This essay looks into the Cold War and how it influenced happenings in Europe. The cold war was largely between USA and USSR but it influence individual nations in Europe in a big way. This war is largely the reason why the USA was deeply concerned about affairs in Europe. In response, it pursued policies and plans that to some extend helped towards recovery of Europe. The cold war can also directly be credited with the fast decolonization period between the 1960s and 1980s.
At the center of the cold war were a fight for hegemonic supremacy and an ideological supremacy battle. A power vacuum had been left after world war due to the fall of Germany and devastation of major European nations. The USA and USSR emerged as the only contenders to hegemonic supremacy. The USA championed for capitalism while the USSR was communist. The capitalist viewed communism as an inherently evil system while the communists understood capitalism as the root of all social problems. The USA had an advantage when it came to hegemonic or supremacy title because of its stable economy and huge military power. However, the USSR was nearly equally powerful and was threatening to topple world order through Stalin’s expansionist interests.
Stalin was using the allure of communism to bring as many countries as possible into one political fold. The communists desired to wipe out capitalism and capitalist states and vice versa. The cold war was characterized by economic sabotage, propaganda and an arms race. This war changed fortunes for Europe and also for colonized states especially in Africa (Bulliet 554).
Control of Europe was at the centre of the cold war because communists controlled Eastern Europe and wanted to extent their influence to Western Europe as well (Bulliet et al 522). The Berlin crisis was a major climax of conflict that existed between east and west Europe. It is the tussle for control or influence in Europe that led the American President Truman to declare the anti-communism policy and institute economic aid measures. Europe was generally allied to the USA and its capitalism plus democracy crusade. The United States favored a system of government and economic policies that allowed for individual’s freedom and respect of individuals rights as human beings. Such a system called for formation of political parties, respect for right of assembly, right to speech and press freedom (Bulliet et al 488). The communists favored communal administration of wealth and equality of all.
Europe took to democracy and instituted mechanisms that would guarantee personal freedom. This move reduced much of the political anxiety that had been the case both within states and between European states. Economically, the United States was democratic and encouraged free and fair trade throughout the world. It championed growth of trade by offering economic aid to European states through the marshal plan. Through the Breton Woods systems, it worked towards encouraging free trade around the world.
Europe took to free trade and adopted economic models developed by the likes of Maynard Keynes. The Soviet Union proffered protectionist policies that cut off their territory of free participation in international trade (Bulliet et al 381). The cold war led to each side of the divide supporting certain regimes around the world. The aim was to rally as much support as possible to their ideologies and bolster world influence.
Through such like support, guerrillas in colonized countries got necessary support to fight off colonizers. As for Europe, the war led to USA joining the NATO alliance which helped against internal as well as external aggression.
Bulliet, Richard, W., Crossley, Kyle Pamela & Headrick Daniel R.
Earth and its Peoples: A Global History since 1500. Vol. 2. California: Houghton Mifflin, 1997