Rebuilding Europe: Western Europe, America, and Postwar Reconstruction

By David W. Ellwood | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
Interdependence and Defence: the
Start of the Cold War

A NEW KIND OF CONFLICT

In a few months between the end of 1947 and the middle of 1948 the ever-increasing tensions between the West and the Soviet Union broke out into flagrant confrontation. Surrogate conflicts for war erupted in Greece, in Italy, France and Germany. The 'Cold War' was authoritatively proclaimed by the journalist Walter Lippmann in July 1947 and defined by the French philosopher and sociologist Raymond Aron as 'paix impossible, guerre improbable'. In the very same number of Foreign Affairs which Fish Armstrong had used to paint his fresco of European misery, George Kennan launched the concept of 'containment' on its fateful progress. It meant, he said: 'the adroit and vigilant application of counter-force at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points . . . wher[ever] they [the Soviets] show signs of encroaching upon the interests of a peaceful and stable world'. 1

Forty years later Kennan asserted that what he had had in mind was a political 'response' to the dangers then prevailing throughout Europe, not a military response to a military danger ('I saw, in fact, no such danger'). Neither he nor anyone else had ever expected that the need for 'containment' would last so long. As Kennan told a Marshall Plan fortieth anniversary audience in Berlin:

What I did hope was that it would create a species of provisional stability in East-West relationships and that this stability would make possible the negotiation of a general European political settlement -- a settlement that would correct the imbalances flowing from the outcome of the war and would place the continent on a hopeful path of peaceful development. Such a settlement, needless to say, would have made unnecessary and unthinkable anything like the division of Europe that now exists. 2

-98-

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