King's College London
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From Empire to Nationhood

Berlin blockade

Chart of rationsChart of rationsThe ideological divide between East and West deepened during the Berlin Airlift.

This was when the transfer of food, medicine and essential supplies by air overcame a Soviet land blockade of the western sectors of Berlin (administered by the US, Britain and France).

The blockade arose out of fundamental differences between the occupying powers over the future of Germany, in particular Soviet dismay at US proposals for a new currency for the western zones.

This anticipated the break up of the four-power Allied Control Council and the creation of separate governments for East and West Germany.

Stalin was also suspicious of the announcement of the US Secretary of State George Marshall's recovery plan in June 1947 to help reconstruct a shattered Europe, viewing it as a tool of anti-Soviet US foreign policy.

The US, for their part, regarded the Soviet veto of economic reforms vital to prevent the outbreak of famine as an attempt to instigate a civil crisis in Germany and accelerate American withdrawal from Europe, leaving the USSR to dominate the continent.

American resolve to make a stand was also strengthened with news of a communist coup in Czechoslovakia in February 1948.

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