The Impossible Peace: Britain, the Division of Germany and the Origins of the Cold War

By Anne Deighton | Go to book overview

6
THE MOSCOW COUNCIL March-April 1947

The Critical Meeting

IT was generally anticipated that the Moscow Foreign Ministers meeting would be 'the most momentous session' of the Council and that its failure to bring progress on Germany would bring the 'end of an era'. Contemporary and later writers confirm its importance as a watershed in the postwar period and as vital to the cold-war alignments of the great powers. The collapse of the Council has subsequently been designated as the moment at which it became obvious that wartime unity had finally broken down, ending Rooseveltian aspirations for the co-operative policing of the world. 'I think of it as a very successful failure', wrote Ambassador Bedell Smith, 'this meeting of the Foreign Ministers, in spite of all the frustrations it produced, resulting in clarifying beyond any possibility of misinterpretation the Soviet attitude toward Germany and Austria'. Thus was the iron curtain in Europe rung down. No longer would serious diplomacy be the major instrument of American foreign policy towards the Soviet Union.1

The predominant view has been that Soviet intransigence caused the breakdown of the Council. Genuine efforts on the part of the British and the Americans to bring about a settlement were thwarted by the Soviets' implacable public demands and their suspiciously expansionist intentions. 'The Russians themselves could hardly have helped more obligingly to split east from west',

____________________
1
The Times, 19 Mar. 1947; Georges Bidault, Resistance: Political Autobiography of Georges Bidault ( London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1967), 144; Edward Mason, "Reflections on the Moscow Conference", International Organisation, 1/1 ( 1947); Yergin, Shattered Peace, 296 ff.; Murphy, Diplomat Among Warriors, 376; Kolko, The Limits of Power, 349 ff.; Kennan, Memoirs, 329 f.; Bedell Smith, Moscow Mission , 201, 207; Gimbel, The American Occupation of Germany, 120 if.; Backer, The Decision to Divide Germany, calls the Moscow Council the critical conference, chap. 11, heading; Anne Deighton, "The frozen front: The Labour Government, the Division of Germany and the Origins of the Cold War, 1945-7"', International Affairs, 63/3 ( 1987), 458. For record of the Moscow CFM, FO 371/64206.

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