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This old U.S. Army documentary film reviews the results and aftermath of World War 2 in Europe and shows us how did the United States and the Soviet Union come to dominate the continent after 1945. The documentary focuses on the history and accomplishments of NATO and defines its role in defense of western Europe against the Communist threat.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND / CONTEXT
Rebuilding Europe - The Marshall Plan:
At the end of the World War 2, millions of people were homeless, the European economy had collapsed, and much of the European industrial infrastructure had been destroyed. The Soviet Union, too, had been heavily affected. In response, in 1947, U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall devised the "European Recovery Program", which became known as the Marshall Plan. Under the plan, during 1948-1952 the United States government allocated $13 billion ($138 billion in 2015 dollars) for the reconstruction of Western Europe. The goals of the United States were to rebuild war-devastated regions, modernize industry, make Europe prosperous again, and prevent the spread of communism. Some 18 European countries received Plan benefits. Although offered participation, the Soviet Union refused Plan benefits, and also blocked benefits to Eastern Bloc countries, such as East Germany and Poland. In order to answer the challenge of the Marshall Plan, the USSR developed its own economic plan, known as the Molotov Plan.
Military organizations - NATO and the Warsaw Pact:
The world wars ended the pre-eminent position of the old European powers in the world. At the Yalta Conference (held from February 4 to 11, 1945), Europe was divided into spheres of influence between the victors of World War 2, and soon became the principal zone of contention in the Cold War between the two power blocs, the Western countries and the Communist bloc. In order to counter the military power of the Soviet Union and to prevent the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe the United States and the majority of European liberal democracies at the time (United Kingdom, France, Italy, Netherlands, West Germany etc.) established the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) military alliance on 4 April 1949. On 14 May 1955, the Soviet Union and its satellites in Europe (Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania) established the Warsaw Pact as a counterpoint to NATO. Each alliance was intended to defend against a potential invasion by the other.
The divided Europe:
Communist states were established in the East, while parliamentary democracy became the dominant form of government in the West, and proved highly popular there until the turmoil of the late 1960s (for example the Berlin Crisis of 1961 which culminated in the city's de facto partition with the East German erection of the Berlin Wall). Most historians point to its success as the product of exhaustion, economic prosperity, or the constraints imposed by the Cold War.
Western Europe launched a process of political and economic integration, with the aim to unite the region and defend it. This process included organizations such as the European Coal and Steel Community (established in 1951 by the Treaty of Paris), which grew and evolved into the European Union, and the Council of Europe. This effort primarily began as an attempt to avoid another military conflict between Germany and France by economic cooperation and integration, and a common market for important natural resources.
Fall of the Soviet Union:
In the 1980s, the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev initiated political movements - called perestroika and glasnost - for reformation of the Soviet political and economic system, which weakened Soviet influence in Europe, particularly in the USSR. In 1989 the Berlin Wall came down and Communist governments outside the Soviet Union were deposed. In 1990 the Federal Republic of Germany absorbed East Germany, after making large cash payments to the USSR. In 1991 the Communist Party in Moscow collapsed, ending the USSR, which split into fifteen independent states. The largest, Russia, took the Soviet Union's seat on the United Nations Security Council. In the post–Cold War era, NATO and the EU have been gradually admitting most of the former members of the Warsaw Pact.
How Did World War 2 Change Europe | Post-War Europe | Documentary