Cold War Europe
Post-World War II Europe was a continent divided by two separate spheres of power: the United States and the Soviet Union. Each had much influential ability regarding their respective blocs. Whereas the United States dominated its sphere using its strength as an economic powerhouse, the Soviet Union controlled its bloc primarily through its unyielding military force. The exertion of both countries’ power was heavily relied upon during World War II by the Allied forces, but the true extent of each was fully recognized after the war ended, during the Cold War era.
Defeating the Axis powers was the goal of the Allies during World War II, the Nazi’s quest become the most powerful state in all of Europe at the expense of other peoples. Both the Soviet Union and the United States proved to be pivotal powers that were able to contribute their strengths to the downfall of the Axis nations and the end of the world war.
Although Western Europe was recovering considerably in its own right, the United States undertook an agenda that directed massive funds of foreign aid into the European economy. The most renowned effort was the European Recovery Program (ERP) (Hitchcock, 135). George Marshall’s speech regarding the Marshall Plan reflects the reason behind the American desire to deliver aid:
It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist (George C. Marshall on European Recovery, Paragraph 6).
The United States played an extensive role in supporting European countries that were, Americans believed, spiraling down the drain of economic difficulties (Hitchcock, 131). A distinguished means of influence came in the form of loans or grants that were given to these countries, the most renowned being the Marshall Plan, which was addressed by Marshall in the previous quote (Hitchcock, 134). Nations that were once stable and booming top powerhouse countries had fallen from being economically independent to looking to outside assistance. Marshall’s quote reflects on how the United States felt obligated to provide aid, seeing that the country had the means to do so (Hitchcock, 136).
There were multiple reasons behind the American’s desire to economically support the struggling European countries they had allied with. Firstly, there was the fear of countries collapsing, thereby throwing Europe into instability and “desperation and chaos” This outcome would have threatened the United States’ stability as well, since the country made much of its gross net production through its exports to them (Hitchcock, 136). The trading world that the United States participated in was in fear of collapse should the United States not intercede. Second, yet equally important, was the United States’ drive to propagate freedom and democracy. Marshall alluded to this in his speech, where he mentioned that Marshall Plan aid would also serve to “permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist.” This comment served to subtly but obviously denounce Soviet communism. Communism, which directly opposes the constitution of democracy, was opposite of what American’s had in mind in their view of a reconstructed Europe. It was seen as a threat that could potentially plant roots in the more fragile and unstable countries. Giving out American loans to those countries in need strengthened foreign economies in addition to giving the United States leverage through which to promote democracy (Hitchcock