History - The Origins of the Cold War

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  • Created on: 16-11-14 12:47

Reasons For the Break Up of the Grand Alliance

-The alliance between USA, GB and Russia

-It was formed to defeat Hitler and so was no longer needed

-Before 1941, relations were bad between Russia and West as the West feared the spread of Communism

-Nazi-Soviet Pact 1939, Russia joined the war only because Germany attacked her

-The Second Front controversy made Stalin bitter as he believed GB and USA had delayed the invasion of France so that Russia bore the brunt of fighting in Europe

-Disagreement over post war settlement:

-Russia wanted a sphere of influence in Europe - USA and GB must recognise this

-USA wanted open door, countries free from the influence of a big power

-Poland, USA wanted free elections, Stalin refused

-Disagreement over the treatement of Germany

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The Yalta Conference (February 1945)

-Three main leaders attended: Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill

-Germany was to be divided into zones of occupation controlled by each of the major allied powers. Originally three zones (British/Russian/American) but Churchill wanted one for the French (land coming from the British and American zones)

-Berlin was also divided into four zones

-Under the Morgenthau Plan, it was recommended that Germany should be tripped of her heavy industry, and that her machinery should be sent to compensate countries devastated by Hitler's armies. Russians demanded vast sum that no final figure was agreed

-Some small agreements made about Poland's future

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The Potsdam Conference (July 1945)

-Present: Stalin, truman and Attlee

-Conference saw mistrust emerge between the leaders as Western countries began to fear Russia was just after getting more power

-Confirmed Germany was to be divided into four, but made no long-term decisions about her future

-West was worried as Russia pushed the Frontier between Poland and Germany up to the Oder-Neisse River, and refused to alter this

-Russians agreed to declare war on Japan and take part in the invasion of that country, but Americans didn't really want this as they feared that Russia would demand a share in the occupation of Japan, which might lead to trouble. So Americans used the Atomic bomb, rather than staging an invasion

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-May 1946, British and American stop their deliveries of machinery to Russian zone as Russians were not sending food and raw materials in exchange

-1946, Churchill's Fulton Speech talks about the Iron Curtain that has descended across the Continent

-Russians stripped their eastern zone of virtually everything of value, around $16,000 million worth of reparations

-January 1947, Britain and America joined their zones to form Bizonia

-Western countries become annoyed as they saw Russia impose Communist governments on all of Eastern Europe

-Threats that Russians would extend their influence into places like Greece and Turkey

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The Atomic Bomb

-The First successful test of an Atomic Bomb took place on 16 July, the day before Potsdam

-Truman told Stalin, but truman thought that Stalin hadn't understood. In reality, Stalin had known all along as his spies had been keeping him informed

-Some believe Truman authorised the use of the Atomic Bomb as a warning to Stalin

-Churchill's advice to Truman about sharing scientific information about the bomb with the Russians was that they shouldn't share the information with the Russians

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The Communist Takeover in Eastern Europe

-At Yalta, Stalin had promised free elections in the states of Eastern Europe, but he had too strong a wish to control these countries to allow them to break away:

-The western powers would say that was because Russia was after power and wealth

-The Russians would claim that this was to give them a buffer zone to protect against Western aggression

-Whatever the Reason, the result was that in all cases after an early involvement of non-communists, Eastern governments became totally Communist-dominated

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Communist Takeover - Czechoslovakia

-In 1946 elections, Communists were the biggest single party, their leader, Gottwald, became Prime Minister. There were non-Communist ministers though

-After Stalin stopper Czechoslovakia taking Marshall Aid, the anger was so great that it seemed likely the Communists would lose the next election.

-An entirely Communist government was then created, and Foreign Minister, Jan Masaryk, was killed (among others)

-This was a big glow for the west, because it had seemed that Czechoslovakia would be allowed more freedom

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Communist Takeover - Hungary

-The small Farmers Party won elections in Hungary, with the Communists, under Rakosi, getting just 17% of the vote.

-Nevertheless, the Communists got the key jobs in government, with others gradually being forced out

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Communist Takeover - Yugoslavia

-Communists under Tito won 96% of the vote in the 1945 election

-Tito had a lot of genuine support because of his brave guerrilla war against Germany during WW2

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The Truman Doctrine

-Sprang from events in Greece where Communists were trying to overthrow the monarchy

-British helped but Bevin, British Foreign Minister, appealed to Truman for help

-Truman said (March 1947) that the USA would: "Support free peoples who are resisting subjugation by armed minorities or outside pressures."

-Greece received huge amounts of supplies and by 1949 the Communists were defeated

-The USA was commited to a policy of containing the spread of Communism throughout the world 

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The Marshall Plan

-George Marshall announced his Europoean Recovery Programme in June 1947

-Marshall said the policy was not against any country or doctrine but against poverty, hunger, desperation and chaos

-Aims from the American point of view:

  • to promote the economic recovery of Europe, ensuring markets for American exports
  • to prevent the spread of communism and prevent it gaing control

-By September, 16 nations had accepted aid from the plan

-Molotov disliked the plan, calling it "Dollar Imperialism"

-Russians thought the plan was a blatant American device for gaining control in western Europe and for interfering in Eastern Europe, which Stalin considered to de in the Russian "Sphere of Influence"

-Russia particuarly stopped Russia taking part in the plan

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The Cominform and The Molotov Plan

-The Cominform was set up by Stalin (September 1947)

-It was an organisation to draw together the various European Communist parties

-All satellite states were members, as well as the French and Italian Communist parties

-Stalin's aim was to tighten his grip on the satellites - he wanted Russian-style Communism everywhere


  • Eatern Europe was to be industrialised, collectivised and centralised
  • States expected to trade primarily with Cominform members
  • All contacts with non-communist countries were forbidden 

-Only Yugoslavia objected and so was expelled from the Cominform (in 1948), though she remained Communist

-1949, the Molotov Plan was introduced, offering Russian aid to the satellites 

-Comecon was set up to coordinate their economic policies

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The Berlin Blockade and Airlift (June 1948-May 194

-Early 1948, three western zones of Germany merged forming a single economic unit; thanks to Marshall Aid, it was in Marked contrast to the poverty of the Russian zone

-Russians alarmed by strong, independant American bloc

-June 1948, West introduced a new currency and ended price controls and rationing, in their zone and in West Berlin

-The Russians disliked:

  • the island of Capitalism deep inside the Communist zone
  • they felt it impossible to have two different currencies within the same city
  • embarrased by the prosperity of West Berlin and the poverty of the surrounding area

-Russians cut off all road, rail and canal links between West Berlin and West Germany

-Their aim was to force the West to withdraw from West Berlin by reducing it to starvation point

-West considered it important to hang on as a retreat would prelude a Russian attack on West Germany

-West took a risk to fly in supplies, rightly judging the Russians wouldn't shoot down the transport planes

-2.5million West Berliners needed to be kept warm and fed through the winter

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Results of the Berlin Blockade and Airlift

-Relations between the two sides plunged to a new low

-It was a triumph for the wectern powers that had clearly prevented an attempt to force them out 

-The formation of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), America joined European cities and they agreed to regard an attack on one of them as an attack on them all, and placed their defence forces under joint NATO command

-The two Germanies:

  • West set up The German Federal Republic (West Germany) in August 1949
  • Russians set up The German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in OCtober 1949

-It seemed like the division would be permanent

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The Korean War (1950-53)

-USA and USSR occupied Korea at the end of WW2. It was divided along the 38th parallel.

-Koreans hated the seperation of the country into the Communist North (capital of Pyongyang) and UN South (capital of Seoul)

-In June 1950, North Korean troops invaded South Korea

-Truman thought this was part of a Russian plan to advance Communism wherever possible and believed it essential for the West to take a stand by supporting South Korea

-UN Security Council called on North Korean to withdraw her troops, but this was ignored so they asked member states to send assistance to SK

-The Russian delegation were not present as they were boycotting meetings in protest against US refusal to allow Mao's new Chinese regime to be represented.

-UN troops put under MacArthur's command

-By September, Communist troops had overun the whole of SK except the South-East around Pusan

-UN reinforcements poured into PUsan and on 15th September, landed in Inchon, near Seoul, behind the Communist front lines

-By the end of September 1950, UN troops had cleared the South of Communists


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The Korean War (1950-53)

-By the end of October, UN troops had captured Pyongyang, occupied two-thirds of NK and reached the Yalu River, the frontier between NK and China

-In November, the Chinese launched a massive counter-offensive and by mid-January 1951 they had driven the UN troops out of NK and crossed the 38th Parallel

-MacArthur argued that the best way to beat the spread of Communism was to bomb Manchuria with A-bombs. However, Truman thought this would ccause a large-scale war; MacArthur was removed from his command

-Peace talks at Panmunjom lasted for two years, ending in July 1953 with an agreement that the frontier should be roughly along the 38th Parallel - back where they started

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General MacArthur

-Bullying, no-nonsense style got things done, but annoyed political leaders by following his own policies

-Truman and MacArthur went beyond the policy of Containment in crossing the 38th Parallel and seemingly wanting to remove Communism from Korea entirely (Roll-back of Communism).

-The Americans had started to form the Domino Theory, underwhich if one country went Communist then there was high chance that neighbouring states would too

-MacArthur underestimated the power of the Chinese, who succeded in driving the UN forces back

-MacArthur was so fanatically anti-Communist that he wanted to attack China with nuclear weapons

-Truman fell out with him over this, agreeing with the UN that saving SK was enough

-When MacArthur openly threatened to bomb Manchuria with A-bombs, he was sacked

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Results of the Korean War

-Korea devestated:

  • 1.5 million dead
  • 5 million homeless

-Division of country seemed permanent

-USA could claim success in containing Communism

-UN had reveersed an act of aggresion something the League of Nations hadn't

-Communist China had emerged on the world stage for the first time

-Cold War now had a far Eastern dimension. in 1954, USA, UK, France, Australia, New Zealand set up SEATO (South East Asia Treaty Organisation). But as only Pakistan, Thailand and the Phillipines joined, this was never as important

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Assessing the Seriousness of Crises

-What was the likelihood of a wider war?

-Was there a specific threat of nuclear war?

-What was the extent of deaths or destruction?

-What were the short/long consequences in terms of the bigger picture?

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The "Thaw"

1953 Stalin Dies

Khrushchev hoped to reduce tension by:

  1. in 1953, Russia withdrew claims of Turkish territory
  2. in 1953, Russians encouraged the Chinese and North Koreans to sign the armistice that brought the Korean War to an end
  3. in 1954, Russia played an active part in creating the Geneva Peace Agreement, which divided Vietnam between the Communist North and non-Comunist South
  4. on 14th May 1955, Russians signed an agreement to resolve the Austrian problem of being divided into four
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The Warsaw Pact 1955

-In May 1955, West Germany became a member of NATO

-Russians annoyed as Germany was old enemy

-They decided to form their own alliance to counter NATO

-Representatives of Russia, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Albania

-This meant:

  • Their armed forces were placed under Russian command
  • Russia could legally station troops in any of the member countries

-Despite this, Russia did not stop their push for better relations with the West

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Khrushchev Speech 1956

-Khrushchev made a speech to the 20th congress of the Soviet Communist Party

-In the speech he condemned Stalin saying:

  • Stalin had been a murderer of thousands of innocent people
  • that far from being the saviour of Russia, Stalin had been a poor war leader
  • Stalin had glorified himself in a sickening way

Russians brought up to Stalin were shattered by the speech

The speech also:

  • annoyed the Communist Chinese, who had admired Stalin
  • made people in Eastern Europe hope for more freedom
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The Hungarian Rising 1956

-People in the satellite states disliked the poor conditions as they were treated as slave colonies to Russia and Hungary had to pay reparations to Russia

-After Khrushchev's Speech, the satellites hoped for:

  • higher standard of living
  • less direction from Russia in economic life
  • more political freedom

-Khrushchev said "Russia had shed its blood to liberate this country and now you want to hand it over to the Americans"

-Street fighting raged on for 5 days, the hungarian rebels backed by the Hungarian Arm. Only the security police stayed loyal to the Russians

-President Eisenhower said:"I feel with the Hungarian people." Dulles said:"you can count on us"

-On 1 November 1956, Hungrians demanded farreaching reforms. They wanted:

  • an end to the one-party system
  • free elctions
  • Hungary to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact
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The Hungarian Rising 1956

-This was too much for the Russians. They were afraid:

  • the iron curtain would be torn
  • free elections would be the end of Communism in Hungary
  • other satellites might follow suit, ending the Communist buffer zone

-Khrushchev's decision was made easier as America was caught up in an election and America was angry with Britain about the invasion of Egypt

-On 4 November, Russian tanks rumbled into Hungary, bitter street fighting followed

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Results of the Hungarian Rising

-By the end:

  • 3000 dead
  • 180 000 fled to the west through Austria
  • Nagy was imprisoned and shot
  • a new Soviet-backed government was installed

-Why USA did not help:

  • might lead to (nuclear) war
  • their own people might die
  • costly
  • they would have to fly men over
  • Russia is just intervening rather than invading a new country - they already controlled Hungary

-Relations between Russia and America grew worse

-Hopes that Russia under Khrushchev would be more tolerant dashed

-Russians appeared as brutal oppressors

-Many Hungarians forced to flee abroad

-Russia became warier about putting out the wrong signals because of how they would be recieved in places like Eastern Europe

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The Rest of the 1950s

-Eisenhower and Dulles said that the only thing the Russians understood was the "Mailed Fist", by which they meant the threat of war

-The policy in these years was "Brinkmanship" - going to the brink of war rather than giving in to the Russians

-Many worried about the threat of warso in 1955 there was a summit conference of world leaders in Geneva and it was hoped that if they held another one relations would improve

-In 1960 another one was arranged in Paris 

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Evaluation of the Hungarian Rising

-Khrushchev speech looked like things more tolerant, but the rising shows Khrushchev not prepared to give satellite states freedom if it meant the end of the Iron Curtain and end of Communism

-Relations between Russia and America grew worse as Eisenhower and Dulles said Mailed Fist. The policy was Brinkmanship. This raised the prospect of nuclear war

-Misleadency that Dulles gave to Hungary ("you can count on us"). Didn't help as it was costly and Russia only intervening. If they got involved it may have lead to a wider war, possibly nuclear, leading to the end of humanity

-Russians appeared as brutal oppressors as 3000 people died

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Arms Race 1950s

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Paris Summit Conference 1960

-Was broken up in disorder

-Americans felt they needed more info on the Russian weapons

-By 1960, US developed an aeroplane for this purpose - the U2

-They thought it flew so high it couldn't be shot down

-On 1 May, a U2 was shot down in the middle of Russia

-At Paris, Khrushchev asked Eisenhower to apologise for using the U2s - he refused

-Khrushchev was furious and left Paris in a great rage

-Gary Powers was in a plane that was shot down and he survived. Eisenhower refused to apologise or to promise there would would be no more flights. This caused a dramatic downturn in US-Soviet relations

-Powers was sentenced to 10yrs in Soviet prison but was exchanged for a Russian spy (Rudolf Abel) in February 1962

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Evaluation of the U2 Crisis

-No deaths or destruction, unlikely US or USSR would go to war over spies

-Downturn in relations as Eisenhower refused to apologise or promise no more flights

-Eisenhower said if the USSR has nothing to hide then what is the problem and called for an "Open-Skies" policy

-No specific threat of nuclear war as if used lead to end of humanity

-If Russians thought there was an A-Bomb there may have been a threat, but there had been U2 flights before so the Russians knew what was going on

-U2 crisis wrecked Paris. We don't know how it would ahve gone without it but we do know tht two serious Cold War Crisies followed: the building of the Berlin Wall (1961) and the Cuba Crisis (1962). The U2 incident may not have caused these but it did nothing to make them less likely

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