The ‘first’ Cold War in Europe, 1945–61
In fact, the Soviet Union was in almost as bad a shape as its defeated German enemy. The country had suffered catastrophic human losses (estimated at twenty million deaths) and much of its economic infrastructure had been destroyed by the German invasion. Already, in order to rally the Russian population behind the war effort, Stalin had felt it necessary to abandon ideological purity in his wartime internal policies. Now in the post-war period, it appeared that unless the Soviet
regime created a better standard of living, it could hardly rely on its population to regard the previous years’ sacrifices as having been worthwhile. Moreover, while the Red Army was the largest standing army on the European continent, it would, sooner or later, need to be demobilized in order for the reconstruction work to begin. In addition to security guarantees, the Soviets needed money and material aid in order to rebuild their country after the war.