|Everything you wanted to know about the Cold War (Key Topic 2), but were too afraid to ask...
This document is designed to give you an overview of the Cold War. It will contain information which you need to know in your exam. It is NOT everything you should know! You will need to use this knowledge as a basic idea and expand from there. Use it, read it, learn it.
1. I am a Jelly Doughnut!
Since the Berlin Blockade and Airlift in 1948 – 49, Berlin had continued to be a point of tension between the superpowers. Between 1949 and 1961 4 million Germans fled from East to West by going through Berlin. The Soviets were worried about the loss of people and the possibility of the West spying on them through Berlin.
Figure - Doughnut lover JFK
In 1958 Nikita Khrushchev proposed that everyone leave Berlin and it would stop being a problem. Initially, this sounded good and the Americans agreed to a meeting to discuss Berlin and Nuclear Weapons to be held in Paris on 14th May 1960.
However on May 5th 1960 the Soviets announced they had shot down an American U2 Spyplane, captured the pilot and put him on trial. This derailed the entire plan and led to increased tension once more.
The main problems Khrushchev had over Berlin were
West Germany joined NATO in 1955 and the EEC in 1957. It was becoming stronger as an economic and military power. When Germany is strong, it tends to invade people. Or so Khrushchev thought.
The loss of manpower was starting to cripple the East German economy. The best and brightest were leaving for the West, meaning the east was getting worse.
Khrushchev felt he could bully the new American President – John F. Kennedy into giving up on Berlin. At the Vienna conference (June 1961) Khrushchev made those demands. Kennedy responded by increasing the American spending on the military!
August 13th 1961 – Khrushchev closes the border between East and West and starts to set up a barbed wire fence with guards to stop people crossing. By the next day, a concrete wall had been built and the Berlin Wall was a true divider in the Iron Curtain.
The results of the crisis were quite simple
Khrushchev stopped the flow of people to the West – stabilising the economy of East Germany
Despite the speech about being one of them (or a doughnut, depending on your point of view) Kennedy had not gone to war over Berlin
The Wall became a symbol of the division between East and West. Unlike the Blockade – the wall was not meant to stop supplies getting into West Berlin, it was designed to not allow people to flee to the West!
2. Viva La revolución!
Figure - 1950s Revolutionaries. Beards are required.
During the 1950s both the USSR and the USA started a game called who could build the biggest and best nuclear bomb. The Arms Race grew through the 1950s as both sides spent billions to developed more sophisticated methods of killing thousands. This also spilled over into a Space Race as both sides looked to develop their space technology – fearing the other side would be able to put weapons into space. The US also started putting missiles and nuclear bombers into its bases in Western Europe an act which scared the USSR.
In 1959 there was a revolution in Cuba – an island only 90 miles from America. The new leader Castro kicked out all American business. In return, America stopped buying sugar from Cuba – the main source of income for the island. The USSR started trading with Cuba and the two countries soon became close allies, with Cuba dependant on the USSR for technology, finance and protection.
In 1961 the Americans helped to finance, plan and support an invasion of Cuba by those who had been kicked out in 1959. This has become known as The Bay of Pigs. The invasion was supposed to get rid of Castro but failed utterly, with the invading force all being killed or captured. The results were:
Public Embarrassment for the US
Cuba and Castro were pushed even closer to the USSR
The USA was seen as an aggressive country – picking on those weaker than it
Cuba started to look for other ways to defend itself
3. So. What does this button do?
By the end of 1961 Cuba had fully converted to communism. Throughout 1962 Soviet military supplies and personal were landing on the Island. The Soviets saw this as a chance to spread communism close to America. They also felt they were justified in their actions as:
Figure - Push the button?
They were protecting a weaker ally from a much more powerful enemy
They were only doing what America had already done. The US had military basis in Japan, Germany, Britain and more recently Turkey
In September 1962 the USSR started to install missile in Cuba. They claimed they were defensive missiles to help protect Cuba if it was invaded again. On October 14th 1961 a U2 spy plane took photos that showed the USSR were installing IRBMs or Nuclear missiles and these could hit almost any part of America. This started the 13 days.
The American response to the photos was to set up a committee of 12 to discuss what to do. The Americans considered the following plans:
Bomb Cuba and the USSR with Nuclear strikes
Destroy the missile bases with an Air Strike
The Americans decided to blockade Cuba – a relatively safe and sensible option. They refused to allow any Soviet Ship carrying supplies to sail into Cuba. The Americans also started preparing their own military just in case war broke out. The Soviets ordered their ships not to try and break the blockade but the situation remained tense.
On October 26th Khrushchev sent Kennedy a letter offering to remove the missiles from Cuba as long as the blockade was removed and the US promised not to invade.
Hearing nothing in reply, Khrushchev sent a second letter on October 27th. He now offered to remove the missiles as long as the US removed its missiles from Turkey.
When Kennedy replied on October 28th, he accepted the terms of the first letter and the crisis was over, though the consequences were massive for the Cold War
Both sides realised how close they had come to a war that would destroy the world. They both realised the importance of better relations
A telephone hotlink was set up between Washington and Moscow to allow the leaders to talk directly
A Partial Test Ban Treaty was signed in 1963 (Nobody can test Nukes)
A Nuclear non-proliferation treaty was signed in 1968 (Nobody can share Nukes)
Kennedy was gained a victory over Khrushchev in the eyes of the world. The missiles had been removed from Cuba and America gave up nothing was how it seemed. In reality the Americans were to eventually remove their missiles from Turkey, but no one knew this and it was one of the main reasons Khrushchev was replaced in 1964.
4. Czech Please!
Czechoslovakia was one of the key countries within the Soviet Union’s Iron Curtain. It was the only country that shared borders with the USSR itself as well as Western Europe. Yet since its takeover by the Soviets in 1948 the Czechs had not exactly been thrilled with how things were going for a number of reasons
Figure Czechoslovakia is the bright green. Which if this is in black and white doesn't help...
When the communists took over they brutally murdered many non-communists who’d been well liked by the Czech people
The leader Anton Novotny believed in hardline communism and did not introduce many of the de-Stalinisation ideas that came in the East after Stalin’s death.
Comecon forced the Czech to give many of their raw materials to the Soviet Union, which stopped them from using themselves. This led to the Czech economy struggling badly and caused great unrest amongst the people.
In 1967 many leading figures in Czechoslovakia complained about Novtony to the new(ish) leader of the Soviet Union Leonid Brezhnev. Noticing the lack of support he had, Brezhnev soon replaced Novotny with Alexander Dubcek as the leader of the communist Party and in March 1968 a popular General Ludvik Svoboda became the new President.
Once in power Dubcek had a cracking idea. He would make changes to the way that Communism worked in his country so that it would become popular. He was still a committed communist, but wanted to remove the worst parts – he called it ‘socialism with a human face’. The new ideas that Dubcek developed have become known as the Prague Spring. What with them being thought of in Prague, during the Spring time (who said Historians aren’t creative) The key ideas were:
More political freedom including uncensoring the media and allowing free speech
More democratic elections and more than one party
Trade and travel to the west was now possible
Now more arresting and imprisoning people without trial
To the Soviet Union, these changes caused massive alarm bells to ring. They sounded suspiciously democratic and capitalist and they were worried that the Czechs would leave the Warsaw Pact and link with the West. Through the summer of 1968 tension built until on August 20th 1968 the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia.
Figure - Soviet and Czech relations. See how friendly they are?
The invasion itself was lead by the Soviet Union and supported by the rest of the Warsaw Pact. Although the Czechs tried to slow the invasion down by setting up barricades, changing street names to confuse invaders and even trying to argue with the Soviet soldiers that what they were doing was wrong it was relatively non-violent. Fewer than 100 people were killed and Dubcek was forced to accept defeat.
The results for the Czechs were a return to hardline communists and the end of their brief experiment with democracy. The Czech crisis also marked a low point in the period of détente as the US was not happy with the Soviet actions. Yet they did nothing to prevent it since they were too busy in the Vietnam War.
Thus concludes everything you wanted to know about the Cold War and were too afraid to ask (Key Topic 2)... Hope it was useful!