A Berlin Strategy: How Should America Respond to China’s Taiwan Threats

How a now nearly forgotten flashpoint during the Cold War could help Washington form a response if tensions rise around the Taiwan Strait.

National Interest
Date December 12, 2020
By: James Holmes

How do you succor a beleaguered ally menaced by a totalitarian antagonist that surrounds it?

 By courting risk—and by imposing risk on that antagonist. 

The United States must embrace risk for its strategy vis-à-vis an increasingly domineering Communist China to succeed. Fortunately for makers of American strategy, the Cold War past furnishes ample precedent for how to manage risk in the Indo-Pacific in the here and now.

I speak of Berlin.

In the aftermath of World War II, ravaged by strategic bombing and Soviet Army rapine, the German capital found itself an enclave stranded within Soviet-occupied eastern Germany. Postwar Allied cooperation—such as it was—broke down by mid-1948. As the Iron Curtain clanged down across Eastern Europe, Great Britain, and the United States merged their occupation zones in western Germany, the Harry S. Truman administration articulated a doctrine for combating communist insurgencies in Greece and Turkey, and Secretary of State George C. Marshall gave an address at Harvard announcing an economic recovery plan to help Europe recuperate from war. Washington and London introduced a new currency—the Deutschmark—in their sectors and West Berlin, while British, French, and U.S. leaders began negotiating to found the new German state that would become known as the Federal Republic of Germany.

Josef Stalin’s regime in Moscow did not take kindly to Western policy moves aimed at helping Europeans stand against communism. After discovering the Western powers’ scheme to create a West Germany, Moscow broke off participation in the Allied Control Council that administered Germany and introduced its own currency—the Ostmark—in the Soviet occupation zone and East Berlin. The partition of Germany calcified. In June 1948, more provocatively, the Soviet government blocked all surface traffic between West Berlin and the western zones. Logistical support via canals, railways, and roads came abruptly to a halt. The metropolis was left without supplies of food, fuel, and electricity and in danger of starving.    [FULL  STORY]

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