Cold War

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  • Created on: 24-05-19 08:32

The Specification

AQA GCSE History: Conflict and tension between East and West, 1945–1972

Part one: The origins of the Cold War

  • The end of the Second World War: Yalta and Potsdam Conferences; the division of Germany; contrasting attitudes and ideologies of the USA and the USSR, including the aims of Stalin, Churchill, Roosevelt, Attlee and Truman; effect of the dropping of the atom bomb on post-war superpower relations.
  • The Iron Curtain and the evolution of East-West rivalry: Soviet expansion in East Europe; US policies; the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan, their purpose and Stalin’s reaction; Cominform; Comecon; Yugoslavia; the Berlin Blockade and Airlift. 

Part two: The development of the Cold War

  • The significance of events in Asia for superpower relations: USSR's support for Mao Tsetung and Communist revolution in China, and the military campaigns waged by North Korea against the UN and by the Vietcong against France and the USA.
  • Military rivalries: the arms race; membership and purposes of NATO and the Warsaw Pact; the space race, including Sputnik, ICBMs, Polaris, Gagarin, Apollo.
  • The ‘Thaw’: Hungary, the protest movement and the reforms of Nagy; Soviet fears, how they reacted and the effects on the Cold War; the U2 Crisis and its effects on the Paris Peace Summit and the peace process. 
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Specification cont.

Part three: Transformation of the Cold War

  • Berlin Wall: reasons for its construction and Kennedy’s response.
  • Tensions over Cuba: Castro’s revolution, the Bay of Pigs and the missile crisis: the roles of Castro, Khrushchev, Kennedy; fears of the USA and reaction to missiles on Cuba; dangers and results of crisis.
  • Czechoslovakia: Dubeck and the Prague Spring movement; USSR’s response to the reforms; the effects the Prague Spring had on East-West relations, including the Warsaw Pact; the Brezhnev Doctrine.
  • Easing of tension: sources of tension, including the Soviets' record on human rights; the reasons for Détente and for SALT 1; the part played by key individuals Brezhnev and Nixon.
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Ideological Differences

Part of the tension between the USA and the USSR was caused by their ideological differenes.

The USA was capitalist. They valued private enterprise and believed that anyone could work their way to the top.

The USSR was communist. This meant satate control of industry and agriculture, and that all wealth was shared equally.

The USA was scared of communism, and people feared having all of their money taken away.

The USSR allowed only one political party (the Communist Party), while the USA valued political freedom.

Communism aimed at world revolution, so was seen by America as a danger to their democracy, while communists feared worldwide American influence.

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Aims of Leaders - Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stal


  • Aware of Stalin's ambitions to expand his territory and influence in Europe
  • Percentages agreement reflected his determination to look after British interests and limit Stalin's expansion
  • Wanted a close relationship with the USA
  • Determined not to compromise too much with the Soviets


  • Elected President in 1932
  • Wholly committed to working with the USSR
  • Believed that only a Europe built on American capitalist principles could prevent a future war
  • May have misunderstood Stalin's aims


  • War devastated the Soviet Union
  • Millions dead, towns, industry, and agriculture destroyed
  • Wanted to ensure that it never happened again
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Aims of Leaders cont. - Stalin and Truman

Stalin cont.

  • Ministers and advisors distrustful of USA and Britain (capitalism)
  • Recognised the need for cooperation
  • Prepared to negotiate
  • Good working relationship with other leaders despite ideological differences

Before the Potsdam Conference, Roosevelt died and was replaced by Truman, and Churchill lost the election to Atlee


  • Shared many goals with Roosevelt
  • Unfriendly relationship with Stalin
  • Concerned about the growth of Soviet power in Russia
  • Quickly convinced that Stalin wasn't interested in cooperation
  • Willing to use force to achieve America's aims
  • Saw the fact that the USA had the first atomic bomb as a way of ensuring that he got what he wanted
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Aims of Leaders cont. - Atlee


  • Concerned by USSR's expansion into Europe
  • Key to a peaceful Europe lay in making sure Germany was safe from attack
  • Wanted to focus on improving the lives of people in post-war Britain
  • Large scale social reform, including creation of the NHS and the welfare state, was a key priority - more focused on internal that external issues
  • Recognised the reality of Britain's position - no longer the dominant power it once was
  • Saw it as vital that Britain remained close to the USA in the face of growing Soviet power
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The Grand Alliance

The Grand Alliance was made up of the 'big three' allies from World War Two - Britain, the USA and the USSR. They were initially united by a desire to defeat Nazi Germany, but when the war ended, tensions emerged.

1943 - Conference at Tehran

  • Talks at Tehran focused on how to defeat Germany, though they began to discuss what would happen to Europe and Germany after the war.
  • Churchill and Roosevelt agreed that the USSR could claim a 'sphere of influence' in Eastern Europe after the war was over. This meant Eastern European countries would be subject to Soviet policies and ideas.

February 1945 - Yalta Conference

  • Decided that free elections would be held in previously occupied countries in Eastern Europe (while Britain and the USA envisioned this as lots of competing political parties, Stalin only believed communist parties should run)
  • The United Nations would replace the League of Nations
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Potsdam Conference and the Percentages Agreement

Percentages Agreement

  • Stalin and Churchill met in October 1944
  • Divided up control of Eastern European countries on the back of a napkin

July and August 1945 (after German surrender): Potsdam Conference

  • New boundaries of Poland were agreed
  • USA, USSR, Britain, and France would divide Germany and Berlin between them
  • Nazi leaders would be tried for war crimes at Nuremberg
  • Allies didn't decide whether the German zones could eventually form a country again
  • Atlee replaced Churchill mid-conference
  • Truman replaced Roosevelt as US president, and trusted the USSR far less
  • Britain and the US were alarmed by Stalin's actions in Poland - he had installed a government consisting of only pro-communist members. Britain and the US felt that this went against the Yalta agreement
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Nuclear Bomb

The USA and the USSR emerged from World War Two as the two biggest powers. They were incredibly suspicious of one another, and each viewed the other's actions as threats.

Nuclear Bomb

  • August 1945, the USA dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • Japanese soldiers had refused to surrender, until the bomb was dropped, killing 70,000 Japanese soldiers
  • America needed the war to end, and wanted to show off the atomic bomb to the world
  • Truman had warned Stalin at Potsdam (but kept exact details secret), expecting Stalin to be more surprised - in reality, Stalin already knew about it thanks to his spies
  • The bomb increased Stalin's resolve to develop nuclear weapons, leading to the arms race
  • Increased the focus on Germany in negotiations
  • Removed the need for Soviet troops - the USA didn't need aid, and Truman refused to let the USSR participate in the US occupation
  • Made it clear that the USA intended to dominate the post-war period
  • Increased tension and rivalry
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Iron Curtain

At the end of WW2, the Red Army (Soviet Army) occupied Eastern Europe. The occupied countries later became part of the USSR's sphere of influence.

Between 1945 and 1948, Stalin installed 'puppet' governments in Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovkia.

Yugoslavia was the exception to Soviet dominance. It freed itself from the Germans without the Red Army, so wasn't occupied. It was communist, but more open to the West. Its leader, Tito, argued with Stalin over political interference. Stalin cut off aid, but didn't invade.

Countries controlled by the USSR became known as 'satellite states'.

Countries in Western Europe tended to support the USA, while those in Eastern Europe were controlled by the USSR. In 1946, Churchill gave a famous speech, saying that an 'Iron Curtain' divided Europe. This showed the breakdown of the Grand Alliance - the USSR was now viewed as a threat rather than an ally.

Increased tensions became known as the Cold War. Both sides were too afraid for direct fighting, especially after the USSR got its own nuclear weapons in 1949.

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The Long and Novikov Telegrams

The Long Telegram and the Novikov Telegram were secret telegrams in 1946, describing the motivations and intentions of the other country.

The Long Telegram (February)

  • Issued to Truman about the USSR
  • Said that Stalin had given a speech in favour of the destruction of capitalism
  • Warned of the USSR trying to weaken and divide Western powers, while building the strength of its own military

The Novikov Telegram (September)

  • Issued to Stalin about the USA
  • Claimed that the USA was pursuing world supremacy
  • Warned that the USA was trying to limit the influence of the USSR in Europe

Neither country knew what the other was thinking. The reports only scared the superpowers, and accelerated the Cold War.

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The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan

Truman was worried about the spread of communism to Western Europe. Many countries were undergoing economic hardships, which he thought would make communism more appealing.

The USA was scared of the 'Domino Effect' - they believed that if one country became communist, this would cause the next to, then the next, and so on.

Truman decided to intervene, to stop the spread of Communism.

The Truman Doctrine (March 1947)

  • USA pledged to support any nation threatened by a communist takeover
  • This could be diplomatic, financial, or military
  • For example, the USA gave $400 million to Turkey and Greece

The Marshall Plan (June 1947)

  • Promised $17 billion of aid to European countries, to help them rebuild their economies
  • Areas of Germany under Western control benefitted massively
  • USA was committed to financial aid
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Stalin's Response

Stalin ordered all satellite states to reject the Marshall Plan. He believed the USA was trying to use economic incentives to lure the Eastern European states away from the USSR (which they were, in addition to preventing Western European countries from becoming communist).

The Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan were major insults. The USA was claiming that communism had to be 'contained', and was providing money to prevent the spread of communism.

Stalin created Cominform and Comecon, in response to the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan.


  • Set up in 1947, in response to the Truman Doctrine
  • Brought together European communist parties and placed them under the control of the USSR


  • Set up in 1949 to counter the Marshall Plan
  • Nationalised industries, collectivised agriculture, and offered economic aid
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Berlin Crisis

Tension over berlin had been building since the Potsdam Conference, and spilled over in the Berlin crisis in 1948.

After the war, there were four zones - one owned by each of Britain, France, the USSR, and the USA

In 1947, Britain and the USA agreed to combine their zones, forming 'Bizonia'. A year later, the French added their zone. This western zone had a single government, and in June 1948 a new currency was introduced to help economic recovery.

This alarmed the USSR. Stalin didn't want, and felt threatened by, a unified western zone. West Berlin's strong capitalist economy embarrased the USSR, making communism look weak.

As a result, Stalin tried to force the West to withdraw from Berlin with the Berlin blockade. In July 1948, he ordered all road, rail and canal links between West Berlin and the outside world to be cut off.

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The Berlin Airlift

The West decided to bypass the blockade and fly in supplies. The USSR couldn't shoot down the planes - this would be an act of war.

By 1949, 8000 tonnes of supplies were being flown in each day.

Tegel airport was built in West Berlin to accomodate the large volume of flights. Flights took off or landed every 90 seconds.

When it became clear that the West wouldn't withdraw from Berlin, Stalin was forced to lift the blockade. Germany would remain divided.

Stalin was humiliated and made to look cruel - he was willing to, and had tried to, starve innocent civilians. In contrast, the USA's reputation was boosted, and it was made to look far stronger.

In 1949, two separate states were formed - Wesr Germany and East Germany.

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After WW2 there was a short period of civil war in China, after which communists took over.

1949 - End of communist revolution, Mao came to power

The USA was concerned - China had a large population, and they were scared communism would spread.

Domino thoery - belief that the spread of communism in the East would lead to the spread of communism in the West

Stalin wanted to help China, and become close allies.

Treaty of Friendship was a mutual defense and assistance treaty between the USSR and the PRC (People's Republic of China). The USSR sent $300 million, 8000 students, and 20,000 experts to the PRC.

NSC-68 was a statement saying that the US would act against communism, and prepare for war.

After Stalin died, the relationship between CHina and the USSR got worse - China questioned the Soviet version of communism.

The USA was incredibly worried about the spread of communism in Asia.

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The Korean War

In 1948, Korea was split into North Korea and South Korea (along the 38th parallel)

The leader of North Korea was Kim Il Sung, while Syngman Rhee was leader of Sounth Korea.

In June 1950, North Korea (communist) attacked South Korea (non-communist), with the support of China and the USSR. Fearing a communist takeover, the USA sent troops to support South Korea in July 1950. Later in July, the USA appealed to the UN for help, which also sent troops. However, this was only possible because the USSR weren't present - otherwise they would have vetoed it. 

In September 1950 the UN invaded, led by American General MacArthur. They pushed the North Koreans back to the North-South Korean border (the 38th parallel), then almost back to the border with China. Not wanting a US-backed state on their border, China invaded North Korea in October, pushing the UN forces back to the 38th parallel. MacArthur called for the use of atomic weapons, but Truman refused (and MacArthur was sacked). In July 1951, more UN troops were deployed, and the communists pushed back, until a stalemate was reached.

In November 1952, Eisenhower became US President, saying he would try to end the war. In July 1953, an armistice was signed, leaving Korea still split along the 38th parallel.

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Impact of the Korean War

The Korean War was considered a proxy war - the two sides fought, but indirectly.

The Korean War was a success for the policy of containment - communism didn't break into SOuth Korea.

Even after fighting had stopped, US soldiers stayed in South Korea - this was an irritation for the Chinese government and put pressure on relations between the two countries.

Increased tensions between the USA and the USSR.

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The Vietnam War

After WW2, France controlled Vietnam.

The Viet Minh was a communist group lead by Ho Chi Minh that fought against French control of Vietnam in the 1950s. The French struggle to defeat them, thanks to their use of unconventional guerilla warfare, such as traps, tunnels, etc. The USA, in an attempt to stop the spread of communism, effectively bankrolled the war.

At the Battle of Dien Bein Phu in 1954 the French lost Vietnam. This concerned the Americans, who couldn't accept a communist Vietnam. The defeat was formalised by the Geneva agreement, in which Vietnam was separated into a communist North Vietnam, led by Ho Chi Minh, and an anti-communist South Vietnam, led by Ngo Dinh Diem. This ended French control.

Later, North Vietnam allied with China (which was communist).

The USA sent aid to Ngo Dinh Diem, hoping to end communism in Vietnam. However, his goverment was unpopular, and many people decided to support an opposition organisation - the Vietcong, which was aided by North Vietnam. While attempting to reduce the influence of the Vietcong in 1962, Ngo Dinh Diem only increased their popularity.

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Vietnam War cont.

In 1959, Ho Chin Minh declared a war o overthrow the government in South Vietnam, and unfiy Vietnam under communist rule, with the support of the Vietcong.

The Vietcong began to fight a guerilla war against the government of South Vietnam.

The USA had already sent millions of dollars to help the French, then sent military advisors to aid Ngo Dinh Diem's corrupt government.

In November 1963, Ngo Dinh Diem was assassinated, giving the opportunity for American involvement.

In August 1964 an American ship was torpedoed by the North Vietnamese, provoking President Johnson into retaliating with military attacks. However, the US tactics were largely unsuccessful. In 1968, Johnson announced that he would stop bombing Vietnam. Nixon continued the war, until in 1975 a ceasefire was agreed.

Kennedy also increased US involvement (earlier on).

The 'New Look' policy was where the USA sent more money, equipment, and military personnel to Vietnam, in an attempt to prevent a communist Vietnam.

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NATO and the Warsaw Pact


  • Stalin's blockade showed how unprepared the West woudl be in the event of conflict
  • As a consequence, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) was created in 1949
  • All members agreed to respond together if any member was attacked
  • Stalin saw it as a major threat

Warsaw Pact

  • Created in 1955 to rival NATO
  • All of the USSR's satellite states (other than Yugoslavia) became members
  • It aimed to improve the defensive capabilities of Eastern Europe and strengthen relations
  • Members of the Warsaw Pact formed the 'Eastern Bloc'
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The Arms Race

Both the USA and the USSR tried to develop the most powerful weapons possible. Neither side particuarly wanted to use the weapons, but neither wanted the other to have an advantage.

Both countries developed nuclear stockpiles:

  • Second World War - USA developed the atom bomb
  • 1949 - USSR exploded its own atom bomb
  • 1952 - USA detonated the first hydrogen bomb
  • 1955 - USSR detonated its own hydrogen bomb
  • 1957 - Soviets test-fired the first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), which could strike the USA from the USSR, and was virtually unstoppable
  • 1957 - USA launched their own ICBM, and quickly increased their stock - giving them an advantage
  • 1959 - The USA deploys Polaris submarines ,capable of launching nuclear missiles, close to the shore of the USSR
  • USSR started to catch up again, as American resources were diverted by the Vietnam War

The arms race was fuelled by, and increased, fear and suspicion.

The formation of NATO made the USSR feel militarily vulnerable.

In February 1950, China and the USSR signed a treaty of alliance, strengthening Western fears that the USSR was planning communist dominion.

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The Space Race

Both the USSR and the USA wanted to beat the other, and get to the moon.

4th October 1957 - First man-made satellite sent to orbit the Earth (Sputnik)  -  USSR

3rd November 1957 - First animal in orbit (Laika, a dog)  -  USSR

18th December 1958 - First communications satellite launched  -  USA

12th April 1961 - First human in Space (Yuri Gagarin)  -  USSR

5th May 1961 - First successful space flight, controlled by pilot Alan Shephard  -  USA

16th June 1963 - First woman in space (Valentina Tereshkova)  -  USSR

20th July 1969 - First human walks on moon (Neil Armstrong)  -  USA

23rd April 1971 - First human crewed space station launched  -  USSR

15th April 1975 - First joint space mission (Apollo Soyuz)  -  USSR + USA

The Space Race was used for propaganda, and was also a matter of pride, and increased tensions.

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  • Replaces Stalin when he died in 1953
  • Said he wanted a 'peaceful co-existence' with the US
  • His words brought hope of a 'thaw' in the Cold War
  • Remained competitive with the USA
  • Continued to develop weapons, so the West still felt threatened, and the arms race didn't slow down
  • Wanted to spread communism
  • Thought the best way was to clearly demonstrate its superiority, rather than defeat the West in a war
  • When he came into power, he made a speech criticising Stalin's policies, and brought in measures to 'de-Stalinise' the USSR
  • This included abolition of the death penalty and the freeing of political prisoners
  • Some satellite states hoped they would be 'de-Stalinised'
  • Khrushchev abolished Cominform, hoping that giving states more political and economic freedom would stabilise their communist regimes - however, this backfired
  • This allowed tensions in satellite states, not all of whom had wanted to become communist, to surface. They saw this as a chance to loosen ties with the USSR
  • 1956 - uprising in Poland. The USSR threatened to intervene, but eventually allowed the new government to follow their own version of communism, encouraging other states to revolt
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Hungarian Uprising

  • After the Second World War, the USSR out Matyas Rakosi, a brutal Stalinist, in charge of Hungary
  • His authoritarian regime became increasingly unpopular
  • In October 1956, the Hungarian people protested against his government
  • Khrushchev allowed the liberal Imre Nagy to take over from Rakosi as Hungarian Prime Minister. Nagy hoped that Hungary could be a neutral state
  • In November 1956, Nagy announced that Hungary would withdraw from the Warsaw Pact and hold free elections  - ending Communism there
  • The USSr feared that if Hungary was allowed to turn away from Communism, other satellite states might try to do the same
  • The USSR felth that it had to respond strongly, and make an example of Nagy
  • Khrushchev had only been in power for two years, and wanted to use the crisis to assert is authority
  • Soviet tanks invaded Hungary in November 1956
  • Thousands of Hungarians were killed or wounded
  • Nagy was arrested and hanged
  • Janos Kadar became Prime Minister and ensured loyalty to the USSR
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Impact of the Hungarian Uprising

  • Khrushchev's brutal response to Hungary demonstrated to satellite states that disloyalty wouldn't be tolerated
  • Showed Western powers that the USSR was still in control
  • Turning point for Khrushchev - his actions reasserted his authority over the satellite states and destroyed any illusions in the West that his leadership signified a 'thaw' in the Cold War
  • Lack of intervention from Western countries - they condemned the USSR's actions, but thought that helping Hungary would risk a nuclear war
  • The UN asked the USSR to withdraw from Hungary, but Kadar refused to take part in discussions. The situation remained unresolved

The Western powers reputation as upholders of democracy was discredited. Their inaction sent a clear message to Eastern European countries that they wouldn't receive Western aid to move away from the USSR. The UN was shown to be weak

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Eisenhower succeeded Truman in January 1953. Khrushchev came to power in September ..., which gave the opportunity for a fresh start, with new leaders.

Initially, the two leaders tried to defuse tensions:

  • The USA and the USSR met in Geneva in 1955 and agreed to communicate more openly
  • in 1955, the USSR officially recognised West Germany (the Federal Republic of Germany) as a state
  • Khrushchev freed some prisoners, and reduced censorship in the USSR

Berlin remained a problem

  • West Berlin was a unified zone and continued to develop economically, benefitting from the Marshall plan and a new current
  • The USSR had drained East Berlin of resources, and the economy was slow to develop
  • People wanted to leave East Berlin and go to WEst Berlin instead
  • Embarrasing for Khrushchev - suggested that people preferred capitalism to communism
  • Threatened East Germany's economy - many of those that left were skilled workers
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Berlin cont.

  • The refugee crisis in Berlin led to Khrushchev establishing his 'Berlin Ultimatum' in 1958
  • He demanded that US, British, and French troops leave West Berlin within six months, West Berlin would become a free city
  • Eisenhower refused the ultimatum
  • Khrushchev took no further action, but the issue wasn't solved
  • By 1961, at least 3 million East Germans had emigrated from East Berlin to West Berlin

Soviet attitudes towards Berlin

  • USSR felt threatened by the economic success in West Berlin
  • East Berlin had become dependent on trade links with East Berlin
  • USSR was worrried that the WEst was trying to use its strong economy to interfere in Eastern Europe

Western attitudes towards Berlin

  • After the Berlin Airlift, West Berlin had become a symbol of democracy - it had to be supported, or the West would lose credibility
  • People fleeing from East Berlinsuited the WEst - it was good propagandaa, because it made communism look weak
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Khrushchev and Eisenhower Summit

In 1959, Khrushchev became the first communist leader to visit the USA. 

The meeting symbolised a new spirit of co-operation and communication between the two powers.

They discussed Berlin. Eisenhower still wouldn't agree to withdraw from West Berlin, but agreed to discuss the matter more deeply.

They agreed to meet in Paris the next year.

No firm decisions had been made, but the arrangement of another summit promised to continue the optimistic dialogue, and showed the easing of tension.

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The U2 Crisis

U2 spy planes

  • Flew too high to be shot down, in theory
  • Flew over Russia - illegal
  • Took photos from behind the iron curtain
  • Pilots were told to take cyanide, and self-destruct the plane so it couldn't fall into Russian hands (it would destroy international relations)
  • Important for US intelligence - they didn't know much about what was behind the iron curtain

Gary Powers

  • Told he couldn't be shot down
  • Was shot down
  • Russians captured him and the plane (not good)
  • At the summit in Paris, Eisenhower pretended it was a weather plane
  • When Khrushchev showed evidence that it wasn't (camera, suicide pill, ...) Eisenhower refused to apologise]
  • Made the Americans lood bad (intentional from Khrushchev?)
  • More tension
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Causes of the Berlin Wall

By 1961, around 3 million Germans had crossed from East to West Berlin. 

In 1961, around 2000 Germans crossed from East to West Berlin every day.

Eisenhower and Khrushchev had planned to discuss the Berlin question at the Paris Summit in 1960. However, days before the summit took place, the USSR shot down the U2 spy plane. 

The U2 crisis hindered further negotiations about Berlin. Both countries met again at Vienna in 1961, but this time, Kennedy had replaced Eisenhower as US President.

Kennedy vowed to take a tougher approach towards communism, He refused to compromise over Berlin, and no resolution was reached. This convinced the USSR that the problem wouldn't be solved by negotiation.

Khrushchev felt that he had to stem the flow of refugees out of East Berlin. On the 13th August 1961, the Berlin Wall was put up.

Khrushchev used the Vienna Summit and the Berlin Wall to test Kennedy, who was a new president.

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The Berlin Wall

On the 13th August 1961, a 27-mile barrier was built across the city of Berlin, overnight, separating East from West. 

The wall was fortified with barbed wire and machine gun posts, and was later strengthened and made into a more permanent barrier. Military checkpoints policed any movement into or out of East Berlin. 

Before the wall, East Berliners had entered West Berlin freely. After the wall, they could no longer go to work in West BErlin, and were instantly separated from friends and relatives. 

Citizens were rarely allowed through the checkpoints, and anyone who tried to escape East Berlin was shot.

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Responses to the Berlin Wall

After the wall was put up, tensions over Berlin stabilised. The West condemned Khrushchev, but was actually relieved. 

  • Immediately after the Berlin Wall appeared, Soviet and Western troops were positioned either side of the wal, bu then both powers agreed to back down. 
  • The USA condemned the builing of the wall, but took no further military action.
  • Kennedy was relieved - he'd been preparing for a confrontation of some sort.
  • 'It's not a very nice solution, but a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war' - Kennedy, 1961

The wall succeeded in stopping mass emigration to West Berlin. I also gave East Germany the opportunity to rebuild its economy and strengthen itself as a communist state.

In the West, the Berlin Wall became a symbol of oppression and the failure of communism. In the USSR, it was seen as a sign of strength.

Kennedy visited West Berlin in 1963 and gave a famous speech stating his solidarity with West Berlin and its people. He declared 'Ich bin ein Berliner' (I am a Berliner).

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The Cuban Revolution

Since 1952, Cuba had been ruled by Batista, a ruthless and corrupt military dictator, who allowed American businessman and the Mafia to make huge profits in a country where most people lived in abject poverty. 

In 1956, Fidel Castro began a guerilla war (where 'small military units use tactics such as raids to fight a larger opponent'). By 1959, he had enough support to take Cuba's capital, Havana, and successfully overthrew the government. 

This revolution worried the USA. The USA had occupied Cuba from 1898 to 1902. When Cuba became independent, the two countries maintained close economic ties, The USA owned half of Cuba's land and help most of the shares in all Cuban industries.

The USA felt that it had a right to be involved in Cuba's affairs. However, Cubans had grown  to resent American influence in their country - they didn't feel like an independent state. 

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Cuba Became Communist

When Castro seized power in 1959, he nationalised US companies and increased taxes on goos imported from America, angering the USA.

Eisenhower was concerned that Castro's drive towards public ownership showed that he was moving towards communism.

Eisenhower threatened to stop importing Cuban sugar. As sugar was Cuba's main source of wealth, the USA was sure that he would back down.

Instead, Castro signed a trade agreement with the USSR, who promised to buy all sugar exports. All remaining American property in Cuba was confiscated.

In January 1961, the USA severed all diplomatic relations with Cuba, and the new US President, Kennedy, no longer recognised Castro's government.

Khrushchev wanted to help Castro, who was sympathetic towards communism. He also saw an opportunity to gain influence near US soil.

By 1961, Cuba had consolidated its ties with the USSR, As it was onl 100 miles from the USA, the communist threat had come dangerously close. This, combined with belief in the Domino Effect, caused a lot of fear from the Americans.

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The Bay of Pigs

Kennedy couldn't let a communist state emerge next to America, so intervened with a plan created by Eisenhower, that his advisors encouraged.

in 1961, Kennedy authorised an invasion of Cuba by anti-Castro rebels. In April 1961, the rebels landed in the Bay of Pigs, but were easily defeated, and the USA didn't help - Kennedy had drasticlly cut American aid to the rebels from what Eisenhower had planned, from fear of the attack being traced back to America.

The USA were humiliated, and made to look cruel for interfering, and pushed Cuba even closer to th USSR.

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The Cuban Missile Crisis

The Bay of Pigs Invasion led Castro to decide that Cuba needed Soviet military assistance to defend itself, sparking the Cuban Missile Crisis.

IN December 1961, Castro publicly announced that he was a communist, confirming US fears.

In September 1961, Cuba asked the USSR for weapons to defend itself against further American intervention. By July 1962, Khrushchev decided to put nuclear missiles in Cuba.

Although Khrushchev already had missiles that could reach the USA, missiles in Cuba would allow him to launch a nuclear attack on all of central and eastern USA with very little warning.

In October 1962, American U2 spy planes spotted that nuclear bases were being built in Cuba.

Kennedy demanded that Khrushchev dismantle the bases, and ordered a naval blockade of Cuba (his advisors disagreed with the blockade, instead favouring invasions or a surgical air attack (both of which were acts of war), but after the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy didn't trust his advisors as much).. All Soviet ships were to be stopped and searched to prevent missiles being transported to the island.

As tensions grew, US bombers were put in the air carrying nuclear bombs, and the USA prepared to invade Cuba. The world was on the brink of nuclear war.

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End of the Cuban Missile Crisis

On the 27th October 1962, Khrushchev made a deal to dismantle the missile bases in Cuba and ordered his ships to turn around,

In exchange, the USA lifted the blockade, and promised not to invade Cuba. They also, secretly, agreed to remove missiles from Turkey.

The removal of missiles from Turkey was kept secret. This meant that Kennedy was made to look a hero for getting Khrushchev to back down, and the USA didn't lose face. Khrushchev was made to look worse, as his success was partly hidden.

The agreement prevented nuclear war (at the time), and improved relations between the countries. However, it was an extreme situation, and very nearly became war.

In 1963, a telephone wire was established between Washington and Moscow. This enabled the two superpowers to talk directly and act quickly in the event of a crisis. This shows the improvement in the relationship.

Khrushchev was discredited - the removal of missiles from Turkey was secret. In the eyes of the public he had failed, and he resigned in 1964. He was succeeded by Leonid Brezhnev.

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Controlling Nuclear Weapons

The Cuban Missile Criris promopted new measures to bring the build up of nuclear weapons under control.

Limited Test Ban Treaty

  • Signed by both powers in 1963
  • Stated that all future tests of nuclear weapons had to be carried out underground, to avoid polluting the air with nuclear radiation

Outer Space Treaty

  • Drawn up in 1967
  • Forbade countries (including the USSR and the USA) from placing weapons of mass destruction in space

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

  • Came into force in 1970
  • Boh supoerpowers agreed not to supply nuclear weapons or related technology to countries that didn't already have nuclear arms
  • The treaty encouraged nuclear disarmament, but allowed nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, e.g. energy
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The Prague Spring

Tensions had been building in Czechosolvakia. It had become a communist state in 1948, and its policies were heavily influenced by the USSR.

It was a member of the Warsaw Pact, which discouraged tirade with countries outside the Eastern Bloc, and promoted Soviet-style communism. Soviet policies such as collectivisation and centralisation slowed economic progress in Czechoslovakia.

There was growing discontent about the extent of external control over Czechoslovakian affairs. In 1956, students and writers protested at the lack of free speech and free movement in the country,

In January 1968, Alexander Dubcek became leader of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia. He wanted Czechoslovakia to follow its own version of communsim.

In April 1968, he introduced a series of reforms that wenr against Soviet-style comunism.

  • Travel to the West was made available for everyone
  • The border with West Germany was re-opened
  • All industry was decentralised (companies were no longer controlled by Communist party officials - workers and local authorities were given more power)
  • Trade unions and workers were given more power
  • Freedom of speech and opposition parties were allowed
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Prague Spring cont.

Many of the reforms were aimed at improving the performance of Czechoslovakia's economy - partly by developing closer relations with the West.

This worried the USSR, which didn't want any Western involvement within the Eastern Bloc.

Even though some of the reforms moved away from Soviet policy, Dubcek was still a communist. He promised that Czechoslovakia would stay in the Warsaw Pact and remain a loyal ally to Moscow.

For four months, Dubcek's policies were tolerated by the USSR, and Czechoslovakia enjoyed relative freedom. This period was known as the Prague Spring.

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The USSR's Response

The USSR grew increasingly concerned about Dubcek's reforms. Dubcek promised he was still loyal to Moscow, but his new policies meant that the USSR had less control over Czechoslovakia.

The leader of the USSR, Leonid Brezhnev, was worried that Dubcek's reforms could lead to a rejection of communism in the Eastern Bloc and in the USSR itself. If Czechoslovakia pulled away, other satellite states might follow.

Events in August 1968 triggered a Soviet response:

  • President Tito of Yuogslavia visited Prague. Yugoslavia had refused to sign the Warsaw Pact and had never accepted the USSR's version of communism. The trip was an ominous sign to Brezhnev that Czechoslovakia was no longer loyal to the USSR.
  • The USSR received a letter from communists in Czechoslovakia, asking for help

On the 21st August 1968, 500,000 Soviet troops invaded Czechoslovakia. The Czechoslovakians, keen to avoid the violence of the Hungarian Uprising, responded with non-violent demonstrations. People took to the streets with anti-invasion banners, and on January 1969 a student burned himself alive in the street in protest,.

In April 1969, Dubcek was forcibly removed from office and replaced with Gustav Husak, who was loyal to Soviet-style communism, and would ensure that Czechoslovakia remained close to the USSR.

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Consequences of the Invasion

There was an international outcry at the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia, but no action was taken.

  • The UN denounced the invasion, and proposed a draft revolution requesting he withdrawal of Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia. This was vetoed by the USSR.
  • Many countries condemned the Soviet action, but didn't intervene. They were wary of interfering with the USSR's sphere of influence.
  • Communist parties in the West criticised Brezhnev's reaction and sought to distance themself from Soviet influence.
  • Countries were wary of taking action against the USSR. The Prague Spring occurred at a time when the Cold War had thawed slightly. Nobody wanted to re-ignite tensions between the two superpowers.
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Consequences of the Prague Spring & Invasion for t

The USSR succeeded in returning Czechoslovakia to Soviet-style communism.

Brezhnev ised the Prague Spring as an opportunity to establish his authority over the Eastern Bloc. He showed that he was prepared to invade a friendly satellite state in order to not weaken the anti-Western alliance. He also proved to the USA that he was a strong and determinded leader.

The Brezhnev Doctrine

  • After the invasion, Brezhnev announced that in future the USSR would intervene in any country where communism was under threat
  • The Brezhnev Doctrine was important because it strengthened the USSR's control over its satellite states.
  • It also sent a message to the Eastern Bloc that giving up communism wasn't an option - the USSR would respond with force.

Soviet-American relations continued to be strained. Despite recent moves towards reducing the nuclear threat, neither country trusted the other.

The incident reminded both superpowers that the Cold War wasn't over. Brezhnev had proved that he was willing to risk conflict to uphold communism in the Eastern Bloc.

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Detente was the easing of tension between the two superpowers.

The two countries wanted to avoid further crises such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, and both realized that boosting military power hadn't succeeded in reducing tensions. Additionally, they were also both keen to reduce military spending - the arms race was extremely expensive and led to falling standards of living. The USSR was especially worried about falling living standards in the Eastern Bloc. In 1970, there were riots in Poland in response to high living costs.

The two superpowers agreed to reduce arms and co-roperate. They developed closer relations under detente, and in 1975 a Soviet and American spacecraft docked together in space.

First Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT 1)

  • Signed in 1972 by the USA and the USSR. It limited the number of ABMs (anti-ballistic missiles) each country could have, and placed a temporary limit on the number of ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) on both sides.
  • ABMs were designed to intercept incoming missiles, and had the potential to upset the delicate 'nuclear balance' between the USSR and the USA. ABMs would destroy the threat of nuclear retaliation, as one side could fire nuclear weapons, then destroy missiles fired if they had ABMs.
  • By limiting numbers of ABMs, SALT 1 reduced the likelihood of one country having an advanage over the other. In the short term, it was a success because it slowed down the arms race.
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The Helsinki Agreement and SALT 2

The Helsinki Agreement

  • 1975
  • Pact between the USA, the USSR, Canada, and most of Europe. All countries agreed to recognise existing European borders and to uphold human rights,
  • Both superpowers accepted the division of Germany and the USSR's influence over Eastern Europe.
  • The West viewed the USSR's agreement to uphold human rights as great progress, but the USSR didn't stick to its word. It didn't give freedom of speech of freedom of movement to its citizens. This undermined the Helsinki Agreement, and made the USA distrust the USSR.

Second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT 2)

  • SALT 2 was signed in 1979. It banned the USA and the USSR from launching new missile programs and limited the number of MIRVs (Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles) each country could have. These could carry deveral missiles at once and deploy them to different targets.
  • However, it was never approved by the US Senate, so never came into effect,
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