History: Cold War - Thaw

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To what extent did a thaw take place?

Positives

  • Berlin Rising: June 1953 - In East Germany, the Stalinist leader, Walter Ulbricht, continued to develop a strict command economy. He raised workers' production quotas without increasing pay, provoking demonstrations across East Germany. Some 400,000 workers took to the streets calling for free elections, a general election and the lifting of quotas. The governments responded with force, arresting and executing the protest leaders. This is significant as it showed while the USA made much of the Berlin Rising in anti-Soviet propaganda, the West was still unwilling to intervene in the Eastern Bloc for fear of provoking war.
  • Poland 1956 - The death of the Stalinist Polish leader, Boleslaw Beriut, in February sparked increasing calls for liberalisation in Poland. In June there were large demonstrations that turned into anti-government protests and there were calls for Wladyslaw Gomulka to be given power. Initially Khrushchev tried to force Gomulka to back down, but once he realised the strength of feeling for him, he reluctantly relented. He agreed that Gomulka should become the party leader and even made some economic reforms on the condition that Poland remained committed to the Warsaw Pact.
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To what extent did a thaw take place?

Positives

  • Geneva Conference April-July 1954 - It was the first indication of the success of superpower diplomacy. USA, USSR, Britain and France met to discuss Korea and Indochinda. A settlement was negotiated about the Indochina War. The US refused to sign but pledged to not undermine: A ceasefire was declared and French troops were to be withdrawn; Laos and Cambodia were established as independant states; Vietnam was temporarily divided and the country was to be reunited through free elections by 1956.
  • Geneva Summit July 1955 - It involved the Big Four and helped to shape superpower relations by establishing a good working relationship between the leaders of the two superpowers, and by restarting face to face diplomacy between the USSR and the USA, which ceased after the Postdam Conference of 1945. In spite of disagreements, the Geneva Summit createda change of mood and named it the 'Geneva Spirit'.
  • Camp David September 1959 - It was the first summit unvolving only the USA and the USSR. It took place following the death of anti-communist Dulles, which led Khrushchev to conclude that a deal between superpowers might finally be possible. The meeting built on the relationship made in Geneva and the two leaders decided to hold a full summit in 1960.
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To what extent did a thaw take place?

Negatives

  • Hungary 1956 - By late October protestors were calling for: Multi-party democracy; a free press and Hungary's withdrawl from the Warsaw pact. Imre Nagy, the Premier, agreed to these demands and declared Hungary a neutral country. The USSR viewed this as an act of open revolt, and sent Red Army tanks in. In 7 days, the Soviet military had crushed the Uprising and Nagy was replaced with Janos Kadar. He arrested 35,000 protestors and executed 300 leaders of the Uprising.
  • Paris Summit 1960 - Khrushchev and Eisenhower both adopted a harder line. The French and West German governments were fearful that the US would give ground to the Soviet Union on key issues like Germany. While Khrushchev was under pressure from China who had accused him of adopting 'soft' policies towards the West. The U2 spy plane incident of May led to the rapid collapse of the summit.
  • Vienna Summit June 1961 - Kennedy was recently elected and Khrushchev attempted to capitalise on his inexperience and his recent humiliation over the Bay of Pigs fiasco, by adopting an aggressive stance. The Soviet Union would continue to support wars in the Third World, the West should recognize the sovereign stance of East Germany and the Berlin question should be settled on Soviet terms within six months. Khrushchev wouldn't back down.
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To what extent did a thaw take place?

Negatives

  • U2 Spy Plane Incident 1960 - A US spy plane was shot down the USSR, and the pilot was captured. At first, the US denied this had happened and said it was a weather research plane, but Khrushchev exposed this lie by displaying the U2's equipment. He insisted on an apology but Eisenhower refused to give one. Khrushchev stormed out of the Paris Summit and cancelled Eisenhower's planned visit to the USSR.
  • Berlin Crisis: Khrushchev imposed that Wes Berlin should become a free city; East-West talks on a German peace treaty should commence and access routes to Berlin should be handed over to East Germany in six months. The US rejected these demands and Dulles stated that NATO would retaliate if Western access to Berlin was denied, so Khrushchev backed down. At the Vienna Summit in 1961, he insisted that the West should recognise East Germany and the US should withdraw from Berlin within a year. Kennedy rejected this and pledged that they wouldn't be bullied out of Berlin, and announced an increase in the armed forces. Khrushchev then built a wall seperating East and West. Kennedy considered a limited nuclear strike, but this was dropped when they realised there was no direct threat to them.
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To what extent did a thaw take place?

Negatives

  • Checkpoint Charlie - In October 1961, a US diplomat was not allowed to enter East Berlin when he refused to show his passport. The US responded by providing armed US soldiers and tanks to this checkpoint to escort the Diplomat. 33 USSR tanks entered East Berlin, facing the US tanks. This intense stand off meant that NATO was put on alert. Khrushchev authorised the Soviet commander in Berlin to return fire if attacked. Kennedy then contacted Khrushchev and a joint removal was proposed, and forces then withdrew.
  • Arms Race: There wasn't much of a thaw as the arms race hadn't stopped e.g.:
  • In 1957, the USSR launched their first rocket in Kazakhstan which was the first ICBM to carry thermo-nuclear technology.
  • In July 1960, the USA developed the first sub-launched ballisitc missile known as Polaris.
  • Kennedy ordered the construction of 41 nuclear submarines and expanded ICBMs to 1,054.
  • By 1962, the USA had 4000 warheads compared to the USSRs 220.
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Why did a thaw take place between superpowers?

US Reasons

  • Eisenhower: did want to improve relations because: His military background made him strongly aware of the dangers of a nuclear conflict that could destroy civilisation; Eisenhower was concerned that military spending (12% of GNP in the mid-1950s) was too high and that it threatened to impinge on US living standards. Better relations with the USSR would decrease the likelihood of nuclear war and therefore the government could reduce military spending 
  • Arms Race: Intelligence gathered by U2 spy planes showed that the USSR was considerably behind in the arms race. Theforefore Eisenhower knew that the USSR couldn't win a nuclear war which gave the USA the upper hand in negotiations between them.
  • Economic Factors: Eisenhower was conscious of the growth of power and influence of the military - industrial complex within the USA. He was aware that the expansion into the Korean War could distort and unbalance their economy. Also 'New Look' would be cheaper than relying on conventional weapons ('more bang for your buck').
  • Kennedy (Flexible Response): It marked a move away from the emphasis on nuclear weapons to an approach that relied on a wide range of strategies, from converntional armed forces to economic aid which meant less nuclear weapons.
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Why did a thaw take place between superpower relat

USSR Reasons

  • Marxist Ideology: Khrushchev believed in the inevitable downfall of capitalism so peaceful co-existence would be best way of conducting international relations in the meantime.
  • Consolidation of Positions: The two armed camps situation in 1949 gave the situation some stability (NATO and Warsaw Pact) - this meant the superpowers were more willing to negotiate. Each side tacitly recognised the other's area of influence. Khrushchev observed the disintergration of the colonial system in the West and believed that soon national liberaton movements would look to the USSR for support.
  • Arms Race: The cost and sheer destructive power of these weapons had a sobering effect on the superpowers. Khrushchev said "there are only two ways - either peaceful co-existence or the most destructive war in history. There is no third way." Khrushchev had visited the Russian front during WW2 and was appalled by the idea of nuclear attacks. By 1955 both sides had hydrogen bombs - 1st March 1954 tested a lithium bomb which killed a Japanese fisherman 82 miles away. This had a sobering effect on the superpowers. Approximately one third of the Soviet economy was geared to the military sector. This arms race diverted much needed money away from social reforms.
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Why did a thaw take place between superpowers?

USSR Reasons

  • Beria: He took over Soviet foreign policy briefly in 1953. He offered the West a proposal for a neutral Germany but this caused concern to Ulbricht who started a programme of Soviet style industrialisation in East Germany. Part of this programme involved longer working hours and price increases. The workers of E. Germany protested --> June 1953 uprisings - Soviet troops were needed to restore order --> arrest of 25,000 (400 executed). The West was still unwilling to intervene for fear of provoking war. This event seriously undermined Beria's attempt to take the leadership position. He was then arrested and shot.
  • Malenkov: He formed a collective leadership with Khrushchev and Bulganin once Beria was gone. The softer tone towards the West was maintained and even further developed. He decided to embark on a "New Course" - he desired to the USSR towards consumer goods and raising living standards as he believed war between USSR and USA wasn't inevitable. He knew capitalism would fall inevitably at some stage, so there was no need to engage in a war to ensure its demise. Malenkov contributed to the end of the Korean War; gave up Soviet military bases in Finland; worked to improve relations with Tito; withdrew from Austria in 1955; cut Soviet army by 30%.
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Why did a thaw take place between superpowers?

USSR Reasons

  • Khrushchev: He criticised the New Course but went onto develop it into Peaceful Co-existence after Malenkov resigned in 1955. By the summer of 1957 Khrushchev was the established leader of the USSR - at the 20th Party Congress he had delivered a Secret Speech highly critical of Stalin's rule and the cult of personality adopted by Stalin. He wanted to detatch himself from Stalin's rule and called for peaceful co-existence with the capitalist powers and conceded that there were different paths towards socialism.
  • All three leaders had already recognised the military and economic pressures that made continued confrontation with the West a dangerous and expensive option. Beria had made the first moves and Malenkov and Khrushchev just developed this. Khrushchev was a 'man of the people' and adopted a softer and more constructive tone than Stalin towards the West. He visited Britain in 1956 and USA in 1959. He still adopted a competitive edge by boasting that the Soviet Union was producing missiles 'like sausages'. He believed that the USSR's economic output would soon overtake the West. Gaddis said Khrushchev 'acted like a petulant child playing with a loaded gun' e.g. Cuba/Berlin crisis.
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Why did Peaceful Co-existence happen?

  • Khrushchev: When he came into power Khrushchev announced the Secret Speech which condemned Stalin which set a new precedent with the West. It showed his rejection of Stalinism and wanted to work more co-operatively. He believed that Marxism was stronger than Capitalism, so it was safe to set up a relationship. The Berlin Wall was able to stop confrontation. However, undermined his own peaceful co-existence when put missiles in Cuba and how he rejected Open Skies which showed a severe lack of trust. Accused the USA of hiding weapons in Disneyland. Had a provocative way of tryig to get peaceful co-existence. He publically Mao in Taiwan Straits Crisis and his violent crushing of the Hungarian Uprising. He was loyal to the thaw to an extent but his competitiveness sometimes got in the way.
  • Eisenhower/Kennedy: Eisenhower loathed war after all the death he saw in WW2, so he was scared of what horror nuclear weapons could create. They didn't intervene in any Uprisings which showed they were trying to stop conflict. New Look was very hard line but wasn't reality and was just a rhetoric - he wanted to scare the USSR into not going to war. Ended the Korean War and left the French at Diem to the Vietnamese. Restrained British & French from war in 1956. He welcomed Khrushchev when he visisted. However, brinkmanship was irresponsible and could have started a nuclear war. Sent in U2 spy planes and refused to apologize - he killed the Paris Summit. Far more aggressive approaches for outside Europe. Kennedy's flexible response was better than Eisenhower; fights at Summits and threatened nuclear war over the Berlin Crisis which was very dangerous.
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How did USSR improve relations?

  • End of the Korean War: After Stalin's death, the new collective leadership moved rapidly to bring the Korean War to an end. This abandoned Stalin's hard line approach and was influenced by economic concerns of prolonging the war. It represented a clear sign that the new USSR government wanted to manage affairs in a different way. An Armistice was negotiated along the 38th parallel in July 1953.
  • Cuts in the Red Army: In mid 50s, the size of the Army was decreased from 5.8 to 3.7 million men. Further 33% of cuts were announced in the early 1960s. However, this was to save on military costs so that more money could be put in the creation of nuclear weapons.
  • Austrian State Treaty: Khrushchev accpeted a neutral Austria as the USSR extracted economic resources from their area. They removed all their troops, hoping it would be seen as proof of willingness to negotiate on keey issues.
  • Soviet Withdrawl from Finland: They handed $300 million in reparations to the USSR. They were also given were also given a lease to the Porkkala peninsula and in 1956, he gave it back
  • In 1953, the USSR settled border disputes with Turkey and Iran, re-established diplomatic relations with Greece, and formally recognised Israel. Two years later they recognised West Germany and restored relations with Tito's Yugoslavia.
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New Look Policy

  • Massive retaliation: In January 1954, Dulles announced a policy of 'massive retaliatory power' that the USA would make greater use of nuclear threats and place less reliance on conventional weapons. The circumstances that the USA would use these measures was kept deliberately vagueto put opponents at a disadvantage.
  • Brinkmanship: Part of Dulles' wide policy. In 1953, the US warned China that if the Korean War wasn't brought to a speedy end it would use nuclear weapons. An armistice was signed shortly afterwards. When China shelled Quemoy and Matsu, The US once again issued nuclear threats, leading Mao's forces to stop their military action.
  • Increased covert operations: The 1953 CIA operation to ensure that the pro-western Iranian Muhammad Reza Pahlavi was installed as the Shah of Iran. This gave them an ally on USSR's border. The 1954 CIA coup against the left wing Guatemalan President. The development of U2 spy planes to aid in intelligence gathering.
  • Domino Theory: This theory maintained that if Vietnam succumbed to communism, it would be followed by Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaya, Indonesia and the Philippines. This prompted the formation of SEATO in Spet 1954, a military alliance between the USA and South E. Asia.
  • Eisenhower Doctrine: It committed US economic and military support to protect the independance of any state in the Middle East that was threatened by communism.
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