There was, of course, no precise moment when the Cold War can be said to have begun, yet there is no question that it was in place by 1948, the same year in which the term itself was popularized. The breakdown of Allied cooperation in Germany brought the division of the postwar world into the capital of the vanquished former common enemy. American, British, and French forces colluded in floating a new German currency without notifying the Soviets. The Kremlin and its German comrades cut off road, rail, and canal links to Berlin in an effort to force the Western powers out of the former Reich capital, which reposed in the heart of Soviet-occupied eastern Germany. The subsequent American airlift broke the back of the Kremlin blockade, which Stalin abandoned after eleven months in May 1949. The emergence of two rival German states, and years of bitter propaganda and covert operations, followed in the wake of the Berlin blockade and airlift.
The United States and its west European allies accepted the division of Germany under a strategy of "dual containment." The larger, more productive western Germany—soon to become the Federal Republic of Germany—would anchor the postwar European economy under U.S. occupation and supervision. This approach would not only fuel recovery but would reassure France and other past victims of aggression that Germany was now contained within the Western alliance. The Soviets incorporated into their sphere the smaller eastern rump Germany—which became the German Democratic Republic—and which the West subjected to unremitting psychological warfare in the form of radio propaganda, covert operations, and various forms of subversion. In any case, the division of Germany cemented, in both real and symbolic terms, the division of Europe.