What Caused The Berlin Blockade, 1948–49?

 

 

Summary

Primarily, the Berlin Blockade was an episode in the Cold War – Stalin was taking over eastern Europe by salami tactics, and America had just adopted the Truman Doctrine.

Secondly, America and Russia had different Aims for Germany.   Stalin wanted to destroy Germany, and was stripping East Germany of its wealth.   Britain and America wanted to rebuild Germany’s industry – in January 1947, they joined their two zones together into Bizonia.  

On 31 March 1948, Congress voted for Marshall Aid.   Stalin (rightly) saw this as an attempt to undermine Russian influence in eastern Europe.   The Russians started stopping and searching all road and rail traffic into Berlin.

Finally, on 23 June Britain and America introduced a new currency into Bizonia.   The next day the Russians stopped all road and rail traffic into Berlin.   The Americans thought Stalin was trying to force them out of Berlin.   Stalin claimed the new currency was an attempt to wreck the East German economy.  

 

 

The main cause of the Berlin Blockade was the Cold War, which was just getting started.   Stalin was taking over eastern Europe by salami tactics and Czechoslovakia had just turned Communist (March 1948).   On the other side, the USA had just adopted the Truman Doctrine to ‘contain’ the USSR.   The Berlin Blockade was just another event in this ‘Cold War’ between the superpowers.

 

The second reason for the Berlin Blockade was that the USA and the USSR had different Aims for what they wanted to do to Germany.   The USSR had already disagreed with Britain and the USA at Potsdam (July 1945) about this.   Stalin wanted to destroy Germany, and the USSR had been stripping East Germany of its wealth and machinery.   On the other side, Britain and the USA wanted to rebuild Germany’s industry to become a wealthy trading partner (so as not to repeat the mistake of Versailles).   This difference in aims was the underlying cause of the Berlin Blockade.   The policy of the USA and the USSR towards Germany was so different that conflict was bound to break out there sooner or later.

 

These were the two causes which underlay the conflict in Berlin in 1948.   Then there were three events which actually led to Stalin blocking off the borders.

Firstly, in January 1947, Britain and the USA joined their two zones together.   They called the new zone Bizonia (‘two zones’).   The Russians realised that Britain and the USA were beginning to create a new, strong Germany, and they were angry.

Then, on 31 March 1948, Congress voted for Marshall Aid.   Stalin (rightly) saw this as an attempt to undermine Russian influence in eastern Europe.   Immediately, the Russians started stopping and searching all road and rail traffic into Berlin.

Finally, on 1 June, America and Britain announced that they wanted to create the new country of West Germany; and on 23 June they introduced a new currency into ‘Bizonia’ and western Berlin.   People in eastern Europe began to change all their money into the new western currency, which they thought was worth more.   The next day the Russians stopped all road and rail traffic into Berlin.

 

The Americans claimed that Stalin was trying to force the USA out of Berlin, and that the blockade was Russian empire-building in eastern Europe.   Stalin, however, claimed that – by introducing the new currency – the USA and Britain had been trying to wreck the east German economy.   And he said that the airlift was ‘simply a propaganda move intended to make the cold war worse.’