Two British scholars reassess what they view as the decisive episode in the early Cold War, the Marshall Plan. Far from seeing the Plan as a mere act of generosity by the United States, they argue that it was an integral part of an increasingly aggressive U.S. posture toward the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was still seeking a cooperative relationship with the United States, but the U.S. decision to establish a European Recovery Program (ERP) without a sincere intention of including the Soviet Union posed a threat to Soviet security interests. Josif Stalin wanted to prevent the United States from luring the East European countries away from the Soviet Union's sphere of influence and into the Western sphere. Although Stalin was reluctant to abandon his bid for close cooperation with the West, the Marshall Plan left him with little choice. As the ERP progressed, Stalin drastically tightened his hold over Eastern Europe and imposed Soviet-style systems on the countries in the region. The Marshall Plan thus had the "tragic" effect of creating a long-term divide in Europe that consigned tens of millions of people to life under tyranny.