• The Cold War was a state of political and military tension after World War II between powers in the Western Bloc (the United States, its NATO allies and others) and powers in the Eastern Bloc (the Soviet Union and its allies in the Warsaw Pact).

  • Historians have not fully agreed on the dates, but 1947–1991 is common. It was termed as “cold” because there was no large-scale fighting directly between the two sides, although there were major regional wars in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan that the two sides supported.
  • The Cold War split the temporary wartime alliance against Nazi Germany, leaving the USSR and the US as two superpowers with profound economic and political differences: the former being a single-party Marxist–Leninist state, and the latter being a capitalist state with generally free elections.
  • A self-proclaimed neutral bloc arose with the Non-Aligned Movement founded by Egypt, India, Indonesia and Yugoslavia; this faction rejected association with either the US-led West or the Soviet-led East.
  • The two superpowers never engaged directly in full-scale armed combat but they each armed heavily in preparation of a possible all-out nuclear world war. Each side had a nuclear deterrent that deterred an attack by the other side, on the basis that such an attack would lead to total destruction of the attacker: the doctrine of mutually assured destruction or MAD.
  • Aside from the development of the two sides’ nuclear arsenals, and deployment of conventional military forces, the struggle for dominance was expressed via proxy wars around the globe, psychological warfare, propaganda and espionage, and technological competitions such as the Space Race.
  • Origins of the term: The first use of the term to describe the specific post–war geopolitical confrontation between the USSR and the United States came in a speech by Bernard Baruch, an influential advisor to Democratic presidents. Newspaper columnist Walter Lippmann gave the term wide currency, with the book The Cold War; when asked in 1947 about the source of the term, Lippmann traced it to a French term from the 1930s.

(A) Events which evolved into Cold War:

(1) Russian Revolution:

  • As a result of the 1917 Bolshevik takeover, Soviet Russia found itself isolated in international diplomacy. Leader Vladimir Lenin stated that the Soviet Union was surrounded by a “hostile capitalist encirclement”, and he viewed diplomacy as a weapon to keep Soviet enemies divided, beginning with the establishment of the Soviet Comintern, which called for revolutionary upheavals abroad.
  • Subsequent leader Joseph Stalin, who viewed his USSR as a “socialist island”, stated that it must see that “the present capitalist encirclement is replaced by a socialist encirclement.”As early as 1925, Stalin stated that he viewed international politics as a bipolar world in which the Soviet Union would attract countries gravitating to socialism and capitalist countries would attract states gravitating toward capitalism, while the world was in a period of “temporary stabilization of capitalism” preceding its eventual collapse.
  • Bipolarity is a distribution of power in which two states have the majority of economic, military, and cultural influence internationally or regionally. Often, spheres of influence would develop. For example, in the Cold War, most Western and capitalist states would fall under the influence of the USA, while most Communist states would fall under the influence of the USSR. After this, the two powers will normally maneuver for the support of the unclaimed areas.

(2) Mistrust before Second World War:

  • Various events before the Second World War demonstrated the mutual distrust and suspicion between the Western powers and the Soviet Union, apart from the general philosophical challenge the Communists made towards capitalism.
  • There was Western support of the anti-Bolshevik White movement in the Russian Civil War. In 1926 Soviet funding of a British general workers strike caused Britain to break relations with the Soviet Union.
  • Other factors that led to mutual distrust: Stalin’s 1927 declaration of peaceful coexistence with capitalist countries receding into the past, conspiratorial allegations during the 1928 Shakhty show trial of a planned British- and French-led coup d’état, the American refusal to recognize the Soviet Union until 1933 and the Stalinist Moscow Trials of the Great Purge, with allegations of British, French, Japanese and Nazi German espionage.


  • The Shakhty Trial (1928): 53 engineers and technical specialists were accused of sabotage and treason for acts allegedly carried out since 1920; all the evidence was fabricated by the secret police.  This was yet another experiment with a show trial using enormous publicity and even movie cameras, establishing yet a further precedent.  Five of the accused were shot.
  • Stalinist Moscow Trials of the Great Purge: Great Purge was three widely publicized show trials (apart from a series of closed, unpublicized trials) held in the Soviet Union during the late 1930s, in which many prominent Old Bolsheviks were found guilty of treason and executed or imprisoned. All the evidence presented in court was derived from preliminary examinations of the defendants and from their confessions. It was subsequently established that the accused were innocent, that the cases were fabricated by the secret police (NKVD), and that the confessions were made under pressure of intensive torture and intimidation. The trials successfully eliminated the major real and potential political rivals and critics of Stalin. The trials were the public aspect of the widespread purge that sent millions of alleged “enemies of the people” to prison camps in the 1930s.

(3) Suspicion during Second World War:

  • The Soviet Union initially signed a non-aggression pact with Germany. But after the German Army invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 and the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the Soviet Union and the Allied powers formed an alliance of convenience. Britain signed a formal alliance and the United States made an informal agreement. In wartime, the United States supplied both Britain and the Soviets through its Lend-Lease Program. (Proposed in late 1940 and passed in March 1941, the Lend-Lease Act was the principal means for providing U.S. military and other aid to foreign nations during World War II.)
  • However, Stalin remained highly suspicious and believed that the British and the Americans had conspired to ensure the Soviets bore the brunt of the fighting against Nazi Germany. Western Allies had deliberately delayed opening a second anti-German front in order to step in at the last moment and shape the peace settlement. Thus, Soviet perceptions of the West left a strong undercurrent of tension and hostility between the Allied powers.

(4) Situations at the end of  the World War II (1945–47)

  • The Allies disagreed about how the European map should look, and how borders would be drawn, following the war. Each side held dissimilar ideas regarding the establishment and maintenance of post-war security. The western Allies desired a security system in which democratic governments were established as widely as possible, permitting countries to peacefully resolve differences through international organizations.
  • Given the Russian historical experiences of frequent invasions and the immense death toll (estimated at 27 million) and the destruction the Soviet Union sustained during World War II, the Soviet Union sought to increase security by dominating the internal affairs of countries that bordered it.During the war, Stalin had created special training centers for Communists from different countries so that they could set up secret police forces loyal to Moscow as soon as the Red Army took control. Soviet agents took control of the media, especially radio; they quickly harassed and then banned all independent civic institutions, from youth groups to schools, churches and rival political parties.
  • Stalin also sought continued peace with Britain and the United States, hoping to focus on internal reconstruction and economic growth.
  • The Western Allies were divided in their vision of the new post-war world. Roosevelt’s goals- military victory in both Europe and Asia, the achievement of global American economic supremacy over the British Empire, and the creation of a world peace organization – were more global than Churchill’s, which were mainly centered on securing control over the Mediterranean, ensuring the survival of the British Empire, and the independence of Central and Eastern European countries as a buffer between the Soviets and the United Kingdom.
  • In the American view, Stalin seemed a potential ally in accomplishing their goals, whereas in the British approach Stalin appeared as the greatest threat to the fulfillment of their agenda. With the Soviets already occupying most of Central and Eastern Europe, Stalin was at an advantage and the two western leaders vied for his favors.
  • The differences between Roosevelt and Churchill led to several separate deals with the Soviets. In October 1944, Churchill travelled to Moscow and agreed to divide the Balkans into respective spheres of influence.
  • At Yalta, Roosevelt signed a separate deal with Stalin in regard of Asia and refused to support Churchill on the issues of Poland and the Reparations.
  • Allied negotiations concerning the post-war balance took place at the Yalta Conference in February 1945, albeit this conference also failed to reach a firm consensus on the framework for a post-war settlement in Europe.


Q. What is Yalta Conference? Why it was called? What were its outcome? What were its criticism?

  • Yalta Conference (February 4–11, 1945) was major World War II conference of the three chief Allied leaders, USA President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Union Premier Joseph Stalin, which met at Yalta in Crimea to plan the final defeat and occupation of Nazi Germany.
  • It had already been decided that Germany would be divided into occupied zones administered by U.S., British, French, and Soviet forces. The conferees accepted the principle that the Allies had no duty toward the Germans except to provide minimum subsistence, declared that the German military industry would be abolished or confiscated, and agreed that major war criminals would be tried before an international court, which subsequently presided at Nurnberg. The determination of reparations was assigned to a commission.
  • How to deal with the defeated or liberated countries of eastern Europe was the main problem discussed at the conference. The agreements reached, which were accepted by Stalin, called for “interim governmental authorities broadly representative of all democratic elements in the population…and the earliest possible establishment through free elections of governments responsive to the will of the people.”
  • Britain and the United States supported a Polish government-in-exile in London, while the Soviets supported a communist-dominated Polish committee of national liberation in Lublin. Neither the Western Allies nor the Soviet Union would change its allegiance, so they could only agree that the Lublin committee would be broadened to include representatives of other Polish political groups, upon which the Allies would recognize it as a provisional government of national unity that would hold free elections to choose a successor government. Poland’s future frontiers were also discussed but not decided.
  • Regarding the Far East, a secret protocol stipulated that, in return for the Soviet Union’s entering the war against Japan within “two or three months” after Germany’s surrender, the U.S.S.R. would obtain from Japan the Kuril Islands and regain the territory lost in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05 (including the southern part of Sakhalin Island), and the status quo in pro-Soviet Outer Mongolia would be maintained. Stalin agreed to sign a pact of alliance and friendship with China.
  • The United Nations organization charter had already been drafted, and the conferees worked out a compromise formula for voting in the Security Council. The Soviets withdrew their claim that all 16 Soviet republics should have membership in the General Assembly.
  • After the agreements reached at Yalta were made public in 1946, they were harshly criticized in the United States. This was because, as events turned out, Stalin failed to keep his promise that free elections would be held in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. Instead, communist governments were established in all those countries, noncommunist political parties were suppressed, and genuinely democratic elections were never held.
  • At the time of the Yalta Conference, both Roosevelt and Churchill had trusted Stalin and believed that he would keep his word. Neither leader had suspected that Stalin intended that all the popular front governments in Europe would be taken over by communists. Roosevelt and Churchill were further inclined to assent to the Yalta agreements because they assumed, mistakenly as it turned out, that Soviet assistance would be sorely needed to defeat the Japanese in the Pacific and Manchuria. In any case, the Soviet Union was the military occupier of eastern Europe at the war’s end, and so there was little the Western democracies could do to enforce the promises made by Stalin at Yalta. The formulation by American delegation member James F. Byrnes, soon to be secretary of state (1945–47), was apt: “It was not a question of what we would let the Russians do, but what we could get the Russians to do.”


  • In April 1945, President Roosevelt died and was succeeded by Harry S. Truman, who distrusted Stalin and turned for advice to an elite group of foreign policy intellectuals. Both Churchill and Truman opposed, among other things, the Soviets’ decision to prop up the Lublin government, the Soviet-controlled rival to the Polish government-in-exile in London, whose relations with the Soviets had been severed.
  • Following the Allies’ May 1945 victory, the Soviets effectively occupied Central and Eastern Europe, while strong US and Western allied forces remained in Western Europe. In Allied-occupied Germany, the Soviet Union, United States, Britain and France established zones of occupation and a loose framework for parcelled four-power control.
Post-war Allied occupation zones in Germany.
  • The 1945 Allied conference in San Francisco established the multi-national United Nations (UN) for the maintenance of world peace, but the enforcement capacity of its Security Council was effectively paralysed by individual members’ ability to use veto power.Accordingly, the UN was essentially converted into an inactive forum.

Potsdam Conference and defeat of Japan:

  • Potsdam Conference (July 17–August 2, 1945) was Allied conference of World War II held at Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin. The chief participants were U.S. President Harry S. Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Clement Attlee became prime minister during the conference), and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin. It started after Germany’s surrender, serious differences emerged over the future development of Germany and the rest of Central and Eastern Europe.
  • The chief concerns of the Big Three were the immediate administration of defeated Germany, the demarcation of the boundaries of Poland, the occupation of Austria, the definition of the Soviet Union’s role in eastern Europe, the determination of reparations, and the further prosecution of the war against Japan. The amity and good will that had largely characterized former wartime conferences was missing at Potsdam, for each nation was most concerned with its own self-interest, and Churchill particularly was suspicious of Stalin’s motives and unyielding position.
  • The four occupation zones of Germany conceived at the Yalta Conference were set up, each to be administered by the commander-in-chief of the Soviet, British, U.S., or French army of occupation. Berlin, Vienna, and Austria were also each divided into four occupation zones.
  • Each Allied power was to seize reparations from its own occupation zones.
  • Poland’s boundary was decided and the country received part of former East Prussia. This necessitated moving millions of Germans in those areas to Germany. The governments of Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria were already controlled by communists, and Stalin was adamant in refusing to let the Allies interfere in eastern Europe.
  • At this conference Truman informed Stalin that the United States possessed a powerful new weapon. Stalin was aware that the Americans were working on the atomic bomb and, given that the Soviets’ own rival program was in place, he reacted to the news calmly. The Soviet leader said he was pleased by the news and expressed the hope that the weapon would be used against Japan.
  • One week after the end of the Potsdam Conference, the US bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Shortly after the attacks, Stalin protested to US officials when Truman offered the Soviets little real influence in occupied Japan.

Nuclear Bomb and Hydrogen (Thermonuclear) Bomb:

  • The first nuclear weapon was created by U.S. during the Second World War and was developed to be used against the Axis powers. Scientists of the Soviet Union were aware of the potential of nuclear weapons and had also been conducting research on the field. The Soviet Union was not informed officially of the Manhattan Project (U.S. government research project (1942–45) that produced the first atomic bombs.) until Stalin was briefed at the Potsdam Conference on July 24, 1945, by U.S. President Harry S. Truman, eight days after the first successful test of a nuclear weapon.
  • Despite their wartime military alliance, the United States and Britain had not trusted the Soviets enough to keep knowledge of the Manhattan Project safe from German spies: there were also concerns that, as an ally, the Soviet Union would request and expect to receive technical details of the new weapon. When President Truman informed Stalin of the weapons, he was surprised at how calmly Stalin reacted to the news and thought that Stalin had not understood what he had been told. In fact Stalin had long been aware of the program. A ring of spies operating within the Manhattan Project  had kept Stalin well informed of American progress.They provided the Soviets with detailed designs of the implosion bomb and the hydrogen bomb.
  • The first Soviet bomb was detonated on August 29, 1949. Both governments spent massive amounts to increase the quality and quantity of their nuclear arsenals. Both nations quickly began the development of a hydrogen bomb and the United States detonated the first hydrogen bomb on November 1, 1952. Again, the Soviets surprised the world by exploding thermonuclear device in August 1953

Differences between Yalta and Potsdam

  • There were huge differences between Yalta and Potsdam – the issues were the same, but the goodwill to overcome them was gone, because the countries no longer needed to stick together. Note how not all the broken promises were by Stalin:
Yalta Potsdam
Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin sitting at the Yalta Conference

Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin

Attlee, Truman and Stalin sitting at the Potsdam Conference

Attlee, Truman and Stalin

Germany to be split into four zones. Arguments about the details of the boundaries between the zones.
Germany will pay reparations. Disagreements about the amount of reparations Russia wanted to take. It was agreed that Russia could take whatever it wanted from the Soviet zone, and 10 per cent of the industrial equipment of the western zones, but Britain and the US thought this was too much.
A government of ‘national unity’ to be set up in Poland, comprising both communists and non-communists. Truman was angry because Stalin had arrested the non-communist leaders of Poland.
Free elections in the countries of eastern Europe. This part of the agreement was called the Declaration of Liberated Europe. America and Britain were alarmed because communists were coming to power in the countries of Eastern Europe.
Russia would help against Japan when Germany was defeated. Truman dropped the atomic bomb so that Japan would surrender before Russian troops could go into Japan. America had the bomb in July 1945, but Truman did not tell Stalin about dropping it. When he saw how he had been tricked, Stalin was furious.

(5) Beginnings of the Eastern Bloc:

  • During the opening stages of World War II, the Soviet Union laid the foundation for the Eastern Bloc by directly annexing several countries as Soviet Socialist Republics that were initially ceded to it by Nazi Germany in the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, 1939 (named after the Soviet foreign minister and the German foreign minister). These included eastern Poland, Latvia, Estonia , Lithuania, part of eastern Finland and eastern Romania.
  • The Central and Eastern European territories liberated from the Nazis and occupied by the Soviet armed forces during World War were added to the Eastern Bloc by converting them into satellite states, such as East Germany, the People’s Republic of Poland, the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, the People’s Republic of Hungary, the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, the People’s Republic of Romania and the People’s Republic of Albania.
  • The Soviet-style regimes that arose in the Bloc not only reproduced Soviet command economies, but also adopted the brutal methods employed by Joseph Stalin and Soviet secret police to suppress opposition. In Asia, the Red Army had overrun Manchuria in the last month of the war, and went on to occupy the large swathe of Korean territory located north of the 38th parallel.
  • British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was concerned that, given the enormous size of Soviet forces deployed in Europe at the end of the war, and the perception that Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was unreliable, there existed a Soviet threat to Western Europe.
  • The Eastern Bloc was the name used by NATO-affiliated countries for the former communist states of Central and Eastern Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact (explained later). The terms Communist Bloc and Soviet Bloc were also used to denote groupings of states aligned with the Soviet Union, although these terms might include states outside Central and Eastern Europe.
    File:EasternBloc BorderChange38-48.svg
    Post-war territorial changes in Europe and the formation of the Eastern Bloc, the so-called ‘Iron Curtain’.
  • The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) or shortened to the Soviet Union (SU) was governed as a single-party state by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital. A union of multiple subnational Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. In its final years, USSR consisted of 15 Soviet Socialist Republics (S.S.R.’s)–Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belorussia (now Belarus), Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kirgiziya (now Kyrgyzstan), Latvia, Lithuania, Moldavia (now Moldova), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

File:EasternBloc BorderChange38-48.svg

(6) “Long Telegram” and “Iron Curtain Speech”:

  • George F. Kennan’s “Long Telegram” : In February 1946, George Kennan, the American charge d’affaires in Moscow, sent an 8,000-word telegram to the Department of State detailing his views on the Soviet Union, and U.S. policy toward the communist state. It helped to articulate the US government’s increasingly hard line against the Soviets, and became the basis for US strategy toward the Soviet Union for the duration of the Cold War. Kennan’s analysis provided one of the most influential underpinnings for America’s Cold War policy of containment.
  • Novikov telegram: In September 1946, the Soviet side produced the Novikov telegram, sent by the Soviet ambassador to the US but commissioned; it portrayed the US as being in the grip of monopoly capitalists who were building up military capability “to prepare the conditions for winning world supremacy in a new war”.
  • On 6 September 1946, James F. Byrnes delivered a speech in Germany repudiating the Morgenthau Plan (The Morgenthau Plan, first proposed by United States Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, advocated that the Allied occupation of Germany following World War II include measures to eliminate Germany’s ability to wage war by eliminating its armament industry, and the removal or destruction of other key industries basic to military strength.) and warning the Soviets that the US intended to maintain a military presence in Europe indefinitely.
  • “Iron Curtain” Speech: A few weeks after the release of this “Long Telegram”, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivered his famous “Iron Curtain” speech in Fulton, Missouri, USA.The speech called for an Anglo-American alliance against the Soviets, whom he accused of establishing an “iron curtain” from “Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic”. The Iron Curtain symbolized the ideological conflict and physical boundary dividing Europe into two separate areas from the end of World War II in 1945 (which lasted until the end of the Cold War in 1991). The term symbolized efforts by the Soviet Union to block itself and its satellite states from open contact with the west and non-Soviet-controlled areas.

(B) Beginnings of the Cold War (1947–53):

  • The first phase of the Cold War began in the first two years after the end of the Second World War in 1945. The USSR consolidated its control over the states of the Eastern Bloc while the United States began a strategy of global containment to challenge Soviet power, extending military and financial aid to the countries of Western Europe and creating the NATO alliance.
  • The Berlin Blockade (1948–49) was the first major crisis of the Cold War. (explained later)
  • With victory of the Communist side in the Chinese Civil War and the outbreak of the Korean War (1950–53), the conflict expanded. The USSR and USA competed for influence in Latin America and decolonizing states of Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

(1) Cominform and the Tito–Stalin split:


  • In September 1947, the Soviets created Cominform, (Communist Information Bureau) which was the first official forum of the international communist movement since the dissolution of the Comintern, and confirmed the new realities after World War II, including the creation of an Eastern Bloc.
  • The Communist Information Bureau was founded with nine members—the communist parties of the U.S.S.R., Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia, France, and Italy.
  • The most vehement supporters of the Cominform were the Yugoslav communists under the leadership of Tito; therefore, Belgrade was selected as the seat of the organization. Mounting tension, however, between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union led ultimately to the expulsion of Tito’s party from the Cominform in June 1948, and the seat of the bureau was moved to Bucharest, Romania.
  • Its purpose was to enforce orthodoxy within the international communist movement and tighten political control over Soviet satellites through coordination of communist parties in the Eastern Bloc.
  • The Cominform’s activities consisted mainly of publishing propaganda to encourage international communist solidarity. Like the Third International (Comintern), the Cominform served more as a tool of Soviet policy than as an agent of international revolution.
  • The Cominform was dissolved in 1956 after Soviet rapprochement with Yugoslavia and the process of De-Stalinization of USSR.

Tito–Stalin Split

  • The Tito–Stalin Split, or Yugoslav–Soviet Split, was a conflict between the leaders of FPR Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, which resulted in Yugoslavia’s expulsion from the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform) in 1948. This was the beginning of the Informbiro Period, (The word Informbiro is the Yugoslav name of the Cominform) marked by poor relations with the USSR, that came to an end in 1955.
  • Informbiro period was a period in the history of Yugoslavia which spanned from 1948 to 1955, characterised by conflict with the Soviet Union. The term refers to the Cominform Resolution of June 28, 1948 (resulting from the Tito–Stalin Split) that accused the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (KPJ), among other things, of “departing from Marxism-Leninism”, exhibiting an “anti-Soviet attitude,” “meeting criticism with hostility” and “rejecting to discuss the situation at an Informbureau meeting.” Following these allegations, the resolution expelled the KPJ from Cominform. As a result, Yugoslavia fell outside of the Soviet sphere of influence, and the country’s brand of communism, with its independence from the Soviet line.
  • It was said by the Soviets to be caused by Yugoslavia’s disloyalty to the USSR, while in Yugoslavia and the West it was presented as Josip Broz Tito’s national pride and refusal to submit to Joseph Stalin’s will in making Yugoslavia a Soviet satellite state.
  • Significant evidence supports the opinion that the actual reason for the Cominform Resolution was the unwillingness of Josip Broz Tito to obey the instructions of Joseph Stalin. The most serious disputes concerned policy in the Balkans. In particular, Yugoslavia was considered to be pushing too fast towards unification with Bulgaria and Albania. Although following Stalin’s proposal for a series of such unifications, Tito was seen to be proceeding without proper consultation with Moscow. Another issue was Tito’s eagerness to export revolution to Greece, in contravention of Stalin’s Percentages Agreement with the capitalist powers. (The Percentages agreement was an agreement between Soviet premier Joseph Stalin and British prime minister Winston Churchill during the Fourth Moscow Conference on October 1944, about how to divide various European countries into spheres of influence.)
  • The country distanced itself from the Soviets in 1948  and started to build its own way to socialism under the strong political leadership of Josip Broz Tito. The country criticised both Eastern bloc and NATO nations and, together with other countries, started the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961.
  • Khrushchev reconciled with Tito in 1955 after Stalin’s death by signing a joint declaration in Belgrade. , but Yugoslavia remained outside the Eastern bloc and an informal NATO member. Tito dramatically changed his domestic policies and created an amnesty programme. Most of the prisons were closed and destroyed, and government also loosened controls in the media to much wider extent than in the rest of the Eastern bloc.

(2) Greece Civil War, Containment and the Truman Doctrine:

  • By 1946, Greece and Czechoslovakia were the only countries in eastern Europe that were not Communist.

Greek Civil War

  • The Greek Civil War (1946–49) between the Greek government army—backed by Great Britain and the United States—and the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE), the military branch of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), backed by Yugoslavia ,Albania and Bulgaria. The result was the defeat of the Communist insurgents by the government forces.
  • Founded by the Communist Party of Greece and funded by Communist nations such as Yugoslavia, many of the insurgents operating within the Democratic Army of Greece were partisans who had fought against German and Italian occupation forces during the Second World War.
  • The civil war was the result of struggle between left and right that started in 1943 and targeted the power vacuum that the end of German-Italian occupation during World War II had created. It was one of the first conflicts of the Cold War, and represents the first example of postwar involvement in the internal politics of a foreign country.
  • Greece in the end was funded by the U.S. through the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan and joined NATO, while the insurgents were demoralized by the bitter split between the Soviet Union’s Premier Joseph Stalin (who wanted the war ended) and Yugoslavia’s President Josip Broz Tito (who wanted it to continue).

Truman Doctrine

  • By 1947, US president Harry S. Truman’s advisers urged him to take immediate steps to counter the Soviet Union’s influence, citing Stalin’s efforts to undermine the US by encouraging rivalries among capitalists that could precipitate another war.
  • In February 1947, the British government announced that it could no longer afford to finance the Greek monarchical military regime in its civil war against communist-led insurgents.The American government’s response to this announcement was the adoption of containment, the goal of which was to stop the spread of communism.
  • Truman delivered a speech that called for the allocation of $400 million to intervene in the war and unveiled the Truman Doctrine, which framed the conflict as a contest between free peoples and totalitarian regimes.
  • The Truman Doctrine of containment was a United States policy to stop Soviet expansion during the Cold War. United States President Truman pledged to contain communism in Europe and elsewhere and impelled the US to support any nation with both military and economic aid if its stability was threatened by communism or the Soviet Union. President Truman told Congress that “it must be the policy of the United States to support free people who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” Truman reasoned, because these “totalitarian regimes” coerced “free peoples”, they represented a threat to international peace and the national security of the United States. Truman made the plea amid the crisis of the Greek Civil War (1946–1949). He argued that if Greece and Turkey did not receive the aid that they urgently needed, they would inevitably fall to communism with grave consequences throughout the region.
  • The Truman Doctrine became the foundation of the president’s foreign policy and placed the U.S. in the role of global policeman. Truman Doctrine set a precedent for American assistance to anti communist regimes throughout the world, no matter how undemocratic, and for the creation of a set of global military alliances directed against the Soviet Union.
  • Enunciation of the Truman Doctrine marked the beginning of a US bipartisan defense and foreign policy consensus between Republicans and Democrats focused on containment and deterrence that weakened during and after the Vietnam War, but ultimately persisted thereafter.
  • Moderate and conservative parties in Europe, as well as social democrats, gave virtually unconditional support to the Western alliance, while European and American Communists, paid by the KGB and involved in its intelligence operations, adhered to Moscow’s line. Critiques of consensus politics came from anti-Vietnam War activists, the nuclear freeze movement and the CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is an organisation founded in 1958, founded as a campaign for unilateral nuclear disarmament by the United Kingdom.)

(3) Domino’s Theory:

  • The domino theory, which governed much of U.S. foreign policy beginning in the early 1950s, held that a communist victory in one nation would quickly lead to a chain reaction of communist takeovers in neighboring states.
  • In Southeast Asia, the United States government used the domino theory to justify its support of a non-communist regime in South Vietnam against the communist government of North Vietnam, and ultimately its increasing involvement in the long-running Vietnam War (1954-75). Though America failed to prevent a communist victory in Vietnam.
  • Though communist regimes did arise in Laos and Cambodia after 1975, communism failed to spread throughout the rest of Southeast Asia.
  • In September 1945, the Vietnamese nationalist leader Ho Chi Minh proclaimed Vietnam’s independence from France, beginning a war that pitted Ho’s communist-led Viet Minh regime in Hanoi (North Vietnam) against a French-backed regime in Saigon (South Vietnam). Under President Harry S. Truman, the U.S. government provided covert military and financial aid to the French; the rationale was that a communist victory in Indochina would precipitate the spread of communism throughout Southeast Asia. Using this same logic, Truman would also give aid to Greece and Turkey during the late 1940s to help contain communism in Europe and the Middle East.

(4) Marshall Plan and Molotov Plan:

  • In early 1947, Britain, France and the United States unsuccessfully attempted to reach an agreement with the Soviet Union for a plan envisioning an economically self-sufficient Germany, including a detailed accounting of the industrial plants, goods and infrastructure already removed by the Soviets. In June 1947, in accordance with the Truman Doctrine, the United States enacted the Marshall Plan, a pledge of economic assistance for all European countries willing to participate, including the Soviet Union.
    File:Marshall Plan.png
    Map of Cold-War era Europe and the Near East showing countries that received Marshall Plan aid. The red columns show the relative amount of total aid received per nation.
  • The Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program, ERP), named after Secretary of State George Marshall, was the American initiative to aid Europe, in which the United States gave $17 billion in economic support to help rebuild European economies after the end of World War II.
  • The United States feared that the poverty, unemployment, and dislocation of the post-World War II period were reinforcing the appeal of communist parties to voters in western Europe. On June 5, 1947, in an address at Harvard University, Secretary of State George C. Marshall advanced the idea of a European self-help program to be financed by the United States.
  • On the basis of a unified plan for western European economic reconstruction presented by a committee representing 16 countries, the U.S. Congress authorized the establishment of the European Recovery Program, which was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman on April 3, 1948.
  • Aid was originally offered to almost all the European countries, including those under military occupation by the Soviet Union. The Soviets early on withdrew from participation in the plan, however, and were soon followed by the other eastern European nations under their influence. This left the following countries to participate in the plan: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and western Germany.
  • The plan was in operation for four years beginning in April 1948. The goals of the United States were to rebuild war-devastated regions, remove trade barriers, modernize industry, and make Europe prosperous again. The Marshall Plan required a lessening of interstate barriers, a dropping of many petty regulations constraining business, and encouraged increase productivity, labour union membership, and the adoption of modern business procedures.
  • The plan’s aim was to rebuild the democratic and economic systems of Europe and to counter perceived threats to Europe’s balance of power, such as communist parties seizing control through revolutions or elections.The plan also stated that European prosperity was contingent upon German economic recovery.
  • One month later, Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947, creating a unified Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the National Security Council (NSC). These would become the main bureaucracies for US policy in the Cold War.
  • The Marshall Plan was very successful. The western European countries involved experienced a rise in their gross national products of 15 to 25 percent during this period. The plan contributed greatly to the rapid renewal of the western European chemical, engineering, and steel industries. Truman extended the Marshall Plan to less-developed countries throughout the world under the Point Four Program, initiated in 1949.
  • The twin policies of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan led to billions in economic and military aid for Western Europe, Greece, and Turkey. With US assistance, the Greek military won its civil war. Under the leadership of Gasperi the Italian Christian Democrats defeated the powerful Communist-Socialist alliance in the elections of 1948. At the same time there was increased intelligence and espionage activity, Eastern Bloc defections and diplomatic expulsions.

Molotov Plan

  • Stalin believed that economic integration with the West would allow Eastern Bloc countries to escape Soviet control, and that the US was trying to buy a pro-US re-alignment of Europe. Stalin therefore prevented Eastern Bloc nations from receiving Marshall Plan aid.
  • The Soviet Union’s alternative to the Marshall plan, which was purported to involve Soviet subsidies and trade with central and eastern Europe, became known as the Molotov Plan.
  • Soviet foreign minister Molotov rejected the Marshall Plan (1947), proposing the Molotov Plan — the Soviet-sponsored economic grouping which was eventually expanded to become the COMECON (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance was an economic organization from 1949 to 1991).
  • The Molotov plan was symbolic of the Soviet Union’s refusal to accept aid from the Marshall Plan, or allow any of their satellite states to do so, because of their belief that the Plan was an attempt to weaken Soviet interest in their satellite states, through the conditions imposed, and by making beneficiary countries economically dependent on the United States.
  • Stalin was also fearful of a reconstituted Germany; his vision of a post-war Germany did not include the ability to rearm or pose any kind of threat to the Soviet Union.

(4) Coup d’etat in Czechoslovakia of 1948:

  • In the aftermath of World War II, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSC) was in a favourable position. Its powerful influence on Czechoslovak politics since the 1920s, its clean wartime record and cooperation with non-Communist parties, its identification with the Soviet Union, the country’s liberator, and its determination to become the country’s leading political force without alarming the West dovetailed with popular opposition to Nazi rule, the longing for real change that followed it, and the new political realities of living within the Soviet orbit to produce a surge in membership.
  • Nonetheless, party leader Klement Gottwald said in 1945 that “in spite of the favourable situation, the next goal is not soviets and socialism, but rather carrying out a really thorough democratic national revolution”, thereby linking his party to the Czechoslovak democratic tradition and to Czech nationalism by capitalizing on popular intense anti-German feelings. During the early postwar period, working with the other parties in a coalition called the National Front, the Communists kept up the appearance of being willing to work within the system.
  • Thus, in the 1946 election, the KSC won 38% of the vote. This was the best-ever performance by a European Communist party in a free election (in the only other free and fair postwar election in the Soviet area of influence.)
  • Although the government still had a non-Communist majority, the KSC had initial control over the police and armed forces, and came to dominate other key ministries such as those dealing with propaganda, education, social welfare and agriculture; they also soon dominated the civil service.
  • However, by the summer of 1947 the KSC had alienated whole blocs of potential voters. The activities of the police—headed by a Communist Interior Minister—were acutely offensive to many citizens; farmers objected to talk of collectivization, and some workers were angry at Communist demands that they increase output without being given higher wages. The general expectation was that the Communists would be soundly defeated in the May 1948 elections. Not leaving anything to chance, the communists staged a coup d’etat in February 1948 rather than wait for the scheduled May election.
  • The coup became synonymous with the Cold War. The loss of the last remaining democracy in Eastern Europe came as a profound shock to millions. The USSR seemed to have completed the formation of a monolithic Soviet bloc and concluded the partition of Europe.
  • Because its impact was equally profound in Western Europe as in the United States, it helped unify Western countries against the Communist bloc. It gave an air of prescience to the French and Italian governments for having forced their local Communists out of their governments a year earlier.
  • The public brutality of the coup shocked Western powers more than any event up to that point and swept away the last vestiges of opposition to the Marshall Plan in the United States Congress.
  • It helped spur quick adoption of the Marshall Plan, the creation of a state in West Germany, vigorous measures to keep Communists out of power in France and especially Italy, and steps toward mutual security that would, in little over a year, result in the establishment of NATO and the definitive drawing of the Iron Curtain until the fall of Communism in 1989.

(5) Berlin Blockade and airlift

  • In 1945, the Allies decided to split Germany into four zones of occupation. The capital, Berlin, was also split into four zones. The USSR took huge reparations from its zone in eastern Germany, but Britain, France and America tried to improve conditions in their zones.
  • In June 1948, Britain, France and America united their zones into a new country, West Germany. On 23 June 1948, they introduced a new currency Deutschmark, which they said would help trade.
  • The next day, Stalin cut off all rail and road links to west Berlin – the Berlin Blockade. The Berlin blockade (24 June 1948;– 12 May 1949) was one of the first major international crises of the Cold War.
  • The Soviets offered to drop the blockade if the Western Allies withdrew the newly introduced Deutschmark from West Berlin. The west saw blockade as an attempt to starve Berlin into surrender, so they decided to supply west Berlin by air. Neither side wanted a war; the Soviets did not disrupt the airlift.
  • The Soviets mounted a public relations campaign against the policy change. Once again the East Berlin communists attempted to disrupt the Berlin municipal elections (as they had done in the 1946 elections), which were held on 5 December 1948 and produced a turnout of 86.3% and an overwhelming victory for the non-Communist parties.The results effectively divided the city into East and West versions of its former self. 300,000 Berliners demonstrated and urged the international airlift to continue. By the spring of 1949 the airlift was clearly succeeding, . On 11 May 1949, the USSR lifted the blockade of West Berlin.
  • The Berlin Crisis of 1948–1949 served to highlight competing ideological and economic visions for postwar Europe, particularly Germany. The clash ultimately led to the division of that country into East and West and to the division of Berlin itself.The United States, Britain  and France merged their western German occupation zones into a federal governmental system (final merging in April 1949 and Soviet Union proclaimed its zone of occupation in Germany the German Democratic Republic that October). In addition, in accordance with the Marshall Plan, they began to re-industrialize and rebuild the German economy, including the introduction of a new Deutsche Mark currency to replace the old Reichsmark currency that the Soviets had debased.

Results of the Berlin Crisis of 1948

  1. Germany was divided into the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the Democratic Republic of Germany (East Germany) until 1990.
  2. The Iron Curtain became permanent.
  3. The Cold War broke out into open confrontation, and the two superpowers began an Arms Race.
  4. In 1949, the Allies set up the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) as a military alliance to resist Soviet Russia.

Note: America wanted Germany to recover as a trading partner and could stand against Communism; Russia wanted to weaken Germany and create a buffer zone of friendly states around Russia. Russia wanted to wreck Germany, take huge reparations for the damage done during the war. USA Wanted reconstruction – to make Germany a prosperous democracy and a trading partner.

(6) NATO beginnings and Radio Free Europe

  • Britain, France, the United States, Canada and eight other western European countries signed the North Atlantic Treaty of April 1949, establishing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). That August, the first Soviet atomic device was detonated in Kazakh SSR.
  • In the early 1950s, the US worked for the rearmament of West Germany and, in 1955, secured its full membership of NATO.
  • Media in the Eastern Bloc was an organ of the state, completely reliant on and subservient to the communist party. Soviet propaganda used Marxist philosophy to attack capitalism, claiming labor exploitation and war-mongering imperialism were inherent in the system.
  • Along with the broadcasts of the BBC and the Voice of America to Central and Eastern Europe,a major propaganda effort begun in 1949 was Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, dedicated to bringing about the peaceful demise of the Communist system in the Eastern Bloc. 
  • Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) as a broadcasting organization was founded as an anti-communist news source in 1949 by the National Committee for a Free Europe, as part of a large-scale Psychological Operation during the Cold War. RFE/RL received funds from the Central Intelligence Agency until 1972.
  • Radio Free Europe was a product of some of the most prominent architects of America’s early Cold War strategy, especially those who believed that the Cold War would eventually be fought by political rather than military means.
  • American policy makers, including Kennan and John Foster Dulles, acknowledged that the Cold War was in its essence a war of ideas.The United States, acting through the CIA, funded a long list of projects to counter the communist appeal among intellectuals in Europe and the developing world. The CIA also covertly sponsored a domestic propaganda campaign called Crusade for Freedom.

(7) Chinese Civil War, SEATO and Baghdad Pact (CENTO):

  • In 1949, Mao Zedong’s People’s Liberation Army defeated Chiang Kai-shek’s United States-backed Kuomintang (KMT) Nationalist Government in China, and the Soviet Union promptly created an alliance with the newly formed People’s Republic of China.
  • Communists won the Civil War because they made fewer military mistakes than Chiang Kai-Shek, and because in his search for a powerful centralized government, Chiang antagonized too many interest groups in China. Moreover, his party was weakened in the war against Japanese. Meanwhile the Communists told different groups, such as peasants, exactly what they wanted to hear, and cloaked themselves in the cover of Chinese nationalism.
  • Chiang and his KMT government retreated to the island of Taiwan. Confronted with the communist revolution in China and the end of the American atomic monopoly in 1949, the Truman administration quickly moved to escalate and expand the containment policy.
  • United States officials moved thereafter to expand containment into Asia, Africa, and Latin America, in order to counter revolutionary nationalist movements, often led by communist parties financed by the USSR, fighting against the restoration of Europe’s colonial empires in South-East Asia and elsewhere.
  • In the early 1950s, the US formalized a series of alliances with Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and the Philippines [notably ANZUS ( Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty) in 1951 and SEATO in 1954], thereby guaranteeing the United States a number of long-term military bases.

Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO)

  • The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) was an international organization for collective defense in Southeast Asia created by the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, or Manila Pact, signed in September 1954 in Manila, Philippines.
  • Despite its name, SEATO mostly included countries located outside of the region but with an interest either in the region or the organization itself. They were Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, Phillipines, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
  • Primarily created to block further communist gains in Southeast Asia, SEATO is generally considered a failure because internal conflict and dispute hindered general use of the SEATO military; however, SEATO-funded cultural and educational programs left long-standing effects in Southeast Asia. SEATO was dissolved on 30 June 1977 after many members lost interest and withdrew.

The Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) [Early name: Baghdad pact]

  • The Central Treaty Organization (CENTO); originally known as the Middle East Treaty Organization (METO) was formed in 1955 by Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, and the United Kingdom through the Baghdad Pact. It was dissolved in 1979.
  • U.S. pressure and promises of military and economic aid were key in the negotiations leading to the agreement, although the United States could not initially participate. John Foster Dulles, who was involved in the negotiations, ascribed this to the difficulty of obtaining Congressional Approval” and technical reasons of budgeting procedures.”  In 1958, the United States joined the military committee of the alliance.
  • On July 14, 1958, the Iraqi monarchy was overthrown in a military coup. The new government was led by General Abdul Karim Qasim who withdrew Iraq from the Baghdad Pact, opened diplomatic relations with Soviet Union and adopted a non-aligned stance. The organization dropped the name ‘Baghdad Pact’ in favor of ‘CENTO’ at that time.
  • It is generally viewed as one of the least successful of the Cold War alliances.The organization’s headquarters were initially located in Baghdad (Iraq) 1955–1958 and Ankara (Turkey) 1958–1979.

(8) Korean War

  • During the closing days of World War II, in August 1945, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and—by agreement with the United States—occupied Korea north of the 38th parallel. U.S. forces subsequently occupied the south. By 1948, two separate governments had been set up. Both governments claimed to be the legitimate government of Korea, and neither side accepted the border as permanent. The conflict escalated into open warfare when North Korean forces—supported by the Soviet Union and China—invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950.
  • To Stalin’s surprise, the UN Security Council backed the defense of South Korea, though the Soviets were then boycotting meetings in protest that Taiwan and not Communist China held a permanent seat on the Council (so there was no Soviet’s veto).
  • United Nations force led by the United States of America fought for the South, and China fought for the North, which was also assisted by the Soviet Union.
  • Among other effects, the Korean War galvanised NATO to develop a military structure. Public opinion in countries involved, such as Great Britain, was divided for and against the war. Many feared an escalation into a general war with Communist China, and even nuclear war. The strong opposition to the war often strained Anglo-American relations. For these reasons British officials sought a speedy end to the conflict, hoping to unite Korea under United Nations auspices and withdrawal of all foreign forces.
  • Even though the Chinese and North Koreans were exhausted by the war and were prepared to end it by late 1952, Stalin insisted that they continue fighting, and the Armistice was approved only in July 1953, after Stalin’s death.
  • The fighting ended on 27 July 1953, when the armistice was signed. The agreement created the Korean Demilitarized Zone to separate North and South Korea. But officially they are still at war as no peace treaty has been signed.
  • North Korean leader Kim Il Sung created a highly centralized, totalitarian dictatorship – which continues to date. In the South, the American-backed strongman Syngman Rhee ran a significantly less brutal but deeply corrupt and authoritarian regime. After Rhee was overthrown in 1960, South Korea fell within a year under a period of military rule that lasted until the re-establishment of a multi-party system in the late 1980s.

Q. Describe Korean War? What were USA and Chinese Role in this war?

  • In 1945, Korea was split along the 38th parallel between a communist north led by Kim IL Sung, and a non-communist south led by Syngman Rhee.
  • But communism was growing in the Far East. In 1949, the Communists had taken power in China. The US developed the ‘domino theory’ – the idea that, if one country fell to communism, others would follow like a row of dominoes. Then, in 1950, a report by the American National Security Council recommended that the US stop containment and start to roll back communism.

The war

  1. In 1950, after getting the support of Russia and China, Kim IL Sung invaded South Korea.
  2. The North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) easily defeated the Republic of Korea’s army (the ROKs).
  3. By September, the NKPA had conquered almost the whole of South Korea.
  4. The USA went to the United Nations and got them to send troops to defend South Korea.
  5. The Russians couldn’t veto the idea because they were boycotting the UN at the time.
  6. In September, UN troops, led by the US General MacArthur, landed in Korea and drove the NKPA back.
  7. By October, the UN forces had almost conquered all of North Korea.
  8. In November 1950, Chinese People’s Volunteers attacked and drove the Americans back.
  9. They recaptured North Korea, and advanced into South Korea.
  10. The Americans landed more troops and drove the Chinese back to the 38th parallel, where Truman ordered General MacArthur to stop and sacked him when he disagreed.
  11. The war went on as border clashes until 1953 when America’s new president, Eisenhower, offered peace, but threatened to use the atomic bomb if China did not accept the offer.

(C) Crisis and escalation (1953–62):

(1) Khrushchev, Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles:

  • In 1953, changes in political leadership on both sides shifted the dynamic of the Cold War. Dwight D. Eisenhower was inaugurated president that January. During the last 18 months of the Truman administration, the American defense budget had quadrupled, and Eisenhower moved to reduce military spending by a third while continuing to fight the Cold War effectively.
  • In 1953, Stalin died and Nikita Khrushchev became the Soviet leader following the pushing aside of rivals. He was a jolly man, who said to prevent the most destructive war in history, there needed to be “peaceful co-existence” between the superpowers.
  • On 25 February 1956, Khrushchev shocked delegates to the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party by cataloguing and denouncing Stalin’s crimes. As part of a campaign of de-Stalinization, he declared that the only way to reform and move away from Stalin’s policies would be to acknowledge errors made in the past.
  • Everyone hoped that it would improve East-West relations. It did not. In fact, the period 1953-1962 was the time of greatest danger in the Cold War. America and Russia competed with each other in the arms race, in sport, and in the space race.
  • On 18 November 1956, while addressing Western ambassadors at a reception at the Polish embassy in Moscow, Khrushchev used his famous “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you” expression, shocking everyone present.
  • Eisenhower’s secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, initiated a “New Look” for the containment strategy, calling for a greater reliance on nuclear weapons against US enemies in wartime. It reflected Eisenhower’s concern for balancing the Cold War military commitments of the United States with the nation’s financial resources. The policy emphasized reliance on strategic nuclear weapons to deter potential threats, both conventional and nuclear, from Soviet Union.
  • Dulles also enunciated the doctrine of “massive retaliation”, threatening a severe US response to any Soviet aggression and Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) during nuclear war as deterrence.
  • Dulles defined his policy of brinkmanship: “The ability to get to the verge without getting into the war is the necessary art.
  • Dulles’ hard line alienated many leaders of non-aligned countries when on June 9, 1955, he argued in a speech that “neutrality has increasingly become obsolete and, except under very exceptional circumstances, it is an immoral and short sighted conception.”
  • Possessing nuclear superiority, for example, allowed Eisenhower to face down Soviet threats to intervene in the Middle East during the 1956 Suez Crisis.

(2) Warsaw Pact, 1955

  • While Stalin’s death in 1953 slightly relaxed tensions, the situation in Europe remained an uneasy armed truce. The Soviets, who had already created a network of mutual assistance treaties in the Eastern Bloc by 1949, established a formal alliance therein, the Warsaw Pact, in 1955.
  • The Warsaw Pact (formally, the Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation, and Mutual Assistance) was a collective defense treaty among eight communist states of Central and Eastern Europe.
  • The Warsaw Pact was the military complement to the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CoMEcon), the regional economic organization for the communist States of Central and Eastern Europe.
  • The Warsaw Pact was in part a Soviet military reaction to the integration of West Germany into NATO in 1955 as per the Paris Pacts of 1954, but was primarily motivated by Soviet desires to maintain control over military forces in Central and Eastern Europe; in turn (according to The Warsaw Pact’s preamble) meant to maintain peace in Europe, guided by the objective points and principles of the Charter of the United Nations (1945).
  • After the collapse of the USSR and the end of the Cold War, the alliance was transformed into the subsequent Collective Security Treaty Organization, or CSTO.
    File:1959 NATO and WP troop strengths in Europe.svg
    NATO and Warsaw Pact troop strengths in Europe in 1959

(3) Hungarian Revolution (1956):

  • The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was a spontaneous nationwide revolt against the government of the Hungarian People’s Republic and its Soviet-imposed policies, lasting from 23 October until 10 November 1956. Though leaderless when it first began, it was the first major threat to Soviet control. Despite the failure of the uprising, it was highly influential, and came to play a role in the downfall of the Soviet Union decades later.
  • The death of Stalin led many Hungarians to hope that Hungary also would be ‘de-Stalinised’. In July 1956, the ‘Stalinist’ Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party, Rakosi, fell from power.
  • During October 1956, students, workers and soldiers in Hungary attacked the AVH (the secret police) and Russian soldiers, and smashed a statue of Stalin.
  • On 24 October 1956 Imre Nagy – a moderate and a westerniser – took over as prime minister.
  • Nagy asked Khrushchev to move the Russian troops out. Khrushchev agreed and on 28 October 1956, the Russian army pulled out of Budapest.
  • For five days, there was freedom in Hungary. The new Hungarian government introduced democracy, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. Cardinal Mindszenty, the leader of the Catholic Church, was freed from prison.
  • Then, on 3 November 1956, Nagy announced that Hungary was going to leave the Warsaw Pact. However, Khrushchev was not going to allow this. He claimed he had received a letter from Hungarian Communist leaders asking for his help.
  • At dawn on 4 November 1956, 1,000 Russian tanks rolled into Budapest. They destroyed the Hungarian army and captured Hungarian Radio.
  • Hungarian people – even children – fought the Russian troops with machine guns. Some 4,000 Hungarians were killed. Hungarian leader Imre Nagy and others were executed following secret trials. Khrushchev put in Russian supporter, Janos Kadar, as prime minister.
  • The events in Hungary produced ideological fractures within the Communist parties of the world, particularly in Western Europe, with great decline in membership as many in both western and communist countries felt disillusioned by the brutal Soviet response.The communist parties in the West would never recover from the effect the Hungarian Revolution had on their membership, a fact that was immediately recognized by some, such as the Yugoslavian politician Dilas who shortly after the revolution was crushed said that “The wound which the Hungarian Revolution inflicted on communism can never be completely healed“.

Q. Discuss causes and effects of Hungarian Revolution.

Causes of the Hungarian Revolution

  1. Khrushchev’s policy of ‘de-Stalinisation’ caused problems in many Eastern European Communist countries, where people hated the hard-line Stalinist regimes that Russia had put in place. There was also trouble in Poland in 1956, and Khrushchev had to send in Russian troops.
  2. The Hungarians were patriotic, and they hated Russian control, especially:
    • The secret police called the AVH in Hungary.
    • Russian control of the economy, which had made Hungary poor.
    • Russian control of what the schools taught.
    • Censorship and lack of freedom.
  3. The Hungarians were religious, but the Communist Party had banned religion, and imprisoned Cardinal Mindszenty.
  4. Hungarians thought that the United Nations or the new US president, Eisenhower, would help them.

Effects of the Hungarian Revolution

  1. Repression in Hungary – thousands of Hungarians were arrested and imprisoned. Some were executed and 200,000 Hungarian refugees fled to Austria.
  2. Russia stayed in control behind the Iron Curtain – no other country tried to get rid of Russia troops until Czechoslovakia in 1968.
  3. Polarisation of the Cold War – people in the West were horrified – many Communists left the Communist Party – and Western leaders became more determined to contain communism.

(4) Competition in the Third World:

  • Nationalist movements in some countries and regions, notably Guatemala, Indonesia and Indochina were often allied with communist groups, or perceived in the West to be allied with communists. In this context, the United States and the Soviet Union increasingly competed for influence by proxy in the Third World as decolonization gained momentum in the 1950s and early 1960s..Both sides were selling armaments to gain influence.
  • The United States made use of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to do away with a string of unfriendly Third World governments and to support allied ones.

The 1953 Iranian coup d’état: 

  • In 1953, by a covert operation aimed at the overthrow of the democratically elected and non-aligned Prime Minister of Iran Mohammad Mosaddegh on 19 August 1953, orchestrated by the United Kingdom (under the name ‘Operation Boot’) and the United States (by CIA under the name TPAJAX Project).
  • Mossadegh had sought to audit the books of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), a British corporation and to change the terms of the company’s access to Iranian oil reserves. Upon alleged refusal of the AIOC to cooperate with the Iranian government, the parliament (Majlis) voted to nationalize the assets of the company and expel their representatives from the country. Winston Churchill told the United States that Mosaddegh was increasingly turning towards communism.
  • The pro-Western shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, assumed control as an autocratic monarch. The shah’s policies included the banning of the communist Tudeh Party and general suppression of political dissent by SAVAK, the shah’s domestic security and intelligence agency.

The 1954 Guatemalan coup d’état (18–27 June 1954):

  • In Guatemala, a CIA-backed military coup ousted the left-wing President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman in 1954.
  • The post-Arbenz government—a military junta headed by Carlos Armas—repealed a progressive land reform law, returned nationalized property belonging to the United Fruit Company, set up a National Committee of Defense Against Communism, and decreed a Preventive Penal Law Against Communism at the request of the United States.

Indonesian issue:

  • The non-aligned Indonesian government of Sukarno was faced with a major threat to its legitimacy beginning in 1956, when several regional commanders began to demand autonomy from Jakarta. After mediation failed, Sukarno took action to remove the dissident commanders.
  • In February 1958, dissident military commanders in Central Sumatera (Colonel Ahmad Hussein) and North Sulawesi (Colonel Ventje Sumual) declared the Revolutionary Government of the Republic of Indonesia (Permesta Movement) aimed at overthrowing the Sukarno regime. They were joined by many civilian politicians from the Masyumi Party who were opposed to the growing influence of the communist Party of Indonesia. Due to their anti-communist rhetoric, the rebels received arms, funding, and other covert aid from the CIA until Allen Lawrence Pope, an American pilot, was shot down after a bombing raid on government-held Ambon in April 1958. The central government responded by launching airborne and seaborne military invasions of rebel strongholds Padang and Manado.
  • By the end of 1958, the rebels were militarily defeated, and the last remaining rebel guerilla bands surrendered by August 1961.

Congo Crisis:

  • In the Republic of the Congo, newly independent from Belgium since June 1960, the CIA-cultivated President Joseph Kasa-Vubu ordered the dismissal of the democratically elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba in September; Lumumba called for Kasa-Vubu’s dismissal instead. In the ensuing Congo Crisis, the CIA-backed Colonel Mobutu quickly mobilized his forces to seize power through a military coup d’état.

British Guiana

  • In British Guiana, the leftist People’s Progressive Party (PPP) candidate Cheddi Jagan won the position of chief minister in a colonially administered election in 1953, but was quickly forced to resign from power after Britain’s suspension of the still-dependent nation’s constitution.
  • Embarrassed by the landslide electoral victory of Jagan’s allegedly Marxist party, the British imprisoned the PPP’s leadership and maneuvered the organization into a divisive rupture in 1955, engineering a split between Jagan and his PPP colleagues.
  • Jagan again won the colonial elections in 1957 and 1961; despite Britain’s shift to a reconsideration of its view of the left-wing, the United States pressured the British to withhold Guyana’s independence until an alternative to Jagan could be identified, supported, and brought into office.

Vietnam and NAM:

  • Worn down by the communist guerrilla war for Vietnamese independence and handed a watershed defeat by communist Viet Minh rebels at the 1954 Battle, the French accepted a negotiated abandonment of their colonial stake in Vietnam. In the Geneva Conference, peace accords were signed, leaving Vietnam divided between a pro-Soviet administration in North Vietnam and a pro-Western administration in South Vietnam at the 17th parallel north. Between 1954 and 1961, Eisenhower’s United States sent economic aid and military advisers to strengthen South Vietnam’s pro-Western regime against communist efforts to destabilize it.
  • Many emerging nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America rejected the pressure to choose sides in the East-West competition. In 1955, at the Bandung Conference in Indonesia, dozens of Third World governments resolved to stay out of the Cold War.The consensus reached at Bandung culminated with the creation of the Belgrade-headquartered Non-Aligned Movement in 1961.
  • Meanwhile, Khrushchev broadened Moscow’s policy to establish ties with India and other key neutral states. Independence movements in the Third World transformed the post-war order into a more pluralistic world of decolonized African and Middle Eastern nations and of rising nationalism in Asia and Latin America.Suez Crisis,

Suez Crisis (1956)

  • Suez Crisis was an international crisis in the Middle East, precipitated on July 26, 1956, when the Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, nationalized the Suez Canal. The canal had been owned by the Suez Canal Company, which was controlled by French and British interests.
  • The Suez Crisis was provoked by an American and British decision not to finance Egypt’s construction of the Aswan High Dam, as they had promised, in response to Egypt’s growing ties with communist Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union.
  • Egyptian President Nasser reacted to the American and British decision by declaring martial law in the canal zone and seizing control of the Suez Canal Company, predicting that the tolls collected from ships passing through the canal would pay for the dam’s construction within five years.
  • Britain and France feared that Nasser might close the canal and cut off shipments of petroleum flowing from the Persian Gulf to western Europe. When diplomatic efforts to settle the crisis failed, Britain and France secretly prepared military action to regain control of the canal and, if possible, to depose Nasser. They found a ready ally in Israel, whose hostility toward Egypt had been exacerbated by Nasser’s blockage of the Straits of Tiran (at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba) and the numerous raids by Egyptian-supported commandos into Israel during 1955–56.
  • On Oct. 29, 1956, 10 Israeli brigades invaded Egypt and advanced toward the canal, routing Egyptian forces. Britain and France, following their plan, demanded that Israeli and Egyptian troops withdraw from the canal, and they announced that they would intervene to enforce a cease-fire ordered by the United Nations.
  • On November 5 and 6, British and French forces landed at Port Said and Port Fuad and began occupying the canal zone. This move was soon met by growing opposition at home and by U.S.-sponsored resolutions in the UN (made in part to counter Soviet threats of intervention), which quickly put a stop to the Anglo-French action. On December 22 the UN evacuated British and French troops, and Israeli forces withdrew in March 1957.
  • Politically, the intervention in Suez was a disaster. US President Dwight Eisenhower was incensed. World opinion, especially that of the United States, together with the threat of Soviet intervention, forced Britain, France and Israel to withdraw their troops from Egypt. In Britain too there had been widespread outrage.
  • A United Nations peacekeeping force was sent in to supervise the ceasefire and to restore order. The Suez Canal was cleared and reopened, but Britain in particular found its standing with the US weakened and its influence ‘east of Suez’ diminished by the adventure.
  • Nasser emerged from the Suez Crisis a victor and a hero for the cause of Arab and Egyptian nationalism. Israel did not win freedom to use the canal, but it did regain shipping rights in the Straits of Tiran. Britain and France, less fortunate, lost most of their influence in the Middle East as a result of the episode.
  • Anglo-American relations were strained by the Suez Crisis, but as Cold War Allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) they continued to cooperate, and by 1962 Britain had adopted the US Polaris missile system. Nonetheless, the real balance of power in the post-World War Two world had been starkly demonstrated and Britain’s prestige was dealt a severe blow.


  • The “non-white Dominions” saw Egypt’s seizing of the canal as an admirable act of anti-imperialism, and Nasser’s Arab nationalism as similar to Asian nationalism. Jawaharlal Nehru of India was with Nasser when he learned of the Anglo-American withdrawal of aid for the Aswan Dam. As India was a user of the canal, however, he remained publicly neutral other than warning that any use of force, or threats, could be “disastrous”.
  • But on the other side: Jawaharlal Nehru of India met Nasser in Yugoslavia shortly before the latter’s nationalization of the Suez Canal Company. Nehru did not have a high regard for Nasser’s intellect. He did not deny Egypt’s right to nationalize; but he regretted Nasser’s method as ‘intemperate and even warmongering’.

(6) Sino-Soviet split:

  • The period after 1956 was marked by serious setbacks for the Soviet Union, most notably the breakdown of the Sino-Soviet alliance, beginning the Sino-Soviet split.The Sino-Soviet split (1960–1989) was the worsening of political and ideological relations between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and USSR  during the Cold War. The doctrinal divergence derived from Chinese and Russian national interests, and from the regimes’ different interpretations of Marxism: Maoism and Marxism–Leninism.
  • In the 1950s and the 1960s, ideological debate between the communist parties of Russia and China also concerned the possibility of peaceful coexistence with the capitalist West. Yet, to the Chinese public, Mao Zedong proposed a belligerent attitude towards capitalist countries, an initial rejection of peaceful coexistence, which he perceived as Marxist revisionism from the Soviet Union
  • Mao had defended Stalin when Khrushchev attacked him after his death in 1956, and treated the new Soviet leader as a superficial upstart, accusing him of having lost his revolutionary edge. For his part, Khrushchev, disturbed by Mao’s glib attitude toward nuclear war, referred to the Chinese leader as a “lunatic on a throne”.
  • Mao considered himself now the head of international communism, because he was the most senior communist leader.  Khrushchev did not see it that way, since he headed one of the world’s two superpowers.
  • In 1958, Mao announced that China would take a Great Leap Forward, which was a classic Marxist-Leninist approach to development at odds with Khrushchev’s reformist tendencies.  Mao included the pursuit of nuclear weapons in this plan, and disparaged Khrushchev for his nuclear detente with the United States; he wanted the PRC to take the USSR’s place as the communist superpower. The Soviets refused to help China develop nukes.
  • Cracks in the Sino-Soviet alliance began to show publicly in 1959.  The USSR offered moral support to the Tibetan people during their 1959 Uprising against the Chinese. The split hit the international news in 1960 at the Romanian Communist Party Congress meeting, where Mao and Khrushchev openly hurled insults at one another in front of the assembled delegates.
  • Mao accused Khrushchev of capitulating to the Americans during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis; the Soviet leader replied that Mao’s policies would lead to nuclear war.  The Soviets then backed India in the Sino-Indian War of 1962.  Relations between the two communist powers had completely collapsed.
  • Later Khrushchev made many desperate attempts to reconstitute the Sino-Soviet alliance, but Mao considered it useless and denied any proposal.The Chinese-Soviet animosity spilled out in an intra-communist propaganda war. Further on, the Soviets focused on a bitter rivalry with Mao’s China for leadership of the global communist movement.

Ramification of Sino Soviet Split:

  • As a result of the Sino-Soviet Split, international politics shifted during the latter half of the 20th century.  The two communist powers nearly went to war in 1968 over a border dispute in Xinjiang.  The Soviet Union even considered carrying out a preemptive strike against the Lop Nur Basin, also in Xinjiang, where the Chinese were preparing to test their first nuclear weapons.  It was the US government, oddly enough, that persuaded the Soviets not to destroy China’s nuclear test sites for fear of sparking a world war.
  • When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to prop up their client government there, the Chinese saw this as an aggressive move to surround China with Soviet satellite states.  As a result, the Chinese allied themselves with the US and Pakistan to support the mujahideen, Afghan guerrilla fighters who successfully opposed the Soviet invasion.
  • The Sino-Soviet split was one of the key events of the Cold War. The split helped to determine the framework of the Second Cold War in general, and influenced the course of the Second Vietnam War in particular.
  • The divide fractured the international communist movement at the time and opened the way for the warming of relations between the United States and China under Richard Nixon in 1971. Relations between China and the Soviet Union remained tense until the visit of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to Beijing in 1989.

(7) Space race:

  • The Space Race was a 20th-century (1955–1972) competition between USSR and USA, for supremacy in spaceflight capability. The technological superiority required for such supremacy was seen as necessary for national security, and symbolic of ideological superiority.
  • The Space Race spawned pioneering efforts to launch artificial satellites, unmanned probes of the Moon, Venus, and Mars, and human spaceflight in low Earth orbit and to the Moon.
  • The competition began on August 2, 1955, when the Soviet Union responded to the US announcement four days earlier of intent to launch artificial satellites, by declaring they would also launch a satellite in the near future.
  • The Soviet Union beat the US to this, with the October 4, 1957 launch of Sputnik 1.
  • The Space Race peaked with the July 20, 1969 US landing of the first humans on the Moon with Apollo 11(which astronaut Frank Borman later described as “just a battle in the Cold War.”), and concluded in a period of détente with the April 1972 agreement on a co-operative Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, resulting in the July 1975 rendezvous in Earth orbit of a US astronaut crew with a Soviet cosmonaut crew.
  • The Space Race had its origins in the missile-based arms race that occurred following World War II, when both the Soviet Union and the United States captured advanced German rocket technology and personnel.

(8) The U2 incident and the Paris summit of 1960

  • By the end of the 1950s, there was massive tension in the Cold War:
  1. The arms race – both sides accepted the need for some kind of Nuclear Test Ban treaty.
  2. Berlin – the Russians were furious that many East Germans were fleeing to the west through West Berlin.
  3. Cuba – the Americans were worried because Fidel Castro, a Communist, had seized power there in 1959.
  4. A summit meeting was arranged for Paris to try to sort things out.
  • On 1st May 1960 – thirteen days before the summit – an American U2 spy plane was shot down over Russia and the pilot, Gary Powers, was captured. At first, the Americans tried to say that it was a weather plane, but they were forced to admit that it was a spy plane when the Russians revealed that much of his plane had survived, and that they had captured Gary Powers alive.
  • When the summit met on 14 May, the first thing Khrushchev did was to demand that the US president, Eisenhower, apologise. When Eisenhower refused, Khrushchev went home.
  • The Cold War had just become substantially more dangerous.

Effects of the U2 incident

  1. The Paris meeting collapsed and there was no Test Ban Treaty.
  2. There was no discussion about the problem of Berlin – which, ultimately, led to the Berlin Wall.
  3. The incident was seen as a defeat for the US – so they elected John F Kennedy as president because he promised to get tougher with the Russians.

(9) Cuban Revolution and the Bay of Pigs Invasion

  • In Cuba, the July 26 Movement seized power in January 1959, toppling President Batista, whose unpopular regime had been denied arms by the Eisenhower administration.
  • In 1959, a rebel named Fidel Castro took power in Cuba (an island just 90 miles away from Florida) after Cuban Revolution (July 26 Movement). Before Castro took over, the government- led by Colonel Batista – had been a corrupt and right-wing military dictatorship, but the Americans had many business interests in Cuba.
  • When Castro came to power, however, he nationalised American companies in Cuba. In retaliation, the Americans stopped all aid to Cuba, and all imports of Cuban sugar. This was a blow to Castro as sugar was the mainstay of the Cuban economy. Castro was forced to look to the USSR for help, and, in 1960, the USSR signed an agreement to buy 1 million tonnes of Cuban sugar every year. Castro, who had not been a Communist when he took power, became a Communist.
  • Note: Diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States continued for some time after Batista’s fall. But after nationalization and when Cuba began agreements with USSR including negotiations of arms purchases from the Eastern Bloc in March 1960, Eisenhower formally severed relations with the Cuban government  in January 1961, just prior to leaving office,

Bay of Pigs Invasion:

  • In April 1961, the administration of newly elected American President John F. Kennedy mounted an unsuccessful CIA-organized ship-borne invasion of the island in Las Villas Province—a failure that publicly humiliated the United States. A counter-revolutionary military, trained and funded by the United States government’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Brigade 2506 fronted the armed wing of the Democratic Revolutionary Front (DRF) and intended to overthrow the revolutionary left-wing government of Fidel Castro. Launched from Guatemala, the invading force was defeated within three days by the Cuban armed forces, under the direct command of Prime Minister Fidel Castro.
  • Castro responded by publicly embracing Marxism–Leninism, and the Soviet Union pledged to provide further support.
  • (It developed into Cuban Missile Crisis which we will see later)

(10) Berlin Ultimatum and Berlin Crisis of 1961:

The problems in West Berlin

  • West Berlin was a worry and an embarrassment for the Soviet Union in 1961, because:
  1. Nearly 2,000 refugees a day were fleeing to the West through west Berlin – hardly proof of the Soviet claim that the Communist way of life was better than capitalism. East Germans annually emigrated to West Germany  through a loophole in the system that existed between East and West Berlin.
  2. Many of those leaving were skilled and qualified workers. Hence, the emigration resulted in a massive “brain drain” from East Germany to West Germany of younger educated professionals.
  3. The Soviets believed that West Berlin was a centre for US espionage.
  • The Berlin Crisis of 1961 was the last major incident in the Cold War regarding the status of Berlin and post–World War II Germany.
  • At the Vienna Summit of June 1961, therefore, Khrushchev demanded that the US leave West Berlin within six months. Kennedy refused and instead guaranteed West Berlin’s freedom.
  • On 13 August, Khrushchev closed the border between East and West Berlin and started building the Berlin Wall , effectively closing the loophol and culminating with the city’s de facto partition. At first, the Russians regarded it as a propaganda success, but as time went on, it became a propaganda disaster – a symbol of all that was bad about Soviet rule.
  • In 1963, President Kennedy visited West Berlin and made his famous ‘I am a Berliner‘ speech next to the Berlin Wall.
  • Khrushchev earlier explained to Mao Zedong that “Berlin is the testicles of the West. Every time I want to make the West scream, I squeeze on Berlin.”

(11) Cuban Missile Crisis:

  • In February 1962, Khrushchev learned of the American plans regarding Cuba: a “Cuban project“— approved by the CIA and stipulating the overthrow of the Cuban government in October, possibly involving the American military—and about Kennedy-ordered operation to assassinate Castro. Preparations to install Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba were undertaken in response.
  • In September 1961, Castro asked for – and Russia publicly promised – weapons to defend Cuba against America. Which is why on 14 October 1962, the Americans discovered the missile sites in Cuba. These sites brought every town in the US within range of Soviet nuclear missiles.
  • President Kennedy did not dare to invade Cuba, because that action could have started a world war – yet he could not let the missile sites be completed. With his advisers, he decided on a naval blockade to prevent Russian ships delivering the missiles for the Cuban sites.
  • Khrushchev warned that Russia would see the blockade as an act of war. Russian forces were put on alert; US bombers were put in the air carrying nuclear bombs; preparations were made to invade Cuba. There was massive tension in both Washington and Moscow. Everybody thought the world was going to come to an end. Secretly, the Americans suggested a trade-off of missile bases – US bases in Turkey for Russian bases in Cuba.
  • The Russians made the first public move. The ships heading for Cuba turned back, and Khrushchev sent a telegram offering to dismantle the Cuban bases if Kennedy lifted the blockade and promised not to invade Cuba. Then, as though having second thoughts, he sent a second letter demanding the dismantling of the Turkish bases. At the vital moment, a US U2 spy plane was shot down.
  • However, Kennedy ignored the U2 attack and agreed publicly to the first letter, and secretly to the second. The crisis was over.
  • Castro later admitted that “I would have agreed to the use of nuclear weapons. … we took it for granted that it would become a nuclear war anyway, and that we were going to disappear.”
  • Speaking many years later, Khrushchev claimed that he had won the Cuban missile crisis. He had achieved both his aims – America never bothered Cuba again (which is still a Communist country) and the US missile sites in Turkey were dismantled in November 1962.
  • The world did not see it that way at the time, because the Turkey deal was kept secret, the West saw Kennedy as the hero who had faced down Communism.
  • Meanwhile, Khrushchev lost prestige. China broke off relations with Russia and, in 1964, he was forced to resign as Soviet leader.
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis (October–November 1962) brought the world closer to nuclear war than ever before. It further demonstrated the concept of mutually assured destruction, that neither superpower was prepared to use their nuclear weapons, fearing total global destruction via mutual retaliation. Soon afterwards:
    • In 1963, a telephone hotline was set up to give instant contact between the two leaders if there was a crisis.
    • In 1963, a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed.
    • In 1968, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed – the superpowers promised not to supply nuclear technology to other countries.

Antarctic Treaty System

  • The aftermath of the Cuban crisis led to the first efforts in the nuclear arms race at nuclear disarmament and improving relations, although the Cold War’s first arms control agreement, the Antarctic Treaty, had come into force in 1961.
  • The Antarctic Treaty and related agreements, collectively known as the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS), regulate international relations with respect to Antarctica, Earth’s only continent without a native human population.

(12) Khrushchev ouster:

  • In 1964, Khrushchev’s Kremlin colleagues managed to oust him, but allowed him a peaceful retirement. Accused of rudeness and incompetence, he was also credited with ruining Soviet agriculture and bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war. Khrushchev had become an international embarrassment when he authorized construction of the Berlin Wall, a public humiliation for Marxism–Leninism.
  • From 1957 through 1961, Khrushchev openly and repeatedly threatened the West with nuclear annihilation. However, Khrushchev rejected Stalin’s belief in the inevitability of war, and declared his new goal was to be “peaceful coexistence”. This formulation modified the Stalin-era Soviet stance, where international class struggle meant the two opposing camps were on an inevitable collision course where communism would triumph through global war; now, peace would allow capitalism to collapse on its own, as well as giving the Soviets time to boost their military capabilities, which remained for decades until Gorbachev’s later “new thinking” envisioning peaceful coexistence as an end in itself rather than a form of class struggle.
  • America’s pronouncements concentrated on American strength abroad and the success of liberal capitalism.However, by the late 1960s, the “battle for men’s minds” between two systems of social organization that Kennedy spoke of in 1961 was largely over, with tensions henceforth based primarily on clashing geopolitical objectives rather than ideology.


Q. Explain the nature of the Cold War 1948-1962.

  • The period 1948-1961 certainly saw some major changes in the Cold War – the death of Stalin and a new Soviet leader; the growth of Communism in the Far East; the assertion of Soviet rule in Eastern Europe; the increased use of espionage between the USA and USSR; and the physical separation of east and west in Berlin.


  • Historians have looked at the Cold War in many different ways over the years. Here are some statements about the Cold War in the 1950s and 1960s which explains the nature of cold war:
  1. Between 1949 and 1963, the Cold War developed with a series of major crises.
  2. “When Stalin died in 1953, there was a slight improvement in relations between East and West, although problems still existed.
  3. Khrushchev’s blustering vigour, his love of travel and of argument and his willingness to take risks left their mark on these years.
  4. “The wall not only divided Berlin. Over the following years, it became a symbol of division – the division of Germany, the division of Europe, the division of communist East and democratic West. The Communists presented the wall as being a protective shell. The West presented it as a prison wall.
  5. The Americans believed that it was their duty, and necessary to US security, to resist the expansion of communism wherever it occurred. During the 1960s, this led them to the brink of nuclear war.
  6. It soon became clear to the capitalist states that, despite co-existence, Khrushchev was determined to show that communism could compete with, and beat, the West.
  7. The Cold War was a mixture of a religious crusade in favour of one ideology or the other and the most ruthless power politics.


Q. Why did Khrushchev’s ‘peaceful co-existence’ made the Cold War more dangerous?

  1. Khrushchev’s statement that he wanted to “de-Stalinise” Eastern Europe led to anti-Soviet rebellions in 1956 in Poland and Hungary, and Khrushchev sent in Russian troops to re-establish Soviet control.
  2. Russia and America waged an arms race, developing H-bombs and ICBMs.
  3. Khrushchev set up the Warsaw Pact in 1955 – a military alliance of communist countries – to rival NATO. America responded by increasing the number of NATO troops in Germany.
  4. Russia and America competed in every way possible – eg in sport, and in the space race. Russia launched the first satellite – Sputnik – in 1957, and sent the first man into orbit – Yuri Gagarin – in 1961. Alan Shepard became the first American to fly in space in 1961, and President Kennedy promised to put a man on the moon by 1969. This was not just a propaganda war, it was a clash of ideologies as both sides tried to prove that their way was best.
  5. America responded aggressively. Senator McCarthy led a series of public trials of suspected Communists – the so-called witch-hunts. McCarthy dominated the U.S. political climate in the early 1950s through his sensational but unproven charges of communist subversion in high government circles. In 1954, in a rare move, his Senate colleagues officially censured him for unbecoming conduct. Not only did his behaviour besmirch the image of the United States but it also bequeathed the charge of “McCarthyism” as an impregnable defense to be used by all manner of leftists.
  6. Both sides spied on each other. The Americans also used U2 spy planes to spy on Russia.


(D) Confrontation through détente (1962–79)

  • By the 1970s both sides had become interested in accommodations to create a more stable and predictable international system, inaugurating a period of détente that saw Strategic Arms Limitation Talks and the US opening relations with the People’s Republic of China as a strategic counterweight to the Soviet Union. Détente collapsed at the end of the decade with the Soviet war in Afghanistan beginning in 1979.
  • In the course of the 1960s and 1970s, Cold War participants struggled to adjust to a new, more complicated pattern of international relations in which the world was no longer divided into two clearly opposed blocs. From the beginning of the post-war period, Western Europe and Japan rapidly recovered from the destruction of World War II and sustained strong economic growth through the 1950s and 1960s while Eastern Bloc economies stagnated.
  • Following Cuban Missile Crisis, a new phase began that saw the Sino-Soviet split complicate relations within the Communist sphere while US allies, particularly France, demonstrated greater independence of action.
  • The USSR crushed the 1968 Prague Spring liberalization program in Czechoslovakia and the Vietnam War (1955–1975) ended with a defeat of the US-backed Republic of South Vietnam, prompting further adjustments.
  • As a result of the 1973 oil crisis, [members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC, consisting of the Arab members of the OPEC plus Egypt, Syria and Tunisia) proclaimed an oil embargo  in response to American involvement in in favour of Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. By the end of the embargo in March 1974, the price of oil had risen from $3 per barrel to nearly $12. The oil crisis, or “shock”, had many short-term and long-term effects on global politics and the global economy. It was later called the “first oil shock”, followed by the 1979 oil crisis, termed the “second oil shock”] combined with the growing influence of Third World alignments such as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) , less-powerful countries had more room to assert their independence and often showed themselves resistant to pressure from either superpower.
  • Meanwhile, Moscow was forced to turn its attention inward to deal with the Soviet Union’s deep-seated domestic economic problems. During this period, Soviet leaders such as Leonid Brezhnev and Alexei Kosygin embraced the notion of détente.

(1) French NATO withdrawal:

  • The unity of NATO was breached early in its history, with a crisis occurring during Charles de Gaulle’s presidency of France from 1958 onwards.
  • De Gaulle protested at the United States’ strong role in the organization and what he perceived as a special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom.
  • In a memorandum sent to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Prime Minister Macmillan September 1958, he argued for the creation of a tripartite directorate that would put France on an equal footing with the United States and the United Kingdom, and also for the expansion of NATO’s coverage to include geographical areas of interest to France, most notably French Algeria, where France was waging a counter-insurgency and sought NATO assistance.
  • Considering the response given to be unsatisfactory, de Gaulle began the development of an independent French nuclear deterrent and in 1966 withdrew from NATO’s military structures and expelled NATO troops from French soil.

(2) Czechoslovakia invasion (1968):

  • In 1968, a period of four months when Czechoslovakia broke free from Soviet rule, political liberalization in Czechoslovakia called the Prague Spring took place that included “Action Program” of liberalizations, which described increasing freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of movement, along with an economic emphasis on consumer goods, the possibility of a multi party government, limiting the power of the secret police and potentially withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact.
  • Prague spring began when reformist Alexander Dubcek was elected First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, and continued until the Soviet Union and other members of the Warsaw Pact invaded the country to halt the reforms.
  • At a meeting in Bratislava on 3 August 1968, Brezhnev read out a letter from some Czechoslovakian Communists asking for help. (Later he had announced the Brezhnev Doctrine – the USSR would not allow any Eastern European country to reject Communism.)
  • On 20 August 1968, the Soviet army, together with most of their Warsaw Pact allies, invaded Czechoslovakia. The Czechoslovakians did not fight the Russians. Instead, they stood in front of the tanks, and put flowers in the soldiers’ hair.
  • The invasion was followed by a wave of emigration. The invasion sparked intense protests from Yugoslavia, Romania and China, and from Western European communist parties.


Q. Explain Causes and effects of the Prague Spring.

Causes of the Prague Spring

  1. The policy of détente encouraged the uprising. Romania had also broken free of Russian control, and was improving relations with the West.
  2. The Czechs hated Russian control, especially:
    • Russian control of the economy, which had made Czechoslovakia poor.
    • The censorship and lack of freedom.
  3. Some Czechs thought the USA would help them.

Effects of the invasion of Czechoslovakia

  1. Czechoslovakia returned to communist control and Russian troops were stationed there: Half the leadership of the KSC, along with the directors of many firms (especially publishing companies) were sacked and 47 anti-communists were arrested.
  2. Russia stayed in control behind the Iron Curtain:The Brezhnev Doctrine stated that Iron Curtain countries would not be allowed to abandon communism, “even if it meant a third world war”.
  3. Increase of the Cold War: People in the West were horrified and so were many communist countries, especially Romania and Yugoslavia.


(3) Brezhnev Doctrine:

  • In September 1968, during a speech at the Fifth Congress of the Polish United Workers’ Party one month after the invasion of Czechoslovakia, Brezhnev outlined the Brezhnev Doctrine, in which he claimed the right to violate the sovereignty of any country attempting to replace Marxism–Leninism with capitalism. During the speech, Brezhnev stated: ‘When forces that are hostile to socialism try to turn the development of some socialist country towards capitalism, it becomes not only a problem of the country concerned, but a common problem and concern of all socialist countries’.
  • The doctrine found its origins in the failures of Marxism–Leninism in states like Poland, Hungary and East Germany, which were facing a declining standard of living contrasting with the prosperity of West Germany and the rest of Western Europe.

(4) Third World escalations:

American occupation of the Dominican Republic(1965-1966), code named Operation Power Pack:

  • In late April 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson landed some 22,000 troops in the Dominican Republic for a one-year occupation of the republic in an invasion codenamed Operation Power Pack, citing the threat of the emergence of a Cuban-style revolution in Latin America. Presidential elections held in 1966, during the occupation, handed victory to the conservative Joaquin Balaguer.
  • Although Balaguer enjoyed a real base of support from sectors of the elites as well as peasants, his formally running Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) opponent, former President Juan Bosch, did not actively campaign. The PRD’s activists were violently harassed by the Dominican police and armed forces.

The Indonesian killings of 1965–1966: 

  • In Indonesia, the hardline anti-communist General Suharto wrested control of the state from his predecessor Sukarno in an attempt to establish a “New Order“. (Indonesia’s transition to the “New Order” in the mid-1960s, ousted the country’s first president, Sukarno, after 22 years in the position. One of the most tumultuous periods in the country’s modern history, it was the commencement of Suharto’s 31-year presidency).
  • From 1965 to 1966, the military led the mass killing of an estimated half-million members and sympathizers of the Indonesian Communist Party and other leftist organizations.

Vietnam War: 

  • Escalating the scale of American intervention in the ongoing conflict between Ngo Dình Diem’s South Vietnamese government and the Communist National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF) insurgents opposing it, Johnson stationed some 575,000 troops in Southeast Asia to defeat the NLF and their North Vietnamese allies in the Vietnam War, but his costly policy weakened the US economy and, by 1975, ultimately culminated in what most of the world saw as a humiliating defeat of the world’s most powerful superpower at the hands of one of the world’s poorest nations.
  • North Vietnam received Soviet approval and  help for its war effort in 1959. China helped militarily and aid.

1973 Chilean coup d’état:

  • In Chile, the Socialist Party candidate Salvador Allende won the presidential election of 1970, becoming the first democratically elected Marxist to become president of a country in the Americas.The CIA operated to undermine his support domestically, which contributed to a period of unrest culminating in General Augusto Pinochet’s coup d’état on 11 September 1973.
  • Pinochet consolidated power as a military dictator, Allende’s reforms of the economy were rolled back, and leftist opponents were killed or detained.

Middle East: Six Days War (Third Arab–Israeli War): 

  • The Middle East continued to be a source of contention. Egypt, which received the bulk of its arms and economic assistance from the USSR, was a troublesome client, with a reluctant Soviet Union feeling obliged to assist in both the 1967 Six-Day War (with advisers and technicians) and the War of Attrition (with pilots and aircraft) against pro-Western Israel.
  • The Six-Day War was fought between June 5 and 10, 1967 by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt (known at the time as the United Arab Republic), Jordan, and Syria.
  • Relations between Israel and its neighbours had never fully normalized following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and in the period leading up to June 1967 tensions became dangerously heightened.
  • Prior to the start of the war, attacks conducted against Israel by fledgling Palestinian guerrilla groups based in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan had increased, leading to costly Israeli reprisals. In November 1966 an Israeli strike in the Jordanian West Bank and, during an air battle with Syria in April 1967, the Israeli Air Force shot down many Syrian MiG fighter jets.
  • Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser had previously come under sharp criticism for his failure to aid Syria and Jordan against Israel; he had also been accused of hiding behind the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) stationed at Egypt’s border with Israel in the Sinai. Now, however, he moved to unambiguously demonstrate support for Syria: on May 14, 1967, Nasser mobilized Egyptian forces in the Sinai; on May 18 he formally requested the removal of the UNEF stationed there; and on May 22 he closed the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping, thus instituting an effective blockade of the port city of Elat in southern Israel. On May 30, King Ḥussein of Jordan arrived in Cairo to sign a mutual defense pact with Egypt, placing Jordanian forces under Egyptian command; shortly thereafter, Iraq too joined the alliance.
  • In response to the apparent mobilization of its Arab neighbours, early on the morning of June 5, Israel launched a series of preemptive strikes and captured Sinai from Egypt, East Jerusalem and rest of the West Bank. from Jordan and  Golan Heights from Syria.
  • The UN Security Council called for a cease-fire on June 7 that was immediately accepted by Israel and Jordan. Egypt accepted the following day. Syria held out, however, and continued to shell villages in northern Israel. On June 9 Israel launched an assault on the fortified Golan Heights, capturing it from Syrian forces after a day of heavy fighting. Syria accepted the cease-fire on June 10.
  • On June 11, a ceasefire was signed. The area of Israeli control had increased by a factor of three, significantly contributing to the country’s defensibility, as would be shown in the subsequent Yom Kippur War.
  • The Arab countries’ losses in the conflict were disastrous. The Arab armies also suffered crippling losses of weaponry and equipment. The lopsidedness of the defeat demoralized both the Arab public and the political elite. Egyptian President Nasser announced his resignation on June 9 but quickly yielded to mass demonstrations calling for him to remain in office. In Israel, which had proved beyond question that it was the region’s preeminent military power, there was euphoria.
  • The Six-Day War also marked the start of a new phase in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, since the conflict created hundreds of thousands of refugees and brought more than one million Palestinians in the occupied territories under Israeli rule.

Middle East: Yom Kippur War (1973 Arab–Israeli War): 

  • Despite the beginning of an Egyptian shift from a pro-Soviet to a pro-American orientation in 1972 (under Egypt’s new leader Anwar El Sadat), rumors of imminent Soviet intervention on the Egyptians’ behalf during the 1973 Yom Kippur War brought about a massive American mobilization that threatened to wreck détente.
  • The Yom Kippur War was a war fought by the coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria against Israel from October 6 to 25, 1973. Egypt’s stated goal for the war was the expelling of the Israeli forces occupying Sinai.
  • The war began when the Arab coalition launched a joint surprise attack on Israeli positions in the Israeli-occupied territories on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism, which also occurred that year during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Israeli repelled them.
  • Development led to tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. As a result, a second ceasefire was imposed cooperatively on October 25 to end the war.
  • The war had far-reaching implications. The Arab World, which had been humiliated by the lopsided rout of the Egyptian–Syrian–Jordanian alliance in the Six-Day War, felt psychologically vindicated by early successes in the conflict. In Israel, despite impressive operational and tactical achievements on the battlefield, the war led to recognition that there was no guarantee it would always dominate the Arab states militarily. These changes paved the way for the subsequent peace process.
  • The 1978 Camp David Accords that followed led to the return of the Sinai to Egypt and normalized relations—the first peaceful recognition of Israel by an Arab country. Egypt continued its drift away from the Soviet Union and left the Soviet sphere of influence entirely.

Middle East: South Yemen:

  • Soviets were successful in establishing close relations with communist South Yemen, as well as the nationalist governments of Algeria and Iraq.
  • Indirect Soviet assistance to the Palestinian side of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict included support for Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) (an organization founded in 1964 with the purpose of the “liberation of Palestine” from Israel through armed struggle)  

Middle East: The Iraqi Ba’athist coup of 1968 (The 17 July Revolution): 

  • It was a bloodless coup in Iraq in 1968, led by General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, which brought the Iraqi Regional Branch of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party to power. Both Saddam Hussein, later President of Iraq, and Salah Omar al-Ali, later a Ba’athist dissident, were major participants in the coup.
  • The coup upset the “US-sponsored security system established as part of the Cold War in the Middle East. It appeared that any enemy of the Baghdad regime was a potential ally of the United States.”  From 1973 to 1975, the CIA colluded with the Iranian government to finance and arm Kurdish rebels in the Second Kurdish–Iraqi War to weaken Iraq’s Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr.

Ethiopia and Somalia

  • In Africa, Somali army officers led by Mohamed Siad Barre carried out a bloodless coup in 1969, creating the socialist Somali Democratic Republic. The Soviet Union vowed to support Somalia.
  • The pro-American Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown in a 1974 coup by the Derg, a radical group of Ethiopian army officers led by the pro-Soviet Mengistu Haile Mariam, who built up relations with the Cubans and Soviets.
  • Ethiopian-Somali War or Ogaden War: was a conflict fought by Ethiopia and Somalia between July 1977 and March 1978 over the disputed Ogaden region in present-day eastern Ethiopia. In a notable illustration of the nature of Cold War alliances, the Soviet Union switched from supplying aid to Somalia to supporting Ethiopia, which had previously been backed by the United States. This in turn prompted the US to later start supporting Somalia. The war ended when Somali forces retreated back across the border and a truce was declared.

The 1974 Portuguese Carnation Revolution

  • This was Revolution against the authoritarian Estado Novo returned Portugal to a multi-party system and facilitated the independence of the Portuguese colonies Angola and East Timor.
  • The Carnation Revolution was a military coup in Lisbon, Portugal, on 25 April 1974 which overthrew the regime of the Estado Novo.The revolution started as a military coup organized by Armed Forces Movement (MFA), composed of military officers who opposed the regime, but the movement was soon coupled with an unanticipated and popular campaign of civil resistance.
  • This movement would lead to the fall of the Estado Novo and the withdrawal of Portugal from its African colonies and East Timor.
  • The name “Carnation Revolution” comes from the fact that almost no shots were fired and when the population took to the streets to celebrate the end of the dictatorship and war in the colonies, carnations were put into the muzzles of rifles and on the uniforms of the army.


  • In Africa, where Angolan rebels had waged a multi-faction independence war against Portuguese rule since 1961, a two-decade civil war replaced the anti-colonial struggle as fighting erupted between the communist People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), backed by the Cubans and Soviets, and the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA), backed by the United States, the People’s Republic of China, and Mobutu’s government in Zaire.
  • MPLA, bolstered by Cuban personnel and Soviet assistance, eventually gained the upper hand.

Cambodian Civil War

  • During the Vietnam War, North Vietnam invaded and occupied parts of Cambodia to use as military bases, which contributed to the violence of the Cambodian Civil War between the pro-American government of Lon Nol and Maoist Khmer Rouge insurgents.
  • Under the leadership of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge would eventually kill 1–3 million Cambodians in the killing fields, out of a 1975 population of roughly 8 million. It is described as “the purest genocide of the Cold War era.”
  • Vietnam deposed Pol Pot in 1979 and installed Khmer Rouge defector Heng Samrin, only to be bogged down in a guerilla war and suffer a punitive Chinese attack.

(5) Sino-American rapprochement:

  • As a result of the Sino-Soviet split, tensions along the Chinese–Soviet border reached their peak in 1969, and United States President Richard Nixon decided to use the conflict to shift the balance of power towards the West in the Cold War.
  • The Chinese had sought improved relations with the Americans in order to gain advantage over the Soviets as well.
  • In February 1972, Nixon announced a stunning rapprochement with Mao’s China by traveling to Beijing and meeting with Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. It marked the first time a U.S. president had visited the PRC.The repercussions of the Nixon visit were vast, and included a significant shift in the Cold War balance, pitting the PRC with the U.S. against the Soviet Union.
  • At this time, the USSR achieved rough nuclear parity with the United States; meanwhile, the Vietnam War weakened America’s influence in the Third World and cooled relations with Western Europe.
  • Although indirect conflict between Cold War powers continued through the late 1960s and early 1970s, tensions were beginning to ease.

(6) Nixon, Brezhnev, and détente:

  • Following his China visit, Nixon met with Soviet leaders, including Brezhnev in Moscow. These Strategic Arms Limitation Talks resulted in two landmark arms control treaties:
  1. SALT I (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty): This was the first comprehensive limitation pact signed by the two superpowers. SALT I froze the number of strategic ballistic missile launchers at existing levels and provided for the addition of new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers only after the same number of older intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and SLBM launchers had been dismantled.
  2. Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty:  This was on the limitation of the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems used in defending areas against missile-delivered nuclear weapons.
  • Nixon and Brezhnev proclaimed new era of “peaceful coexistence” and established the ground breaking new policy of détente (or cooperation) between the two superpowers.
  • Meanwhile, Brezhnev attempted to revive the Soviet economy, which was declining in part because of heavy military expenditures.
  • Between 1972 and 1974, the two sides also agreed to strengthen their economic ties, including agreements for increased trade.
  • Meanwhile, these developments coincided with the “Ostpolitik” of West German Chancellor Willy Brandt. [“Ostpolitikrefers to the normalization of relations between the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and Eastern Europe, particularly the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) beginning in 1969. Influenced by Egon Bahr, who proposed “change through rapprochement”]
  • Other agreements were concluded to stabilize the situation in Europe, culminating in the Helsinki Accords signed at the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe in 1975.

Key achievements in détente (1960s-1970s)

Image Date Event
No nuclear weapons to other countries 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: powers with nuclear weapons agreed not to give any other countries nuclear technology.
Table tennis 1971 The US table tennis team played in China.
China joins the UN 1971 The US dropped its veto and allowed China to join the United Nations.
Nixon in China 1972 The US President Nixon visited China.
Salt 1 treaty 1972 Russia and America signed the SALT1 Treaty (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) agreeing to limit their anti-ballistic missiles and bombers.
Helsinki agreement 1975 The Helsinki Agreement recognised Soviet control over Eastern Europe, concluded a trade agreement, and Russia promised to respect human rights.
Russian and American spacecraft dock 1975 Russian and American spacecraft docked in space.


Q. What were the causes and limitations of détente

Causes of détente

  1. America was shocked by the Vietnam War and wanted to stay out of world affairs. There was also a vociferous CND movement in the West.
  2. The arms race was very expensive for both superpowers.
  3. The price of oil rocketed in the 1970s, and both superpowers experienced economic problems.

Limitations of détente

  1. The Non-Proliferation Treaty did not stop other countries developing nuclear weapons (eg China, and perhaps South Africa and Israel).
  2. Neither Russia or America kept to the SALT1 agreement. Neither side reduced their conventional weapons. Further talks were much less successful and a SALT2 Treaty in 1979 added little.
  3. In the Arab-Israeli War of 1973, America supported Israel, and Russia supported Egypt and Syria.
  4. The Helsinki Agreement achieved nothing – it confirmed the Iron Curtain and Russia ignored its promises about human rights.
  5. Table tennis and space meetings were just one-off propaganda stunts.
  6. Brezhnev said that Communists would still try to destroy capitalism. Some historians suggest that Nixon only went to China to drive a wedge between Russia and China


(7) Late 1970s deterioration of relations:

  • In the 1970s, the KGB continued to persecute distinguished Soviet personalities who were criticising the Soviet leadership in harsh terms. Indirect conflict between the superpowers continued through this period of détente in the Third World, particularly during political crises in the Middle East, Chile, Ethiopia, and Angola.
  • Although President Jimmy Carter tried to place another limit on the arms race with a SALT II agreement in 1979, his efforts were undermined by the other events that year, including the Iranian Revolution and the KGB-backed Nicaraguan Revolution, which both ousted pro-US regimes, and Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in December.
  • SALT II was a series of talks between United States and Soviet negotiators from 1972 to 1979 which sought to curtail the manufacture of strategic nuclear weapons. It was a continuation of the SALT I talks. An agreement to limit strategic launchers was reached in Vienna on June 18, 1979, and was signed by Leonid Brezhnev and Jimmy Carter. Six months after the signing, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, and in September of the same year, the United States discovered that a Soviet combat brigade was stationed in Cuba. In light of these developments, the treaty was never ratified by the United States Senate. Its terms were, nonetheless, honored by both sides until 1986 when the Reagan Administration withdrew from SALT II after accusing the Soviets of violating the pact.

(E) “Second Cold War” (1979–85)

  • The term Second Cold War refers to the period of intensive reawakening of Cold War tensions and conflicts in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Tensions greatly increased between the major powers with both sides becoming more militaristic. US President Reagan went all out to fight the second cold war, by supporting counterinsurgencies in the third world. The intensity of this ‘Second’ Cold War was as great as its duration was short.
  • The early 1980s were another period of elevated tension, with the Soviet downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 (1983), and the “Able Archer” NATO military exercises (1983). The United States increased diplomatic, military, and economic pressures on the Soviet Union, at a time when the communist state was already suffering from economic stagnation.

(1) Soviet war in Afghanistan:

  • In April 1978, the communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) seized power in Afghanistan in the Saur Revolution. Within months, opponents of the communist government launched an uprising in eastern Afghanistan that quickly expanded into a civil war waged by guerrilla mujahideen against government forces countrywide.
  • The Peshawar Seven insurgents (Seven Party Mujahideen Alliance) received military training and weapons in neighboring Pakistan and China, as well as weapons and billions of dollars from the United States, the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia, while the Soviet Union sent thousands of military advisers to support the PDPA government.
  • Meanwhile, increasing friction between the competing factions of the PDPA – the dominant Khalq and the more moderate Parcham – resulted in the dismissal of Parchami cabinet members and the arrest of Parchami military officers under the pretext of a Parchami coup.
  • By mid-1979, the United States had started a covert program to assist the mujahideen.
  • In September 1979, Khalqist President Nur Muhammad Taraki was assassinated in a coup within the PDPA orchestrated by fellow Khalq member Hafizullah Amin, who assumed the presidency. Distrusted by the Soviets, Amin was assassinated by Soviet special forces in December 1979.
  • A Soviet-organized government, led by Parcham’s Babrak Karmal but inclusive of both factions, filled the vacuum. Soviet troops were deployed to stabilize Afghanistan under Karmal in more substantial numbers, although the Soviet government did not expect to do most of the fighting in Afghanistan. As a result, however, the Soviets were now directly involved in what had been a domestic war in Afghanistan.
  • Carter responded to the Soviet intervention by withdrawing the SALT II treaty from the Senate, imposing embargoes on grain and technology shipments to the USSR, and demanding a significant increase in military spending, and further announced that the United States would boycott the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics.
  • The Afghan War quickly settled down into a stalemate, with more than 100,000 Soviet troops controlling the cities, larger towns, and major garrisons and the mujahideen moving with relative freedom throughout the countryside. Soviet troops tried to crush the insurgency by various tactics, but the guerrillas generally eluded their attacks. The Soviets then attempted to eliminate the mujahideen’s civilian support by bombing and depopulating the rural areas. These tactics sparked a massive flight from the countryside; by 1982 some 2.8 million Afghans had sought asylum in Pakistan, and another 1.5 million had fled to Iran. The mujahideen were eventually able to neutralize Soviet air power through the use of shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles supplied by the United States.
  • The war in Afghanistan became a quagmire for what by the late 1980s was a disintegrating Soviet Union. (The Soviets suffered some 15,000 dead and many more injured.) Despite having failed to implement a sympathetic regime in Afghanistan, in 1988 the Soviet Union signed an accord with the United States, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and agreed to withdraw its troops. The Soviet withdrawal was completed on Feb. 15, 1989.

(2) Reagan and Thatcher:

  • Four years prior to becoming president, Ronald Reagan bluntly stated: “My idea of American policy toward the Soviet Union is simple, and some would say simplistic,” he said. “It is this: We win and they lose“.
  • In 1980, Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election, vowing to increase military spending and confront the Soviets everywhere.
  • Both Reagan and new British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher denounced the Soviet Union and its ideology.
  • By early 1985, Reagan’s anti-communist position had developed into a stance known as the new Reagan Doctrine—which, in addition to containment, formulated an additional right to subvert existing communist governments.
  • Besides continuing Carter’s policy of supporting the Islamic opponents of the Soviet Union and the Soviet-backed PDPA government in Afghanistan, the CIA also sought to weaken the Soviet Union itself by promoting political Islam in the majority-Muslim Central Asian Soviet Union. CIA encouraged anti-communist Pakistan’s ISI to train Muslims from around the world to participate in the jihad against the Soviet Union.

(4) Polish Solidarity movement and martial law:

  • Pope John Paul II provided a moral focus for anti-communism; a visit to his native Poland in 1979 stimulated a religious and nationalist resurgence centered on the Solidarity movement that galvanized opposition.
  • Solidarity, a Polish Trade Union, was formally was founded on Sept. 22, 1980, when delegates of 36 regional trade unions met in Gdańsk and united under the name Solidarity. Wałesa was elected chairman of Solidarity.
  • It was the first trade union in a Warsaw Pact country that was not controlled by the Communist Party. Its membership reached 10 million. Solidarity was a broad anti-bureaucratic social movement, using the methods of civil resistance to advance the causes of workers’ rights and social change.
  • A separate agricultural union composed of private farmers, named Rural Solidarity, was founded in Warsaw on Dec. 14, 1980. By early 1981 Solidarity had a membership of about 10 million people and represented most of the work force of Poland.
  • Throughout 1981 the government (led by General Wojciech Jaruzelski) was confronted by an ever stronger and more demanding Solidarity, which inflicted a series of controlled strikes to back up its appeals for economic reforms, for free elections, and for the involvement of trade unions in decision making at the highest levels. Solidarity’s positions hardened as the moderate Wałesa came to be pressured by more militant unionists. Jaruzelski’s government, meanwhile, was subjected to severe pressure from the Soviet Union to suppress Solidarity.
  • For the first time however, the Soviet Union abstained from military intervention unlike on previous occasions such as the Prague Spring of 1968 or the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, and thus left the Polish leadership under General Wojciech Jaruzelski to impose martial law to crush the opposition on their own. Mikhail Suslov, the Kremlin’s top ideologist, advised Soviet leaders not to intervene if Poland fell under the control of Solidarity, for fear it might lead to heavy economic sanctions, representing a catastrophe for the Soviet economy.
  • On Dec. 13, 1981, Jaruzelski imposed martial law in Poland in a bid to crush the Solidarity movement. Solidarity was declared illegal, and its leaders were arrested. Reagan imposed economic sanctions on Poland in response.
  • The union was formally dissolved by the Sejm (Parliament) on Oct. 8, 1982, but it nevertheless continued as an underground organization.
  • Although martial law was lifted in 1983, many of the political prisoners were not released until the general amnesty in 1986.
  • In 1988 a new wave of strikes and labour unrest spread across Poland, and prominent among the strikers’ demands was government recognition of Solidarity. In April 1989 the government agreed to legalize Solidarity and allow it to participate in free elections to a bicameral Polish parliament. In the elections, held in June of that year, candidates endorsed by Solidarity won 99 of 100 seats in the newly formed Senate (upper house) and all 161 seats (of 460 total) that opposition candidates were entitled to contest in the Sejm (lower house).

(5) Soviet and US military and economic issues:

  • Moscow had built up a military that consumed as much as 25 percent of the Soviet Union’s gross national product at the expense of consumer goods and investment in civilian sectors. Soviet spending on the arms race and other Cold War commitments both caused and exacerbated deep-seated structural problems in the Soviet system, which saw at least a decade of economic stagnation during the late Brezhnev years.
  • Soviet investment in the defense sector was not driven by military necessity, but in large part by the interests of massive party and state bureaucracies dependent on the sector for their own power and privileges.The Soviet Armed Forces became the largest in the world in terms of the numbers and types of weapons they possessed, in the number of troops in their ranks, and in the sheer size of their military–industrial base. However, the quantitative advantages held by the Soviet military often concealed quality where the Eastern Bloc dramatically lagged behind the West.
  • By the early 1980s, the USSR had built up a military arsenal and army surpassing that of the United States. Soon after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, president Carter began massively building up the United States military. This build up was accelerated by the Reagan administration, making the largest peacetime defense buildup in United States history.
  • Tensions continued intensifying in the early 1980s when Reagan revived the B-1 Lancer program that was cancelled by the Carter administration, installed US cruise missiles in Europe, and announced his experimental Strategic Defense Initiative, dubbed “Star Wars”  a defense program, to use ground-based and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles to shoot down missiles in mid-flight. The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than the prior strategic offense doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD).
  • With the background of a buildup in tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States, and the deployment of Soviet ballistic missiles targeting Western Europe, NATO decided, under the impetus of the Carter presidency, to deploy MGM-31 Pershing and cruise missiles in Europe, primarily West Germany. This deployment would have placed missiles just 10 minutes’ striking distance from Moscow.
  • After Reagan’s military buildup, the Soviet Union did not respond by further building its military because the enormous military expenses, along with inefficient planned manufacturing and collectivized agriculture, were already a heavy burden for the Soviet economy.
  • At the same time, Saudi Arabia increased oil production, even as other non-OPEC nations were increasing production.These developments contributed to the 1980s oil glut, which affected the Soviet Union, as oil was the main source of Soviet export revenues. [The 1980s Oil Glut was a serious surplus of crude oil caused by falling demand following the 1970s Energy Crisis. The world price of oil, which had peaked in 1980 at over US$35 per barrel fell in 1986 from $27 to below $10 .The glut began as a result of slowed economic activity in industrial countries (due to the crises of the 1970s, especially in 1973 and 1979) and the energy conservation spurred by high fuel prices].
  • Issues with command economics, oil prices decreases and large military expenditures gradually brought the Soviet economy to stagnation.
  • On 1 September 1983, the Soviet Union shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007, with 269 people aboard, including sitting Congressman Larry McDonald, when it violated Soviet airspace —an act which Reagan characterized as a “massacre”. This act increased support for military deployment.
  • The Able Archer 83 exercise in November 1983, a realistic simulation of a coordinated NATO nuclear release, has been called most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis, as the Soviet leadership keeping a close watch on it considered a nuclear attack to be imminent.
  • US domestic public concerns about intervening in foreign conflicts persisted from the end of the Vietnam War. The Reagan administration emphasized the use of quick, low-cost counter-insurgency tactics to intervene in foreign conflicts.
  • In 1983, the Reagan administration intervened in the multi sided Lebanese Civil War, invaded Grenada, bombed Libya and backed the Central American Contras, anti-communist paramilitaries seeking to overthrow the Soviet-aligned Sandinista government in Nicaragua. While Reagan’s interventions against Grenada and Libya were popular in the United States, his backing of the Contra rebels was mired in controversy.
  • Meanwhile, the Soviets incurred high costs for their own foreign interventions. Although Brezhnev was convinced in 1979 that the Soviet war in Afghanistan would be brief, Muslim guerrillas, aided by the US and other countries, waged a fierce resistance against the invasion. The Kremlin sent nearly 100,000 troops to support its puppet regime in Afghanistan, leading many outside observers to dub the war “the Soviets’ Vietnam”. However, Moscow’s quagmire in Afghanistan was far more disastrous for the Soviets than Vietnam had been for the Americans because the conflict coincided with a period of internal decay and domestic crisis in the Soviet system. The invasion resulted in part from a domestic crisis within the Soviet system.

(F) Final years (1985–91):

  • In the mid-1980s, the new General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the liberalizing reforms of perestroika (“reorganization”) and glasnost (“openness”) and ended Soviet involvement in Afghanistan. Pressures for national independence grew stronger in Eastern Europe, especially Poland. Gorbachev meanwhile refused to use Soviet troops to bolster the faltering Warsaw Pact regimes as had occurred in the past. The result in 1989 was a wave of revolutions that peacefully (with the exception of the Romanian Revolution) overthrew all of the Communist regimes of Central and Eastern Europe.
  • The Communist Party of the Soviet Union itself lost control and was banned following an abortive coup attempt in August 1991. This in turn led to the formal dissolution of the USSR in December 1991 and the collapse of Communist regimes in other countries such as Mongolia, Cambodia and South Yemen. The United States remained as the world’s only superpower.

(1) Gorbachev reforms:

  • By the time the comparatively youthful Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of Soviet Union in 1985, the Soviet economy was stagnant and faced a sharp fall in foreign currency earnings as a result of the downward slide in oil prices in the 1980s. These issues prompted Gorbachev to investigate measures to revive the ailing state.

Perestroika (Restructuring)

  • An ineffectual start led to the conclusion that deeper structural changes were necessary and in June 1987 Gorbachev announced an agenda of economic and political reform called perestroika or restructuring.
  • Perestroika was instituted to restructure Soviet economic and political policy. Seeking to bring the Soviet Union up to economic par with capitalist countries such as Germany, Japan, and the United States, Gorbachev decentralized economic controls and encouraged enterprises to become self-financing.
  • Perestroika relaxed the production quota system, allowed private ownership of businesses and paved the way for foreign investment. These measures were intended to redirect the country’s resources from costly Cold War military commitments to more productive areas in the civilian sector.
  • The economic bureaucracy, fearing the loss of its power and privileges, obstructed much of his program.
  • Gorbachev also proposed reducing the direct involvement of the Communist Party leadership in the country’s governance and increasing the local governments’ authority. In 1988 a new parliament, the Soviet Congress of People’s Deputies, was created. Similar congresses were established in each Soviet republic as well. For the first time, elections to these bodies presented voters with a choice of candidates, including noncommunists, though the Communist Party continued to dominate the system.
  • Perestroika is often argued to be the cause of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe, and the end of the Cold War.
  • Despite initial skepticism in the West, the new Soviet leader proved to be committed to reversing the Soviet Union’s deteriorating economic condition instead of continuing the arms race with the West.

Glasnost, or Openness

  • Glasnost was Soviet policy of open discussion of political and social issues. It began the democratization of the Soviet Union.
  • Partly as a way to fight off internal opposition from party cliques to his reforms, Gorbachev simultaneously introduced glasnost, or openness which increased freedom of the press and the transparency of state institutions.
  • Glasnost was intended to reduce the corruption at the top of the Communist Party and moderate the abuse of power in the Central Committee.
  • Ultimately, fundamental changes to the political structure of the Soviet Union occurred: the power of the Communist Party was reduced, and multicandidate elections took place. Glasnost also permitted criticism of government officials.
  • Glasnost also enabled increased contact between Soviet citizens and the western world, particularly with the United States, contributing to the accelerating détente between the two nations.

Chernobyl disaster

  • The Chernobyl disaster was a catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine (then officially the Ukrainian SSR), which was under the direct jurisdiction of the central authorities of the Soviet Union. An explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere, which spread over much of the western USSR and Europe. The Chernobyl disaster was one of the worst nuclear power plant accident in history in terms of cost and casualties
  • Politically, the accident gave great significance to the new Soviet policy of glasnost, and helped forge closer Soviet–US relations at the end of the Cold War, through bioscientific cooperation. The disaster also became a key factor in the Union’s eventual 1991 dissolution, and a major influence in shaping the new Eastern Europe.

Common European Home

  • Gorbachev presented his concept of “our common European home” during a visit to Czechoslovakia in April 1987.  In his main address in Prague he declared: We assign an overriding significance to the European course of our foreign policy…. We are resolutely against the division of the continent into military blocs facing each other, against the accumulation of military arsenals in Europe, against everything that is the source of the threat of war. In the spirit of the new thinking we introduced the idea of the “all-European house”.

(2) Thaw in relations:

  • In response to the Soviet’s military and political concessions, Reagan agreed to renew talks on economic issues and the scaling-back of the arms race.

The first Reagan-Gorbachev summit (Geneva Summit, 1985)

  • The first summit was held in November 1985 in Geneva, Switzerland in November 1985.
  • A joint statement proposed a 50 percent reduction in the superpowers’ nuclear arsenal.

The second Reagan-Gorbachev summit (Reykjavík Summit, 1986)

  • Reykjavík summit of 1986, meeting held in Reykjavík, Iceland, on October 11 and 12, 1986, between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev.
  • The meeting, the second between the two leaders, was intended to explore the possibility of limiting each country’s strategic nuclear weapons to create momentum in ongoing arms-control negotiations.
  • The Reykjavík summit almost resulted in a sweeping nuclear arms-control agreement in which the nuclear weapons of both sides would be dismantled. Although no agreement was reached, many historians and government officials, including Gorbachev himself, later considered the Reykjavík summit a turning point in the Cold War.
  • Reagan had been committed to opposing the Soviet Union at every opportunity. The White House believed that American supremacy was key to U.S. survival, and it was thought that an accelerated arms race would cause irreparable harm to a faltering Soviet economy. Reagan, however, was gradually being perceived as an extremist hard-liner bent on the complete destruction of the Soviet Union. To allay such fears, he attended the summit meetings.
  • Meanwhile, Gorbachev based his presidency on the dual reform programs of perestroika (“restructuring”) and glasnost (“openness”). The Soviet Union was faltering under the strain of its outmoded economic system and industrial infrastructure. To compete against the West, the Soviet economy and society would need drastic restructuring. Gorbachev, however, could not afford to continue down the path to reform without assurances about national security. He needed an arms-limitation treaty to accomplish that.
  • During the exchange of proposals, the leaders agreed that nuclear weapons must be eliminated, and they nearly produced an agreement to eliminate the Soviet and American nuclear weapons stockpiles by 2000. What prevented such an agreement was the space-based missile defense system known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) under consideration by the United States. President Reagan refused to limit SDI research and technology to the laboratory. Gorbachev, however, would not accept anything less than a ban on missile testing in space.
  • Despite the failure to reach an agreement on that issue, both sides felt that the meeting was a success and that it opened the way for further progress.

The third Reagan-Gorbachev summit (Washington Summit, 1987)

  • Reagan and Gorbachev discussed regional conflicts in Afghanistan, Central America, and Southern Africa, arms control issues for chemical weapons as well as conventional weapons, the status of START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) negotiations, and human rights.
  • A notable accomplishment of the Washington Summit was the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The INF treaty eliminated all nuclear-armed, ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers and their infrastructure.

The fourth Reagan-Gorbachev summit (Mascow Summit, 1988)

  • Reagan and Gorbachev finalized the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) after the U.S. Senate’s ratification of the treaty in May 1988. Reagan and Gorbachev continued to discuss bilateral issues like Central America, Southern Africa, the Middle East and the pending withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. Reagan and Gorbachev continued their discussions on human rights.
  • The parties signed seven agreements on lesser issues such as student exchanges and fishing rights. A significant result was the updating of Soviet history books, which necessitated cancelling some history classes in Soviet secondary schools.

Malta Summit, 1989

  • The Malta Summit comprised a meeting between U.S. President George H. W. Bush and U.S.S.R. leader Mikhail Gorbachev, taking place between December 2-3, 1989, just a few weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was their second meeting following a meeting that included then President Ronald Reagan, in New York in December 1988.
  • No agreements were signed at the Malta Summit. Its main purpose was to provide the two superpowers — the United States and the Soviet Union — with an opportunity to discuss the rapid changes taking place in Europe with the lifting of the Iron Curtain. The summit is viewed by some observers as the official end of the Cold War.
  • During the summit, President Bush expressed his support for Gorbachev’s perestroika initiative, and other reforms in the Communist bloc. Both men announced that there would be a sizeable reduction in troops within Europe as a whole and that a reduction in weaponry would be the main plank of discussions at a meeting scheduled for June 1990.
  • The then Soviet leader, Mikail Gorbachev, later stated that: “The Malta Summit in 1989 was so important, that if it had not taken place, the world out there would be unrecognisable to the one we live in today.”

  • Late on 31 July 1991, Gorbachev and George H. W. Bush signed the START I arms control treaty (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms).

(3) East Europe breaks away (Revolutions of 1989):

  • It became apparent to the Soviets that oil and gas subsidies, along with the cost of maintaining massive troops levels, represented a substantial economic drain. In addition, the security advantage of a buffer zone was recognised as irrelevant and the Soviets officially declared that they would no longer intervene in the affairs of allied states in Central and Eastern Europe. In 1989, Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan.
  • By 1989, the Soviet alliance system was on the brink of collapse, and, deprived of Soviet military support, the Communist leaders of the Warsaw Pact states were losing power. Grass roots organizations, such as Poland’s Solidarity movement, rapidly gained ground with strong popular bases.
  • The Revolutions of 1989 were part of a revolutionary wave that resulted in the Fall of Communism in the Communist states of Central and Eastern Europe. The period is sometimes called the Autumn of Nations.
  • The events began in Poland in 1989, and continued in Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Romania.
  • One feature common to most of these developments was the extensive use of campaigns of civil resistance demonstrating popular opposition to the continuation of one-party rule and contributing to the pressure for change.
  • Romania was the only Eastern Bloc country whose people overthrew its Communist regime violently. Attitudes had changed enough that US Secretary of State James Baker suggested that the American government would not be opposed to Soviet intervention in Romania, on behalf of the opposition, to prevent bloodshed.
  • The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 failed to stimulate major political changes in China. However, powerful images of courageous defiance during that protest helped to spark a precipitation of events in other parts of the globe. (Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 were student-led popular demonstrations in Beijing and received broad support from city residents, exposing deep splits within China’s political leadership. The protests were forcibly suppressed by hardline leaders who ordered the military to enforce martial law in the country’s capital.)
  • On June 4th, Solidarity won an overwhelming victory in a partially free election in Poland leading to the peaceful fall of Communism in that country .
  • Hungary physically dismantled its section of the Iron Curtain leading to a mass exodus of East Germans through Hungary and destabilizing East Germany. This would lead to mass demonstrations in cities such as Leipzig and subsequently to the fall of the Berlin Wall, which served as the symbolic gateway to German reunification in 1990
  • The 1989 revolutionary wave swept across Central and Eastern Europe peacefully overthrew all the Soviet-style communist states: East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria. Romania was the only Eastern-bloc country to topple its communist regime violently and execute its head of state.

(4) Fall of Berlin Wall and German Unification:

  • In 1989, a series of radical political changes occurred in the Eastern Bloc, associated with the liberalization of the Eastern Bloc’s authoritarian systems and the erosion of political power in the pro-Soviet governments in nearby Poland and Hungary. The swift and unexpected downfall of the German Democratic Republic was triggered by the decay of the other communist regimes in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
  • The German reunification was the process in 1990 in which the German Democratic Republic(GDR / East Germany) joined the Federal Republic of Germany ( FRG / West Germany) to form the reunited nation of Germany, and when Berlin reunited into a single city.
  • The East German regime started to falter in May 1989, when the removal of Hungary’s border fence opened a hole in the Iron Curtain. It caused an exodus of thousands of East Germans fleeing to West Germany and Austria via Hungary. Thousands of East Germans had followed this route, while thousands of others sought asylum in the West German embassies in Prague and Warsaw, demanding that they be allowed to emigrate to West Germany. At the end of September, 1989, Genscher, West Germany’s foreign minister, arranged for their passage to West Germany, but another wave of refugees from East Germany soon took their place. Mass demonstrations in the streets of Leipzig and other East German cities defied the authorities and demanded reforms.
  • In an effort to halt the deterioration of its position, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) Politburo deposed Honecker (General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party) in mid-October and replaced him with another hard-line communist, Egon Krenz. Under Krenz the Politburo sought to eliminate the embarrassment occasioned by the flow of refugees to the West through Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.
  • On the evening of November 9, Günter Schabowski, a communist functionary, mistakenly announced at a televised news conference that the government would allow East Germans unlimited passage to West Germany, effective “immediately.” While the government had in fact meant to require East Germans to apply for exit visas during normal working hours, this was widely interpreted as a decision to open the Berlin Wall that evening, so crowds gathered and demanded to pass into West Berlin. Unprepared, the border guards let them go. In a night of revelry tens of thousands of East Germans poured through the crossing points in the wall and celebrated their new freedom with rejoicing West Berliners. Over the next few weeks, euphoric public chipped away parts of the wall. (Fall of Berlin Wall)
  • The opening of the Berlin Wall proved fatal for the German Democratic Republic. Ever-larger demonstrations demanded a voice in government for the people, and in mid-November Krenz was replaced by a reform-minded communist, Hans Modrow, who promised free, multiparty elections. When the balloting took place in March 1990 the SED, now renamed the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), suffered a crushing defeat. The eastern counterpart of West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s Christian Democratic Union, which had pledged a speedy reunification of Germany, emerged as the largest political party in East Germany’s first democratically elected People’s Chamber.
  • A new East German government headed by Lothar de Maizière, a long-time member of the eastern Christian Democratic Union, began negotiations for a treaty of unification. A surging tide of refugees from East to West Germany that threatened to cripple East Germany added urgency to those negotiations.
  • The final barrier to reunification fell in July 1990 when Kohl prevailed upon Gorbachev to drop his objections to a unified Germany within the NATO alliance in return for sizable (West) German financial aid to the Soviet Union.
  • Gorbachev consented to German reunification, the only alternative being a Tiananmen scenario.
  • A unification treaty was ratified by the Bundestag and the People’s Chamber in September and went into effect on October 3, 1990.
  • The fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for German reunification, which was formally concluded on 3 October 1990. When the Berlin Wall came down, Gorbachev’s “Common European Home” concept had began to take shape.
  • Other negotiations between the GDR and FRG and the four occupying powers produced the so-called “Two Plus Four Treaty” (Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany) granting full sovereignty to a unified German state.

(5) Soviet republics break away:

  • In the USSR itself, glasnost weakened the bonds that held the Soviet Union together and by February 1990, with the dissolution of the USSR looming, the Communist Party was forced to surrender its 73-year-old monopoly on state power. At the same time freedom of press and dissent allowed by glasnost and the festering “nationalities question” increasingly led the Union’s component republics to declare their autonomy from Moscow, with the Baltic states withdrawing from the Union entirely after Baltic Way. (The Baltic Way or Baltic Chain was a peaceful political demonstration that occurred on August 23, 1989. Approximately two million people joined their hands to form a human chain spanning 675.5 kilometres across the three Baltic states – Estonian SSR,Latvian SSR, and Lithuanian SSR, republics of the Soviet Union. The protest was designed to draw global attention by demonstrating a popular desire for independence for each of the entities).

(5) Soviet dissolution:

  • Gorbachev’s permissive attitude toward Central and Eastern Europe did not initially extend to Soviet territory; even Bush, who strove to maintain friendly relations, condemned the January 1991 killings in Latvia and Lithuania .

New Union Treaty:

  • The Union of Sovereign States was the proposed name of a reorganization of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (total 15) into a new Confederatory body. Proposed by President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, the proposal was an attempt to avert the collapse of the Soviet Union.
  • The proposal was never implemented in the wake of the August Coup and the eventual dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
  • The overall proposal was resurrected as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

The 1991 Soviet coup d’état attempt (August Putsch or August Coup)

  • It was a coup d’état attempt by a group of members of the Soviet Union’s government to take control of the country from Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev. The coup leaders were hard-line members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) who were opposed to Gorbachev’s reform program and the new union treaty that he had negotiated which decentralised much of the central government’s power to the republics.
  • By August 1991, hard-line elements of the Soviet government and military decided to act and staged a coup against Gorbachev. Gorbachev was put under house arrest, and his enemies demanded that he resign as leader of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev refused, but many outside of Russia began to feel that his government could not survive.
  • Yeltsin and many of his supporters, who had taken refuge in the Russian Parliament, then stepped in. Yeltsin correctly perceived that if the coup were successful, even the limited reforms begun by Gorbachev would be destroyed. He called on the Russian people to strike and take to the streets to oppose the coup. The people responded by the thousands, and the poorly organized coup collapsed only a few days later.
  • Although the coup collapsed in only two days and Gorbachev returned to government, the event destabilised the Soviet Union and is widely considered to have contributed to both the demise of the CPSU and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
  • The damage to the Gorbachev regime was nonetheless disastrous. In December 1991, with the Soviet Union crumbling around him, he resigned as leader of the nation.
  • The USSR was fatally weakened by a failed coup and a growing number of Soviet republics, particularly Russia, who threatened to secede from the USSR.
  • Yeltsin emerged from the crisis as Gorbachev’s heir apparent. When Gorbachev announced his resignation in December, Yeltsin immediately removed all flags of the former Soviet Union from government buildings in the state of Russia and continued to serve as the leader of the most powerful of the former soviet socialist republics.

Dissolution of Soviet Union and The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)

  • The Soviet Union collapsed with dramatic speed in the last quarter of 1991. Between August and December, 10 republics declared their independence, largely out of fear of another coup. By the end of summer, Gorbachev no longer had the authority to influence events outside of Moscow. He was challenged by Yeltsin, who had begun taking over what remained of the Soviet government, including the Kremlin.
  • The final round of the Soviet Union’s collapse began with a Ukrainian popular referendum on December 1, 1991, in which 90 percent of voters opted for independence. The secession of Ukraine, the second-most powerful republic, ended any realistic chance of Gorbachev keeping the Soviet Union together even on a limited scale. The leaders of the three principal Slavic republics, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, agreed to discuss possible alternatives to the union.
  • On December 8, the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus secretly met in Belavezhskaya Pushcha, in western Belarus, and signed the Belavezha Accords, which proclaimed the Soviet Union had ceased to exist and announced formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) as a looser association to take its place. They also invited other republics to join the CIS. Gorbachev called it an unconstitutional coup. However, by this time there was no longer any reasonable doubt that, as the preamble of the Accords put it, “the USSR, as a subject of international law and a geopolitical reality, is ceasing its existence.”
  • On December 12, the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR formally ratified the Belavezha Accords and renounced the 1922 Union Treaty. The Russian deputies were also recalled from the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. The legality of this action was questionable, since Soviet law did not allow a republic to unilaterally recall its deputies. However, no one in either Russia or the Kremlin objected. In effect, the largest and most powerful republic had seceded from the Union. Later that day, Gorbachev hinted for the first time that he was considering stepping down.
  • On December 17, 1991, along with 28 European countries, the European Community, and four non-European countries, the three Baltic Republics and nine of the twelve former Soviet republics signed the European Energy Charter in the Hague as sovereign states.
  • Doubts remained over the authority of the Belavezha Accords to disband the Soviet Union, since they were signed by only three republics. However, on December 21, 1991, representatives of 11 of the 12 former republics – all except Georgia – signed the Alma-Ata Protocol, which confirmed the dissolution of the Union and formally established the CIS.
  • In a nationally televised speech early in the morning of December 25, 1991, Gorbachev resigned as president of the USSR. He declared the office extinct, and all of its powers (such as control of the nuclear arsenal) were ceded to Yeltsin.
  • On the night of December 25, 1991,after Gorbachev left the Kremlin, the Soviet flag was lowered for the last time, and the Russian tricolor was raised in its place, symbolically marking the end of the Soviet Union.
  • CIS was viewed as a successor entity to the Soviet Union but its purpose was to “allow a civilized divorce” between the Soviet Republics and is comparable to a loose confederation.

(G) Effect of Cold War and Effect of end of Cold War:

  • After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia drastically cut military spending, and restructuring the economy left millions unemployed.The capitalist reforms culminated in a recession in the early 1990s more severe than the Great Depression as experienced by the United States and Germany.
Changes in national boundaries after the end of the Cold War
  • The Cold War continues to influence world affairs. The post–Cold War world is considered to be unipolar, with the United States the sole remaining superpower.
  • The Cold War defined the political role of the United States after World War II—by 1989 the United States had military alliances with 50 countries, with 526,000 troops stationed abroad,with 326,000 in Europe (two-thirds of which in west Germany) and 130,000 in Asia (mainly Japan and South Korea).
  • The Cold War also marked the zenith of peacetime military-industrial complexes, especially in the United States, and large-scale military funding of science.
  • U.S. military expenditure during the Cold War was estimated at $8 trillion Nearly 100,000 Americans lost their lives in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Although Soviet casualties are difficult to estimate, as a share of their gross national product the financial cost for the Soviet Union was much higher than that incurred by the United States.
  • In addition to the loss of life by uniformed soldiers, millions died in the superpowers’ proxy wars around the globe. Most of the proxy wars and subsidies for local conflicts ended along with the Cold War; interstate wars, ethnic wars, revolutionary wars, as well as refugee and displaced persons crises have declined sharply in the post–Cold War years.
  • The aftermath of Cold War conflict, however, is not always easily erased, as many of the economic and social tensions that were exploited to fuel Cold War competition in parts of the Third World remain acute. The breakdown of state control in a number of areas formerly ruled by Communist governments produced new civil and ethnic conflicts, particularly in the former Yugoslavia. In Central and Eastern Europe, the end of the Cold War has ushered in an era of economic growth and an increase in the number of liberal democracies, while in other parts of the world, such as Afghanistan, independence was accompanied by state failure.
  • The Cold War had many effects on society, both today and in the past. In Russia, military spending was cut dramatically. The effects of this were very large, seeing as the military-industrial sector had previously employed one of every five Soviet adults and its dismantling left hundreds of millions throughout the former Soviet Union unemployed.
  • After Russia embarked on capitalist economic reforms in the 1990s, it suffered a financial crisis and a recession more severe than the United States and Germany had experienced during the Great Depression.Russian living standards have worsened overall in the post–Cold War years, although the economy resumed growth since 1999.
  • The legacy of the Cold War continues to influence world affairs. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the post–Cold War world is widely considered as unipolar, with the United States the sole remaining superpower.
  • The Cold War also institutionalized a global commitment to huge, permanent peacetime military-industrial complexes and large-scale military funding of science.
  • (Add more points youself)

Q. Who was to blame for Cold War?

  • Historians have changed their views about who was to blame for the Cold War over the years:

Soviet historians

  • They blamed the United States.

The Traditionalists

  • All western writers before the 1970s, and many since, blamed the Cold War on the Soviet Union and its “attempt to impose its ideology on the rest of the world”.

The Revisionists

  • In 1959 the historian William Appleman Williams was the first to suggest that America was to blame.
  • The Revisionists said America was engaged in a war to keep countries open to capitalism and American trade.
  • Revisionists said that Truman’s use of the atomic bomb without telling Stalin was the start of the Cold War.

The Post-Revisionists

  • John Lewis Gaddis first published this idea in 1972.
  • The post-revisionists argued that neither Russia or America was to blame, but that the Cold War was the result of misunderstandings on both sides, and the failure to appreciate each other’s fears.

After the collapse of Communism

  • Russian historians such as Zubok and Pleshakov have been able to study the Soviet Union’s secret files for the first time.
  • These files show that Soviet leaders during the Cold War were genuinely trying to avoid conflict with the USA. This puts more of the blame back on America.
  • Modern historians stress the Cold War as a clash between capitalism and communism.


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