In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • The Advent of Neo-Revisionism?
  • Günter Bischof (bio)

At a signal moment in the process of European unification, when ten new countries—most of them from Central and Eastern Europe—have joined the European Union (EU), it is a propitious moment to look back and ask when and how the unfortunate division of the European continent came about. As Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes, Hungarians, and the peoples of the Baltic states are entering "EU-Europe," their decades of suffering under the iron boot of Communism and painful loss of sovereignty under Soviet Communism seem remote yet full of traumatic memories. In such moments it behooves historians to take a look back and revisit the tragic months and years of the early Cold War when the "Iron Curtain" came down and divided Europe between East and West.

Michael Cox and Caroline Kennedy-Pipe reassess the origins and impact of the Marshall Plan in June-July 1947 and conclude that the United States (and to a lesser degree Great Britain and France) were responsible for the division of the continent. They posit as their key thesis that "it was American policies as much as (and perhaps more than) Soviet actions that finally led to the division of Europe." In their view, U.S. officials conceived of the European Recovery Program (ERP) as a tool to exclude the Soviet Union from European reconstruction and to push Moscow toward "a breakdown" in Cold War relations, thus forsaking all chances for continued cooperation. The momentous decisions of late June and early July 1947, according to Cox and Kennedy-Pipe, led to the exclusion of the East European states under Soviet tutelage from European reconstruction and thus drove them into the Soviet camp for good. They maintain that Josif Stalin did not want a division of Europe because he knew that, in economic terms, the Soviet Union could not win "an extended and costly standoff" with the West. Cox and Kennedy-Pipe claim that the antagonistic bloc system, as it developed in 1948 and beyond, was theresult of Western, not Soviet, intransigence during the initial rounds ofnegotiations concerning the Marshall Plan. The USSR's turn toward the Cold War, they argue, "followed rather than preceded the breakdown of negotiations in July 1947" (emphasis in original). When the United States and its principal European allies made an effort "to pull the East Europeans away [End Page 141] from the USSR" with the U.S. aid offer, they should have understood that this would aggravate Soviet security concerns and thus make the situation worse. When Stalin recognized that Washington was seeking to "roll back Communism," he would have nothing of it. A more flexible and accommodating Western approach during the crucial Paris conference, according to Cox and Kennedy-Pipe, might have forestalled the division of Europe into two hostile blocs.1

What are we to make of this new revisionist attempt to place the blame for the post-World War II division of Europe squarely on the Americans and their chief allies, Great Britain and France? From my perspective, as a historian of the Cold War in Central Europe, Cox's and Kennedy-Pipe's arguments are less than persuasive. First, they entirely ignore the German question. Second, they do not present any new evidence from Soviet archives indicating that Stalin was willing to cooperate with the West. Third, they ignore disagreements among U.S. policy elites over European reconstruction and the German question and the complex framework of decision-making in Washington. Fourth, from the perspective of Cold War historiography, their article does not advance our understanding of the genesis of the Cold War division of Europe. Instead, it seems like a throwback to the arch-revisionism of the 1960s and early 1970s. Let me deal with each of these issues in turn.

The German Question

The struggle over the future of Germany and its role in European reconstruction was the key issue fueling and defining the East-West antagonism on the continent, as Marc Trachtenberg has recently reminded us.2 A German settlement held the key to a lasting security regime in Europe. In July 1945 the Allied agreement at Potsdam was designed to deliver...