The Cold War Stalemate


The Role of Khrushchev and Peaceful Coexistence

John Kennedy: "The enemy is the communist system domination...freedom under God vs. ruthless, godless tyranny"

Truman - the architect of containment had ended his presidency - Eisenhower had opportunity to forge new relations with USSR. 5 March 1953, Stalin dies and Khrushchev would denounce his regime. Malenkov calls for peaceful coexistence of the two systems and settle disputes peacefully. War in Korea brought to an end, removing a major source of international tension. 

In 1956, Khruschev delivers speech to 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party denouncing Stalinism and emphasise a shift of Soviet foreign policy from confrontation to coexistence. 

  • The Soviet Union must remian as the unchallenged leaders of the socialist community in face of competition from China.
  • Firm grip over eastern bloc satellite states.
  • Germany prevented from rearming and becoming future threat to Soviet Union
  • USSR continue to expand nuclear capabiliy and spending on military security and conventional forces to be reduced (as seen in Austria)
  • Diffusion and care had to be taken to not provoke USA.

Peaceful coexistence was not a move to end the Cold War but it was a strategy to consolidate Soviet international power and security by existing in a less volitile environment. 

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The 'New Look'

Key figure: Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles - instrumental in developing alliances in order to prevent the further spread of communist influence. Dulles loathed communism and criticised Truman for being too soft. Argued in favour of forceful American policy which would 'rollback' the Russian fronteirs. Concept of 'Massive Retaliation' as an ultimate nuclear deterrent strategy and security guarantee for the USA - known as the 'New Look'. In essence it was commitment to the idea that containment would not allow nations to restore democracy if they were controlled by pro-Soviet communist regimes. American policy seemed to be moving towards more aggressive position. 

However, Eisenhower was keen to develop more cordial relations with the SU, although endorsing the 'New Look', in reality the non-aggressive containment policy remained cornerstone. When administration was faced with actually rolling back Russians in Hungary 1956, they did nothing except protest. In Hungary, the nationalists wanted a political system that responded the the specific needs of Hungary and its people. USSR used military force to restore normality. No aid was given from any Western powers. Similar response in East Berline strikes in 1953. Rollback was nothing more than a paper tiger and did little to impede improved East-West relations. In practical terms, 'New Look' did not move USA away from containment - Eisenhower was keen to reduce the risk of nuclear war and conscious of the fact that USSR nuclear capability was increasing - so cordial relations were ideal. 

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The Austrian State Treaty 1955

Soviet policy towards Austria had been closely linked to the policy towards Germany. Like Germany, Austria had been divided into occupation zones and the USSR had focused on recieving economic aid from Austria as they had with Germany. Austria had the potential to become as great an issue dividing East and West as Germany. Austrian leaders in the western zones promoted the idea that Austria could easily be absorbed into the Soviet sphere of influence. 

In 1955, USA showed serious intentions of embarking on negotiations over the future of Austria. By May 1955, the four occupying powrs had reached an agreement in the form of the State Treaty. It led to the withdrawal of all occupying powers and the declaration that Austria would be a neutral state. This was in line of the USSR's willingness to accept both Finland and Yugoslavia as neutral states and not liable to joining the Soviet sphere of influence. 

This agreement not only showed a serious intent towards mutual cooperation between the Cold War powers and removed a major source of potential conflict. Eased the path towards future cooperation between East/West. This was very much the essence of peaceful coexistence = summit diplomacy

It was also the first time conventional forces had been removed from Soviet aquired states since the Second World War.

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The Geneva Summit 1955

Although nuclear arms race, there was an incentive for Khrushchev to slow it down. Russia needed extensive conventional forces to ensure compliance among the eastern bloc states and to promote internal economic devlopment in the SU. A less confrontational relationship with the West would contribute to achieve these and protect the Soviet Union's security/status. A further incentive, pushing Khrushchev to the summt was the fact that the FRG was admitted into NATO and rearmament had begun in May - causing concern to Khrush. Impact was minimal but it marked a point of calm in relations and communication between powers.

The Open Skies Proposal 

Eisenhower attempted to end the deadlock over the issue of the superpowers inspecting each other's nuclear arsenals = closer step towards disarmament. Eisenhower called for each side to provide details of military installations and allow aerial reconnaissance. Khrushchev rejects the proposal, because he was aware of the existence of the Americans U-2 spy plane and the fact the Soviets had nothing comparable. 

The Future of the Germany: 

Eisenhower proposed a reunified Germany, free elections and Germany's freedom to ensure own security - meaning it would become part of NATO. Khrush would only contemplate this if Germany was demilitarised and neutal. Refused to discuss state of eastern bloc - agreed free elections but not implemented. 

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The Problems over Berlin and Germany 1958-61

As in 1945, Germany became pivotal issue. Khrushchev was convinced the Sputnik meant the USSR dominated the nuclear arms race. Needed a further issue to reinforde USSR's status. Since 1955, FRG was in NATO. Khrush feared nuclear missiles in West Germany. Hence an urgency to minimise Western power in Europe and gain guarantee that missiles would not be deployed. 

Khrushchev also mindful of sour relations with China - did not help China break from Taiwan in 1958 and China trying to gain islands. USSR needed to reinforce its credibility as global communist power  Too many people migrating from East to West - propaganda coup. 

On November 1958 Khrush declares an ultimatum. West had 6 months to recognise the existence of the DDR and accept West Berlin as an independent political entity and a free city - this would then hand West Berlin to the DDR. If this did not happen the SU, would surrender its zone to DDR and then Germans would control all access to West Berlin. This would force USA to recognise DDR and soverignity which had previously not happened - was simply regarded a Soviet zone - if they did, it would mean USA accepts the post-war peace settlement and remove its troops from West Berlin. 

The West ignored Soviet threats. Camp David talks in 1959 discussed disarmament and Berlin - first time a Soviet leader visits USA. This visit was good for peaceful coexistence but detoriated relations with China and USSR. Leads to Paris Peace Summit in May 1960.

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The Paris Summit May 1960

Krush wanted a deal oer Berlin and prohibition of nuclear weapons in Pacific and in Germany. China announces it will not be bound to any agreements with the USSR any longer. China nuclear arsenal almost complete. 

Summit collapses wih the news that American U2 spy plane had been shot down on mission over USSR. Khrushchev walks out when Eisenhower refuses to apologise after first denying its existence- against open skies proposal.

1961 - new President Kennedy. His agenda seemed to damn the future of peaceful coexistence - increasing defence budget and promising more conventional forces. Favoured an expansion of USA's nuclear arsenal. In June 1961, Khrush and JFK meet - little achieved - Khrush thought Kennedy was young and unexperienced whom he could easily manipulate. 

Recent Bay of Pigs scandal - unsuccessful attempt to overthrow communist regime in Cuba of Castro - had reinforced Khrush's view. Still issue on the future of Germany. 

Kennedy's refusal to compromise on the status of Berlin and accomodate Khrush's demand that Berlin should cease to be escape route for East Germans, confirmed a stalemate in relations in Europe. Berlin was symbol of Cold War confrontation and global differences. On 25th July, Kennedy calls for increase in NATO forces,

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The Berlin Wall August 1961

On 13 August, Soviet troops began to seal off East Berlin from West Berlin. The Cold War symbolism of the Berlin Wall was immortalised when Kennedy visited West Berlin in 1963. Despite attempts by the Soviet Union to present the wall as a necessary block to stop western spies infiltrating East Berlin and consequently East Germany, the wall was a failure for Khrushchev. It was also a propaganda disaster. The natural conclusion was that it was designed to keep East German citizens trapped in a communist state. Despite this the West did not try to stop the wall from being created. This may have encouraged Khrush that he could drive a wedge through NATO. Although the wall became a symbol of the Cold War, it eased tensions over Berlin - status quo.

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The Nuclear Arms Race 1949-62

America had maintained a nuclear monopoly until 1949. There was an urgency to create a degree of balance. Nuclear tech suggested that conventional forces were becoming relatively unimportant. The race became a process of action and reaction. Each side responded to what the other side did in terms of nuclear developments in terms of equalling it and then advancing the technology further. Previously, Truman and his advisors did not think mutual control of weapons would lead to any type of mutual deterrence - thought USSR was a threat. 

The NSC-68 was developed in which the council would advise the president on all security and defence matters - single department. 68 concluded that two nuclear arsenals would not act as a deterrent, but rather as an incitement to war.

  • USSR would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons if it had an advantage. 
  • It would be a stealth attack
  • USSR was committed to carrying out a pre-emptive strike - an attack to prevent an attack.
  • Necessary intelligence gathering 
  • Must devise anti-nuclear defence systems to protect the USA's nuclear retaliation capability. 

The USSR saw nuclear weapons as the key to preventing future war - although they knew it would not protect them from America- thus nuclear parity had to be reached - thus inevitable that the USSR would continue to be an active participant in the arms race.

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The USA and 'Massive Retaliation'

Became basis of American foreign policy under Eisenhower. The NSC-162/2 report recognised the death of Stalin and emergence of new Soviet leaders had not diminished the determination or the capacity of Soviet Union to conduct attack on USA. Report suggested that Soviet nuclear capability was increasing - thus proposed the US must develop a strong military posture with emphasis on capability of inflicting massive retaliatory damage. This was established because makers wanted to keep economic defence cost at a low as to not weaken US economy/prosperity. Massive retaliation was a clear deterrent strategy to convince the SU, should they choose to attack, would be met with an extreme nuclear response. 

In essence, the policy's aim was to preserve the US global security at a cost-effective price and not to undermine relations with its allies. By abandoning the commitment to containment and to ensure long term security against attack, based on deterrence. 

Policy shifted away from Truman's and necessitated an expansion of US nuclear arsenal and delivery systems - escalating the Cold War.

By 1955, the two sides were comparable in bomb tech but not in terms of delivery systems - USA had access to Japan and able to target Soviet cities. Khursh placed his faith in missile development to show to non-aligned developing countries the strength of the USSR. By May 1957, the Soviets had developed the ICBM which could leave the atmosphere and have multiple targets - surpassing the USA.

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The Sputnik 1957 and Position by 1962

In October 1957, SU launched the first satellite to orbit the Earth successfully. The USA percieved this as the USSR was superior in the long-range missile field. There was no known defence against a nuclear missile attack from space. Eisenhower came under attack for allowing SU to gain the lead in order to save money, and his massive retaliation programme came under immense pressure. 

The Gaither Report anticipated a huge expansion in Soviet nuclear capability but its findings were based on assumptions of Soviet strength rather than any concrete evidence. Gaither concluded that the Soviet economy was growing faster than the USA and expenditure would double within the decade. Gaither recommended a rapid increase in ICBM expansion and other developments and a huge civil defence programme. Some suggest Eisenhower rejected the proposal. 

The reality was not in favour of Soviet superiority - but USA was convinced this would become a reality and that the USSR's nuclear capability could surpass USA's. USA had 70 ICBM's in 1962, the Soviets only 50. Khrush was aware of the disparity despite the years of Soviet propaganda which reinforced the myth of superiority. 

Kennedy recognised although the USSR trailed, they had the capability to survive first strike. The nuclear arms race was both a contributor and consequence of the Cold War. USA held the view that the SU must be judged on its potential to act aggressively and the SU was founded on preventing war but being able to engage in one also - more defensive than aggressive. 

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