The Cold War

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How did the division of Germany lead to the Cold War?

The division of Germany did not lead to the Cold War. Rather, it was symbolic of the conflict as a larger whole. The Berlin Wall served as a reminder of the closed-off nature of the Soviet Bloc. The US was under constant pressure to make a stand against the Soviet Union in Berlin and the rest of the world in order to demonstrate Western resolve against potential Communist aggression.

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The division of Germany into capitalist West and Communist East didn't lead to the Cold War so much as it exacerbated existing tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Cold War was already well under way when Germany was divided up into East and West. Its division highlighted the worsening tensions between the two superpowers.

For both sides, the administration of Germany was seen as a trial of strength. Berlin was the front line of a war which, though it didn't involve any military conflict, could escalate into something more dangerous at any moment. Each side saw the division of East and West Germany as a microcosm of the Cold War. As such, much political capital from Moscow and Washington DC was expended on ensuring that their respective sides were superior.

The close proximity of East and West represented by the division of Germany inevitably generated considerable tensions. As there was no buffer state between East and West, the possibility of conflict was ever-present. Though it wouldn't be until 1961 before the East German authorities constructed the Berlin Wall, an invisible wall had already been constructed ever since the country was divided up into respective spheres of influence. In that sense, the Berlin Wall was a crude, physical, deadly manifestation of existing political divisions.

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The roots of the Cold War were already in place before the division of Germany. The Soviet Union was already occupying Eastern Europe well before the end of the war. Soviet spies were also leaking atomic secrets back to the Kremlin—it is probable that Stalin knew about atomic research before Truman.

The division of Germany was symbolic of the Cold War in that there was a literal wall placed between East and West Berlin. East Germany, the Soviet zone, was underdeveloped due to Stalin's refusal to take Marshall plan funds in order to improve his sector of the city. West Germany benefited from Allied investment and the Allied occupiers since the soldiers spent money in local shops.

The Soviets attempted to blockade Berlin in order to force the Allies out of their sector. In response, the United States orchestrated the Berlin Airlift, which made the blockade worthless. The Soviets balked at any attempt to reunify Germany, as a strong Germany could be used as a rallying point for an invasion against the Soviet Union.

The United States had to show its willingness to stop Soviet aggression in Germany in order to give its European allies confidence. Without a strong American presence in West Germany, the European allies would lose faith that the US could be the senior partner in NATO.

The division of Germany did not lead to the Cold War; rather, it was one potential battlefield of many that would ultimately involve the entire world for much of the twentieth century.

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The division of Germany into occupation zones at the end of World War II was actually agreed upon before the end of the war. This was basically acknowledging the reality that Allied forces would enter and conquer Germany from the west, and the Soviets would do the same thing from the east. On the one hand, Germany's division in a global context was really more of a symptom than a cause of the Cold War. But it certainly contributed to the escalation of the conflict, because the United States and the USSR disagreed vehemently over how it should be administered. There were multiple sources of conflict in Germany. These included Allied plans to merge three (U.S., British, and French) occupation districts into one and American subsidization of the currency in West Germany. Berlin, divided but within East Germany itself, was especially problematic, and the Soviets in an attempt to unify the city under communist control sealed off the city from West Germany. Only Allied airlifts kept the city viable during this period. Overall, the biggest problem from a Communist perspective was the stark difference between West and East in terms of individual liberties and especially the affluence of its people. From this perspective, the West, flush with cash and awash with American-Manufactured goods, was embarrassing. Predictably, thousands of East Germans made their way to the West, especially in Berlin. This led to the construction of the Berlin Wall by the Communists, a largely successful attempt to defuse the series of crises that had developed in the region for reasons discussed above.

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The Cold War was a function of the United States and Soviet Union, with their conflicting ideologies, coming into contact with each other all over the world.  The era can be defined as from about 1945 to 1989.  Germany divided simply because the Soviet Union invaded from the East, and the other Allied countries invaded from the West during the conclusion of the Second World War.  Ironically, the Allied forces could have continued eastward, but were halted; the meeting of both armies at the Elbe River in April 1945 split Germany, was the end of the Nazi regime, and was the beginning of a half century of posturing and international intrigues between the two "superpowers."

 

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I guess you could say that the division of Germany led to the Cold War, though I would say it was more a part of the Cold War than its cause.

You could say it led to the Cold War because it gave the USSR and the US something to fight/argue over (instead of being separated and never really coming into contact).

Because of the division of Germany and of Berlin, the Berlin blockade happened, with the Berlin Airlift coming soon after.  Because of this, the Berlin Crisis happened in 1958.

So overall, you could say that the division made a lot of things for the USSR and the US to argue and get mad at each other about.

One thing, though -- my guess is that there is something specific in your book or your lecture notes that your teacher will want you to talk about.  You should probably look for it.

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