RECOVERY AND CRISIS IN WESTERN EUROPE, 1945-1947
AMERICAN PREDOMINANCE in Western Europe was almost unchallenged after the war. Here Washington could implement with few constraints the multilateralist program--freer trade, currency convertibility, financial integration--developed during the war. Yet this very fact encouraged a dangerous complacency on the part of most American officials, who were preoccupied with problems in Central and Eastern Europe, the Near East, and elsewhere. Concerned officials focused on Western Europe only long enough to deal with immediate problems. The region did not command the full attention it deserved until the winter of 1947, when economic collapse threatened to engulf America's main overseas trading partners. Even then, Washington needed several months to devise a coherent course of action.
American policies in Western Europe, unlike those in Eastern Europe, assumed no consistent pattern before the Marshall Plan, largely because U.S. policymakers initially misunderstood the nature of the economic problems there. The threat to American interests in London and Paris was far more difficult to define than in Warsaw and Budapest, where the Red Army posed a tangible danger. Western Europe's problems, unlike those of Eastern Europe, were largely indigenous, and American multilateralism did not offer any quick and easy remedies for them.
Due to the U.S. tradition of nonintervention in European affairs and a strong popular distaste for power politics, Washington was slow to secure its sphere of influence in Europe. During the war, the fear of an isolationist backlash against U.S. participation in a world organization had inhibited Roosevelt from accepting a sphere-of-influence agreement in Europe with Stalin and Churchill. American officials hoped