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The World War II Alliance Breaks Apart

Amid the rubble of war, a new power structure emerged.

In Europe, Germany was defeated. France and Britain were exhausted. Two other powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, emerged as the new world leaders. The United States abandoned its traditional policy of isolationism to counter what President Truman saw as the communist threat.

Differences Grow Between the Allies

During the second World War, the Soviet Union and the nations of the West had cooperated to defeat Nazi Germany. After the war’s end, the Allies set up councils made up of foreign ministers from Britain, France, China, the United States, and the Soviet Union to iron out the peace agreements discussed at various conferences during the war. The councils concluded peace agreements with several Axis nations in 1947. However, reparations in Germany and the nature of the governments of Eastern Europe caused divisions to deepen between the former Allies. Conflicting ideologies and mutual distrust soon led to the conflict known as the Cold War. This was a state of tension and hostility between nations aligned with the United States on one side and the Soviet Union on the other, without armed conflict between the major rivals.

The Cold War Begins

Stalin had two goals in Eastern Europe. First, he wanted to spread communism in the area. Second, he wanted to create a buffer zone of friendly governments as a defense against Germany, which had invaded Russia during World War I and again in 1941.

As the Red Army had pushed German forces out of Eastern Europe, it had left behind occupying forces. At wartime conferences, Stalin tried to persuade the West to accept Soviet influence in Eastern Europe. The Soviet dictator pointed out that the United States was not consulting the Soviet Union about peace terms for Italy or Japan, both of which were defeated and occupied by American and British troops. In the same way, the Soviet Union would determine the fate of the Eastern European lands that it occupied.

Roosevelt and Churchill rejected Stalin’s view, making him promise “free elections” in Eastern Europe. Stalin ignored that pledge. Most Eastern European countries had existing Communist parties, many of which had actively resisted the Nazis during the war. Backed by the Red Army , these local Communists in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and elsewhere destroyed rival political parties and even assassinated democratic leaders. By 1948, pro-Soviet communist governments were in place throughout Eastern Europe.

Questions ~

  1. What post-war issues caused the Western Allies and the Soviet Union to disagree?
  2. Who was the US President during most of WW II? … at the end of World War II?
  3. Which country amongst the Allies suffered the most casualties (wounded and killed)?
  4. What was the effect of the forming Cold War on Germany?
  5. What is the Berlin Airlift?