The Difficult Road to Peace
WHEN on April 25, 1945, the American and Russian armies met at Torgau after their respective drives from the west and the east, they crowned with triumph a common superhuman effort. 'This is a great day, the meeting of two great nations; we hope this will be the basis for peace in this world to come', said the Soviet major, without oratorical affectation, as he shook the hand of the American soldier. The sentiment was a universally cherished hope. The recent comradeship forged on the battlefield of Europe, it was believed, might lay the foundation for a better world. And yet, within no more than a year or so after the hot war had ended came the so-called cold war. A bewildered humanity endeavored to find the reason in the complex entangled postwar picture only to become more confused. A retracing of some events might prove helpful to explain how yesterday's allies turned into adversaries shortly after they attained military victory.
By the end of the war the Soviet Union had won an unprecedented military prestige and gained a position of unchallenged power due to its expanded frontiers. The cordon sanitaire was now a thing of the past; so were the so-called quarantine Baltic states; so was the former Polish frontier of 1921; not only was Bessarabia reincorporated, but Northern Bukovina was added as a penalty for Rumanian folly in tampering with Russian property. The two most serious potential rivals of the USSR in the west and in the east, Germany and Japan, were defeated and removed from the scene of World Powers. The Soviet Union stood virtually unchallenged in Europe as in the Far East. There was plausibility in assuming that in the newly developed international situation the two surviving powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, might now form an alliance to maintain peace just as they had in time of war to face the common threat. It was further believed that with the end of fears of a socialist state beleaguered by an inimical capitalist world, peace was bound to be more secure. Those who cherished such views were soon delivered a rude shock.
The first inkling of oncoming difficulties could have been perhaps recognized already in the early fall of 1944. In September of that year a writer Leonid Sobolev significantly warned Soviet soldiers in the party organ Pravda not to be deceived by the tinsel of the West. The gaudy glitter should deceive no one, he cautioned, for only Soviet culture was genuine