International Relations

1943 - 1991


Post - War Tensions

Ideology: A set of political ideas about how society should be run. The USA and USSR have different ideologies.

The USA:

- Capitalism based on freedom

- Trade between countries


- Communism based on fairness/equality

- The state take control of the economy

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The Long Telegram and The Novikov Telegram

The Long Telegram (1947)

US Ambassador heard that the USSR felt threatened by the strength of Capitalism

The Soviets will now build their military strength

The Novikov Telegram (1947)

Soviet Ambassador heard that the USA wanted world domination

Building up their military strength

Preparing for war

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The Arms Race

1945 - America drop two atomic bombs on Japanese cities

1949 - Soviets test their first atomic bomb

1952 - America develop their first hydrogen bomb

1953 - Soviets develop their first hydrogen bomb

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Teheran Conference (1943)

The Grand Alliances: America, Russia and Britain

Who: Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill


Would defeat the Germans 

Countries would have their own sphere of influences


The future of Germany - Stalin wants to punish Germany

However, the US/GB want to rebuild and make Germany stable

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Yalta Conference (1945)


Make Poland a communist country

Once Germany are defeated, the USSR can defeat Japan

Work for democracy in Europe


Different ideas on what democracy meant

Stalin thought democracy meant a Communist Government

USA thought democracy was based on elections

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Potsdam Conference (1945)

Who: Stalin, Truman and Atlee


Reduce the size of Germany

Split Germany into 4 zones each owned by one of the big three 

Ban Nazi party and punish the war criminals


USSR felt threatened as the USA dropped two boms over Japan (tension)

Disagreement on reparations - Germany given the poorer part of Germany 

USSR had to pay for the industrial equipment he would want 

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The Truman Doctrine (1947)

Truman wanted to contain communism

People should choose between communism or capitalism

Stop the spread of the 'domino effect'

Give economic and military aid to Europe after the war

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The Marshall Plan (1947)

$13 billion was given to Europe as aid in order to help rebuild the countries after the effects of the Second World War

16 Western European countries accepted this aid

This increased trade links between the USA and those countries who accepted the aid

Gave people a stake in the capitalist system

USSR felt threatened and saw this as an 'attack' on them

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Cominform (1947) and Comecon (1949)

Cominform - Communist Information Bureau:

Organising communist parties

Got rid of any opposition - 5% of Hungary imprisoned as they were seen as disloyal 

Blocks Marshall assistance

Comecon - Council for mutual economic assistance:

USSR alternative to the Marshall Plan - Economic aid

Trade links between comecon countriews

Prevented comecon coutnries from signing up to the Marshall plan

Comecon countries consisted of: Hungary, Czechosolvakia, Poland, East Germany, Bulgaria, Albania and Romania

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The Berlin Blockade (1948-49)

Bizonia formed: USA and Britain combined their two zones in 1947

Trizonia formed: Bizonia merges with the French zones to form one Western zone

West Germany had a new currency which increased prosperity and people from the East moved to the West (2,500 people per day) Stalin felt threatened, thus, cut all of the food supplies into West Berlin so the Government would fail.

Berlin Airlift: USA responded by brining in 70 cargo planes with 600-700 tonnes of food (eventually 1000 tonnes) to feed the West Berliners 

After 318 days, Stalin stopped the Berlin Blockade - Propaganda success for the USA but looked agressive for the USSR

1949 - West Germany is officially formed

1949 - East Germany formed as a soviet state

1949 - NATO set up to counter act Soviet Military threat (Warsaw Pact formed in 1955 as a Soviet alternative) 

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Soviet Control in Hungary (1956)

Life under Rakosi: Strong Stalinist, thus, he witheld very strong communist views. He was seen as Stalin's 'best pupil' as he imprisoned 387,000 people and killed 2,000 people to whoever opposed the soviet rule. He was commonly seen as the 'bald butcher' and was a brutal leader

1953: Stalin died so Khrushchev took over

De-stalinisation: Relax the soviet system.Students and workers demonstrated in protests and even burnt the statues of Stalin and fought against the police. Thus, Khruschev appointed a more liberal leader - Imre Nagy in 1956

Nagy's Reforms: He wanted to leave the Warsaw pact, no more communist government, free elections (democracy) and UN protection from the USSR and to be a neutral country.

Khruschev's response: He refused to grant Nagy's reforms and feared that if one country left the Warsaw Pact; other countries would follow. Sent in 200,000 soviet troops in Nov 1956 to remove Nagy's government (20,000 Hungarians killed) Nagy seeked refuge in the Yugoslav embassy but was found and trialled for treason then executed in 1958. America sent $20 million worth of food and medical aid and they praised Hungary's bravey. Khruschev appointed an all communist leader: Kadar to re-establish communist control in Hungary. 

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A divided Berlin

  • Some Eastern Germans didn't like the communist rule
  • There were better jobs with higher wages in the West
  • Easy access to West Germany
  • 2,500 people crossed over from the East to West per day
  • Many skilled workers left for the west - East had a skills shortage
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The Berlin Wall (1961)

November 1958 - Khruschev declares that Berlin belongs to the USSR and the USA have a 6 month ultimatum to withdraw from the city.

Geneva Summit 1959 - No solution

Camp David 1959 - Withdraws 6 month ultimatum

Paris 1960 - US Spy plane shot down - USA refuse to apologise and Khruschev reimposes the 6 month ultimatum

Vienna 1961 - Re-states 6 month ultimatum

Kennedy spends $3.2 billion on additional defence to prepare for potential war.

Khruschev backed down as he knew he couldn't win a nuclear war. Thus, the wall was built in August 1961 to divide soviet zone from western zone. People couldn't move from east to west and vice versa and it was a general symbol of the the division of the cold war.

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The Cuban Missile Crisis (1962)

  • Cuba and America were closely allied and was 145km away from the USA
  • Much of the land was owned by American Businesses
  • Cuba then had a socialist revolution and the USA refused to deal with the new government
  • Cuba built economic links with the USSR as the US cut off their sugar supplies - The USSR promised to buy a million tonnes of sugar a year
  • USA had 20 times more bombs than the Soviets
  • USSR Launched Sputnik in 1957 - creates impression that the USSR are moving further than the USA
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The Bay of Pigs Incident (1961)

What the CIA told Kennedy:

  • They invade Cuba by making it look like a Cuban Revolt
  • They'd train Cuban exiles in guerrilla warfare
  • Make the US Spy planes look Cuban
  • Catro's government is weak so the plan would work

What actually happened:

  • Castro and his government already knew of the plan, thus, they were prepared
  • 1,400 US troops came to invade, but Castro was ready with 20,000 troops (America Surrendered) 
  • Cubans didn't want their corrupt leader, Batista back
  • Underestimaed the support that Castro had
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The Cuban Missile Crisis - The 13 days (1962)

16th October - US have photographed images of the Nuclear Missile bases located within Cuba

20th Octobter - Kennedy decides to create a naval blockade in Cuba

24th October- Khrushchev said that the ships will ignore the naval blockade

25th October - USA and USSR prepare for Nuclear War

26th October - Khrushchev sent a letter to Kennedy that he'd withdraw the missiles if the USA don't invade Cuba

27th October - Khrushchev sends out a second letter saying the same but the USA also have to take out their missiles out of Turkey too. Kennedy privately agrees to the second deal but publicy agreed with the first.

28th October - End of crisis: The deal was affirmed. 

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Consequences of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Short term: 

  • The USSR looked weak as no one knew about the USA's missile withdrawal
  • Installed a red 'Hotline Agreement' direct communication between the White House in Washinton and Kremlin in Moscow
  • 1963 - Limited test ban treaty: Ban all nuclear weapon testing in space, sea and above ground (underground tests still permitted)

Long term:

  • Beginning of the détente period - MAD meant a nuclear war was to be avoided
  • The French left NATO as they realised they might have had to fight
  • Khrushcev forced out of power in 1964
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Soviet Control in Czechoslovakia (1968)

Soviet rule impacts:

  • Living standards and economy had declined
  • Opposition to communist was obliterated
  • Communist rule became unpopular

Alexander Dubček

  • 1968 - Became leader
  • Good friend of Brezhnev
  • Communist and supporter of the Warsaw Pact
  • Introduced the Prague Spring - A prolonged period of time of increased political freedom
  • Reforms - relaxation of censorship, freedom, more democracy, power given to Czech government
  • Believed in 'Socialism with a human face'
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Soviet Control in Czechoslovakia 2 (1968)


  • Didn't allow the reforms as it could impact the Warsaw Pact -sent tanks to Prague and arrested Dubček - Very little resistance. People put flowers in solider's hair.
  • Brezhnev Doctrine was imposed and it was the idea that if one Eastern European country threatens the stability of the rest then the USSR had the right to invade.
  • Dubček was forced to sign the 'Moscow Protocol' meaning that he betrayed socialism.

Results of Czech crisis: 

  • US were too busy in Vietnam but condemned the actions
  • Italy/France were outraged and they declared themselves separate from Soviet Communism
  • Yugoslavia and Romania both also condemned the invasion and made alliances with China
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Détente - The easing of tensions between countries

Outer space treaty 1967 - No nuclear weapons in space

Nuclear non-profileration treaty 1968 - Prevent the spred of nuclear weapons

SALT 1 1972 (Strategic Arms limitation treaty) - Limit number of nuclear weapons they had

  • No further production of ballistic weapons
  • No increase in number of ballistic weapons 
  • ABM - Anti Ballistic Missile

Helsinki Conference - 1975

  • Representatives from 35 countries to discuss: Security, Human Rights and Co-operation
  • USA would by USSR Oil and USSR would buy USA Wheat
  • Disputes to be settled peacefully 

Apollo-Soyuz Mission -1975: Joint space mission between USSR and the USA

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The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan 1979

  • The King - Overthrown in the Kabal Revolution (1978)
  • Mohammed Taraki - Ally of the USSR socialist 
  • Hafizullah Amin - Assassinated Taraki and negotiated American Alliance
  • Babrak Kamal - Pro-communist and was seen as the 'puppet' of the USSR

USSR didn't want soviet states to turn into Islamic states and they didn't want Muslims in Russia to demand independance. Mujahadeen attacked Government as they didn't like Babrak Kamal. Brezhnev ordered troops to invade Afghanistan.

  • 1.5 million killed

US Reaction - The Carter Doctrine:

  • Threatened to use force on the USSR
  • Set up an alliance with China and Israel
  • Provided money and weapons to the Mujahadeen
  • Refused to sign SALT II
  • USA boycotted Moscow olympics in 1980 (60 countries followed American lead)
  • Carter didn't want Iran to block Middle Eastern Oil exports 
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The Second Cold War 1979-85

Ronald Reagan became president in 1979 and said that God gave him a mission to win the Cold War

Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI) 

  • Creating a 'Nuclear Umbrella' around America
  • A ring of Satelites with powerful lasers that could destroy/intercept Soviet Missiles in space
  • Broke the Outer Space Treaty in 1967

Reagan and the "Evil Empire"

  • Speech made by Reagan in 1983
  • Described the Cold War in religious terms that America had the duty to fight the evil

Soviet Response

  • They couldn't compete with Regan as their economy and living standards were low due to the costly Afghan War. 
  • Technology wasn't developed enough, thus, couldn't compete in the Arms Race
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Gorbachev, Perestroika and Glasnost

USA have a booming economy, excellent computer technology, lots of NATO allies and were seen as the 'leaders of the free world' 

USSR had a large amount of nuclear weapons but the Chernobyl Power plant explosion in 1986 in Ukraine made it look like the USSR were facing a crisis. They had a failing economy, old fashioned technology, expensive Afghanistan war, shortages and low living standards. 

1985 - Gorbachev became the USSR leader

Gorbachev introduced:

Glasnost - Relaxing censorship of the press/media

Perestroika - Economic restructuring to make an efficient economy

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Gorbachev and Reagan

Geneva Summit 1985: 

  • Reagan wanted to persuade Gorbachev that peace between both countries should be the aim
  • Gorbachev wanted to persuade Reagan to drop the SDI plan

Reykjavik Meeting 1986:

  • Reagan proposed scrappig all nuclear ballistic missiles 
  • Gorbachev unwilling to agree unless Reagan scraps SDI

INF Treaty 1987 (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces)

  • Got rid of all 500-5500 km nuclear missiles each superpower had
  • Signed in December 1987
  • Gorbachev signed it as he could no longer compete in the Arms Race
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The break-up of the Eastern Bloc

  • Gorbachev wanted countries to enjoy the freedom of Glasnost and Perestroika
  • Withdrew troops from Eastern Europe (saves money)
  • He scrapped the Brezhnev Doctrine to promote oppeness and to improve trade relations with the west to rebuild its economy

Revolutions followed in Poland, the 'Velvet Revolution' in Czechoslovakia and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

People started leaving East Germany through Hungary so the Government accounced the greater freedom of travel for East Germany. Furthermore, on the 9th November, they were allowed to cross the border from East to West. This led to the falling of the Berlin Wall in 1989. 

The Warsaw Pact ended in 1991 where Poland left first, followed by Hungary and then finally East Germany.

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The End of the Cold War

Gorbachev's glasnost policies meant people could say what they thought and perestroika made the economy even worse. Living conditions got even worse than before! Soviet republicks began to demans independence in 1990-91.

The August Coup 1991 

  • A group tried to take control and rescue the USSR by removing him from power. 
  • The coup was defeated in a few days whilst Gorbachev returned to power but he looked weak whilst Yeltsin looked strong as he defended the coup. 
  • Gorbachev tried to fix the USSR - Republics could have more freedom but most republics wanted full independence. 
  • 25th December - Gorbachev dissolved from power

Why did the USSR lose the Cold War?

  • Propaganda - Capitalism looked better than Communism
  • Afghan War - costly
  • Economy - never as productive as the USA
  • Arms Race - cripped Soviet economy
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