A2 Cold War, Unit 3 Cold War Revision Guide a world Divided: Superpower relations, 1944-90 Contents

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A2 Cold War, Unit 3

Cold War Revision Guide

A World Divided: Superpower relations, 1944-90

This revision guide is intended to guide you to the key essentials necessary for answering questions on Unit 3. You shouldn’t use at it a replacement for your class notes or your own revision notes, but as a way of supplementing them and ensuring you have a firm awareness of major events, individuals and ideas.

  1. The seeds of conflict

  2. Emergence of Cold War, 1944-53

  3. The ‘Thaw’ & ‘Peaceful Co-existence’

  4. The arms impact of the arms race

  5. Sin-Soviet relations

  6. Détente

  7. End of Cold War

Reminder of the structure of Unit 3

  • Unit 3 = 25% of total marks

  • Written exam: 2 hours

  • Answer ONE question from Section A (30 marks), and ONE from Section B (40 marks) - choice of 2 questions in both sections

  • Section A – discuss an historical issue

  • Section B – use source material & knowledge to discuss an historical event

Section A – themes to explore in your revision:

  1. The post-Stalin thaw and the bid for peaceful coexistence in 1950s:

  1. USSR: Khrushchev b) USA: the responses of Dulles, Eisenhower and Kennedy.

  • the continuation of the Cold War in the 1950s following the retirement of Truman & death of Stalin, despite the bid for improved relations on the part of the USSR in the form of unilateral cuts in the size of the Red Army and withdrawal from Austria and Finland.

  • the concept of peaceful coexistence & what motivated Khrushchev & the Soviet leadership, & why the USA under Eisenhower & his Secretary of State, Dulles, and later Kennedy and his staff, responded in the way they did.

  • the role of personality, particularly that of Khrushchev, in shaping relations in these years should be addressed & students should be aware of the Paris Summit, the U2 incident & initial meetings Kennedy & Khrushchev in Vienna.

  • impact on the west of the crushing of the Hungarian rising & continuing tensions over Berlin

  1. The arms race, 1945-1963:

nuclear technology; delivery systems; Cuban missile crisis; Test Ban Treaty, & hot line

  • the impact on international relations of developments in weapons technology.

  • the importance of thermo-nuclear weapons development from the Soviet’s acquisition of fission technology in 1949, the explosion of the first hydrogen bomb in 1952 by the USA and the USSR’s gaining of H–bomb technology 1953

  • the importance of delivery systems and the strides made by both powers in rocket science and the consequent ‘balance of terror’.

  • the stages by which the Cuban Missile Crisis developed should be addressed, as should the process of its resolution and the easing of tensions in 1963, marked by the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the ‘hot line’.

  1. Sino-Soviet relations, 1949-76:

From alliance to confrontation in Asia and its impact on US policy.

  • the complex relationship between the USSR and China and the impact of this on the USA’s relations with both

  • the reasons for the signing of the Soviet–Chinese Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance in February 1950 and the consolidation of the relationship as a result of the outbreak of the Korean War and confrontation between China and the USA over Taiwan.

  • the deterioration in Soviet- Chinese relations from 1958 and the development of full-scale confrontation by 1969 and the reasons for, and significance of, these developments.

  • the launching of ‘ping-pong’ diplomacy, culminating in Nixon’s visit to China, and the use made of it by Nixon and Kissinger to achieve leverage with the Soviet leadership

  1. Détente, 1969-1980: origins of détente and its end

Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) & agreements; Helsinki Accords; impact of

economic realities

  • the period of improved relations between the USA and USSR during the 1970s, when the influence of the ‘realist’ school, articulated notably by Kissinger, appeared to shape US diplomacy.

  • why both powers wished to seek accommodation and the notable features of this accommodation, ie the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty of 1972, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of the same year and the Helsinki Accords of 1975.

  • the critics of détente in both superpowers and the unlooked for significance of the Helsinki Accords for liberalisation in eastern Europe and the USSR

  • The reference to ‘economic realities’ refers to the increasing economic problems of the Soviet block in the 1970s & economic resilience of the west after the oil price shock of 1973 producing a growing imbalance of potential power.

  • the reasons for the breakdown of détente in 1980 with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the election of Thatcher in 1979 and Reagan in 1981.

Section B – themes to explore in your revision
1. The origins of the Cold War from the last year of the Second World War to Stalin’s death. You need to be aware of the different interpretations and use evidence to support or challenge interpretations in the sources:

  • developments in this period from the war-time conferences to

  • confrontations over Berlin and Korea;

  • understand the differing historical emphases on either Soviet or western aggression, on the importance of ideology or

traditional great power rivalry.

2. Reasons for the sudden ending of the Cold War in the 1980s

You need to be aware of the different interpretations and use evidence to support or challenge interpretations in the sources:

  • emphasis on personalities (Reagan, Gorbachev, Thatcher and Pope John Paul)

  • stress on the importance of economics or the moral bankruptcy of Marxist Leninism, or popular protest

  • a combination of chance events & factors.

Seeds of conflict
What were the characteristics of Cold War?
Ideologies : Communism v. capitalism

Capitalism: production of goods and distribution is dependent on private capital with a view to making profit; capitalist economies run by individuals rather than by state

Communism: hostile to capitalism, which exploits workers; ideally all property, businesses & industry should be state-owned, ‘each gives according to their ability to those according to their need’
Economics: Marshall Plan (1947) – provision of fuel, raw materials, goods, loans, food, ……………..machinery advisers

US exploited it financial power to export Western values – dollar imperialism

1948-52, US Congress voted nearly $13bn economic aid to Europe

Trade war with Communist countries, e.g. Cuba

Military tensions: Korean War (1950-3), Vietnam (early 1960s -1973); US …………military …………..build-up, e.g. 1960 2.4 US military personnel around world; …………1959, 1,500 ………….military bases in 31 countries
Treaties: NATO (1949) – North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

SEATO (1954)– South East Asia Treaty Organisation

Warsaw Pact (1955)– military defensive pact amongst eastern European nations

COMECON (1949)– Council for Mutual Economic Assistance

Propaganda: European Recovery Program – propaganda as much as economic ………..exercise

Benefits of Marshall Plan advertised

Italy became a focus of economic rebuilding after WWII - ‘Operation Bambi’ used minstrels, puppet shows and film
Espionage: CIA (1947) – founded to co-ordinate information gathering on ………USSR and ………..Allies. Activities included:

Support for anti-Communist political leaders, e.g. Christian Democrats, 1948 elections

‘Regime change’, e.g. overthrow of left-wing govt in Iran & Guatemala, Operation Executive Action (1961), collaborated with Mafia to overthrow Fidel Castro
Arms race: 1945 US tested and detonated 1st atomic bomb

1949 USSR carried out 1st successful nuclear test

1952 tested 1st H-bomb (2,500x more powerful)

1953, USSR produced H-bomb

1961 enough nuclear weapons to destroy world

1967 China produced H-bomb

1981, USA 8000 ICBMs, USSR 7,000

MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction

Space race: 1957, launch of Sputnik

1957, 1st animal in space

1961, Yuri Gagarin 1st man in space

21 July 1969 Apollo 11 mission successfully land 1st man on moon

Sport & culture: 1980, ‘Miracle on Ice’ – US hockey teams defeats USSR ………‘’giants’

1980 Moscow Olympics, 1984 LA Olympics – boycotted by US & USSR

Ballet – defections to West, e.g. Nureyev

World Chess Championships– Bobby Fisher v. Boris Spassky (1972)


    • Communism capitalism - democracy (different interpretations)

    • US assumptions - poverty, expansionism, oppressive (no choice – forced), evil

    • Spy trials – threat internally – State Dept , McCarthyism

    • Truman Doctrine perceived these as subjugation by armed minorities “free peoples”

    • Marshall aid perceived as having ideological reasons – dollar imperialism

    • Expansionism (Kennan – Russian nature was nationalistic) –proof seen in E Europe/Far East

    • Guilt over appeasement

    • Support for newly created UN

    • Buffer zone/puppet state – different perceptions

    • USSR commitment to world revolution

    • Liberated peoples after 2ww or after colonial powers left want independence/self

      • determination & may choose communism

Personality (Leaders)

    • Stalin paranoid – e.g. purges, fear of invasion – betrayed in 2ww by Hitler but also allies made him wait 2 yrs before opening eastern front; distrusts Truman as kept A bomb secret at Potsdam,

    • Truman – hard headed – ignorant of foreign affairs, persuaded by Riga Axiom & Kennan’s Long telegram rather than Wilsonian liberalism,no appeasement uphold Freedoms in UN charter

    • Change of leaders during 1945: Relations tricky, suspicion personal e.g. Potsdam relations – Molotov swore at Truman. Truman’s “I’m tired of babying the Soviets” and the “only language they understand is the language of force”

  • USA attitudes (point of view)

  • Assumptions (poverty breeds communism, expansionist, evil, monolithic power, puppet states)

  • Fear of appeasement, must confront (little suffering in war)

  • Events of 1945-50 seemed to provide proof for each assumption so justified containment policy

    • Domestic pressure: US spy trials Fucks, Hiss, Rosenburgs 1949 & USSR a bomb, Berlin airlift symbolic support for democracy under threat by another dictator, China communist “soft on communism” – Truman found demands to be tough

USSR attitudes (point of view – perspective)

    • History – fear of invasion: Russian past constant invasion, 1917 & civil war foreign intervention, – betrayed in 2ww by Hitler but also allies made him wait 2 yrs before opening eastern front; suffering huge 20 million, felt needed buffer as protection

    • distrusts Truman as kept A bomb secret at Potsdam, despite being allies, thought bomb dropped in Japan as warning/threat

  • Stalin had agreed with Churchill to have some influence in E Europe after war, not honoured by Truman as not a formalised agreement

National security:

  • conflicting National interests – geopolitical – attitudes & assumptions drove need for security

    • Balance of power/spheres of influence - strategic advantage - containment v. Perceived as hegemony or expansion by other side

    • US perspective different from USSR – result of different histories and war time experiences

    • Conflict over E Europe – Yalta promises not fulfilled, conflict over Poland, Red Army in Europe, elections in France/Italy, no elections liberated states, opposition exiled, killed, imprisoned in E Europe, Greece – Truman Doc/Marshall Aid – buffer zone

    • Conflict over Germany- US rebuild, USSR reparations – Berlin division - airlift

    • Conflict over Far East – Japan (bulwark, defence perimeter)– China., Korea, Vietnam

Threats.. perceived to national security. World peace.. balance of power

  • Actual danger – e.g., Berlin airlift Korean invasion

  • Nuclear advantage: perceived danger of A bomb – arms race/NATO/Warsaw Pact

  • 1949 turning pt China communist – Sino-Soviet Pact – spy trials at home – Berlin – NATO led to NSC 68 – followed by Korean invasion – led to 1st military action UN led invasion of Korea

  • Korea militarised and globalised Cold War


  • Economic containment by US: Marshall Aid, reconstruction of Japan, money to Korea, Vietnam

  • Germany – US rebuild, join zones new currency: USSR reparations

  • Comecon – join E bloc v. Marshall Aid countries , bound by command economy to Moscow

How did WWII make Cold War more likely?

  • Conflicts of personality between Big Three

  • Power vacuum in post-Nazi Germany & Europe

  • Economic recovery

  • Emergence of USA & USSR as superpowers

  • Atomic bomb

  • Red Army – 11 m troops occupied Europe

  • Ideological differences – Wilsonian liberalism v Worldwide Revolution

  • Distrust over conduct of WWII – Second Front

What were the attitudes of the main powers in Europe after WWII?

  • Rebuild & safeguard his country, which had lost 20 million citizens as a result of the war

  • The leader wanted to strengthen the country and prevent the threat of future invasions.

  • The occupation of as many Eastern European countries as possible to create a buffer zone around its borders

  • The country had been invaded 3 times by the West, during WWI, the Civil War and WWII

  • To spread Communism around the world, although this may not have been a primary aim immediately after WWII

  • Gains after the war should be in proportion to the losses it had endured


  • The leader wanted to confront his opponents head on, especially over human rights and democratic values

  • His aims was influenced by the fact he was poorly informed on foreign policy matters and aware of the strength of anti-communist feeling in his own country

  • His foreign policy was strongly influenced by George Kennan’s deeply suspicious ‘Long Telegram’ (1946) and the policy of containment it inspired

  • The leader adopted an ‘Iron Fist’ approach towards foreign policy, in contrast towards Chamberlain’s Appeasement policy of the 1930s

  • The government was keen to protect free trade in Europe to provide a market for US goods

  • Arms industry were keen to keep tensions high, to avoid a downturn in demand after WWII

  • Some within the country favoured a return to isolationism


  • Their leader saw the need for an agreement with Stalin

  • Domestic policy and the setting up of the welfare state was the main consideration

  • They wanted to their allies to stand firm over the threat of Soviet expansion in Eastern Europe

The Emergence of Cold War
Yalta & Potsdam Conferences

Yalta, Feb. 1945

Potsdam, July-Aug. 1945





Russia agreed to enter war against Japan following German surrender

In return Russia would receive territory in Manchuria & Sakhalin Island

Germany temporarily divided into four zones

Berlin divided into four zones

Eastern Europe
'Declaration of Liberated Europe' (to set up democracies in East Europe).

Set up Polish Government of National Unity

International organizations
Setting up of UNO (to replace League of Nations), to which Russia was invited

International War Tribunal to put Nazi war criminals on trial

Stalin wanted Germany to pay USSR reparations

Stalin wanted payments in coal, US wanted coal to rebuild Europe, Russian demands ignored

USSR wanted to extend Polish border too far West for western allies

Stalin disregarded calls for free elections and arrested non-communists

USSR forced Germans to sell food & raw materials to Soviet Union

Some German factories dismantled & moved to USSR

Eastern European
New boundaries agreed (Oder-Niesse rivers formed border between Germany & Poland)
Germany & Berlin divided into separate sectors and zones as agreed at Yalta


Democracy re-established – free press & freedom of speech
International organizations
Nazi Party was to be banned in Germany

Legal trials at Nuremberg of 21 Nazi leaders for war crimes

Allies agreed to participate fully in UNO

Stalin denied a naval base in Mediterranean
Stalin demanded more in reparations than US or GB

US didn’t want to cripple Germany (as in WWI)

Stalin suspicious about why West wanted to protect Germany & help it recover
Stalin set up Communist govt. in Poland

GB preferred non-Communist Polish govt. which had lived in London

US & USSR suspicious of Stalin’s intentions in setting up Communist govt. in Lublin

Iron Curtain speech

  • Delivered during a speech at Fulton, Missouri in March 1946

  • “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow. “

  • Speech given as a private individual – Churchill no longer PM

  • Truman present, and agreed with ‘Iron Fist’ message

  • Moscow branded Churchill ‘warmonger’

Truman Doctrine

  • Kennan’s ‘Long Telegram’, recommending firm action against Soviet expansion (1946)

  • Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech (1946)

  • Civil war between monarchists & communists

  • GB govt unable to continue military & economic aid

  • ‘Iron Fist’ & containment of spread of communism

Marshall Aid

  • Need for economic recovery after WWII

  • ‘The most unselfish act in history’ (Churchill)

  • Market for US goods

  • Avoid global recession

  • Fear of Europe becoming ‘breeding grown’ for communism

Soviet reaction

  • Dollar imperialism

  • Eastern European countries pressurised to refuse

  • Cominform (1947)

  • Comecon (1949)

Soviet expansion in Eastern Europe


Influence of Communism – steps taken to set up Communist regimes


Communists joined a coalition government after the war, becoming outright leaders in 1947, forcing non-communist leader into exile

Romania & Bulgaria

Romania: Communist elected PM, 1945 within a left-wing coalition. 1947, Communists also abolished the monarchy

Bulgaria: left-wing coalition won elections, 1945. Communist members of coalition executed leaders of other parties


Marshal Tito led war-time resistance to the Nazis, elected President in 1945, determined to apply Communism in his own way & expelled from Cominform in 1948


Britain and USA supported Royalist side in a civil war, defeating Communist opposition


Communists became second largest party in 1947 elections. Imprisoned opposition politicians, attacked Church leaders


Left-wing coalition won elections in 1945. Communists became largest single party, but still in a coalition. In 1948, when their position was threatened, banned other parties and made Czechoslovakia a Communist, one-party state


Initially the WWII leader Marshal Mannerheim allowed to stay in power despite cooperating with Hitler, while only one Communist remained in power

Stalin was keen to be moderate in his approach to demonstrate ‘ideological détente’

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