Three Cold War Crises 1957-1969

Berlin, Cuban and Czechoslavakia Crisis

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  • Created on: 30-05-12 19:50

Berlin Refugee Problem 1949

2.7 million fled from East to West Germany because it was highly attractive for skilled workers living in the East. Also, Berlin was the easiest place to flee from.

Khrushchev's Challenge: 

Refugee problem was a huge propaganda problem for the USSR because it showed people preferred Capitalist ways as opposed to Communist ways. So, he made the whole of Berlin belong to the East and gave USA a 6 month ultamatum to go otherwise they would declare war. 

His plan was to humiliate the USA and stop the refugees.

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The Four Summits 1959-1961

Summit 1 (Geneva) : May 1959- No solution to the problem was agreed but it laid the ground of work for Khrushchev to go to the USA and hold talks with Einshower.

Summit 2 (Camp David) : September 1959- The two leaders spoke frankly but did not make a solution to the problem and Khrushchev agreed to stop his 6th month ultimatum.

Summit 3 (Paris) : May 1960- Days before the summit the USSR shot done a U2 spy plane from the USA and captured the pilot. Khrushchev walked out when Einshower refused to apologise for spying over the USSR. John F Kennedy was then the new president.

Summit 4 (Vienna) : June 1961- Neither side wanted to back down over the US presence in the Berlin. Khrushchev used JFK's inexperience as a bonus and was confident he would back down so made another 6th month ultimatum. 

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JFK Prepares for War

JFK did not back down after Summit 4. He did not remove troops from Berlin so he prepared for War.

He spent $3.2 billion on defence spending and $207 million on building nuclear fallout shelters.

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Building the Wall- August 1961

Khrushchev knew he could not win a nuclear war. The USA weapons could reach the USSR, however the USSR weapons could not reach the USA. JFK's refusal to retreat from Berlin made Khrushchev back down. He also had to stop the refugees . On the 12th of August a barbed wire wall was put up to stop the East Germans from escaping to the West. 


  • It ended the refugee problem
  • Prevented war with USA but Khrushchev still looked strong
  • Powerful decision of Germany and the division of Europe

JFK's visit to Berlin:
He was unable to stop the construction of the wall but in 1963 he toured West Berlin expressing his feelings of Solidarity with his people. Crowds lined the streets and his speech said 'All men are free wherever they live.' 

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Cuban Crisis - Relationship between Batista and US

Cuba is a very large island, 160km from Florida, South of USA. It had long been an USA ally. The USA owned most of the business on the island and had a HUGE naval base there.

USA provided the Cuban ruler- General Batista. With economic and military support, he was a dictator. His rule was corrupt and unpopular. The USA supported him primarily because was just as opposed to  Communism as they were. 

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Overthrow of Batista by Castro 1959

There was plenty of opposition to Batista in Cuba itself. After a three year guerilla campaign, Fidel Castro overthrew Batista. Castro was charming, clever and ruthless.
He quickly killed, arrested and deported (exiled) many political opponents who may of opposed him. He was a clever propagandist, very charismatic and had vision for a better Cuba which won over the majority of Cubans. 

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Why Did Relations Sour?

The USA was taken by surprise at first but decided the recognise Castro as the new Cuban leader. But within a short period of time relations grew between the 2 countries, the reasons were:

  • Thousands of Cuban exiles in the USA who had fled from Castro's rule, formed powerful pressure groups demanding action against Castro
  • Castro took over some USA owned business' in Cuba, mainly agriculture. He took the land and gave it to his supporters among Cuba's peasant farmers.

In Summer 1960 the USA stopped buying Cuban sugar and later that tear banned all trade with Cuba. Then, in Jan 1961 it broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba. The USA hoped these measures would starve Castro in to Submission (give up).

They seemed to to of pushed him even closer to the Soviet Union. USA were aware about the aid that Castro was receiving from the USSR in means of weapons. In April 1961 the new USA president, JFK, decided to support an invasion by 'Cuban exiles'. They fled from Castro and wanted Batista back. 

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The Bay of Pigs 1961

JFK did not want a direct invasion so supplied arms, equipment and transport for 1,400 anti-Castro exiles to invade Cuba and overthrow him.

In April 1961 the exiles landed at the Bay of Pigs. They were met by 20,000 Cuban troops, armed with tanks and modern weapons. The invasion failed disastrously. Castro killed and captured them all within days. 

Impact of the invasion: 

The half hearted invasion suggested to Cuba and the Soviet Union that, despite its opposition to Communism in Cuba, The US were willing to get directly involved in Cuba.

The invasion strengthened Castro's position in Cuba. To the USSR, it showed that JFK was weak. It also made Castro and Khrushchev very suspicious of US policy. 

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October Crisis 1962

On the 14th of Oct 1962, a USA U2 plane flew over Cuba and took photos of missile sites being built, some where ready to fire missiles in 7 days.
Also, a fleet of Soviet ships were sailing to Cuba presumably carrying more missiles. 

JFK could not allo the Soviet Union to station nuclear weapons on Cuba, as that would place the whole of USA in a range of nuclear missiles.
Since Khrushchev denied there were nuclear missiles on Cuba and thought JFK was a weak leader, he would hardly respond to the USA removing them. 

Other measures like invading Cuba or bombing the missile sites would have dire consequences. At the very least, the Soviet Union would be likely to invade West Berlin.
More likely would be the outbreak of War between the USA and the Soviet Union with the chance of nuclear missiles being used. 

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1st Letter: Oct 23rd- Oct 25rd 1962

General information:

Tue 16th Oct - JFK is informed of the missile build up.
Sat 20th Oct - JFK decides on a blockade on Cuba.
Mon 22nd Oct - JFK announces blockade and calls on the Soviet Union to withdraw its missiles.

1st letter: 
Tue 23rd Oct- JFK receives a letter from Khrushchev saying the Soviet Union ships will not observe the blockade. He also doe snot admit the presence of nuclear missiles on Cuba.

Wed 24th Oct- Blockade begins and the first missile, carrying ships accompanied by a Soviet submarine approach the 500 mile blockade zone. At 10:30 am, 20 soviet ships that are closet to the zone stop and have to turn back.

Thur 25th Oct- Despite the soviet ships turning around, intensive aerial photography reveals that work on missile bases in Cuba is proceeding rapidly.

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2nd Letter: Oct 26th- Oct 28th

Fri 26th Oct- JFK receives a long personal letter from Khrushchev. It claims that the missiles on Cuba are purely defensive. This is the first time khrushchev has admitted the missiles are based on Cuba.

Sat 27th Oct am- Khrushchev send another letter revising his proposals- stating the condition for removing the missiles from Cuba is that the USA withdraw its missiles from Turkey. USA U2 plane is shot down and pilot is killed. President is advised to launch an immediate reprisal attack on Cuba.

Sat 27th Oct pm- JFK decides to delay attack and ignore 2nd letter from Khrushchev. He accepts the terms suggested by him on the 26th Oct. If the soviet Union do not withdraw, an attack will follow. 

Sun 28th Oct- Khrushchev replies to JFK stating missiles to be removed from Cuba, crisis over.

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Outcomes to October Crisis


  • Cuba stayed communist and highly armed, however nuclear missiles were withdrawn under untied nations supervisions
  • JFK came out of the crisis with a greatly improved reputation in his country and in the west. He had made Khrushchev to be pushed out of power and Khrushchev claime a personal triumph. 

Longer Terms:

it helped that the Cold War relations between the USA and the USSR, both leaders had seen how their brinkmanship has nearly started a nuclear war. They were prepared to take steps to reduce the risk of a nuclear war. A permanenet 'hot line' in June 1963. It was direct line from the White House to the Kremlin.

In August 1963 the Test Ban Treaty was set up. It did not stop the development of weapons, but it limited tests and was an important step forward towards detente. 

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Change of Leaders

JFK dies in 1963 and is replaced by Johnson.

Khrushchev goes and Brezhnev is replaced. 

Khrushchev leaves because communism is gettin out of control. 

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Czechoslavakian Crisis 1968


  • The policy of detente encouraged the uprising. Romania had also broken free of Russian control and was improving relations with the west.
  • The Czechs hated Russian control
  • Russian control of the economy, with made Czechoslovakia poor and caused falling standards of living.
  • Censorship and lack of freedom.
  • Some Czechs thought the USA would help them.
  • Hatred of Novotny's hard-line regime
  • Desire fo greater freedom and democracy.
  • Popularity of Dubcek, replaced Novotny in 1967.
  • Activities of secret police.
  • Purge of popular leaders by Novotny.
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The Events of the Prague Spring

  • During 1967, students and writers were complaining about the lack of freedom and poor performance of the Czech economy.
  • Novotny fell from power and Alexander Dubcek took over.
  • In April 1968, Dubceks government announced an Action plan for what it called Socialism with a Human face. It removed state controls over industry and allowed freedom of speech.
  • For four months there was freedom in Czechoslovakia, until Dubcek announced he was going to allow another party to form.
  • Dubcek stressed that Czechoslovakia would stay in the Warsaw Pact but in August, Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia, a country not in the warsaw pact visited Prague.
  • At a meeting in Bratislava on 3 August 1968, Brezhnev read out a letter from some Czechoslovakian Communists asking for  help
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Soviet Response to the Prague Spring

  • Brezhnev worried the reforms would spread to other Eastern countries
  • Czechoslovakia was important in the warsaw Pact as it was centrally placed
  • Warsaw Pact troops performed training exercises on the Czech border.
  • He thought abotu cutting off wheat supplies but thought they would turn to the USA
  • Dubcek agreed not to allow other political parties but insisted on keeping other reforms.
  • On the 20th og August, 400,000 Warsaw Pact troops entered Czechoslovakia, arrested leading reformers and seized key cities.
  • Dubcek told the people to offer only passive resistance so there were few deaths.
  • Dubcek was flown to Moscow where he talked with Brezhnev. He was forced to resign and was replaced by loyal Communist Husak.
  • Dubcek was not killed like Nagy in 56, he was always loyal to communism and friendly with Brezhnev. Instead he was gradually degraded and censored from everything.
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Brezhnev Doctrine 1968

Created by Brezhnev as a result of the Prague Spring. He argued that a threat to one Communist country was a treat to them all (clearly echoed the Truman Doctrine and the American fear of the domino effect). He also said that force would be used whenever necessary to keep Soviet satellites firmly under Soviet influence.

The essentials of Communism were defined as:

  • One party system
  • Remain a member of the Warsaw Pact.
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