Berlin: Forty Years On

The Berlin Wall, 1986. Thierry Noir / Wikimedia Commons

In the romance of the cold war, Berlin has occupied a unique place. Debate continues on whether postwar Europe would have been different if American and British forces had raced to the capital of the German Reich ahead of the Soviets. The Berlin blockade in 1948-49 seemed to settle a key dispute between European and American supporters of the Marshall Plan about whether the Soviet Union had aggressive ambitions toward the West; and the blockade's end, agreed to by Moscow 30 days after the North Atlantic Treaty was signed in April 1949, validated the need for this far-reaching commitment to mutual security. The drawn-out Berlin crisis of 1958-61 brought the world closer to cataclysm than any other event of the era save the Cuban missile crisis; it ended only with the construction of the Berlin Wall, which remains the most poignant symbol of East-West confrontation, of Europe's division and of human aspirations

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