Marshall Plan And The Berlin Blockade Essay


Describe the condition of Europe after World War II.



After World War II, Cold War came up as the biggest military and political tension between the powers of Western and Eastern countries. The Western Bloc included United States and its NATO allies, while the Eastern part was the Soviet Union and its allies. The historians have not completely agreed on the time period of Cold War, but it is considered during the period of 1947 till 1991. The term ‘cold’ is associated with this historical event because there was large scale struggle between the two sides. Though, during that period there were many proxy wars happened in the regional communities of both sides[1].

The Marshall Plan of the year 1947 and the Berlin Blockade in the year 1948 have been considered as significant episodes in the evolution of Cold War. However, it is very important to understand the preconditions that made these two controversial affairs as the key factors. The essay aims to find out the key actors that made Marshall Plan and Berlin Blockade as the major factors responsible for the evolution of Cold War.

Condition of Europe after World War II

After the end of Second World War, Europe was left in the devastated condition. There was a critical economic downfall in Europe. Millions of people had been killed in the war, while many of them were wounded. The major cities of Europe were ruined and it was in great need of economic reform[2]. The war had affected the agriculture and destruction was so high that many of the Europeans could not have enough food. The transportation system and infrastructure were greatly harmed, which led to many problems.[3]

The destruction was extensive in major parts of the continent. There was scarcity of food, raw material due to which production was affected. The problem of displaced people and refugees had also increased. In Eastern Europe the victory was celebrated, the continent was in terrible state. Some of the historians believed that not only Europe, but the whole world was affected and other nations were also worried about their security[4]. According to, Melvyn P. Leffker, the political, social and economic instabilities in the Europe were the reason behind the formation of President Truman’s Marshall Plan and was followed by the Berlin Blockade[5].

The Marshall Plan

According to the historians and scholars, Berlin Blockade is considered to be the major crisis caused by the tension of Cold War. The reference of this could be seen in the works of Louis Halle and George Kennan. However it is arguable that tension between both the countries had decreased in the year 1945.[6] The fear of communalism was worsened in Europe after World War II. The communist parties were gaining popularity in the Western Europe and it was believed that if living conditions are not improved, communist leaders will be elected[7]. This was the situation, which alarmed the Americans, who wanted to save themselves from the threat of communism. Thus in June 1947 the plan to help Europe to rebuild was announced.

Marshall Plan was meant to help the war-torn Europe to rebuild itself. This plan was implemented in the year 1948 till 1951. The sixteen European countries were aided through Marshall Plan; this was done in order to help the countries economically so that they can overcome from the destruction of war. Officially, this plan was called as ERP, which means European Recovery Plan.[8] This program was named after the United States Secretary of State’s George C. Marshall, as he had played an important role in forming this plan. George F. Kennan also played a vital role in instrumentation of this program[9]. Thirteen million dollars were given to Europe under Marshall Law. The aid was provided in the form of food supplies, machinery, fuels and other necessities. The most substantial amount of aid was given to France, Great Britain and West Germany. It could also be said that France and Great Britain were the closest allies of America during the war and thus America wanted to make these countries prosperous[10].

The offer of Marshall Plan was open for Eastern European nations and USSR, but it was rejected by Stalin stating that this aid was politically motivated. Stalin believed that America is trying to win people, who live in Soviet sphere so that those people will support the Western bloc[11]. Marshall Plan helped in fast recovery of Europe[12]. And, in very short span of time the living standards of people had been improved with eradication of extreme poverty. The Marshall Plan was successful in reducing the influence of Communist parties in the Western Europe.[13] The Soviet Union was frustrated and considered it as the anti-communist move by America. Thus, Marshall Plan created tension between East and West and world was persuaded with the new political clash between America and Soviet Union. Thus, Marshall Plan made the Cold War a reality for the people of both the countries.[14]

Another major event that led to tension between East and West was the use of atomic bomb over Nagasaki and Hiroshima. This event broke down the remaining relations between Soviet Union and United States. Thus Marshal Plan had played a substantial role in the evolution of cold war. The Truman Doctrine also increased the agitation between both the powers. This doctrine stated that America should support the countries and government, which are non-communist and facing attacks by the communist movements under their boundaries or are under the threat of being invaded by the communist countries.[15] This was considered as the proxy war against Soviet Union. Under Truman Doctrine the aid of four hundred billion dollars was given to Greece and Turkey.

This money greatly helped the Greek government to fight against the communist rebels and also worked as warning sing for the Soviet Union to stay away from Turkey. American politics and relation with USSR were highly affected due to Marshall Law followed by Truman Doctrine and the struggle remained between two countries for 40 long years of Cold War. The desire behind the Marshall Plan was to eradicate communism from the Eastern Europe because the capitalist West believed that devastation of Europe pos World War II would be the benefit for the USSR to create its extension.[16]

Berlin Blockade

The Germany was divided between the Western allies and Soviet Union, same way the city of Berlin was also divided. The Eastern half of the Berlin was under the control of Soviet Union, while Western half was controlled by French, British and Americans. The city of Berlin was under the Soviet half of Germany, thus the allied controlled parts of the city were entirely cut off. In order to have the entire Berlin under their control, the Soviet power started dragging the American forces out of their territory[17]. In the June 1948, the Soviets started blocking the Western allies by restricting canals, roads, railway, and traffic between the western and the eastern sectors of Berlin.[18]

The food shipments were also stopped and electricity of Western Berlin was cut off. Due to this situation, the Western Berlin was becoming isolated. This situation was called as Berlin Blockade. The situation of the people in Western Berlin became very traumatic as they had no access to the outside world. The Soviet Union put forward the condition, that they would remove the blockade, if the Western allies would withdrew the newly formed Deutsche mark from the West Berlin.[19] The people even feared that this situation will lead to World War III.

When all the efforts of diplomacy failed to show any signs of improvement, United States organized a new plan, which was called as Berlin airlift. The Western allies sent plans carrying food supplies and other things to the people in Western Berlin. Approximately 200,000 flights were flown in one year to supply food and fuel to the people[20]. More than seven hundred aircrafts were used during the airlift. The Soviets did not interrupt between the airlifts, as they feared that this will lead to open war between the two powers. Thus, according to the Western allies, airlifting was the best way to oppose the Berlin Blockade.[21]

Thus Berlin Blockade also became n important factor in the evolution of cold war between America and Soviet Union. After the World War II, Berlin Blockade was considered as the first major crisis that paved the path for the Cold War. This crisis was the result of occupation policies between Soviet Union and America[22]. At the end of the Second World War, the future of Germany was in danger due to the division. The decision of division of the zones of occupation was the only significant choice according to wartime planning. Even after the end of War, the issue of Germany was not resolved and was not effectively stated in the Potsdam Conference in the year 1945.

There was no stability and reliability among the leaders of Britain and America. The results of occupational policy were also not foreseen. The population of two and a half billion people in Berlin was divided between the four occupation zones. The people faced profound destruction; with allied bombing, the city was turned into ruins and economic life of people was under the dark shadow[23]. Still, caught up in such situation, Berlin played an important role in the struggle against Soviet Union. Soviets had the threat that there economy might fall and thus they did the Blockade. Stalin believed that by seizing the control over the Western allied Berlin they could protect themselves.[24]

Thus, the three major reasons that resulted in the Berlin Blocked were the creation of Marshall Plan for the rebuilding of the ruined Europe, The conference of London in spring and winter of 1948 and London program that called for the currency reform in West Germany.[25] The blockade had increased the tension between the two powers. Blockade was finally ended by the Soviets in the year 1949 after the counter measures applied by the West with continued ban over process of exports from the Eastern bloc[26]. The city of Berlin had become the forfeit in the play of power, politics, propaganda and ideologies. The Russians lose their interest in East German when Socialist Unity Party lost the elections to Social Democrats in the year 1946.[27]

Berlin Blockade became a significant episode in the evolution of Cold War, as the decision to isolate Berlin could have turned into a big military conflict.[28] It did not change into the big war due to the international environment post Second World War. As, in this environment a big war would have not been in the favor of Soviet Union as well as for America. The administration of Truman was not ready to start a new war, so they decided that use military will not be right. Thus, the airlift was done.[29] In the year 1950, the invasion of Korea also intensified the tensions of Cold War. According to S.J. Ball that is invasion “symbolize how close the Cold War came to hot war”.[30] Though, it can be said the before Berlin Blockade, the conflict between America and Soviet Union had been fuelled. The combination of the three major reasons further increased the agitation. And, thus Berlin Blockade became a major crisis for the Cold War[31].


Cold War is one of the significant events of the War history. Cold War was the situation that included military and political conflicts between Western Bloc and Eastern Bloc. This was also the result of the post Second World War tension. The cold war between United States and Soviet Union lasted for many years. This led into intensifying the tension between the two powers and a series of international events that closely affected the whole world. There being no large scale fights, still resulted in many proxy wars[32]. The Nazi Germany was left behind and the two new supreme powers of the world were United States and Soviet Union. Both the powers had great political and economic differences, which led to prolonged war between them.

The formation of Marshall Plan program was done to rebuild Europe, which has suffered great destruction in the Second World War. After the end of the war, Europe was completely devastated and ruined. People did not have enough to eat and economy had fallen greatly. Marshall Plan provided the aid of thirteen billion dollars to Western Europe, to rebuild them. The aid was provided in the form of food supplies, fuel, machineries etc. The aim of America behind creating Marshall Plan was to bring economic and political stability in the continent and to stop communism. This program resulted in reducing the communist influence. The Soviets were angered by this program and thus this agitation resulted in Berlin Blockade.

The city of Berlin was divided in four occupation zones. The Eastern part of Berlin was under the control of Soviet Union. By the London conference in the year 1948, Soviets feared that there economy will fall with currency reform of Western Berlin. Thus, they blocked Western Berlin by making it isolated, through cutting electricity, blocking roads and railways and even water canals. Thus Americans have to take the action of Berlin Airlift to provide supplies to the isolated population of Western Berlin. The Soviets were humiliated by the success of the airlift and thus end the blockade[33]. Thus it is correct to say that Marshall Plan and Berlin Blockade were the significant events in the evolution of Cold War.


Autio-Sarasmo, S., 2012. Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd Arne Westad, eds, The Cambridge History of the Cold War. European History Quarterly, 42(1), pp.174-177.

Daniloff, N., 2012. David E. Hoffman, The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy. New York: Doubleday, 2009. 577 pp. Journal of Cold War Studies, 14(1), pp.129-132.

Friedman, N., 2001. The fifty?€ђyear war: Conflict and strategy in the cold war.The RUSI Journal, 146(3), pp.20-25.

Gaddis, J.L., 1978. Russia, the Soviet Union, and the United States: an interpretive history (pp. 94-95). New York: Wiley.

Gaddis, J.L., 1997. We now know. New York: Oxford UP.

Haslam, J., 2011. Russia's Cold War: from the October Revolution to the fall of the wall. Yale University Press.

Heller, H., 2006. The Cold War and the new imperialism: A global history, 1945-2005. Monthly Review Pr.

House, J.M., 2012. A Military History of the Cold War, 1944-1962. University of Oklahoma Press.

Hopkins, M.F., 2007. Continuing debate and new approaches in Cold War history. The Historical Journal, 50(04), pp.913-934.

Isaac, J. and Bell, D. eds., 2012. Uncertain empire: American history and the idea of the Cold War. Oxford University Press.

Johnston, G., 2010. Revisiting the Cultural Cold War. Social History, 35(3), pp.290-307.

Judge, E.H. and Langdon, J.W., 2011. The Cold War: A Global History with Documents. Prentice Hall.

Lewis, G.J., 2005. The Cold War: A New History.

Leffler, M.P., 1992. A preponderance of power: National security, the Truman administration, and the cold war. Stanford University Press.

L?thi, L.M., 2010. The Sino-Soviet split: Cold War in the communist world. Princeton University Press.

McKenzie, F., 1999. SJ Ball, The Cold War: An International History, 1947-1991. Canadian Journal of History, 34(1).

Makhotina, E. and Applebaum, A., 2013. Iron Curtain. The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944—1956.

McMahon, R., 2003. The Cold War: A Very Short History.

Miller, R.G., 2000. To save a city: The Berlin airlift, 1948-1949 (Vol. 68). Texas A&M University Press.

Sakwa, R., 2005. The rise and fall of the Soviet Union. Routledge.

  1. J. Ball, 1998, The Cold War: An International History 1947-1991, (London)

Smith, J. and Davis, S., 2005. The A to Z of the Cold War (Vol. 8). Scarecrow Press.

Stone, N., 2010. The Atlantic and Its Enemies: A Personal History of the Cold War. Basic Books.

Tucker, S.C. and Roberts, P.M., 2007. The Encyclopedia of the Cold War: A Political, Social, and Military History, 5 Volume Set.

Vojtech, M., 1996. The Cold War and Soviet Insecurity. The Stalin Years.

Wettig, G., 2008. Stalin and the Cold War in Europe: the emergence and development of East-West conflict, 1939-1953. Rowman & Littlefield.

Wiener, J., 2012. How we forgot the Cold War: a historical journey across America. Univ of California Press.

Zubok, V.M., 2009. A failed empire: the Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev. Univ of North Carolina Press.

How to cite this essay: