On the international front, Western powers such as Great Britain and the United States were forced to deal with a resurgent Soviet Union. The Soviets' contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany left them in a position of considerable power and influence in Eastern Europe. With boots on the ground in this part of the world, the Soviets were going nowhere anytime soon. In the face of hard facts, the West reluctantly had to acknowledge that, as direct confrontation with the USSR was unthinkable, some kind of accommodation was necessary. Thus was born the policy of containment, which sought to prevent the Soviet Union from acquiring additional territory and influence, especially in Europe. To this end, the United States put together the Marshall Plan, a huge package of financial support to the shattered economies of Western Europe. The establishment of NATO was another crucial element in the new strategy of containment.
On the domestic front, the Soviet leader Stalin had to rebuild a country devastated by the Nazi invasion in which something like 20 million people had been killed. The Soviet economy lay in ruins, and with a weak and chronically inefficient economic system, the country would take a long time to get back to prewar levels of output and production.
Great Britain, despite being on the winning side, had been virtually bankrupted by the war. The new socialist Labour government embarked upon a radical economic and social program which involved nationalizing the commanding heights of the British economy and establishing a system of socialized medicine, the National Health Service, or NHS. Somehow the British government had to get the country's economy back on its feet after the ravages of war while at the same time sticking to its radical program. And all this had to be done while the British still had an empire to run.
In Western Europe, countries such as France and Italy had to rebuild not just their economies, but also their entire systems of government. The immediate aftermath of the war, with its widespread poverty and devastation, provided a fertile breeding ground for Communist parties, who offered an alternative to both fascism and prewar liberal capitalism. The financial assistance offered under the Marshall Plan was designed not just to help Western economies get back on their feet, but also to make it harder for Communists and other radicals to exploit the prevailing misery to achieve political power, which could potentially provide the Soviets with a strategic foothold in Western Europe.