]


[...] I will limit my discussion to the timeframe of 1945, which saw the end of the Second World War, to 1955 (the Warsaw Pact). Even when interpreting the Berlin blockade alone, there are complexities that nonetheless remind one that it did not happen in a vacuum; more specifically, its origins. Prior to the blockade, the US and Britain had merged their zones in Germany in 1947, with the French zone joining them in 1948. The Western allies then introduced economic reforms such as the closing down of black markets which boosted prosperity in their zone. [...]


[...] New York: Penguin Books page 82. Warsaw Pact in 1955. As Lundestad affirms, the first time in peacetime the United States entered into a military alliance with countries outside the Western hemisphere.?9 In my opinion, there may not be a correct answer to this, but what one can do to attain a better understanding of the developments is to delve into the different possible perspectives. Perhaps some maintain that the Berlin Crisis of 1948-49 was the final stage because it truly ?[destroyed] whatever shred of hope still existed for a German settlement acceptable to all four occupying powers.?10 Later events, then, only exacerbated the situation, or division, but did not have the ramifications that that the blockade did. [...]


[...] One example is the military consideration already mentioned above. Another is the lesson learnt from the crisis, that there are limitations to one's power. After Stalin had announced the blockade, the West had had a response prior to the airlift: they started a counter-blockade on the movement of goods from the east into western Germany. Ultimately one of the reasons as to why the USSR lifted the blockade was because they realised that the counter-blockade was hurting them more than they were injuring the US and the West hence demonstrating the limits to their capabilities. [...]

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