It began in 1946. It ended forty-five years later with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin agreed to go forward with the United Nations, committing themselves to a new international
forum for resolving future conflicts and fostering world peace. The realist side of that noble arrangement, demanded by the U.S. and USSR,
was that permanent seats with veto rights be reserved for them. The paramount problem at Yalta, however, was Eastern Europe. Yalta called
for “free and unfettered” elections. However, freely elected governments would allow Soviet domination
President Harry Truman:
He was inexperienced in foreign affairs. He berated the Soviet foreign minister, V.M.Molotov, over the Soviet’s failure
to honor their Yalta agreements. He abruptly halted lend-lease shipments that the Soviets desperately needed and denied their request for $6
billion in credits.
George F. Kennan:
He dubbed the “Long Telegram” from his post at the U.S. embassy in Moscow. Kennan wrote that the West’s only recourse
was to meet the Soviets with unalterable counter-force at every point where they show signs of encroaching upon interests of a peaceful and
stable world. He called for ‘long-term, patient but firm vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.
Containment, the key word, defined America’s evolving strategic stance against the Soviet Union, and Kennan, its author,
became one of the most influential advisors in the Truman administration.
In February 1947 London informed Truman that it could no longer afford to support the anti-Communist in Greece. If they won
in Greece, Truman worried, that would embolden the Communist parties in France, Italy and of more immediate concern, threaten Soviet
domination of the eastern Mediterranean. Truman requested large-scale assistance for Greece and Turkey.
George C. Marshall proposed a massive infusion of American capital to help get the European economy back on its feet.
Marshall urged the nations of Europe to work out a comprehensive recovery program and then ask the United States for aid, which would be
forthcoming. The plan then won bipartisan support (Congress and communist coup). The plan provided stronger markets for American goods
and fostering the economic multilateralism and interdependence it wanted to encourage in Europe. The plan was also a strategic masterstroke.
Stalin halted all Allied traffic to West Berlin in 1948. Instead of giving way, as he had expected, Truman and the British were
galvanized into action. They improvised an airlift. For nearly a year American and British pilots, who had been dropping bombs on Berlin only 4
years earlier, flew in 2.5 million tons of food and fuel – nearly a ton for each resident.