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Emergence of two power blocs: Part III

Emergence of two power blocs: Part III

Thaw and Escalation (1953–62)

Extent of ‘thaw’ in the Cold War in the years after 1953:

  • There is no doubt that in some ways East-West relations did begin to improve during 1953, though there were still areas of disagreement and the thaw was not a consistent development.
  • Reasons for the thaw
    • The death of Stalin:
      • The death of Stalin was probably the starting point of the thaw, because it brought to the forefront new Russian leaders – Malenkov, Bulganin and Khrushchev – who wanted to improve relations with the USA.
      • Their reasons were possibly connected with the fact that by August 1953 the Russians as well as the Americans had developed a hydrogen bomb: the two sides were now so finely balanced that international tensions had to be relaxed if nuclear war was to be avoided.
      • Nikita Khrushchev explained the new policy in a famous speech (February 1956) in which he criticized Stalin and said that ‘peaceful coexistence’ with the West was not only possible but essential.
      • This did not mean that Khrushchev had given up the idea of a communist-dominated world; this would still come, but it would be achieved when the western powers recognized the superiority of the Soviet economic system, not when they were defeated in war.
    • McCarthy discredited
      • Anti-communist feelings in the USA, which had been stirred up by Senator Joseph McCarthy, began to moderate when McCarthy was discredited in 1954.
      • It had gradually become clear that McCarthy himself was something of a fanatic, and when he began to accuse leading generals of having communist sympathies, he had gone too far.
      • The Senate condemned him by a large majority and he foolishly attacked the new Republican President Eisenhower for supporting the Senate. Soon afterwards Eisenhower announced that the American people wanted to be friendly with the Soviet people.
  • How did the thaw show itself?
    • The first signs-
      • The signing of the peace agreement at Panmunjom ended the Korean War in July 1953.
      • The following year the war in Indo-China ended.
    • The Russians made important concessions in 1955
      • They agreed to give up their military bases in Finland.
      • They lifted their veto on the admission of 16 new member states to the UN.
      • The quarrel with Yugoslavia was healed when Khrushchev paid a visit to Tito.
      • The Cominform was abandoned, suggesting more freedom for the satellite states.
    • The signing of the Austrian State Treaty (May 1955)
      • This was the most important development in the thaw.
      • At the end of the war in 1945, Austria was divided into four zones of occupation, with the capital, Vienna, in the Russian zone. Unlike Germany, she was allowed her own government because she was viewed not as a defeated enemy but as a state liberated from the Nazis.
      • The Austrian government had only limited powers, and the problem was similar to the one in Germany: whereas the three western occupying powers organized the recovery of their zones, the Russians insisted on squeezing reparations, mainly in the form of food supplies, from theirs.
      • Early in 1955 the Russians were persuaded, mainly by the Austrian government, to be more co-operative. They were also afraid of a merger between West Germany and western Austria.
      • As a result of the agreement, all occupying troops were withdrawn and Austria became independent, with her 1937 frontiers. She was to remain neutral in any dispute between East and West. This meant that she could not join either NATO or the European Economic Community.
  • The thaw was only partial
    • Khrushchev’s policy was a curious mixture. While making the conciliatory moves, he had no intention of relaxing Russia’s grip on the satellite states. The Hungarians discovered this to their cost in 1956 when a rising in Budapest against the communist government was ruthlessly crushed by Russian tanks. Sometimes he seemed to be prepared to see how far he could push the Americans before they stood up to him.
      • The Warsaw Pact (1955) was signed between Russia and her satellite states shortly after West Germany was admitted to NATO. The Pact was a mutual defence agreement, which the West took as a gesture against West Germany’s membership of NATO.
      • The Russians continued to build up their nuclear armaments.
      • The situation in Berlin caused more tension which ultimately led to the erection of Berlin wall.
      • The most provocative action of all was when Khrushchev installed Soviet missiles in Cuba, less than a hundred miles from the American coast (1962).

Escalation

(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.

(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.
  • Factors responsible:
    • 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.
    • The Hungarians were religious, but the Communist Party had banned religion, and imprisoned Cardinal Mindszenty.
    • Hungarians thought that the United Nations or the new US president, Eisenhower, would help them.
    • 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.
  • Effects of the Hungarian Revolution:
    • Repression in Hungary:
      • Thousands of Hungarians were arrested and imprisoned. Some were executed and 200,000 Hungarian refugees fled to Austria.
    • Russia stayed in control behind the Iron Curtain:
      • No other country tried to get rid of Russia troops until Czechoslovakia in 1968.
    • 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.
    • 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“.

(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 and the United States.
    • 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 Sumatra and North Sulawesi 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 (1956)
    • The circumstances leading to the Suez Crisis
      • Colonel Nasser, the new ruler of Egypt, was aggressively in favour of Arab unity and independence, including the liberation of Palestine from the Jews; almost everything he did irritated the British, Americans or French:
        • He organized guerrilla fighters known as fedayeen to carry out sabotage and murder inside Israel, and Egyptian ships blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba leading to the port of Eilat, which the Israelis had taken from Egypt in 1949.
        • In 1936 Britain had signed an agreement with Egypt which allowed the British to keep troops at Suez.
          • This treaty was due to expire in 1956, and Britain wanted it renewed. Nasser refused and insisted that all British troops should withdraw immediately the treaty ended.
          • He sent help to the Algerian Arabs in their struggle against France, prodded the other Arab states into opposing the British-sponsored Baghdad Pact, and forced King Hussein of Jordan to dismiss his British army chief of staff.
          • He signed an arms deal with Czechoslovakia (September 1955) for Russian fighters, bombers and tanks, and Russian military experts went to train the Egyptian army.
      • The Americans were outraged at this, since it meant that the West no longer controlled arms supplies to Egypt.
        • Egypt now became part of the Cold War: any country which was not part of the Western alliance and which bought arms from Eastern Europe was, in American eyes, just as bad as a communist country.
        • It was seen as a sinister plot by the Russians to ‘move into’ the Middle East.
        • The Americans therefore cancelled a promised grant of $46 million towards the building of a dam at Aswan (July 1956); their intention was to force Nasser to abandon his new links with the communists.
      • Crisis point was reached when Nasser immediately retaliated by nationalizing the Suez Canal, intending to use the income from it to finance the dam.
        • Shareholders in the canal, the majority of whom were British and French, were promised compensation.
      • Britain thought that Nasser was on the way to forming a united Arabia under Egyptian control and communist influence, which could cut off Europe’s oil supplies at will.
        • Eden, British Prime Minister, who recalled Britain’s appeasement of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, looked to military action which might result in Nasser’s downfall and restore Britain’s influence in the region.
        • Everybody in Britain ignored the fact that Nasser had offered compensation to the shareholders and had promised that the ships of all nations (except Israel) would be able to use the canal.
      • Secret talks between British, French and Israelis hatched a plan that Israel would invade Egypt across the Sinai peninsula, whereas British and French troops would occupy the canal zone on the pretext of protecting it from damage in the fighting.
        • Anglo-French control of the canal would be restored, and the defeat, it was hoped, would topple Nasser from power.
    • The war began with the planned Israeli invasion of Egypt (29 October). This was a brilliant success, and within a week the Israelis had captured the entire Sinai peninsula.
      • Meanwhile the British and French bombed Egyptian airfields and landed troops at Port Said at the northern end of the canal.
    • Repercussions on global politics:
      • The intervention in Suez was a disaster.
        • US President Dwight Eisenhower was incensed.
        • The attacks caused an outcry from the rest of the world, and the Americans, who were afraid of upsetting all the Arabs and forcing them into closer ties with the USSR, refused to support Britain.
          • At the United Nations, Americans and Russians for once agreed: they demanded an immediate ceasefire, and prepared to send a UN force.
          • With the pressure of world opinion against them together with the threat of Soviet intervention, Britain, France and Israel agreed to withdraw, while UN troops moved in to police the frontier between Egypt and Israel.
        • In Britain too there had been widespread outrage. Britain in particular found its standing with the US weakened and its influence ‘east of Suez’ diminished by the adventure.
      • The prestige of Britain was shattered and she became weak.
        • She was now unable to follow a foreign policy independent of the USA.
        • The real balance of power in the post-Second World War had been starkly demonstrated and Britain’s prestige was dealt a severe blow
      • The British action soon lost them an ally in Iraq, where premier Nuri-es-Said came under increasing attack from other Arabs for his pro-British attitude; he was murdered in 1958.
      • The war failed to overthrow Nasser, and his prestige as leader of Arab nationalism against interfering Western Powers was greatly increased.
      • The Egyptians blocked the canal, the Arabs reduced oil supplies to Western Europe where petrol rationing was introduced for the first time, and Russian aid replaced that from the USA.
      • The Algerians were encouraged in their struggle for independence from France which they achieved in 1962.
      • The war was not without success for Israel: although she had been compelled to hand back all territory captured from Egypt, she had inflicted heavy losses on the Egyptians in men and equipment, which would take years to make good.
        • For the time being the fedayeen raids ceased and Israel had a breathing space in which to consolidate.
        • Following Britain’s humiliation, the Israelis now looked towards the USA as their chief supporter.
      • 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’.

(5) 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 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 later 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.

(6) 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.

(7) The U2 incident and the Paris summit of 1960:

  • By the end of the 1950s, there was massive tension in the Cold War:
    • The arms race – both sides accepted the need for some kind of Nuclear Test Ban treaty.
    • Berlin – the Russians were furious that many East Germans were fleeing to the west through West Berlin.
    • Cuba – the Americans were worried because Fidel Castro, a Communist, had seized power there in 1959.
    • 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 stormed out of the summit conference.
  • The Cold War had just become substantially more dangerous.
  • Effects of the U2 incident:
    • The Paris meeting collapsed and there was no Test Ban Treaty.
    • There was no discussion about the problem of Berlin – which, ultimately, led to the Berlin Wall.
    • 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.

(8) 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:
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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 loophole 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.”

(9) Bay of Pigs Invasion and Cuban Missile Crisis:

  • Cuba became involved in the Cold War in 1959 when Fidel Castro, who had just seized power from the corrupt, American-backed dictator Batista, outraged the USA by nationalizing American-owned estates and factories.
    • 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.
  • As Cuba’s relations with the USA worsened, those with the USSR improved: in January 1961 the USA broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba, and the Russians increased their economic aid.
  • Bay of Pigs invasion:
    • Convinced that Cuba was now a communist state in all but name, the new US president, John F. Kennedy, approved a plan by a group of Batista supporters to invade Cuba from American bases in Guatemala.
    • The American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was deeply involved.
    • The small invading force of about 1400 men landed at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961, but the operation was so badly planned and carried out that Castro’s forces and his two jet planes had crushed it within three days.
    • Later the same year, Castro announced that he was now a Marxist and that Cuba was a socialist country.
  • Kennedy continued his campaign to destroy Castro, in various ways: Cuban merchant ships were sunk, installations on the island were sabotaged and American troops carried out invasion exercises.
  • Castro appealed to the USSR for military help.
    • Khrushchev decided to set up nuclear missile launchers in Cuba aimed at the USA, whose nearest point was less than a hundred miles from Cuba.
    • He intended to install missiles with a range of up to 2000 miles, which meant that all the major cities of the central and eastern USA such as New York, Washington, Chicago and Boston would be under threat.
    • This was a risky decision, and there was great consternation in the USA when in October 1962, photographs taken from spy planes showed a missile base under construction.
  • Why did Khrushchev take such a risky decision?
    • The Russians had lost the lead in ICBMs, so this was a way of trying to seize the initiative back again from the USA. But it would be wrong to put all the blame for the crisis on the USSR.
    • In 1959 the Americans had signed an agreement with Turkey allowing them to deploy Jupiter nuclear missiles from bases in Turkey.
      • This was before any top-level contacts between Castro and the Russians had taken place.
      • As Khrushchev put it in his memoirs, ‘the Americans had surrounded our country with military bases, now they would learn what it feels like to have enemy missiles pointing at you’.
    • It was a gesture of solidarity with his ally Castro, who was under constant threat from the USA; although the Bay of Pigs invasion had been a miserable failure, it was not the end of the US threat to Castro – in November 1961 Kennedy gave the go-ahead for a secret CIA operation known as Operation Mongoose which aimed to ‘help Cuba overthrow the Communist regime’. Hopefully, the Russian missiles would dissuade such an operation.
    • It would test the resolve of the new, young, American President Kennedy.
    • Perhaps Khrushchev intended to use the missiles for bargaining with the West over removal of American missiles from Europe, or a withdrawal from Berlin by the West.
  • Kennedy’s military advisers urged him to launch air strikes against the bases but he acted more cautiously:
    • He alerted American troops, began a blockade of Cuba to keep out the 25 Russian ships which were bringing missiles to Cuba and demanded the dismantling of the missile sites and the removal of those missiles already in Cuba.
  • The situation was tense, and the world seemed to be on the verge of nuclear war. The Secretary-General of the UN, U Thant, appealed to both sides for restraint.
  • Khrushchev made the first move: he ordered the Russian ships to turn back, and eventually a compromise solution was reached.
    • Khrushchev promised to remove the missiles and dismantle the sites; in return Kennedy promised that the USA would not invade Cuba again, and undertook to disarm the Jupiter missiles in Turkey (though he would not allow this to be announced publicly).
    • At the vital moment, a US U2 spy plane was shot down. However, Kennedy ignored the U2 attack.
  • Castro was furious with Khrushchev for ‘deserting’ him apparently without consulting the Cubans, and Cuban-Soviet relations were extremely cool for several years.
  • 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 crisis had only lasted a few days, but it was extremely tense and it had important results.
    • 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 Moscow and Washington to allow swift consultations if there was a crisis.
      • In July 1963, a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed by the USSR, the USA and Britain, agreeing to carry out nuclear tests only underground to avoid polluting the atmosphere any further.
      • In 1968, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed – the superpowers promised not to supply nuclear technology to other countries.
    • Both sides could claim to have gained something, but most important was that both sides realized how easily a nuclear war could have started and how terrible the results would have been.
    • It seemed to bring them both to their senses and produced a marked relaxation of tension.
  • At first Kennedy’s handling of the crisis was highly praised.
    • Most American commentators argued that by standing up to the Russians and by resisting pressure from his own army Chiefs of Staff for a military response, Kennedy defused the crisis and achieved a peaceful settlement.
    • In order to lay all the blame for the crisis on the USSR, the Americans emphasized that Khrushchev and various Russian diplomats had repeatedly lied, insisting that they had no intention of building missile bases in Cuba.
    • However, some later historians were more critical of Kennedy.
      • A few accused him of missing a chance to solve the problem of Cuba once and for all – he ought to have called Khrushchev’s bluff, attacked Cuba and overthrown Castro.
      • Others criticized Kennedy for causing the crisis in the first place by placing nuclear missiles in Turkey and repeatedly trying to destabilize the Castro regime.
      • It was also pointed out that since Soviet long-range missiles could already reach the USA from Russia itself, the missiles in Cuba did not exactly pose a new threat.
  • Meanwhile, Khrushchev lost prestige. China broke off relations with Russia and, in 1964, he was forced to resign as Soviet leader.
  1. 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;
    • The physical separation of east and west in Berlin.
  • Opinions:
    • 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:
      • Between 1949 and 1963, the Cold War developed with a series of major crises.
      • “When Stalin died in 1953, there was a slight improvement in relations between East and West, although problems still existed.
      • Khrushchev’s blustering vigour, his love of travel and of argument and his willingness to take risks left their mark on these years.
      • 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.
      • 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.
      • 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.
      • The Cold War was a mixture of a religious crusade in favour of one ideology or the other and the most ruthless power politics.

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