Though some countries remained neutral, in general, Western European nations were part of NATO, while Eastern European nations joined the Warsaw Pact.
Which Warsaw Pact countries bordered NATO nations?
As the Cold War deepened, the superpowers—the United States and the Soviet Union—faced off against each other in Europe and around the world. For more than 40 years, the Cold War loomed over Europe. In general, the superpowers avoided direct confrontation. Yet several incidents brought Europe to the brink of war.
Berlin was a key focus of Cold War tensions. The city was divided into democratic West Berlin and communist East Berlin. In the 1950s, West Berlin became a showcase for West German prosperity. Unhappy with communism, many low-paid East Germans fled into West Berlin.
To stop the flight, the East German government built a wall in 1961 that separated the two sectors of the city. When completed, the Berlin Wall was a massive concrete barrier, topped with barbed wire and patrolled by guards. The wall showed that workers, far from enjoying a communist paradise, had to be forcibly kept from fleeing.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union had more than 30 divisions of troops stationed across the region. Yet, in East Germany, Poland, Hungary, and elsewhere, unrest simmered. In 1953, about 50,000 workers confronted the Soviet army in the streets of the German capital. The uprising spread to other East German cities, but the protesters could not withstand Soviet tanks.
In 1956, economic woes in Poland touched off riots and strikes. To end the turmoil, the Polish government made some reforms, but dissatisfaction with communism remained. That year, Imre Nagy (nahj), a communist reformer and strong nationalist, gained power in Hungary. He ended one-party rule, ejected Soviet troops, and withdrew from the Warsaw Pact. In response, the Soviet Union invaded Hungary and ended the reforms. Nagy was later executed.
In early 1968, Czechoslovakian leader Alexander Dubcek introduced greater freedom of expression and limited democracy. This movement of freedom became known as the “Prague Spring.” Soviet leaders feared that democracy would threaten communist power and Soviet domination. Once again, the Soviets responded with force, sending Warsaw Pact troops to oust Dubcek and end the reforms.
How was Europe divided following the end of World War II?