Europe's Cold War

Jussi M. Hanhimäki

in The Oxford Handbook of Postwar European History

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199560981
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Europe's Cold War

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  • History
  • European History
  • Contemporary History (Post 1945)
  • Cold War



In 1945, much of Europe was in rubble, following an orgy of violence and genocide unprecedented in recorded history. This alone provides one explanation for the phenomenal rise of Soviet and American power in Europe after World War II. And given the ideological differences, material capabilities, security interests, and contrasting personalities of those in power, it was no wonder that any possibility of cooperation between the Soviet Union and the United States vanished after the common objective of defeating the Axis powers had been achieved. While the Cold War may not have been inevitable, it would have been difficult to avoid. This article explores the evolution of transatlantic relations during the Cold War, with particular emphasis on Geir Lundestad's thesis about ‘empire by invitation’. It then turns to the other side of the Cold War divide and evaluates the supposed omnipotence of the Soviet Union over its client states. The article also examines the cracks in the Iron Curtain – the evolution of relations between, beneath, and beyond the two blocs in Europe.

Keywords: Cold War; Europe; Soviet Union; United States; transatlantic relations; Geir Lundestad; empire by invitation; Iron Curtain

Article.  8507 words. 

Subjects: History ; European History ; Contemporary History (Post 1945) ; Cold War

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