Cold War Revision Notes


Post-Stalin Thaw: 1953-1962

  • Stalin lost control towards the end of his leadership, the USSR was losing the Cold War. His death therefore provided an opportunity for a new approach: Khrushchev's Peaceful Co-existence.
  • Eisenhower's 'New Look' policy allowed a reduction in  US spending on military arms as he was worried about the Military-Industrial Complex. This fitted with the USSR's Peaceful Co-existence as neither wanted nuclear war.
  • Spheres of influence were established by 1953, a move towards dialogue.
  • Khrushchev believed that Capitalism's collapse was inevitable therefore, in the mean time, dialogue was the best option.
  • NATO and the Warsaw Pact provided stability in Europe as both East and West had committed military support of their own spheres of influence.
  • Despite reductions in US military spending, nuclear arms rose on both sides which diverted much money from other social and domestic reforms.
  • Malenkov's 'New Course' was taken and converted by Khrushchev into Peaceful Co-existence.
  • By 1958, Eisenhower was willing to negotiate as he believed that the US was in a stronger position.
  • Eisenhower and Dulles introduced the 'New Look' policy: military containment, rollback of Communism and massive retaliation. They were highly critical of Truman for failing to deliver Communism during their campaign. This policy also introduced the idea of 'brinkmanship as well as covert operations to de-stabalise Communism.
  • Despite his hardline rhetoric, Eisenhower was confident and sensible as well as being good at face-to-face diplomacy.
  • JFK introduced the policy of Flexiable Response which placed much less emphasis on massive retaliation. This idea was to place nuclear weapons as one option of many NOT as the only option. There was further emphasis on covert operations, economic aid and conventional weapons.
  • The 'Thaw' produced a Geneva Spirit where the world's two most powerful leaders were in regular dialogue with each other. This was started by Eisenhower and Khrushchev but occured less so with Kennedy as he was seen as weaker by Khrushchev who took advantage of this during the Berlin Crisis and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  • Positive results of the 'Thaw': debate about nuclear war, Finland, Austrian State Treaty, De-stalinisation, better leadership, economic miricle, Geneva Spirit, Sino-Soviet split and end of the Korean War.
  • Negative results of the 'Thaw': Second Berlin Crisis, a lack of agreement at Geneva, U2 incident, Hungerian Uprising, nuclear spending increases and the Berlin Wall.

Nuclear Weapons: 1949-1976

  • The purpose of weapons was to fight wars usually, nuclear weapons were developed to make the prospect of war so terrifying that war would be avoided: deterence over conflict.
  • Motivating forces for a nuclear arms race: technological trap (each power develops weapons which make the other's obsolete), this is sustained by the economic (30 million employed), bureaucratic (political interest and motivation), military interest (scientists, weapons firms and the armed forces) and ideological factors (defence of freedom and Capitalism/Communism)
  • After March 1954, the US tested the L-bomb which allowed a non-refrigerated delivery system to be used which meant easier deployability. The thermo-nuclear age had arrived and the race now focused on delivery systems.
  • Bombers…


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