Marshal Josip Broz Tito was the leader of Yugoslavia (a country in south-east Europe) for much of the Cold War. Like many of his eastern European counterparts Tito was a close supporter and ally to Stalin and the Soviet Union during the first few years of the Cold War. In fact in 1946 Yugoslavia shot down to American planes who were violating Yugoslav airspace.
However, unlike his eastern counterparts who were liberated from German rule by Stalin’s Red Army, Tito and his guerrilla Partisans largely liberated Yugoslavia from Axis occupation by themselves. In this respect Tito envisioned his relationship with Stalin and the Soviet Union as a partnership, as equals. Stalin on the other hand saw Tito and Yugoslavia as his subordinates. This difference in interpretation of their relationship came to a head in 1948 when Tito pursed his own aggressive foreign policy in both Albanian and Greece, despite Stalin urging caution. In his anger Stalin attempted to remove Tito as leader of the Yugoslav Communists but Tito’s subordinates rallied around him. Next Stalin attempted to humiliate Tito by publicly condemning him and expelling him from the Cominform (an organisation of Communist parties from different countries.)
Fearing a Soviet invasion of his country, Tito cut off ties with the Soviet Union and began to move closer to the West and America. By playing on the West’s fear of the Soviet Union, Tito received both economic aid and military assistance from America which in turn discouraged Stalin from a military intervention.
However with the death of Stalin in 1953, Tito re-established relations with Nikita Khrushchev. Ultimately Tito saw the benefits of playing both sides of the Cold War off against each other. He could maintain his independence by not getting drawn into either camp while at the same time receiving economic assistance from both sides. By 1961 Tito even help found the ‘non-aligned movement’ which promoted an alternative to the American and Soviet blocs.
Despite the fact Yugoslavia was positioned in-between both the East and West during the Cold War, for the rest of his life and his country’s (Yugoslavia collapsed 10 years after Tito’s death) Tito managed to keep Yugoslavia free from both American and Soviet interference.