THE BEGINNINGS OF THE COLD WAR

Development of US-Soviet Tensions

Development of US-Soviet Tensions

Potsdam, July 1945

Development of US-Soviet TensionsThe war in Europe was over by this time, but the Pacific war against Japan was still dragging on. Roosevelt, who had built a surprisingly warm relationship with Stalin, was now dead, and the much more prickly and anti-communist figure of Harry Truman was now President. Relations here were not quite so cordial.

* Stalin became furious shortly after the conference because he found out that the USA had developed an atomic bomb that it planned to use against Japan, but had not told him. The US dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, causing Japan to surrender very quickly. The development of the atomic bomb was hugely significant, because it was a weapon that was much, much, much, much (much!) more powerful than any that the world had seen before. Stalin desperately wanted one. As we’ll see later, when the Soviet Union did learn how to make them, the Cold War became a lot more serious.

* The leaders squabbled over the specific borders of their different zones of control in Germany.

* Britain and the USA were angry that a communist regime was being put in place in Poland, when Stalin had originally promised that non-communist groups would be involved in the provisional government and that there would be free elections.

The Berlin Blockade

Development of US-Soviet TensionsAnother dramatic event in the early moments of the Cold War was the Berlin Blockade. Berlin was like Germany in miniature, in that it was divided into zones, with Britain and the US controlling the West part and the Soviet Union controlling the East. The only problem was, Berlin was slap bang in the middle of Soviet East Germany.

So when Britain, France and Britain turned their half of Germany into the new country of West Germany in June 1948, Stalin responded by cutting off all the roads and rail access to Berlin from the West. He did this because he viewed the foundation of democratic West Germany as a direct threat to his attempts to take as many resources out of East Germany as possible. The US responded by providing round-the-clock air convoys of supplies into West Berlin, all the way until March 1949, when Stalin gave in and reopened road links.

The crisis marked the first real open confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union. The Cold War was on.