In their analyses of the Cold War, historians are increasingly showing how indigenous developments, regional rivalries, and traditional ethnic animosities affected the relationships among the Great Powers. These considerations inspired fears in Moscow and Washington and imposed constraints on what Soviet and American policymakers could do. They also established opportunities for transnational linkages.
David Reynolds is one of Britain’s best historians of Anglo-American diplomacy and international relations before and after the Second World War. In this article he reviews some of the recent literature on the origins of the Cold War and shows how circumstances within Europe shaped postwar events. The presence of large Communist parties worried officials in Washington; yet, surprisingly, they were not always a source of consolation in Moscow. Communist Party identification did not obliterate the strong ethnic and nationalist sensibilities that existed. Stalin, for example, could not control Yugoslav Communist leader Tito. Nor could his loyal followers easily consolidate their power in countries like Czechoslovakia and Hungary (see the essay by Charles Gati in Chapter 9). For two or three years after the war there was great fluidity within European countries as various parties and factions struggled for domestic power. Their struggles affected the options and tactics available to officials in Moscow and Washington. In turn, Soviet and American actions helped determine the outcome of these internal struggles.
Hovering over much of the internal and external maneuvering was the question of Germany. Uncertainty about Germany’s future inspired fears throughout Europe and across the Atlantic. For the time being Germany was occupied, divided, conquered, and devastated. All of Germany’s neighbors from Paris to Warsaw to Moscow wanted to use the opportunity to grab part of its territory or its coal or its industrial