Soviet Policy toward East Germany Reconsidered: The Postwar Decade

By Ann L. Phillips | Go to book overview

addition, the uncertainty of Germany's future and conflicting Soviet interests reduced the SED to an instrument of Soviet policy to a greater degree than in the rest of East Europe. At the same time, however, the SED enjoyed much greater administrative authority in the SBZ than any German political party in the Western Zones in the early postwar period. Nonetheless, it must be concluded that the Soviets developed their policy toward Germany largely irrespective of the interests or fortunes of the SED, although major shifts in policy orientation struck a responsive chord with some factions of the party.


CONCLUSIONS

The establishment of two German states in 1949 dramatically symbolized the perceived irreconcilability of interests of East and West. The division cannot be said to have occurred as a result of a plan on either side, but rather, to have developed in conjunction with the dynamic spiral of international tension between the two systems.

The proceedings of the Yalta and Potsdam conferences illustrate the lack of understanding of competing postwar goals while bringing to light the issues of fundamental disagreement which would ultimately undermine the alliance. Stalin himself prophetically stated toward the close of the Yalta Conference: "It is not so difficult to keep unity in time of war since there is a common aim to defeat a common enemy. . . . The difficult task will come after the war when diverse interests tend to divide the Allies. . . ." ( 181)

Charges that the United States "gave away" too much at Yalta were common in the 1950s as well as today. They seem to reflect a perspective which accords no legitimacy to Soviet interests or security requirements. It must be noted that at the time, U.S. concessions on reparations and Poland seemed to Roosevelt and Churchill to be matched in importance by Soviet concessions on the United Nations and French participation in the occupation of Germany. Stalin's preoccupation with the reparations and Polish issues was due to their direct importance to Soviet national security. By contrast, U.S. national security was not directly threatened by any of the matters at issue, as

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