How did Poland play a role in causing the Cold War?

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Poland played a very important role in the Cold War on account of its strategic position at the intersection of Western and Eastern Europe. After driving out the Germans from Poland, the Red Army stayed behind, as it was Stalin's intention to continue occupying the country after World War II...

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Poland played a very important role in the Cold War on account of its strategic position at the intersection of Western and Eastern Europe. After driving out the Germans from Poland, the Red Army stayed behind, as it was Stalin's intention to continue occupying the country after World War II had ended. With boots on the ground, Stalin would then be able to present Russian occupation to the Western powers as a fait accompli, a brute fact that they'd simply have to accept. Stalin wanted to create a buffer state between the Soviet Union and the rest of Europe, one that would protect the country in the event of another land invasion. The Nazi invasion of Russia had come through Poland, and so Stalin believed that it was necessary to control the country in order to strengthen Soviet security.

Although publicly committed to allowing Poland to run its own affairs, Stalin saw to it that the elements of Communist rule were established to make sure that he retained control. A prime example of this was the national election of 1947, when the Communists' opponents were subject to systematic persecution. This produced a highly skewed result, with the Communist-dominated Democratic Bloc winning a huge majority in both parliament and the popular vote. From then on, Poland became a Soviet puppet state, with the full apparatus of Soviet-style repression constructed by the ruling Polish Communists and their masters in Moscow.

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After the Second World War, Poland was placed under the control of the Soviet Union until free elections could be held. A coalition government shared between, the Polish government-in-exile and the Communist Polish Workers Party was established. However, the elections that were held were skewed to ensure the Communist Party dominated the results. The Soviet Union was in favor of a Communist-led government, and they supported the destruction of the opposition. The Soviet Union’s activities in Poland were in clear contravention of the Yalta agreement, but the Western powers could not intervene.

The Soviet Union continued to control the Communist government, and Western powers sensed mischief in Soviet activities. On the other hand, the Soviet Union did not hide the fact that they wanted complete control of all territories around them and beyond. To achieve their plan, the Soviet Union wanted to install Communist governments in the different countries.

Thus, Poland served as a successful experiment for the Soviet Union with regards to the spread of Communism, which led to heightened suspicions, and the onset of the Cold War.

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Poland did not actually engage in any actions that helped to bring about the Cold War.  Instead, Poland helped bring about the Cold War simply by existing where it did, to the west of the Soviet Union. 

Early in WWII, Poland had been divided between Germany and the Soviet Union at the time that those two nations still had a nonaggression pact between them.  Poles, not surprisingly, wanted their independence back.  It was ostensibly to protect Polish independence that British and French went to war with Germany.

At the end of WWII, however, the Yalta Conference gave Poland to the Soviet Union.  It had new borders that moved it farther west, giving it more of what had been Germany.  The Soviets were supposed to allow Poland to hold free elections.  They did not and instead imposed a communist government on Poland.  The Soviets felt that they needed to control Poland as a buffer zone to protect them against invasions from the west.

To the US and Britain, the Soviets’ actions in Poland showed that they wanted to expand their power and to dominate everything around them.  This made the Western Allies very suspicious of the communists.  This suspicion helped to bring about the start of the Cold War.

Thus, Poland did play a role in the start of the Cold War, but it was a passive role. 

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