“Our work for peace must begin within the private world of each one of us. To build a world without fear, we must be without fear. To build a world of justice, we must be just.” – Dag Hammarskjöld
Peace was very important before and after 1949, because World War II had just ended and everybody was experiencing its consequences.USSR and USA had become the superpowers, their decisions and relationships influenced European and world politics. Both superpowers had suffered great losses during WWII and were trying to keep peace, but still looking for their own good, thus beginning the Cold War. Great Britain didn’t participate in most of this because, after Churchill had lost elections, Atlee- the newly elected prime minister just sought to rebuild Great Britain after WWII and didn’t have much influence in world politics.
The biggest danger to peace at that time was USA’s and USSR’s clashing opinions about their form of government and human rights. It had become clear that their wartime friendship had ended. There was lots of distrust and provocations from both sides.
Firstly, in 1945, after the agreement at Yalta conference that Stalin could have a ‘sphere of influence’ in Eastern Europe, because of his worries about USSR’s future security.USSR started taking over all Eastern Europe by ‘liberating’ them, but instead of withdrawing troops, Stalin just left them there. In consequence most governments had become communist. TheUSAsaw this as a communist takeover and protested (Roosevelt ha died, and was changed by Truman, who was very anti-communist), Stalin said that it was just defensive, to protect theUSSRfrom further attacks. Churchill, who was still prime minister at that time called these Eastern European occupations ‘The Iron Curtain’. To prevent this spread of communism through the whole of Europe,USAadopted a policy called ‘Containment’.
Also theUSAhad successfully tested an atomic bomb, but the USSRwas informed only during thePotsdamconference, which greatly angered Stalin.
Other provoking actions by theUSAwere known as the ‘Truman doctrine’ and’Marshall
Aid’. Under the Truman doctrine, USA was prepared to send money, arms and help to any country who, according to the USA was about to be taken over by communists. ‘Marshall Aid’ was introduced to help communist countries by sending them money to repair their economies. TheUSAwas prepared to send $17 billion, at first the American congress disagreed, but after the communist take over of Czechoslovakia ‘Marshall Aid’ was accepted and the $17 billion was made available toEuropeover four years. The Soviets saw this as the USA interfering and trying to influenceEurope.
Despite all the provocations between the two superpowers, they had never actually fired at one another. But in 1948 they came dangerously close to war. After losing WWII Germany had become a great concern of the superpowers, there were disputes about what to do next with it, because it was greatly destructed after WWII, USSR still saw it as a threat and didn’t want to hurry rebuilding it, the Western Allies were wary of rebuilding it too quickly too, but saw no other way of feeding the people without rebuilding factories, because of that they joined the 3 zones (American, British and French)in 1946 and it became known as Western Germany, in 1948 they reformed the currency, which made the recovery even more successful. The Soviet government regarded all this as provocations and thought that even though it couldn’t do anything about the currency, it could take over Berlin which was also divided into four zones. In 1948 the soviets blocked all roads to Berlin and turned down the electricity allegedly because of coal shortage. The western allies didn’t give in to this obvious provocation and continued supplying Berlin by air-lifting the supplies. Although Berlin’s population suffered a lot and many fled, but by May 1949 it was clear that the Western Allies wouldn’t give up easily and the Berlin blockade was finally over. As a result of theBerlinblockade,Germanywas divided into two nations-one known as the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the other called the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).
In order to withstand the danger posed by the USSR, 12 north American and west European countries created a defense alliance- NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation).
There were lots of dangers to peace by 1949. Complicated negotiations and provocations cost a lot of money to the superpowers and lives to smaller countries. It was a tense period for Europe which was divided by the Iron Curtain, central-eastern European countries suffering the most. Despite the fact that there were no direct military clashes between the superpowers, proxy wars were being fought.