All Cold War mini essays

Terms in this set (52)

One reason the gulf between the Allies widened was because at the Tehran Conference in 1943 the Soviets wanted the opening of a second front to happen immediately, while the Americans wanted to delay the Normandy landings to 1944. Stalin suspected the Americans wanted to bleed the Red Army white so that they could then dominate the post-war world. This did not cause a long-lasting dispute and so was not the main reason because the success of Allied operations on D-Day meant the issue was soon forgotten about.

More important than the second front increasing tensions was the role of personalities and this was revealed at Potsdam in July 1945. Stalin had shown that he was paranoid and aggressive by using the Red Army to impose his rule in Eastern Europe, despite having promised free elections a few months earlier at Yalta. President Truman also demonstrated that he, too, was willing to use intimidation and not show any trust when he announced that he had a nuclear weapon but refused to share the technology. But differences between the Allies would probably have developed anyway, whoever the leaders were, because mutual fear of each other's viewpoint was so deeply entrenched.
The main reason the gulf widened was because of ideological differences between communism and capitalism, which had been buried during the common fight against Nazi Germany. As soon as Hitler died in April 1945 there was no need for the Allies to stay together. Contrasting views about dictatorship versus democracy or the free market versus state control of the economy were so fundamental that they could not be reconciled. Events like the Tehran Conference and the role of personalities like Stalin merely sharpened an inevitable division between the Allies.
One reason why Stalin blockaded Berlin was because he resented the presence of Western forces in West Berlin. Why should he share the occupation of this city in which the Red Army had captured it by themselves at the cost of 100,000 dead Russian soldiers? Moreover, Berlin was a symbol of power over Europe and a valuable prize because it had been the heart of Nazi Germany. Nevertheless, Stalin had accepted the four zones of occupation agreed at Yalta and Potsdam in 1945 so there must have been more vital reasons for a blockade.

The problem of Berlin grew when the Western powers decided in 1948 to unite their zones of occupation into Trizonia. This went against the war time agreements made three years earlier. Stalin was already suspicious of American intentions because of the Truman Doctrine, which stated in 1947 that the US would give military aid to anyone resisting communism. It was effectively a declaration of the Cold War and Stalin felt increasingly defensive.

The Truman Doctrine did not directly apply to Berlin but the Marshall Plan did and this alarmed Stalin because American financial resources were being offered to promote capitalism. Confirmation that the US was attempting to build up West Berlin as a 'capitalist island in a communist sea' came when a separate and stronger currency, the Deutschmark, was introduced into Trizonia. Berlin's location in the middle of Soviet controlled East Germany meant that Stalin could not ignore this challenge. The main reason Stalin blockaded Berlin was because he wanted to consolidate his grip on Eastern Europe.
Relations between the Soviet Union and the USA were quite good in 1943 because they were allies in the common fight against Hitler. However relations rapidly deteriorated once the war was over in 1945. One reason for the change was the Czech coup in 1947. The brutal seizure of power in which non-Communists like the Foreign Minister, Masaryk, were defenestrated, was confirmation that Stalin had established an 'iron curtain' in which all traces of democratic government and free enterprise were extinguished. Nevertheless, the Czech coup was not that vital because it was just one Eastern European country among several that had been crushed by the Soviet Union.

More important than the Czech coup was the Marshall Plan because it affected the whole of Western Europe. This was a financial package worth $17 billion given by the USA in 1947 to help the European economies recover from the devastation of World War Two. It was granted on condition that free trade was allowed for American companies. Stalin condemned the Marshall Plan as 'dollar imperialism' because he believed the Americans were using their money to manipulate countries into becoming capitalist economies. But despite the sharpening of ideological divisions caused by the Marshall Plan it was unlikely to provoke war and so only had a fair impact on changing relations.

More important than either the Czech Coup or the Marshall Plan was the 1948-9 Berlin Blockade, which could have sparked off World War Three. The stakes were very high for both sides because Berlin was the key city in Europe and had great symbolic value. The Soviets resented the presence of the Western powers , particularly when the Americans, British and French united their zones of occupation into Trizonia. Stalin tried to starve West Berlin into submission by cutting off all land links; but the Americans could not stand aside when presented with such a provocative act and so airlifted supplies. Relations reached a peak of tension as Stalin considered shooting down US aircraft. This was the most critical point during the years 1943-49.
Relations between the Soviet Union and the USA were quite good in 1943 because they were allies in the common fight against Hitler. However relations rapidly deteriorated once the war was over in 1945. One reason for the change was the Czech coup in 1947. The brutal seizure of power in which non-Communists like the Foreign Minister, Masaryk, were defenestrated, was confirmation that Stalin had established an 'iron curtain' in which all traces of democratic government and free enterprise were extinguished. Nevertheless, the Czech coup was not that vital because it was just one Eastern European country among several that had been crushed by the Soviet Union.

More important than the Czech coup was the Marshall Plan because it affected the whole of Western Europe. This was a financial package worth $17 billion given by the USA in 1947 to help the European economies recover from the devastation of World War Two. It was granted on condition that free trade was allowed for American companies. Stalin condemned the Marshall Plan as 'dollar imperialism' because he believed the Americans were using their money to manipulate countries into becoming capitalist economies. But despite the sharpening of ideological divisions caused by the Marshall Plan it was unlikely to provoke war and so only had a fair impact on changing relations.

More important than either the Czech Coup or the Marshall Plan was the 1948-9 Berlin Blockade, which could have sparked off World War Three. The stakes were very high for both sides because Berlin was the key city in Europe and had great symbolic value. The Soviets resented the presence of the Western powers , particularly when the Americans, British and French united their zones of occupation into Trizonia. Stalin tried to starve West Berlin into submission by cutting off all land links; but the Americans could not stand aside when presented with such a provocative act and so airlifted supplies. Relations reached a peak of tension as Stalin considered shooting down US aircraft. This was the most critical point during the years 1943-49.
One reason relations grew worse in 1949 to 1955 was because the Cold War spread to Asia in the Chinese Revolution, which was soon followed by the Korean War in 1950. The Soviets equipped North Korea with weaponry, while the Americans, who believed Communism was trying to take over the whole world, committed thousands of troops to the conflict. This was not the most important reason for growing tensions, however, because the Korean War ended in stalemate in 1953 and Asia remained relatively quiet for the next few years.

More important than the Cold War in Asia in worsening relations was the creation of military alliances. In response to the Berlin Blockade a military alliance of Western Powers, NATO, was established in 1949 to challenge the Red Army. Soviet fears were then emphasised when West Germany joined NATO in 1955, prompting the creation of a Communist military alliance, the Warsaw Pact. There were now two opposing armed camps deeply suspicious of each other and planning for the possibility of World War Three.

Above all, it was the nuclear arms race that preoccupied the leaders on both sides and made the military alliances so dangerous. In 1949 the Russians exploded an A-bomb, thereby ending American complacency about its nuclear monopoly. The stakes were raised higher when a new generation of weapons, the much more powerful H-Bomb, was developed by the USA in 1952. The Americans were particularly alarmed because it took the Russians only ten months to catch up and invent their own H-Bomb. The reason why the nuclear arms race is the most important factor is because the superpowers could threaten each other with complete and utter destruction
One reason the Hungarian uprising occurred was because it was encouraged by the Americans, such as the Secretary of State, Dulles, who promised to 'roll back' the Iron Curtain and said 'you can count on us'. Hungarians were aware of this view because Radio Free Europe was used by the Americans to promote anti-communist propaganda. But the American role was not the key factor because President Eisenhower himself was more cautious in offering support and in the Presidential election campaign of 1956 he presented himself as 'the peace candidate'.

A more important reason for the uprising than the Americans was Khrushchev's policy of de-Stalinisation. He made a speech in 1956 denouncing Stalin's oppressive government and promising to allow 'different roads to socialism' in the satellite states of Eastern Europe. This speech was a major reason for the uprising because Hungarians were no longer so fearful of the Soviet response to reform. The people of Hungary began to riot against the government and Nagy came to power proposing to introduce democratic government and that Hungary should leave the Warsaw Pact.

Khrushchev's policy of de-Stalinisation provided Nagy with the opportunity, but the most important reason for the uprising in the first place was resentment of Soviet rule, which had been building up ever since Hungary was occupied by the Red Army in 1945. The government under Rakosi had fixed elections, got rid of opposition to Communism by using a secret police and enforced censorship. The people of Hungary had also suffered lower living standards because they had been forced to trade with the Soviet Union on unfavourable terms.
One reason the Berlin Wall was built was because Khrushchev believed President Kennedy was weak. Khrushchev met Kennedy at the Vienna Summit in 1961 and was not impressed, concluding that the new President was young, inexperienced and a rich playboy who would not resist his plans for a wall preventing movement between the two halves of the city. This was not a vital factor, however, because he would probably have constructed the wall regardless who was President since the alternative candidate in the 1960 election, Richard Nixon, did not advocate a tougher line than JFK.

A more important reason than the personality of the American President was the wider context of the end of the thaw. Tension had already been mounting between the superpowers ever since Khrushchev invaded Hungary in 1956, and this escalated during the U2 crisis in 1960 in which an American spy plane was shot down over Soviet air space. Khrushchev walked out of the Paris Summit in protest, showing his increasing aggressiveness and reluctance to negotiate with the Americans. A crisis over Berlin was therefore likely to occur.
The end of the thaw, however, does not explain the root cause of problems in Berlin. The most important reason for building the wall was to stop the flow of refugees. During the 1950s almost 3 million people had used Berlin as a gap in the iron curtain to escape to the West. Khrushchev was determined to stop this exodus because they were mostly young and skilled, the people East Germany could least afford to lose. Moreover, the refugees, who were seeking a better life under capitalism, undermined communist propaganda claims about the benefits of the 'Workers Paradise'. This was key because Khrushchev had to take radical action or risk losing credibility.
One reason relations between the USA and the USSR worsened was because of the U2 crisis in 1960. An American spy plane was shot down over Soviet airspace and President Eisenhower denied its existence. Khrushchev, however, was able to expose Eisenhower as a liar by showing off the captured pilot, Gary Powers. In protest, Khrushchev walked out of the Paris Summit. The U2 Crisis was not that critical because spying on each other was common practice and the incident was more of an excuse for Khrushchev to break off relations.
Tensions had already been developing over the more serious issue of Berlin. Almost 3 million East Germans had been using the city as a way to escape to the West and Khrushchev was anxious to plug this gap in the iron curtain. He decided to build a wall in 1961to physically stop the exodus and this provoked the Americans into squaring up to the Russians with tanks at Check Point Charlie. Berlin was considered the most important city in Europe and neither side wanted to be seen backing down. But it would have required an accident to have actually triggered fighting and the Americans gradually accepted the existence of the wall.
The possibility of World War Three was evident in Berlin but it was even more likely to have occurred over the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. This is because nuclear weapons were installed by the Soviets on the island of Cuba, which was on America's doorstep. President Kennedy considered the military option in response to Khrushchev's brinkmanship and only at the last minute was catastrophe avoided. The crisis was the most critical point of the whole of the Cold War and was therefore much more vital than either the U2 crisis or Berlin in affecting superpower relations.
One reason why the relationship changed for the worse was because in 1968 Brezhnev ordered Warsaw Pact forces to crush the 'Prague Spring', an attempt by Dubcek to reform Czechoslovakia. The Americans protested because they had welcomed Dubcek's effort to introduce democratic government and free market economics. However, the Americans had no intention of doing anything more than making speeches condemning the invasion of Czechoslovakia. This was because they had already accepted the right of the Soviets to assert their control over Eastern Europe, as shown by their muted response to the squashing of the Hungarian revolt 12 years earlier.
More important than Prague Spring in changing relations was the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Khrushchev wanted to stop the flow of refugees leaving East Germany for the west and he demanded that the Americans leave West Berlin. When Kennedy refused, the relationship between the Soviet Union and the USA broke down. Khrushchev decided to erect the Berlin wall and it became the most potent symbol of communist 'evil' that would last for decades. Tension increased between the superpowers and there was a stand-off between the tanks of both sides at Check Point Charlie. Nevertheless, the superpowers were not going to go to war over this issue because West Berlin itself was not being attacked.
The most likely trigger of World War Three, and thereby pushing the relationship to its lowest point, was the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The Russians installed nuclear missiles on the island, which was only 90 miles away from the USA and therefore a grave threat. Kennedy declared a blockade of Cuba which would have meant sinking Soviet supply ships had they crossed the line. Fortunately, Khrushchev backed down at the last moment in a game of brinkmanship. During the crisis Kennedy had been advised to bomb or invade Cuba, and had he done so then MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) could have resulted. The danger presented by the Cuban Missile Crisis therefore had a much greater impact on relations than either Prague Spring or the Berlin Wall.
One reason relations worsened was because of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Warsaw Pact forces crushed Dubcek's attempt at liberalising his country, known as the 'Prague Spring', and this provoked expressions of outrage from the Americans. The event was not that significant, however, because it was merely confirmation of the Soviet Union's authority over Eastern Europe and its unwillingness to tolerate any reforms. Also, Czech resistance was swiftly crushed with relatively few casualties. The Americans had absolutely no intention of intervening and the event was soon overshadowed by other problems in the world.
A more important reason than the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, for growing superpower hostility, was the Vietnam War, which was fought on a larger scale than any other war in the 1960s. By 1968 the Americans had committed half a million troops to fight Soviet backed communist forces. But at no point was the war likely to escalate into more direct confrontation between the superpowers because Vietnam was not that strategically important. Moreover, the Soviets were secretly pleased by the war because it was distracting the Americans and consuming a vast proportion of their military resources that could have been spent on US forces in Europe.
Greater than either Prague Spring or the Vietnam War, in causing relations to worsen, was the continuing nuclear arms race. Despite efforts to avoid another Cuban Missile Crisis by, for example, introducing a telephone hotline in 1963, both sides were building more and more weapons capable of blowing each other up several times over. There was also an intense technological competition, reflected in the space race in which the Americans put a man on the moon in 1969. The stakes could not have been higher and fear of nuclear Armageddon dominated government thinking in both Washington and Moscow.
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