Lecture: Cold War
You may recall that, during the war, Stalin of the Soviet Union had insisted on the Allies opening a Western Front. Britain and the U.S. had delayed this, mostly because Churchill of Britain had insisted that focusing on the Mediterranean operations (North Africa, Italy) would be of more use in helping the Soviets. Franklin D. Roosevelt, president of the U.S., had bowed to Churchill's wishes. But both knew this was about more than wartime strategy. It was also about communism. Stalin claimed that Britain and the U.S. were refusing him a second front so that the Nazi fascists and the Soviet communists would kill each other off. And indeed, Churchill's focus on the south was part of his strategy to restrict Stalin by invading Eastern Europe up from the south.
Had Churchill's strategy won out, Allies would have invaded up through the Balkans, occupying Eastern Europe and preventing the USSR from doing so. But FDR decided, in Operation Overlord, to answer Stalin's demand, in an effort to prove that the capitalists were not trying to kill off the Russians, and in hopes that the USSR would be a full participant in the new United Nations. Only Soviet confidence in the intentions of her allies, FDR believed, would prevent future war. So in 1944, U.S. and British troops invaded northern France, and Germany was occupied in the east by the Soviets and in the west by Britain, the U.S., and France.
After the U.S. used atomic weapons against Japan, Stalin felt even more threatened and was determined to hold onto eastern Europe as a "buffer zone" against western capitalist aggression. Germany had been partitioned into British, American, French, and Soviet sectors (as had Berlin), but the map above shows East Germany as fully within the Soviet "bloc", along with other nations where the local communist parties had taken over the government, almost all with Soviet assistance. Churchill called this line, the western border of the communist bloc, the "Iron Curtain".
|Workbook document: Winston Churchill: The Iron Curtain|
Berlin was the hole in that curtain. After the war, Europe went into economic depression. In nations everywhere, including the west, communists and socialists took power. The American solution to this, and communist aggression in Eastern Europe, was the Marshall Plan. In 1947, the U.S. offered billions to Europe in economic recovery cash. Western European nations accepted the money, but Eastern bloc nations declined after Stalin explained that the U.S. was trying to buy them with money when it couldn't earn them with ideology. The result was that money flooded into western Europe, but not eastern Europe, which had only the Soviet Union as a trade partner. In Berlin, it was possible for someone leaving anywhere in eastern Europe to walk from East Berlin across a street into the French, U.S. or British sector of the city, and then take a train or plane to anywhere in the west. By the 1960s, the Soviet Union and eastern Europe was experiencing a "brain drain", where good scientists and scholars were leaving for western Europe and the U.S. In 1961, the East German government constructed the Berlin Wall to keep people from leaving the Soviet sector of East Berlin, and thus all of Eastern Europe.
The U.S. saw the wall go up, as did the British and French, but decided not to start World War III in order to stop it. This was the Cold War, a standoff between communist and capitalist nations.
The Cold War was also evident in the United Nations. Shortly after the war, the U.S. had proposed the Baruch Plan, designed to halt nuclear development. But the Soviet Union felt it unfair to "freeze" conditions when only the U.S. had a nuclear bomb.
The United Nations, founded in 1945 in San Francisco, would be moved to New York City. It was located in the U.S. in order to ensure there would not be a repeat of post-Great War isolationism, which had excluded the U.S. from the League of Nations. There are two main bodies in the UN: the General Assembly, which consists of representatives from all member nations, and the Security Council. The Security Council has five permanent members in addition to members which rotate, and each permanent member has veto power. The permanent members in 1945 were Great Britain, France, the U.S., Republican China (later Communist China) and the Soviet Union (now Russia). The Security Council handles all issues that relate to international security (war and peace). So, the Soviet Union vetoed the Baruch Plan, and the nuclear arms "race" began.
The USSR detonated its first atomic device in 1949 (a year that also saw the communist takeover of China). States fearful of Soviet expansion formed NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In addition to nations on either side of the North Atlantic (the U.S., Canada, France, Britain, Portugal) others were included who might be useful against the Soviets (such as Turkey). The Soviets would respond with a similar communist nation club called the Warsaw Pact in 1955.
Between the end of the war in 1945 and the beginning of the Vietnam War in 1965, the Soviet Union and the U.S. "fought" each other around the world through "proxy" wars in smaller nations, by supporting the capitalist or communist side. The earth was divided into the First World (U.S. and allies), the Second World (Soviets and allies), and the Third World (non-aligned and others).
Among the significant events were:
The Korean War (1950), in which the U.S.-led U.N. pushed invading North Korea out of South Korea. Korea had been occupied by the Japanese, with the North surrendering to the Soviets and the south to the Americans. The North had become communist under Soviet tutelage, and had close ties to the newly communist China. U.S. President Truman was able to get the war started through the U.N. Security Council, because on that particular day the Soviets were boycotting the meeting to protest the U.N. refusing to allow Communist China to take the seat of Republican China. (They never missed another meeting.)
Revolt of Hungary (1956), which followed Stalin's death in 1953 and new leader Khruschev's efforts to de-Stalinize the USSR. Following Poland's lead, students and workers rebelled against Soviet oppression. When the new liberal government tried to pull out of the Warsaw Pact, the Soviets sent in tanks and ended the rebellion.
Suez Crisis (1956), in which the jointly-owned (by Britain and France) Suez Canal in Egypt was nationalized by Egyptian leader Nasser. This was also related to U.S. support for Israel (created 1948) against the Arabs in Palestine. Egyptian Arabs looked to the Soviets for support against capitalist interests, and got it. The British and French invaded Egypt. By 1957, both the Soviets and the U.S. had fleets off the coast of Egypt.
The building of the Berlin Wall (1961) (see above)
The Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), wherein the newly communist nation of Cuba was seen to be receiving offensive missile equipment from the Soviet Union, which could set up platforms for hitting the U.S. American President John F. Kennedy won the game of chicken against Soviet premier Khruschev, and the Soviets withdrew.
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