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February 17, 2019

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Some lessons from Berlin

U.S. and its allies won the Cold War’s battle for freedom by cooperating

Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the eventual end of the Cold War, there are still disputes about why it happened and who should get the credit.

President Ronald Reagan, who gave the famous “tear down this wall” speech, and his hard-line policies toward communism are often cited, as are former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and his glasnost policies. However, the fall of the Berlin Wall cannot be credited to any one person or single policy.

The wall’s demolition — and the fall of the Iron Curtain — came because the United States and its allies stood firm for decades against the Soviet regime and provided a clear alternative to communism.

Berlin was one of the central battlefields of the Cold War. After World War II, Berlin was divided between the victors. The Soviet Union controlled the eastern part of the city and subjected it to communism. The rest of the city was under control of the United States and its allies, where people were free.

In an effort to expand their influence over the entire city, the Soviets created a blockade in 1948, stopping all vehicle and rail traffic to and from the western part of the city. The allies responded by airlifting in food and supplies daily until the blockade was lifted in 1949.

While the Soviets’ totalitarianism spread over the Eastern bloc countries, Western Europe was revitalized through the Truman administration’s Marshall Plan, which pumped $13.3 billion into economic recovery programs.

As Western Europe flourished, the Soviet Union had a problem in Berlin — people were leaving the east to live in West Berlin. East Berliners could see the very clear difference between the two areas of the city. Instead of improving life in East Berlin, the communists built the wall in 1961.

It took decades of cooperation between the United States and its allies to stand up to the Soviet Union in Berlin before emerging victorious. That is a good lesson: The United States and its allies must remain as resolute as they were during the Cold War if freedom is to flourish around the world.

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