Cold War Relations

Cold War Relations (1947-1991)

Formation of the Cold War

  • The term Cold War refers to the period of tense relations between the USA and USSR, marked by an absence of direct conflict between the two superpowers.
  • Following the end of WWII, there emerged a power vacuum in Europe, which led to ideological differences between east (Soviet Union) and west (led by the USA).
  • The USA and USSR had different plans on how Europe should be rebuilt. One of the reasons for the arising conflict was that the USA wanted to stop the spread of communism.

Germany’s Role

  • Germany found itself split between the two political and ideological blocs. The Soviets controlled the eastern part of the country and the west was under the control of the Allies (USA, UK, France).
  • Berlin, the capital, was also divided in the same way.
  • In 1961, the Berlin Wall was built by East Germany (GDR) to prevent East Germans from fleeing to the West. This solidified the division not only of Germany, but also Europe and remains one of the most potent symbols of the Cold War.

Involvement in International Politics

  • As a divided state at the heart of Europe, Germany was central in the strategic calculations of both sides during the Cold War.
  • West Germany became a part of NATO in 1955, while East Germany was a founding member of the Warsaw Pact.
  • These alliances show how tensions were often fought between smaller, proxy countries rather than directly between the two superpowers.

Tensions and Thaws

  • There were several moments of extreme tension during the Cold War - the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 being the most notable.
  • Periodically, there were thaws or temporary easing of tension, but mistrust always remained and would flare up.
  • One crucial thaw was in the late 1980s when Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of the Soviet Union, initiated a series of political reforms leading to more openness.

End of the Cold War

  • The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 symbolised the end of the Cold War.
  • Reunification of Germany in 1990 was an important step marking the end of rivalries and start of a new era in Germany’s development.
  • By the end of 1991, the Soviet Union disintegrated into 15 independent republics. This marked the final collapse of communism in Europe.

Critical to understanding the Cold War is understanding the wider political context of the era. Equally, understanding the role Germany played in this global conflict is crucial for an overview of the development of Germany from 1919-1991.