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A European Dimension to the Cold War? (Part 4)

A European Dimension to the Cold War? (Part 4)

Such undermining of US power might have made them look weak to the USSR and the fact that Stalin initiated more antagonistic actions in the late 1940s such as the Berlin Blockade in 1948 might infer that he recognised this weaknesses of the US and the existence of a European dimension. Finally, although the Marshall plan offered much needed aid to Western Europe, it was self-sufficient regardless and the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) ensured there was a distribution of industry and wealth across Western Europe. Western Europe’s economy boomed during the Cold War and today the European Union (EU) is testimony to that as one of the leading trade bodies in the world. Many Eastern European nations that had been oppressed quickly joined the EU in 1993 when it was established post-Cold War and the survival and prosperity of Western Europe throughout the Cold War and Europe as a whole afterwards portray its importance economically.


Finally, yet crucially, we may consider the role of people power in adding a European dimension to the Cold War. The power of the masses and the refusal of people in Eastern Europe especially to simply roll over and give in to the superpowers is extraordinary. Europe had a voice and it was willing to prove it was not just a place to be occupied in the Cold War period. In 1953 the strikes in East Germany were so vast and well-co-ordinated that the Red Army had to be called in, though the delay suggests a short panic in the Kremlin and was a glimpse of the power the masses in Eastern Europe could wield. In June of that year a number of protests in Poland were put down by force yet the people did not give up and in 1956 three years later Imre Nagy organised armed retaliation against the Soviets in the Hungarian uprising. The protests continued with Czechoslovakia as the next key rebellion in 1968 though unusually it was resolved without bloodshed. The point is that although Gorbachev and Reagan’s policies certainly contributed towards a finale and the Soviet Union were slipping behind in the power race economically, the actions of the people and groups such as Solidarity in Poland ultimately saw the collapse of the Berlin Wall, symbolically reuniting Europe as a whole. Indeed Tismaneanu states that ‘the events of 1989 had world shattering consequences’ and this paper argues that it was the people of Eastern Europe that struck that final blow in ending the Cold War. If the West can be accredited for proving there to have been a European dimension through economic and political means then the East can most certainly be congratulated on the constant struggle of the people for freedom and to prove their own worth as a part of Europe.


In light of the arguments expressed, it is clear that there was indeed a European dimension to the Cold War. If we solve the issue of a European identity by considering the West and East separately during the Cold War period then they have still both, in different ways, proved that Europe was not just a group of nations playing proxy to the Eastern and Western superpowers. Europe, and Germany in particular, was at the heart of Cold War tensions and though the proxy conflicts spread to South East Asia, South America and even the Middle East during the 1950s -1980s, the European dimension was never lost as seen by the economic prosperity of the West, continual struggle for freedom in the East and political movements across Europe that defied the ideologies of the superpowers. The current prosperity of Europe as a whole is testimony to the continent’s endurance at the heart of the Cold War.          


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