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Can a parallel be established between the relations of the USSR with the countries of East-Central Europe and of the USA with those of Western Europe during the period 1945-70? Answer with particular reference to Poland and Bulgaria and EITHER Spain and Britain OR France and Italy

In the aftermath of the Second World War, the two emergent superpowers developed increasingly close relations with a partitioned Europe; the USSR brought East-Central Europe under its control, whilst the USA increasingly gained economic and military influence over the states of Western Europe.  With particular reference to Poland, Bulgaria, Spain and Britain, this essay will discuss the parallels that can often be drawn between the two emergent relationships, why the existed where they did, and how they changed over time.  Parallels can be drawn, to greater or lesser extents, between political, economic, military, social and foreign affairs, whilst differences in methods certainly existed.  In order to analyse such relationships, it is first imperative to discuss why each respective relationship existed in each case.

Relations between the USSR and East-Central Europe between 1945-1970 were typified by the totalitarian imposition of Soviet Communism which rapidly transformed the social, political and economic systems of those countries into a distinct and monolithic model. (Crampton, 2003)  Whilst in the initial post-war period, the political arena in Eastern Europe was far from uniform, from 1948 onwards Stalin was not satisfied with merely influencing his neighbouring governments and instead sought direct control over what would become satellites of the USSR.  As Stalin saw cooperation with the allied states decreasingly viable, he focussed increasingly on the role of Soviet foreign policy in expanding the aims of the Soviet Union in the face of Western confrontation.  (Brzenski, 1967)   The partisanship of the UN and announcement of the Truman Doctrine brought such a trajectory in parallel to how the perceived threat from the USSR incentivised the USA to intensify relations with Western Europe for its own interests. 

The US also emerged as the training ground for the political and economic elites of much of the capitalist Third World, in the same way as the USSR served the same function for the socialist bloc.  As such both superpowers undermined away the primacy of Western Europe as the most influential arena for higher education and a theoretical model of Americanism emerged to rival that of Communism. (Westad, 2005: Page 32)  This was at the same time that the USA served to undermine domestic interests of Western Europe by demonstrating to the Third World that a multiracial society could prosper independently from an imperial power, and the political primacy of Western Europe became stunted in the same way that it had been in the East by the Soviets. (Westad, 2005: Page 132)

In conclusion, many parallels can be drawn between the relationship of the USSR with East-Central Europe and that of the USA with Western Europe.  Both superpowers obtained considerable economic, military and political influence over their respective spheres and the main difference lies in their method of coordination.  Whereas the USA was more subtle in using economic and political influence, rather than the military threat that the USSR exercised, it should not be mistaken for any lesser extent of influence.   The main distinction, therefore, is with regards to direct intervention, where the USSR was overt in its influence compared with the more covert and incentive based approach of the USA.  However, whilst the methods may have varied, the effective political, social and the economic relationship of both superpowers with their respective spheres of influence are highly comparable.

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