Cold War 1945 - 50 Flashcards Preview

EMWH: Paper 1 Revision - The 20th Century > Cold War 1945 - 50 > Flashcards

Flashcards in Cold War 1945 - 50 Deck (23)
Loading flashcards...

Overview 1945 - 50


An overview of the Cold War in 9 minutes

(Worth a watch before you start all this revision)

  • The Grand Alliance of WWII met at Yalta and Potsdam to determine the future of Europe, but cracks in the alliance show over differences over Poland and Germany especially.
  • The Soviet Union establishes a 'sphere of influence' in Eastern Europe between 1946-48, the West responds with the Truman Doctrine and Marshall aid - a policy of CONTAINMENT.
  • The West / East clash over Berlin, leading to Stalin blockading West Berlin - the West responding with an airlift for 318 days.
  • By 1949 Germany divided into West and East Germany and the West establish NATO, a military alliance (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation).
  • The Cold War 'battle lines' are firmly drawn.
  • in 1949 the West surprise (& horrified) that the USSR successfully test an atomic bomb and China, under Mao Zedong defeats the Nationalists, under Chiang Kai-Shek, to become communist.
  • In 1950 the USA embark on a global policy of containment by going into Korea (Korean War 1950-53)


Define Ideology 







  • A set of principles/beliefs about the way a society should function/run.
  • In the post-WWII era, there were two competing 'ideologies'
  • Democracy (& capitalism) vs. Communism.


Outline the main features of communism [5]

  • Collectivism over individualism (greed)  - A society based on shared values of co-operation rather than competition.
  • People treated as equals - regardless.  
  • No need for private ownership - the state provides. 
  • Unemployment almost non-existent / People have 'worth' & feel 'valued' by society.
  • The state controls resources to ensure everyone is provided for.


What critics of communism think about it.

  • No political choice - one-party state (Dictatorship)
  • Strict controls over society: censorship and movement controlled.
  • Suppression of individual liberty and freedom. *
  • No economic incentives to 'improve' (State provides - makes you over-dependent) 
  • People controlled through 'state terror'. *
  • Central planning of the economy leads to waste, corruption, and stagnation.


 Outline the main features of democracy and capitalism. [5]

  • Political choice (multi-party state)
  • Government is representative (elected by the people) 
  • Government is held to ACCOUNT by the people (Accountability) 
  • Private ownership = incentive to work hard Civil rights protected in law. 
  • LIBERTY - freedom of speech, movement, and religious choice.


What was the Grand Alliance and why had it been called a 'strange alliance'?

  • The USA The Soviet Union (USSR) Great Britain
  • President Roosevelt / Joseph Stalin / Winston Churchill
  • Formed after Germany invaded Russia in 1941 to fight Germany
  • The Big Three had differing political beliefs/outlooks.
  • USA - Democratic and liberal, but anti-communist and critical of Britain's colonialist traditions.
  • USSR - Communist and anti-capitalist: had little in common with either the USSR or the USA!
  • Great Britain: Democratic & colonial (The US had gone to war to free themselves from Britain in the American War of Independence in 1786)
  • Described as, "An alliance of convenience not conviction".


Outline what happened at the  post-war meetings of Yalta [5]

  • DATE: February 1945
  • Big Three met in the  Crimea (Stalin's dacha), on the Black Sea
  • CONTEXT: War in Europe still going - but Germany close to defeat (Hitler killed himself 30 April)
  • MOOD: Generally positive.
  • Main PUPOSE discuss the future of post-war Europe
  • KEY POINT: Declaration on Liberated Europe (Agreement to see free elections in countries liberated from German occupation).
  • Stalin also agreed to join war against Japan
  • Germany to be divided into 4 zones of occupation
  • Discussions over POLAND - Stalin wanted  Soviet border to move West (into Poland) USA and GB not agreeable - put on the 'back burner'.


Outline what happened at the  post-war meetings of Potsdam [5]

  • DATE: July / August 1945 & LOCATION: Germany, just outside Berlin
  • CONTEXT: War in Europe over (Hitler dead) / USA possess the Atomic Bomb - so less pressure to show a united front. Also, USSR occupied most of Eastern Europe including Poland.
  • Roosevelt had been replaced by Truman - who was more anti-communist & Truman had the atomic bomb.
  • MOOD: Often described as an ill-tempered meeting. The war was over - less pressure to show a united front.
  • KEY POINT: Future of Germany - Soviet Union wanted huge reparations - USA and GB not so keen - wanted a stable and democratic Germany






Explain why the Grand Alliance  collapsed after WWII [10]

3 Points explained

  • Firstly it was unlikely to succeed remain together because once the common enemy, Germany, had been defeated, the longer term difficulties and differences in ideology would pull them apart. For example, before the war, the West were suspicious of Stalin having made the Nazi-Soviet Pact with Hitler. Stalin was also suspicious of the West and thought they had delayed the timing of the second front deliberately. Differences in ideology meant the USA saw communism as a threat to democracy and the future of capitalism...
  • Furthermore, the BIg three had different aims for aims for post-war Europe, and especially Poland and Germany....Stalin wanted friendly states, which meant communism for Eastern Europe, a western Soviet border at Poland's expense and a weak Germany that would pay huge reparations. This was the opposite of what the US/GB - they wanted a democratic and independent Poland (Churchill did not want to see that one army of occupation [fascist] was not replaced by another [communist] and that Poland would be permitted to have free elections. Also disagreed over Germany - USA: Don't make the mistakes of the past (e.g Treaty of Versailles after WWI). Germany to be reconstructed - make her into a prosperous, united, democracy so she became a stable democracy and a valuable trading partner. USSR: Germany to be weak and exploited for reparations (27millions had died in WWII). A weak and divided state that would not be able to launch another attack upon the USSR.They also wanted Germany to be stable economically and...
  • Finally, the Alliance broke down because the common enemy, Germany had gone - it was not called a' strange alliance' without good reason....(explain - see previous flashcard for further detail.


What was the 'Iron Curtain' speech?

(Real name of his address: The Sinews of Peace)

  • DATE: March 1946
  • Context: Over the previous 9 months USSR had come to dominate Eastern Europe
  • Made by Winston Churchill (Had lost the election so could be frank) *
  • "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent." *
  • Suggesting that Stalin had 'reneged' (gone back on) on agreements at Yalta and could not be trusted. *
  • Was warning of the dangers of 'appeasement' that had led to WWII. * Warning about the spread and 'threat' of communism.
  • Joseph Stalin denounced the speech as "war mongering," *
  • Stalin referred to Churchill's comments about the "English-speaking world" as imperialist "racism." *
  • Seen as drawing the battle lines of a 'cold war'.


Outline the USA's response to events in Eastern Europe in the period 1945 - 49 [5]

  • In response to the USSR's creation of satellite states (sphere of influence) in Eastern Europe, the USA did two things:
  • Firstly, Truman made a policy statement (March 12th 1947) was a US commitment to provide political, military and economic assistance to all democratic nations under threat from external or internal authoritarian forces. It was known as the Truman Doctrine and established the principle of the CONTAINMENT of communism. (Even though he didn't mention communism in the speech!)
  • Secondly, the doctrine was followed up with the Marshall Plan - US Secretary of State, George Marshall had seen war-torn Europe and felt the US had to provide support to prevent the rest of Europe turning communist. so the US gave an economic package of $17 billion to help rebuild Europe and to defend it from communism. At first, Congress was reluctant, but in 1948 Czechoslovakia went communist, which made Congress change its mind.



Outline the USSR's actions in Europe in the period 1945 - 49 [5]

'Salami tactics'

  • Big picture) - in the post-war period, Stalin and the USSR set about creating a Soviet 'sphere of influence', to provide the USSR with security from future attack.
  • He created an organisation called COMINFORM and its purpose was to control communist governments in Eastern European countries.
  • Gradually communist parties took control of Eastern European governments. In Poland the non-communist leaders were forced into exile, in Hungary communists intimidated and imprisoned the non-communist opposition, in Romania they abolished the monarchy and in Czechoslovakia all other political parties were banned; all consolidating communist rule.
  • After the US introduced the Marshall Plan, which Stalin called 'Dollar Imperialism, he forbade eastern European Countries to accept it and introduced his own economic measures: COMECON: All satellite states were to trade with communist countries. * Also introduced the Molotov Plan [aid to eastern European states]
  • SUMMARY:  Communists made sure that they controlled the army, set up a secret police force, and began to arrest their opponents. Non-Communists were gradually beaten, murdered, executed and terrified out of power. By 1949, all the governments of Eastern Europe, except Yugoslavia, were hard line Stalinist regimes.




Outline what happened over Berlin in 1948 - 49 [5]

  • At Yalta & Potsdam agreed Germany and Berlin to be divided into 4 zones of allied occupation. 
  • In Jan 1947, US and GB merge their zones of Berlin (Bizonia), Followed by France (Trizonia)
  • 1st June 1948 west announce they wanted to create a West German state & introduced a new currency.
  • In Soviet zone everyone started abandoning existing currency for the new currency. Stalin concerned about a united Germany - considered western actions as provocative and so imposed a blockade - cutting off rail, road and canal access to West Berlin.
  • US General Clay encapsulated the 'western' belief that Berlin held the key to the rest of Europe - it had to be defended at all costs * "When Berlin falls, Western Germany will be next". * "If we withdraw our position in Berlin, Europe is threatened... Communism will run rampant" . Also, if they did nothing to assist West Berlin, the policy of Containment would seem to be an empty policy.
  • The West responded with the 'Airlift' 318 days they airlifted essential goods to their zones of Berlin - called operation 'skybridge' it finally ended when Stalin lifted the blockade. (71 US/British pilots perished * 278,000 flights - Average of 1 flight every 3 minutes * 4,500 tons of supplies on average per day (Can you provide examples of what was supplied?)



Cold War interpretations: ORTHODOX view


(Bailey Kennan, Feis)


  • The Soviet Union to blame - because it was a threat to democracy:  
  • The USSR was committed to ‘world Revolution’. (Kennan Telegram)
  • Proof: Stalin not to be trusted: he reneged (went back on) on the Yalta agreement over free elections in Europe. *
  • Soviet actions in Eastern Europe were 'hostile'; A thinly veiled take-over between 1946-48.
  • Truman Doctrine and Marshall plan - necessary defenses against communism
  • US Foreign Policy is driven by desire to improve the world - not self-interest.


Who was to blame for the start of the Cold War:

US Revisionists

  • The USA heightened tensions and should take responsibility:
  • Truman adopted a hard-line towards the Soviets, fuelled by Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech and US possession of atomic weaponry.
  • The West did not fully understand the ‘security needs’ of the USSR [27 million Russians died in WWII] and responded with hostile intent - Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan *
  • The West was responsible for the clash over Berlin by merging their zones & introducing a new currency without consulting the Soviets.


Who was to blame for the start of the Cold War:


  • The Cold war should be seen more in the context of profound misunderstanding over differing ideology.
  • The long-term roots [suspicion and mistrust] made it highly likely that post-war co-operation would be difficult.
  • The responsibility should be shared as both sides used hostile cold war rhetoric. (rhetoric - using language to persuade someone of your point of view)


New Cold War Historians

Debate continues on!

  • The product of post-1989 - fall of communism.
  • John Lewis Gaddis: We now Know (Rethinking Cold War History)
  • Access to Soviet archives - 1000's of new documents
  • Serves to strengthen existing divisions over causes.
  • e.g orthodox historians found 'evidence' to support Reagan's view that the USSR was 'An Evil Empire', based on Stalin's personality, the authoritarian style of communist government and on the nature of communist ideology.
  • Russian historians such as Zubok and Pleshakov suggest that Soviet leaders during the Cold War were genuinely trying to avoid conflict with the USA. This puts more of the blame back on America.