chapter  4
16 Pages

The Division of Europe, 1945–56

Far from retreating back to a limited political isolation, as Washington had after the First World War, its extraordinary and disproportionate power during the war and in the years immediately afterwards placed the United States at the heart of planning the post-war European order. Washington intended to seize the initiative, exert its leadership and integrate politically, economically and through shared systems of security with Western Europe. The United States, and Roosevelt in particular, were determined not to repeat the political mistakes made by Wilson. Shunning the isolationist option this time, Washington tried to shape an order that served its national interests and spread US ideologies, goods and culture throughout the world. Such visions necessitated creating a liberal internationalist economic order that would serve US interests and contribute to its growth, and at the same time gain access to the West European colonial areas and limit the extent of the Soviet system. Interpretative debates on the US role are widespread. The basic arguments range from the traditional aims of containing Soviet influence and rebuilding Europe to the revisionist arguments that Washington tried to create an empire of sorts in Western Europe. There is no argument, however, that the post-war US integration with European affairs was crucial to its national interest. Its security could be defined around events and issues in Europe; indeed, its post-war political and security doctrines were defined around the ‘containment’ of Soviet influence and its ‘expansive tendencies’ in Europe. The ghosts of the 1930s and the need to rejuvenate, but more importantly to integrate European markets, propelled its economic interests. Finally, Washington was in a position to gain at least institutional acceptance of its preponderant ideologies, and conceptually create a unified entity, ‘the West’. The onset of the Cold War lead to greater cohesion among Western powers. The transatlantic differences were therefore necessarily subsumed within this broader context.