The city of Trieste in the northern Adriatic was the center of long-standing Italo-Yugoslav territorial struggle at the end of World War II. The United States assumed a key role in this dispute by joining Britain in taking on temporary military administration of the city to prevent its occupation by Tito's Yugoslavia until a settlement could be reached at the peace table. This "temporary" Anglo-American control of Trieste lasted nearly a decade, until the sovereignty question was finally resolved in 1954 in favor of Italy.
Rabel explains the causes, significance, and consequences of American involvement in this classic European territorial dispute. The author sees U.S. involvement as closely linked to the larger issues of American participation in World War II and belief in democracy and self-determination, as well as to the subsequent unfolding of the Cold War. After 1945, Rabel asserts, American policy interest shifted to concern for Trieste due to its geographic and symbolic position between the Eastern and Western blocs. U.S. policies toward the Trieste issue were therefore shaped by several factors; a commitment to the principle of self-determination; the exigencies of maintaining stability and effective administration under the occupation; the need for close cooperation with the British; and the larger realities of the Cold War, especially in terms of American perceptions of the changing roles of Italy and Yugoslavia in that conflict. By examining the dynamic interplay of these factors, Between East and West seeks to explain the origins and evolution of U.S. Cold War policy, as well as its impact on the traditional American liberal principles of democracy and self-determination.