In many of these states, longtime Communist leaders were purged and condemned in show trials like those that took place in Moscow during the 1930s.
The Postwar Division of Germany
Soviet actions, especially those in Czechoslovakia, increased the determination of the United States to go ahead with its own arrangements in Germany.
Disagreements over Germany
Generally speaking, after World War II the Allies agreed that Germany must be dismembered; however, as Soviet expansion took sway after the war, some believed that unification must be maintained to prevent Russian dominance.
Economic policies in eastern and western Germany
The Russians swiftly dismantled German industry in the eastern zone
Fearing the rise of radicalism, the United States wanted to help Germany become self-sufficient which meant restoring, rather than destroying industry.
The Soviets claimed the right to industrial equipment in all zones, and the Americans resisted their demands.
Arab inhabitants of Palestine considered the Jewish settlement an intrusion and violent clashes ensued.
The dreadful plight of the European Jewish community during World War II united the Jewish community throughout the world who won sympathy from the Western powers to whom it seemed morally right to do something for the Jewish refugees of Nazi concentration camps.
The UN Resolution
In 1947, Britain turned to the United Nations to settle disputes between the Arab and Jewish inhabitants in Palestine.
The United Nations passed a resolution that divided Palestine into two states, on Jewish and one Arab.
The Arabs in Palestine resisted the resolution and many were displaced and became refugees.
Israel Declares Independence
In May 1948, the British officially withdrew from Palestine and the Yishuv declared the independence of a new Jewish state called Israel on May 14, 1948.
US President Truman officially recognized Israel’s statehood
David Ben-Gurion was Israel’s first prime minister.
Immediately, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq invaded Israel.
Fighting lasted for about two years and Israel extended its borders much further than that which was defined by the UN resolution.
Both the Soviet Union and the US had major economic interest in the Middle East.
Soviet Union negotiated relationships with Arabs in the Middle East
The existence of the state of Israel would become one of the major points of contention between the United States and the governments of the various Arab states and later one of the chief complaints of radical political Islamists against the United States.
The Korean War
Origins of the Korean War
As part of a UN police action, the United States intervened militarily in Korea, following the same principle of containment that directed its actions in Europe.
Japan, an Asian colonial power, had occupied and exploited the former independent kingdom of Korea, but at the close of World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union expelled the Japanese and divided Korea into two parts along the thirty-eighth parallel.
Two independent states emerge
Democratic People’s Republic in the north, supported by the Soviet Union
Republic of Korea in the south, supported by the United States.
In late June 1950, after border clashes, North Korea invaded South Korea across the thirty-eighth parallel.
The United States intervened unilaterally at first but was there under the authority of the UN.
Great Britain, Turkey, Australia, and other countries sent token forces
For the United States, the point of the Korean conflict was to contain the spread and halt the aggression of communism.
When UN forces came near the border with China, the Chinese responded by sending troops to support North Korea.
At the time, the United States believed the movement of Chinese troops into Korea was yet another example of communist pressure against a noncommunist state, and that China was a puppet of Moscow.
However, it is now well known that Stalin and Mao Zedong disliked each other and there was tension between Moscow and China.
On June 16, 1953, the Eisenhower administration concluded an armistice ending the Korean War restoring the border near the thirty-eighth parallel.
Thousands of American troops are still stationed in South Korea.
The Korean War confirmed the American government’s faith in containment.
Section Two: The Khrushchev Era in the Soviet Union
Stalin’s Soviet Union after World War II
No other nation suffered greater losses or depravation than the Soviet Union during World War II.
When the war ended, the Russian people hoped there would be a reduction in the scope of the police state and a redirection of the economy away from heavy industry and toward consumer products.
Leadership gradually fell to Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971), who had been named party secretary in 1953 and three years later he became premier.
Khrushchev’s Domestic Policies
Khrushchev sought to reform the Soviet system but to maintain the dominance of the Communist Party.
Intellectuals were freer to express their ideas.
For example, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was allowed to publish One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich in 1963 which was a grim account of life in a Soviet labor camp under Stalin.
Khrushchev made modest efforts to meet the demand for more consumer products and to decentralize economic planning.
In agriculture, he removed restrictive regulations on private cultivation and sought to expand the area available for growing wheat.
The Secret Speech of 1956
At the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party, Khrushchev delivered a secret speech in which he denounced Stalin and his crimes against socialist justice during the purges of the 1930s.
Gradually, Khrushchev removed the strongest supporters of Stalinist policies from the presidium.
Khrushchev’s speech alerted Communist parties in Eastern Europe that they could govern with greater leeway than before.
The Three Crises of 1956
The Suez Intervention
In July 1956, President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970) of Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal which threatened British and French—who organized the construction and maintenance of the canal—shipping interest in the Persian Gulf.
In October 1956, War broke out between Israel and Egypt.
Lacking the support of the United States, the British and the French intervened militarily on the side of Egypt but were forced out of the conflict when the Soviet Union vehemently protested their involvement.
The Suez intervention proved that without the United States, the nations of Western Europe could no longer impose their will on the rest of the world.
Polish Efforts Toward Independent Actions
When the prime minister of Poland died in 1956, the Polish Communist Party refused to replace him with Moscow’s nominee, despite considerable pressure from the Soviet nations.
Wladyslaw Gomulka (1905-1982) emerged as the new Communist leader of Poland.
He was the choice of the Poles.
The Soviets accepted him as he promised to continue economic and military cooperation with Moscow and he continued Poland’s membership in the Warsaw Pact.
The Hungarian Uprising
Demonstrations of sympathy for the Poles in Budapest led to street fighting.
The Hungarian communists installed a new ministry headed by former premier Imre Magy (1896-1958) who sought greater autonomy from Moscow.
He supported an independent Communist state for Hungary.
He appealed to non-communist groups for support in Hungary.
He called for the removal of Soviet troops and the ultimate neutralization of Hungary.
In 1958, Soviet troops invaded Hungary, deposed Nagy, who was later executed, and imposed Janos Kadar as premier.
Section Three: Later Cold War Confrontations
After 1956, the Soviet Union—having displayed technological superiority over the West with the launching of Sputnik—began to discuss peaceful coexistence with the United States.
In 1958, the two nations began negotiating limits on nuclear weapons.
Western leaders visited Moscow.
Khrushchev toured the United States in 1959.
Summit meeting scheduled for May 1960 and President Eisenhower was scheduled to go to Moscow
Just before the Paris Summit Conference, the Soviet Union shot down an American U-2 aircraft that was flying reconnaissance over Soviet territory.
Eisenhower accepted full responsibility for the surveillance policy but refused to apologize publicly to Khrushchev.
Consequently, Khrushchev refused to attend the summit conference and Eisenhower’s visit to Moscow was canceled.
By 1960, the communist world had been divided between the Soviet Union and China who were portraying the Russians as lacking revolutionary zeal; boycotting the conference showed the soviet willingness to take a hard-line stance against the capitalist world.
The Berlin Wall
Throughout 1961, thousands of refugees from East Berlin crossed the border into West Berlin
The United States had dominated the island since the Spanish-American War in 1898.
In 1957, Fidel Castro (b. 1926) launched an insurgency in Cuba which toppled the dictatorship of Flugencio Batista (1901-1973) on New Year’s Day 1959.
Castro formed a communist government and Cuba became an ally of the Soviet Union.
In 1962, the Soviet Union secretly began to place nuclear missiles in Cuba and, in response, the American government blockaded Cuba, which halted the shipment of new missiles.
After a tense week, when nuclear war seemed a real possibility, the Soviets backed down, and the crisis ended.
Khrushchev’s decision to back down to the US made many Soviets question his commitment to their security and survival.
This crisis convinced Soviet military leaders that they needed to strengthen their military so they would be stronger than the United States.
In 1963, the United States and Soviet Union concluded a nuclear test ban treaty.
Section Four: The Brezhnev Era
By 1964, many in the Soviet Party were unhappy with the results of Khrushchev’s policies and, therefore, forced him to resign.
Khrushchev was replaced by Alexei Kosygin (1904-1980) as premier and Leonid Brezhnev (1906-1982) as party secretary.
Brezhnev emerged as the dominant figure in the Soviet government.
1968: The Invasion of Czechoslovakia
The Prague Spring 1968
Czechoslovakian leader Alexander Dubcek (1921-1992) began to experiment with a more liberal communism.
He expanded intellectual rights and freedom of discussion at a time when the Soviet Union was suppressing them.
In the summer of 1968, the Soviet government and its allies in the Warsaw Pact sent troops into Czechoslovakia and replaced Dubcek with communist leaders more to their liking.
Brezhnev Doctrine declared the right of the Soviet Union to interfere in the domestic politics of other communist nations
Whereas the Truman Doctrine of 1947 had supported democratic governments and offered help to resist further communist penetration in Europe, the Brezhnev Doctrine of 1968 sought to sustain communist governments of Eastern Europe and prevent any liberalization in the region.