In 1949, Germany was divided into two opposing states, the Eastern Bloc and the Western Bloc. There are many contrasting views on whether the division could have been avoided or not. One view is that the division was caused by the America, and its methods to try to make Europe economically like itself and if the division was done to build a separate Western state, to contain communism. However the opposing view is that, the Berlin Blockade, was just the USSR’s way of acting in defence of America and its “threatening” goals. Also the conclusion could come to the idea that many American actions, such as the creation of NATO was done to protect itself as Stalin’s foreign policy seemed like a genuine threat. Therefore I will be examining arguments and coming to a general conclusion of whether or not the division of Germany could or could not have been avoided in 1949. In order to come to this conclusion, you need to examine the events that led up to the division and if they could or could not have been avoided.
Firstly, in December 15th 1947, the break up of London Foreign Ministers Conference occurred. At this time, it was unlikely that any agreement on Germany was possible. While America supported integrated Western Europe, the USSR wanted to avoid partitioning Germany and it would have a great effect on their economy. The mistrust greatened between the two countries, as the USSR had attempted to disrupt the Marshall Plan via making France and Italy mistrust American. America had little trust for the USSR at this point. In the end, the London Conference broke up in the 15th December 1947 and there was still bitterness between the East and West. The USSR had accused America and Britain of violating the Potsdam agreement and felt it was unfair that they were denied their fair share of reparations, while the West rejected the USSR’s plans to form a German government, as they feared it would just be a point for Stalin to spread his communism.
Therefore there was no hope of cooperation and the division of Germany seemed like the only option that would work all around. Therefore, in reference to this, it can be said that both the East and the West can be said to be at to blame. I personally believe that in this case, the West were right, Stalin did want to spread communism throughout Germany so therefore, by holding out, they tried to stop it. Also it was a sly tactic that the Soviets used by trying to get France and Italy to mistrust America. Also if the East and West couldn’t agree on this point, then it is true that the only viable option would be to divide Germany and let each leader do what they wanted with their own part.
Another event that occurred leading up to the division was the Western Union. France feared of a stronger Germany, so to settle these fears, the British came up with the plan of a Western Union, meaning that all countries would align against Germany if it ever became a threat. However, this was really used as a defence against Russia. In this respect, it can be said that the division was not fault of the USSR that the USSR was just acting in defence; therefore it cannot be put to blame. However, I don’t believe this, as the Soviets instigated the Prague Coup, which stated that the West was indeed threatened by Soviet Aggression.
Following onto this, was the Brussels Pact on the 17th March. Belgium, Britain, France, Luxemburg and the Netherlands signed it. Even though it didn’t mention the USSR formally, it promised of a mutual defence against the aggressor from any side. Britain felt that as a result, it should be strengthened by an Atlantic Alliance with the USA, culminating in a series of secret meetings. In this respect, it can be said that the USSR was right to be scared of America’s threat at this point, secret meetings not including Stalin and the aggressor was really Russia, would just fuel his suspicion and as a result make him think to act against these allies. This event could have been avoided in some sense, the fact that the USA were to some idea “sneaky” about the Brussels pact shows that it could be their fault, maybe if they had gone about it another way, it could have been avoided, but on the other hand, was it possible to go about it another way?
To fuel the argument that the blame was mostly on the Soviets fault, was the Consolidation of the Eastern Bloc. By June 1948, the Cominform was used as a powerful weapon to control the Soviet Bloc. Even though it seemed that each state in the Bloc was, “independent”, they all had to have the same culture, military, social and economic policies. This was hardly a state of “independence”. Therefore, there was no more diversity in Eastern Europe, as there was before. Communists seized power in Czechoslovakia and strengthened their power in Hungary. Furthermore, a Peoples Independence Front was set up in the elections in May 1949 and the Communist party controlled it.
Only properly approved candidates could run, not anyone else. Gomulka wanted a socialist society that would reflect how Poland was really like was forced to resign in August and then put in jail. This can show how the USA was right, that the USSR just wanted to spread its communism and it can be said that the USA actions in the division were acceptable to contain communism. After all they didn’t want to stop entirely communism, just contain it to areas that Stalin controlled, such as the USSR. What power did the USSR have to impose its policies on others? The Peoples Independence Front situation shows how power hungry Stalin was so control and dictate and spread communism.
There was some conflict between the Western Allies though. France feared of a strengthened Germany and didn’t want to plans to create a West German state was hostile from France. But America and Britain weren’t going to compromise on this. The overcome this issue, the French fears were to some extent appeased, as the centre of the industrial Ruhr was going to be controlled by the Western Allies, therefore Britain, France and the USA would have power over trade, foreign relations and economic questions. However, this does seem bad for the Western side, as Soviet fears of the USA taking control does come in hear. The fact that the USA and Britain “appeased” France’s fears to a certain extent, by offering shared power of the divided sector, shows that the USA could have just wanted power and control over the economy and maybe that the USSR was just acting in defence
A important point in the rising tensions was the Berlin Blockade. This was set up by the Soviets in West Berlin, as a result to the new Deutschmark currency into the four Zones. With this new currency introduced, it showed how the two Germany states were coming across. Stalin believed that he could force the Western Allies to reconsider what to do in regards to the Germany question, by putting pressure on them. The West Berlin was vulnerable as it depended on rail and road links, which ran through the Soviet Zone for supplies.
The Soviets argued it was a defensive measure, however, in my opinion, to use force to get their way, doesn’t show the Soviets in a good light. The blockade began on the night of the 23rd June as all the road and rail links were cut off. France was convinced it would end soon, while America was scared. However, after strategic tactics, the Blockade was eventually overcome much due to the Berlin Airlift, but Stalin called it off if there would be another Meeting to discuss the future of Germany; the meeting of the Council foreign ministers in Paris. The issues were not resolved, but the Blockade was lifted. This shows that to get power, Stalin did want to use force that maybe the USA was just acting in defence.
Finally, the Prague Coup and the Berlin Blockade showed to America that there was no alternative than to defend Western Europe. The North Atlantic Treaty was signed on 4th April 1949. America tried to take a idle line, the wording of the Treaty was seen as weak, but it was satisfactory.
In conclusion, it can be said that East Germany was just set up in response to West Germany. However, it can be said that the division was inevitable. It seemed to be a dual action from both sides that as America made decisions concerning Western Europe, it seemed to provoke a Soviet reaction. Actions from both sides offended the other, such as the Prague Coup, which confirmed West’s fears of spreading of communism of the USSR, therefore leading to the creation of NATO, an organisation against USSR. Also, Stalin’s attempts to force the West into his way of thinking, or even reconsidering, just made dividing Germany a faster process, therefore, it can be said that there was no other way than to create that East German state. It seems that the division of Germany and Europe was going to happen.
However, even if Stalin got his way, its unlikely that, if Stalin got his way, that Germany would remain, truly a genuine independent and neutral country ((reference to Peoples Independence Front). Voices from America and London, showed that it was obvious that most of the Western Europeans preferred a divided Germany and a West Europe that was protected by American military presence.
Therefore, even if Stalin was scared of USA actions, he still used force to try and get his way in the Berlin Blockade, an undiplomatic way of thinking. The division was inevitable, it would happen eventually, as the allies just had clearly different aims, the USSR wanted one thing while the USA and Britain wanted another. Stalin would have wanted to spread Communism and the West tried to stop it. Actions by America provoked responses by Soviets, which then provoked further actions by America. It was a vicious cycle. George Keenan and General Robertson may believe there were alternatives to the partition of Germany, but I believe it was inevitable.