For centuries, both France and Russia’s foreign policy towards the Central Europe was to ensure no power emerged that could challenge their spheres of influence. When the German states finally united they posed an immediate threat to the European order. Two global wars ensued in which the presence of a united Germany threatened the power dynamic in Europe. During class on Thursday Professor Berg briefly analyzed the Soviet Union’s effort to establish order in Eastern Europe and East Germany. Rather than let free and democratic efforts to take hold in the territories captured by the Soviets during the war, Stalin deliberately took steps to make sure that either the territory became part of the Soviet Union or was a puppet regime. Additionally, Stalin wanted to ensure that Germany would no longer pose a threat to the safety of the Soviet Union. After all, over 20 million Russians died because of an aggressive and needless war by a united Germany.
History cannot solely be examined from one side and we have to consider the Russian viewpoint. By dividing Germany again, the Soviets ensured that their people would not be threatened by another war. As we learned throughout our class, the war in the east was brutal and catastrophic. It was a war of eliminating the opponent. Stalin pacified Eastern Europe and brought relative peace and stability to the region. While communism brought famine and oppressive rule to the region, isn’t this better than what occurred in World War II? Rather than let another Hitler rise in Europe the Soviets tried to implement a new order that would squash any attempt of a repeat of World War II.
In my view it is unfair to argue that the Soviets should have simply let all four German zones unite, let the East be conquered by democratic principles, or let popular sovereignty rule. The Soviets had simply lost too much to not demand a role in reconstructing the east. The United States and Britain raised France back to former war levels and were working to do the same in their German areas. As we have seen throughout history, a united Germany would pose a threat to Russia. As the Allies rebuilt Germany the Russians had a reason to be afraid of the consequences. Like Germany prior to the war, the Soviet Union had great reasoning to be afraid of being cornered in the world. Despite their large territory, the Allies were creating a new world order that excluded the Soviet way of life. In class we learned that it was Soviet bodies that won the war, they were not willing to let the world fall into another one. The Soviet Union needed to protect itself from another war that would be just as brutal as the one they had almost lost.