- Between 1949 and 1961 2,7 million East German refugees escaped from East Berlin to West Berlin, which was democratic and capitalist despite being in the middle of the communist East Germany, and from West Berlin to West Germany. Khrushchev issued an ultimatum in November 1958 giving US tropps six months to withdraw from Berlin, to try and stop this refugee flow and to try and humiliate the Americans.
- Representatives of the two superpowers met at Geneva in May 1959, and this meeting laid the foundations for Khrushchev and Eisenhower to meet at Camp David in September of 1959. Following these meetings, the six-month ultimatum was withdrawn. In Paris in May 1960, howevr, Khrushchev stormed out of the meeting after the USSR shot down an American U2 spy plane, and at Vienna in June 1961, Khrushchev, seeing the new American president John F. Kennedy as weak, reintroduced the ultimatum.
- Kennedy, however, did not back down as a result of this but rather committed the US government to $3.2 billion more defence spending and spent $207 million on building fallout shelters. Khrushchev knew that the USSR could not win a nuclear war with its inferior nuclear arsenal and thus decided to build a wall separating the two sides of Berlin instead. The construction began on the 12th of August 1961; there was a brief standoff between Soviet and American tanks on the 27th of October. Kennedy himself commented that "a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war" but toured West Berlin in 1963 and made his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech, making West Berlin an international symbol of freedom.
- By 1960 the USA, USSR, Britain, France and China all either had nuclear weapons or were running development programmes. Each side produced its own statistics to frighten the others. By 1960, however, the USA was clearly winning the arms race: it had more inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), more nuclear submarines and more long-range bomber aircraft, although it had less mid-range airborne ballastic missiles than the USSR. In addition, the USA had nuclear missiles at its British, Italian and Turkish bases by 1961, all at which could easily hit the USSR; the USSR's missiles, by contrast, had to travel further and could not be aimed with anything like the same accuracy. Nonetheless, the American government was very worried indeed about the Soviet nuclear capacity and particularly by their massive nuclear bombs such as 1961's "Tsar Bomba". The USSR had also landed a spacecraft on the moon in 1960 and the US government was extremely concerned about the possibility of Soviet missiles being…
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