Blockade of Berlin
August 15, 2022
The blockade of Berlin is one of the major episodes of the Cold War in Europe during which the Soviets block land access to Berlin from the three Western powers who in return organize a large airlift to supply their garrisons and the Berlin civilian populations. On June 24, 1948, after a long deterioration in relations between the four occupying powers of Germany, the Soviet Union (USSR) blocked all the roads and waterways by which Americans, British and French communicated between their occupation zones in Germany and Berlin. The blockade lasted until the Soviets lifted it without compensation on May 12, 1949, thus taking note of their failure to get their hands on Berlin. The blockade of Berlin is one of the very first crises of the Cold War. It was also the most serious, until a second crisis in Berlin (1958-1961) — concluded with the construction of the wall — and then the Cuban missile crisis (1962) again plunged the world into fear of war and nuclear holocaust. The future of Germany in 1948 was at the heart of the opposition between the United States and the Soviet Union. Stalin succeeded in taking control of all the countries of Central Europe without provoking any concrete reaction from the West, and the communist movements are very active in a Western Europe which is struggling to recover from the war and whose Americans want at all costs to avoid it coming under the yoke of Moscow. The two major initiatives taken with this objective by Washington, the Marshall Plan for the economic rescue of Europe and the creation of a West Germany firmly anchored in the Atlantic sphere, are contrary to the interests of Stalin, who wishes to extend his influence to all of Germany. Isolated in the middle of the Soviet occupation zone in Germany, Berlin is militarily indefensible to Westerners. Stalin sees it as an opportunity to make them back down on their initiatives or, failing that, to drive them out of the city, which would be politically and symbolically a great victory. History has retained from this crisis the determination of the Western allies to keep their place in Berlin and the success of the airlift implemented from the first days by the Americans and the British. This vision hides the fears and uncertainties in which Western leaders were plunged, divided on the real intentions of the Soviets and on the capacity of the Berlin airlift to ensure the long-term supply of the Berlin population of more than 2 million people. , of which, moreover, it was difficult to foresee whether she would turn to Moscow to avoid further deprivation or whether she would believe in a future within the Western world. Finally, the question of whether or not to use nuclear weapons is again becoming a political and military issue in the United States for the first time since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The failure of the Berlin Blockade allows the Westerners to carry out their plans for the creation of West Germany, including West Berlin, and the introduction of the Deutsche Mark. The Soviets respond to this with the establishment of East Germany. The blockade also precipitated the conclusion in April 1949 of the North Atlantic Treaty, a Western transatlantic military alliance, of which West Germany would become a member in 1954, provoking in response the creation in 1955 of the Warsaw Pact by the Soviets. The iron curtain between the Western bloc and the Eastern bloc will not move until the fall of the Berlin wall which will mark the end of the cold war, of which Berlin will have been the symbolic heart for forty years.