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European movement.[1] Until 1947, American and British assistance to Continental Europe was limited almost exclusively to economic aid.

Only with the onset of the Cold War did the Anglo-Saxon powers join in a framework of security for Western Europe. The first step came with the announcement of the Truman doctrine in March 1947, affirming America’s support to countries threatened by ‘Soviet- encouraged subversion’, followed by the announcement of the European recovery programme or Marshall Plan. Washington now took direct responsibility for Europe’s economic stability with a four-year programme of $13 billion, which tried to contribute towards stability. In 1948 came the American decision to confront the challenge of the Soviet Union’s blockade of Berlin, and formal negotiations with Canada, Britain and Western European countries for the creation of a North Atlantic Alliance started. The American security guarantee, which required a British commitment, removed the threat overhanging Western Europe’s recovery. Therefore, the third great era of economic and trade globalisation began in 1947, bringing economic growth and sustained prosperity to most parts of the world. Although numerous regional conflicts occurred during the Cold War years in East Asia, the Middle East, Africa, the Balkans, southern Caucasus, the superpowers avoided major war and most of the world enjoyed peace.

The present crisis that began in 2007 cannot be understood without regard to its exogenous causes, which some historians identify as weaknesses in the political framework surrounding the markets.[2] An essential element of the political framework is the international institutions created at the end of the Second World War. The importance of these institutions grew in line with the increase in globalisation shaped by Anglo-Saxon ideology. After the end of the Cold War they have declined in representativeness, international respect and influence. The most relevant international agencies such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, as well as other influential groups (G7, G16, G20), and the global structure of the United Nations, have been fought against and discredited by the main powers, accelerating the trend away from multilateralism towards imperialism and bilateral agreements.

Obviously, the current crisis is not the same as that of 1927-1947. Among the more evident differences underlined by experts is the fact that the great interwar crisis began at a time of deflation, whereas the present crisis started at a time of accelerating inflation.[3] A second difference is the greatly enlarged role of the state-public administration in every country since the Second World War, commonly triple of that of pre-war times as a fraction of the national economy. It is the largest employer, one that exerts a stabilising influence on the private sector of the economy. But the most important difference is the contrasting behaviour of the world’s powers in the two crises. The Franco-German axis, now a constructive partnership, has contributed to European unity, and the existence of a single currency and the European Central Bank has reduced the risk of individual countries succumbing to speculative attacks. And with the leading developing countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China (the BRIC countries) - widely expected to equal the combined gross domestic product of the original G7 industrial countries by 2040, and exceed it by 409 per cent by 2050, even assuming a slowing of Russian and Chinese growth rates, international tensions seem inescapable.

  • [1] Ibidem, pp. 347-349.
  • [2] Ibidem, pp. 445-450.
  • [3] Ibidem, pp. 448.
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