HS – Remnants of the Berlin Airlift

A move to test our ability and our will to resist.

President Truman, speaking in 1949

The climax of the struggle for power over Germany and Europe.

Avi Shlaim, Britain, the Berlin Blockade and the Cold War (1983)

“We refused to be forced out of the city of Berlin. We demonstrated to the people of Europe that we would act and act resolutely, when their freedom was threatened. Politically it brought the people of Western Europe closer to us. The Berlin blockade was a move to test our ability and our will to resist.” – President Truman, speaking in 1949.

The Berlin Blockade was one of the first major international crises of the Cold War. The Soviet Union blocked all railway, road, and canal access to the sectors of Berlin under Western control. The Soviets demanded that the introduction of the Deutchmark be retracted and the circulation of the Ostmark begin. However, in the end, Stalin had to concede defeat due to many unpredictable conditions that led to its failure one of them being weather. The blockade ended in 12th May 1949. However, this blockade and consequently the airlift left many scars that can still be seen today:

East and West Germany

Germany was divided: Federal Republic of Germany and German Democratic Republic. The allies formed Trizonia effectively combining the three occupation zones into one nation. The Bundesrepublik was led by Konrad Adenauer who was the first West German chancellor. However, the allies still had control over many areas in government as they replaced the military governments in Trizonia with a High Commission tasked with approving or rejecting foreign policy, security questions, exports and many other questions thus giving this commission a very powerful charter on which to operate.

Whereas, the German Democratic Republic was led by the first and only President  Wilhelm Pieck (although after 1950 SED’s First Secretary,Walter Ulbricht held the most political power).  The military government of the USSR was replaced by a Soviet Control Commission.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

According to NATO’s website its aim are:

NATO’s essential purpose is to safeguard the freedom and security of its members through political and military means.

POLITICAL – NATO promotes democratic values and encourages consultation and cooperation on defence and security issues to build trust and, in the long run, prevent conflict.

MILITARY – NATO is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes. If diplomatic efforts fail, it has the military capacity needed to undertake crisis-management operations. These are carried out under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty – NATO’s founding treaty – or under a UN mandate, alone or in cooperation with other countries and international organizations.

This organisation was created after the Berlin Airlift due to worries that an operation of this scale by the Soviets might happen again and next time there might be direct conflict.

Arms Race

The Berlin Blockade and Airlift showed both sides in the conflict that they have to somehow find a leverage to pressure the other side into conceding defeat in any move they make that threatened the other side’s interests.

Troops : NATO 2.6 million.  Warsaw Pact 4 million

Tanks : NATO 13,000.  Warsaw Pact  42,500

Artillery : NATO 10,750.  Warsaw Pact 31,5000

The statistics above clearly show that in a direct conflict with competent generals commanding each side, the Warsaw Pact will win the war indefinitely despite the casualties both sides will face.

SOLUTION: Nuclear Arms Race

Similar to the one that had caused WW1, this arms race resulted in the Soviets building 7000 Inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and the USA building 8000 ICBMs by 1981.

All of the above were the consequences of the Berlin Airlift with each adding another layer of perplexity to the German Question.


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