The wartime alliance was based on aversion to a common enemy, not on philosophical consensus or similarity of social system or way of life. Victory removed the mutual enemy and opened the coalition up to strains between the totalitarian Soviet Union and the two leading democracies, the United States and the United Kingdom. Stalin initially hesitated in his policy, unsure how far he could push Soviet interests and whether it would be necessary to alienate his wartime partners. At the Potsdam Conference, held on the heels of the victory in Europe, Stalin offended the United States and the United Kingdom by making demands they held to be in excess of the needs of Soviet national security. Despite the acrimony, the Allies reached agreement on the general lines of the occupation, on reparations policy, and on the German-Polish and Polish-Soviet demarcation lines.
Within several years, the Soviet Union violated many of these agreements and embarked on a sustained assault on the political, economic, and social structures of most of the countries it occupied. In late 1946 the former British prime minister, Sir Winston Churchill, presciently remarked that an “iron curtain” was descending across the middle of Europe. The Soviets used force and threats to press their advantage and by 1947 and 1948 gave Communist groups in Eastern Europe the green light to govern in roughly the same repressive way the USSR itself was ruled.
In July 1947 Soviet foreign minister Molotov served notice that the USSR would not participate in the Marshall Plan, the American program for reviving the postwar economies of Europe (see European Recovery Program). In a return to the spirit of an earlier age, the USSR established the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform) as a successor to the defunct Comintern with the cooperation of eight other Communist countries.
As Moscow shirked cooperation and turned inward, the Western countries committed themselves to the globe-girdling political, diplomatic, and economic conflict between blocs—and for the most part between the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union—known as the Cold War. In the European countries where Soviet influence was paramount during and after World War II—Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Albania, and East Germany—political structures were reorganized in stages.
Local Communists first cooperated in coalition governments in which they controlled the ministries directing the police, the army, and the economy. This was followed, beginning in 1945, by the institution of 'people's democracies,' Soviet-type regimes under Communist control domestically and subservient to the USSR in foreign policy. Opposing political factions were isolated and then destroyed, large land holdings were expropriated, and (with the exception of Poland) farms were collectivized; virtually all industry was nationalized. Czechoslovakia, the only democracy in Eastern Europe between the two world wars, was the last to come under Communist control in February 1948, through subversion of a coalition government. That same year, Yugoslavia, having acquired a Communist regime led by Marshal Josip Broz Tito, resisted Soviet efforts to dictate to it and was expelled from Cominform. Developments in Eastern Europe, and the 11-month Soviet blockade of Berlin in 1948-1949, alarmed the United States and Western Europe and led to the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in April 1949. To coordinate the economies of the countries under its control, the USSR in 1949 established the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON or CMEA), with all the Communist states of Eastern Europe except Yugoslavia as members. "USSR" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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