How Far Did Relations Between East And West Change During The Cold War Period From 1948 To The 1980s?

1643 words - 7 pages

How far did relations between East and West change during the Cold War period from 1948 to the 1980s?

The period of 1948 to the 1980s includes a thaw in Cold war relations after 1953, but also covers a series of crises. This essay will discuss how far the period marks a significant change in relations between the two superpowers. To come to my judgment, I will discuss the following, the Berlin Blockade of 1948-9, the Polish Solidarity Crisis of 1980-82, Brandt’s policy of Ostpolitik in Europe and, perhaps most significantly, the series of agreements made between the superpowers.

One clear sign of a thawing in relations during this period manifested itself in the form of a series of ...view middle of the document...

It indicated that the USSR and USA were keen to move away from the Nuclear Arms race and work towards making amends. This period even shows signs that trade between the two Superpowers was possible and showed a clear sign that the intent was to move away from confrontation. However, it should be mentioned that the superpowers retained enough nuclear weapons to destroy the other several times over, so it could be said that the treaties and agreements of this period were merely symbolic. Moreover, the agreements often only involved the two superpowers instead of all members of the West and East, so the Détente was limited. Nonetheless, the period saw a high point in cooperation; US-Soviet trade increased and the Arms race had drawn (if only temporarily) to a halt. Therefore, it appears that the relations between the East and west did improve at this time.

Another way in which the relations between the East and West appeared to improve was illustrated by Brandt’s policy of Ostpolitik. Brandt wanted to establish links between the East and West in Europe to reduce barriers and improve relations. This too required a series of treaties: Poland and the USSR agreed to accept the Oder-Neisse Line as well as recognizing the border between East and West Germany. An agreement between the USA, USSR and Britain in 1971 would give legal basis to access routes from West Germany to West Berlin and provided some security for the Western half of the city. In The Basic Treaty of 1972, West Germany accepted the existence of East Germany as a separate state and agreed to increase trade links between the two countries. These treaties did much to reduce tension in Europe, contribute to Détente and thus improve relations in East and West Europe. By accepting the borders enforced post-war, the countries of Europe put their past disputes behind them and thereby improved relations. The agreement allowing access routes between West Germany and West Berlin, would allow the West to move past the past disagreements over Berlin from the 60s as would recognizing East Germany as a separate State allow the East to move past it’s history with the West. Hence, Ostpolitik allowed the European countries to experience a thaw in cold war relations and move on from past tensions. The introduction of new trade too would create a new foundation for improved relations across the Iron Curtain. Ostpolitik alongside the Détente across the entire world marked a definite change in relations both in terms of reducing confrontation and founding beneficial links between the East and the West.

In order to address the part of the question on whether the relations between the east and west changed from 1948 to the 1980s, we must consider the state of relations towards the beginning of the period. In 1948, the Berlin Blockade can be used to judge the condition of relations; following the division of Germany into 4 zones of occupation, in March 1948 France joined the USA and UK bloc to form...

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