All Cold War mini essays

One key feature at the Tehran conference was the agreement that the Americans and British would open a second front in France against the Germans. This would happen a year later on D-Day in June 1944. Stalin suspected the delay by one year was intended to bleed the Red Army white so that the West could dominate the post-war war world.

Another key feature was that the Allies agreed that the Soviet Union should have a ‘sphere of influence’ in Eastern Europe at the end of the war. Having suffered invasion twice by Germany in the last 30 years this would give the Soviet Union some security and a ‘buffer zone’ from any further threats from the West. Interpreting what the ‘sphere of influence’ meant, however, would be source of tension later on.

Briefly explain the key features of the Tehran Conference, 1943? (6)
The Tehran Conference was important because it showed how the Allies were divided and how difficult relations would be once the common enemy, Nazi Germany, was defeated. The first signs of distrust were evident when Stalin accused Roosevelt and Churchill of delaying the launch of the ‘second front’ to 1944 as a plot to bleed the Red Army white and thereby help the Western powers dominate the post-war world. Moreover, plans were made at Tehran for the reconstruction of Europe based on two separate ‘spheres of influence’ with Russia in control of the East and Britain and the USA in control of the West. Ideological differences between communism and capitalism, however, were so diametrically opposed that it was inevitable that conflict and rivalry would emerge from such an arrangement. The division of Europe would become entrenched, lasting for the next 50 years, and be a defining feature of the Cold War.
Explain the importance of the Tehran Conference? (5)
One main decision made about Germany was to divide the country into three zones of occupation administered by the Big Three (Britain, USA and USSR), but after Churchill’s insistence the French were also given an occupation zone. It was also agreed that Berlin, which was located deep in the Soviet zone of East Germany, would be similarly divided and there would be a joint commission of the Allies to run the city.

Another main decision was to move the borders of Germany, giving territory east of the rivers Oder-Neisse to Poland. This was the result of pressure from Stalin who wanted to compensate Poland for the USSR taking some of their land. Stalin also promised free elections in their sphere of influence.

Briefly explain the main decisions made about Germany at the Yalta Conference in February 1945. (6)
The Tehran Conference was important because it showed how the Allies were divided and how difficult relations would be once the common enemy, Nazi Germany, was defeated. The first signs of distrust were evident when Stalin accused Roosevelt and Churchill of delaying the launch of the ‘second front’ to 1944 as a plot to bleed the Red Army white and thereby help the Western powers dominate the post-war world. Moreover, plans were made at Tehran for the reconstruction of Europe based on two separate ‘spheres of influence’ with Russia in control of the East and Britain and the USA in control of the West. Ideological differences between communism and capitalism, however, were so diametrically opposed that it was inevitable that conflict and rivalry would emerge from such an arrangement. The division of Europe would become entrenched, lasting for the next 50 years, and be a defining feature of the Cold War.
Explain the importance of the Yalta Conference, 1945. (5)
At Potsdam the Allies decided to establish political control over Germany. It confirmed the Yalta agreement to divide Germany into 4 zones, controlled by the USA France, Britain and the USSR. Berlin, which was deep in the Soviet zone, was similarly divided. They also agreed on denazification, in which the German army was disbanded and top Nazis were prosecuted for war crimes at the Nuremberg Trials

Another decision made by the Allies at Potsdam was to extract reparations (payment for war damages) from Germany. Stalin would be allowed to take a quarter of all industrial equipment from the western zones in return for East German agricultural produce. He would later renege on his side of the deal.

Briefly explain what the Allies decided about Germany at the Potsdam Conference, 1945 (6)
They confirmed the division of Germany and Berlin into four zones of occupation as previously agreed at Yalta. The four zones were to be administered by the USSR, the USA, Britain and France.
Germany had to pay reparations to the Allies. A quarter of German industry in the West was to be given to the Soviet Union in return for food from the East.
Outline two issues on which the Allies agreed at the Potsdam Conference (4)
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The Potsdam Conference was highly important in international relations because major differences between the superpowers emerged, which would lead to mutual suspicion and rivalry that would last for several decades. When the Allies met in July 1945 Nazi Germany had been defeated a few months earlier, thereby removing the common enemy that held them together. Tensions grew because Stalin was betraying his promise of free elections in Eastern Europe and was instead imposing communist governments in his sphere of influence. This was regarded by the Americans as an attack on democracy and capitalism. President Truman also contributed to the causes of the Cold War by announcing at Potsdam that he was going to use an atomic bomb against Japan but would not share its secrets. Stalin viewed this as a form of intimidation against the USSR and so Truman’s announcement helped to provoke the nuclear arms race.
Explain the importance of the Potsdam Conference, 1945 (5)
One reason the gulf between the Allies widened was because at the Tehran Conference in 1943 the Soviets wanted the opening of a second front to happen immediately, while the Americans wanted to delay the Normandy landings to 1944. Stalin suspected the Americans wanted to bleed the Red Army white so that they could then dominate the post-war world. This did not cause a long-lasting dispute and so was not the main reason because the success of Allied operations on D-Day meant the issue was soon forgotten about.

More important than the second front increasing tensions was the role of personalities and this was revealed at Potsdam in July 1945. Stalin had shown that he was paranoid and aggressive by using the Red Army to impose his rule in Eastern Europe, despite having promised free elections a few months earlier at Yalta. President Truman also demonstrated that he, too, was willing to use intimidation and not show any trust when he announced that he had a nuclear weapon but refused to share the technology. But differences between the Allies would probably have developed anyway, whoever the leaders were, because mutual fear of each other’s viewpoint was so deeply entrenched.
The main reason the gulf widened was because of ideological differences between communism and capitalism, which had been buried during the common fight against Nazi Germany. As soon as Hitler died in April 1945 there was no need for the Allies to stay together. Contrasting views about dictatorship versus democracy or the free market versus state control of the economy were so fundamental that they could not be reconciled. Events like the Tehran Conference and the role of personalities like Stalin merely sharpened an inevitable division between the Allies.

Why did the gulf between the Allies widen in 1945-46? (13)
Stalin did not allow free elections in Eastern Europe. Elections were rigged or key posts in government, such as security and defence, were given to communists by threatening opposition leaders.
Communism was imposed on the economies of Eastern Europe. Banks and businesses were nationalised, private profit was banned and farms were collectivised.
Outline two steps that Stalin took to establish Soviet control over Eastern Europe before 1947(4)
In the Truman Doctrine he declared support to anti-communists. Military equipment was given to the Royalists in the Greek Civil War.
In the Marshall Plan he offered financial support to Western Europe. $17 billion was given as aid to restore prosperity and discourage people from turning to the communists.
Outline two steps that President Truman took to contain Soviet expansion in 1947 (4)
A key feature of the USA’s growing involvement was the Truman Doctrine, which was in response to the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe. The Truman Doctrine stated that America had a responsibility to fight for liberty wherever it was threatened; and this was put into action when the Americans supplied weapons to anti-communist Royalists in the Greek Civil War.

Another key feature was the Marshall Plan, which provided economic aid to the countries of Western Europe. $13 billion of aid was given as a way of preventing countries from slipping into chaos and then to communism. Acceptance of the Marshall Plan was dependent on allowing the USA to trade freely and so it helped to provide a valuable market for American goods. Both the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan were part of the policy of ‘containment’ of communism.

Briefly describe the key features of the USA’s growing involvement in Europe during 1947 (6)
A key feature of the Truman Doctrine in 1947 was that it was a challenge to communism. The Truman Doctrine was in response to the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe and was inspired by Winston Churchill’s iron curtain speech in 1946. It stated that America had a responsibility to fight for liberty wherever it was threatened. Preventing the spread of Communism was part of the policy of ‘containment’.

Another key feature was that America would give military aid to any country threatened by communism by supplying it with weapons. The Truman Doctrine was put into practice when the Americans supported the Royalists in the Greek civil war following the withdrawal of British forces. The Truman Doctrine was, in effect, a declaration of Cold War by the United States.

Briefly describe the key features of the Truman Doctrine (6)
The Truman Doctrine was an important event in international relations because it heralded a major turning point in American foreign policy. Up to 1947 the US had been trying to adopt a fairly conciliatory approach towards the Soviet Union, but President Truman now decided that it was time to make a stand and ‘contain’ any further expansion of communism in Europe. This meant supplying weapons to anti-communists in a ‘war by proxy’. Military aid was initially given to the Royalists in the Greek Civil War and was then extended to any where in the world, for example, in the Korean War from 1950-53. It was a significant step in hardening cold war relations and prompted the Soviets to tighten their grip on Eastern Europe with the creation of Cominform. The Truman Doctrine was a new and aggressive strategy that would make the possibility of a ‘hot war’ much more likely.
Explain the importance of the Truman Doctrine, 1947 (5)
A key feature of the Marshall Plan was the provision of economic aid to rebuild the shattered countries of Europe. It was worth $17 billion, consisting of cash payments and the supply of essential goods such as fertilizers. This was seen as a way of preventing countries from going communist as people living in poverty were more likely to find communism attractive. The plan proved to be a highly successful part of Truman’s policy of ‘containment’.

Another key feature was that it was a rejection of communism because countries signing up for the Marshall Plan had to agree to trade with the USA. The Soviets saw the Plan as a attempt by the USA to dominate Europe with its economic strength. As a result the Soviets condemned the offer, accusing the Americans of ‘dollar imperialism’, and established instead COMECON, their own economic control of Eastern Europe.

Briefly describe the key features of the Marshall Plan (6)
The Marshall Plan was important in international relations because it was part of Truman’s ‘containment’ policy against any further Soviet expansion into Europe. The offer of $17 billion worth of financial aid made a huge difference in turning around the impoverished economies of Western Europe that had shown little sign of recovery after the devastation of World War Two. The injection of capital and machinery was vital in rebuilding the infrastructure and ensuring the return of prosperity. This had long term effects because not only did West Europeans find communism increasingly less attractive but they would also be able afford to buy American goods and so help prevent the USA from slipping back into the economic depression of the 1930s. The Marshall Plan provoked a hostile response from Stalin who condemned it as ‘dollar imperialism’ and set up his own economic organisation, called COMECON, for his satellites of Eastern Europe.
Explain the importance of the Marshall Plan, 1947 (5)
A key feature of Cominform (Communist Information Bureau) was to ensure that satellite states remained loyal to the Soviet Union and stayed under their political direction. For example, it demanded that Communist governments enforce their rule by banning other parties, using censorship and employing a secret police. Cominform was Stalin’s response to the Truman doctrine, which he regarded as threatening.

A key feature of Comecon (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance) was its aim to control the economies of eastern Europe and make them serve the interests of the Soviet Union, such as providing raw materials for Russian factories. Comecon also prevented trade with the west and forbade acceptance of the Marshall Plan.

Briefly explain the key features of Cominform and Comecon (6)
One reason why Stalin blockaded Berlin was because he resented the presence of Western forces in West Berlin. Why should he share the occupation of this city in which the Red Army had captured it by themselves at the cost of 100,000 dead Russian soldiers? Moreover, Berlin was a symbol of power over Europe and a valuable prize because it had been the heart of Nazi Germany. Nevertheless, Stalin had accepted the four zones of occupation agreed at Yalta and Potsdam in 1945 so there must have been more vital reasons for a blockade.

The problem of Berlin grew when the Western powers decided in 1948 to unite their zones of occupation into Trizonia. This went against the war time agreements made three years earlier. Stalin was already suspicious of American intentions because of the Truman Doctrine, which stated in 1947 that the US would give military aid to anyone resisting communism. It was effectively a declaration of the Cold War and Stalin felt increasingly defensive.

The Truman Doctrine did not directly apply to Berlin but the Marshall Plan did and this alarmed Stalin because American financial resources were being offered to promote capitalism. Confirmation that the US was attempting to build up West Berlin as a ‘capitalist island in a communist sea’ came when a separate and stronger currency, the Deutschmark, was introduced into Trizonia. Berlin’s location in the middle of Soviet controlled East Germany meant that Stalin could not ignore this challenge. The main reason Stalin blockaded Berlin was because he wanted to consolidate his grip on Eastern Europe.

Explain why Stalin blockaded Berlin in 1948 (13)
A key feature of the Berlin Blockade was that it was a victory for the West. They prevented the Soviets from taking over West Berlin by supplying the capitalist half of the city with food and supplies in an airlift. This was a propaganda success for the West and a humiliation for the Soviets because it made the Soviets appear as evil brutes who had tried to starve West Berlin into submission. By contrast the Americans and British were seen as saviours.

Another key feature of the Berlin Blockade is that it led to the permanent separation of Germany into the German Democratic Republic (East) and the Federal Republic of Germany (West), which deepened the division between the superpowers and thereby heightened cold war tensions. It also cemented the cold war by leading to the creation of NATO, a military alliance committed to the defence of West Germany

Briefly explain the key features of the Berlin Blockade 1948-49 (6)
The Berlin Airlift was important in international relations because it was the first major success that the Western Allies had in thwarting Stalin’s ambition to extend soviet power in Europe. Stalin tried to starve West Berlin into submission by cutting off all rail and road links, but did not reckon on the ability of the Americans and British to keep the western half of the city supplied by aircraft. Tensions were raised to a very high level during the 11 month blockade and there was even a possibility of the crisis escalating into World War Three had Stalin decided to shoot down the aircraft. The propaganda impact of the airlift was immense because the Western Allies could paint Stalin as the evil dictator whilst portraying themselves as heroic saviours. Berlin held huge symbolic status – due to its geographical location at the centre of Europe and as the capital of Hitler’s Germany – and so what happened here mattered.
Explain the importance of the Berlin Airlift 1948-9 (5)
Relations between the Soviet Union and the USA were quite good in 1943 because they were allies in the common fight against Hitler. However relations rapidly deteriorated once the war was over in 1945. One reason for the change was the Czech coup in 1947. The brutal seizure of power in which non-Communists like the Foreign Minister, Masaryk, were defenestrated, was confirmation that Stalin had established an ‘iron curtain’ in which all traces of democratic government and free enterprise were extinguished. Nevertheless, the Czech coup was not that vital because it was just one Eastern European country among several that had been crushed by the Soviet Union.

More important than the Czech coup was the Marshall Plan because it affected the whole of Western Europe. This was a financial package worth $17 billion given by the USA in 1947 to help the European economies recover from the devastation of World War Two. It was granted on condition that free trade was allowed for American companies. Stalin condemned the Marshall Plan as ‘dollar imperialism’ because he believed the Americans were using their money to manipulate countries into becoming capitalist economies. But despite the sharpening of ideological divisions caused by the Marshall Plan it was unlikely to provoke war and so only had a fair impact on changing relations.

More important than either the Czech Coup or the Marshall Plan was the 1948-9 Berlin Blockade, which could have sparked off World War Three. The stakes were very high for both sides because Berlin was the key city in Europe and had great symbolic value. The Soviets resented the presence of the Western powers , particularly when the Americans, British and French united their zones of occupation into Trizonia. Stalin tried to starve West Berlin into submission by cutting off all land links; but the Americans could not stand aside when presented with such a provocative act and so airlifted supplies. Relations reached a peak of tension as Stalin considered shooting down US aircraft. This was the most critical point during the years 1943-49.

Briefly explain the key features of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) (6)
The formation of NATO was important in international relations because it was a military alliance of Western powers directed against the Red Army should a member be attacked. It significantly raised the stakes by ensuring that any localised problem would quickly escalate into a crisis involving several powers. NATO also helped to cement the cold war into a more confrontational basis and would eventually provoke the Soviets into forming their own military alliance called the Warsaw Pact in 1955. Furthermore, NATO ensured that America was now formally committed to the security of Western Europe and would provide a ‘nuclear umbrella’ to deter any Soviet aggression against the weaker powers. The establishment of NATO may have raised tensions but it also made clear to the Soviets the price they would pay if they tried to advance into Western Europe.
Explain the importance of the formation of NATO, 1949 (5)
Relations between the Soviet Union and the USA were quite good in 1943 because they were allies in the common fight against Hitler. However relations rapidly deteriorated once the war was over in 1945. One reason for the change was the Czech coup in 1947. The brutal seizure of power in which non-Communists like the Foreign Minister, Masaryk, were defenestrated, was confirmation that Stalin had established an ‘iron curtain’ in which all traces of democratic government and free enterprise were extinguished. Nevertheless, the Czech coup was not that vital because it was just one Eastern European country among several that had been crushed by the Soviet Union.

More important than the Czech coup was the Marshall Plan because it affected the whole of Western Europe. This was a financial package worth $17 billion given by the USA in 1947 to help the European economies recover from the devastation of World War Two. It was granted on condition that free trade was allowed for American companies. Stalin condemned the Marshall Plan as ‘dollar imperialism’ because he believed the Americans were using their money to manipulate countries into becoming capitalist economies. But despite the sharpening of ideological divisions caused by the Marshall Plan it was unlikely to provoke war and so only had a fair impact on changing relations.

More important than either the Czech Coup or the Marshall Plan was the 1948-9 Berlin Blockade, which could have sparked off World War Three. The stakes were very high for both sides because Berlin was the key city in Europe and had great symbolic value. The Soviets resented the presence of the Western powers , particularly when the Americans, British and French united their zones of occupation into Trizonia. Stalin tried to starve West Berlin into submission by cutting off all land links; but the Americans could not stand aside when presented with such a provocative act and so airlifted supplies. Relations reached a peak of tension as Stalin considered shooting down US aircraft. This was the most critical point during the years 1943-49.

Explain why relations between the Soviet Union and the USA changed in the years 1943-49 (13)
A key feature of the arms race was fear of each other’s capabilities. In 1945 the USA exploded its first atom bomb and President Truman refused to share the nuclear secrets, making the Russians fearful of American power. The Soviets expanded their own nuclear weapons programme, exploding their own atomic bomb in 1949. Consequently, the Americans lost their nuclear monopoly and they responded by accelerating their research into the H-Bomb to stay ahead.

Another key feature of the arms race was the fact that it made the stakes so high that it prevented a war in Europe from occurring, for example over the Berlin blockade crisis of 1948-9. This was because Stalin did not dare risk nuclear confrontation by shooting down American planes in the airlift.

Briefly explain the key features of the arms race in the years 1945-49 (6)
A key feature of the nuclear arms race was the constant search to achieve superiority by introducing new technology. In 1952 the Americans were the first to develop the much more powerful H-bomb, but within 10 months the Soviets caught up and produced their own H-bomb. Then in 1957, alarmingly for the Americans, the Soviets got ahead by putting a satellite, Sputnik, into space. The same rocket technology could be used to deliver nuclear weapons using missiles.

Another key feature was the policy of deterrence as both sides built up huge nuclear arsenals to threaten each other. This led to fear of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) and so restrained the superpowers because the risks of World War Three were huge. An example of avoiding conflict was in 1956 when the Americans did not intervene over the Hungarian revolt.

Briefly explain the key features of the nuclear arms race in the years 1952-61 (6)
One reason relations grew worse in 1949 to 1955 was because the Cold War spread to Asia in the Chinese Revolution, which was soon followed by the Korean War in 1950. The Soviets equipped North Korea with weaponry, while the Americans, who believed Communism was trying to take over the whole world, committed thousands of troops to the conflict. This was not the most important reason for growing tensions, however, because the Korean War ended in stalemate in 1953 and Asia remained relatively quiet for the next few years.

More important than the Cold War in Asia in worsening relations was the creation of military alliances. In response to the Berlin Blockade a military alliance of Western Powers, NATO, was established in 1949 to challenge the Red Army. Soviet fears were then emphasised when West Germany joined NATO in 1955, prompting the creation of a Communist military alliance, the Warsaw Pact. There were now two opposing armed camps deeply suspicious of each other and planning for the possibility of World War Three.

Above all, it was the nuclear arms race that preoccupied the leaders on both sides and made the military alliances so dangerous. In 1949 the Russians exploded an A-bomb, thereby ending American complacency about its nuclear monopoly. The stakes were raised higher when a new generation of weapons, the much more powerful H-Bomb, was developed by the USA in 1952. The Americans were particularly alarmed because it took the Russians only ten months to catch up and invent their own H-Bomb. The reason why the nuclear arms race is the most important factor is because the superpowers could threaten each other with complete and utter destruction

Explain why relations between the USA and USSR worsened in the years 1949-55 (13)
A key feature of the Warsaw Pact was that it was a military alliance of the Soviet Union and its eastern European satellites to counter the threat of NATO. It was set up in 1955 in response to West Germany joining NATO and it helped to divide Europe into two clearly defined armed camps. It made the prospect of a cold war turning hot that much stronger.

Another key feature was the extent of Soviet control. The Supreme Commander was Russian and membership of the Pact, unlike NATO, was compulsory. When Hungary attempted to quit in the Warsaw Pact in1956 the Russians asserted their authority with brute force.

Briefly explain the key features of the Warsaw Pact, 1955 (5)
The formation of the Warsaw Pact was important in international relations because it was a military alliance of Eastern Bloc countries, under Moscow’s direction, against NATO. It ensured that Europe was now divided into two armed camps and any conflict between two opposing members would quickly escalate into a World War as their respective allies were drawn in, much as the alliance system of 1914 had done. The Warsaw Pact was a particularly dangerous development because it maintained an offensive strategy in the event of war. Furthermore, both sides were armed with nuclear weapons and the loser in a conventional fight would be likely to use them. The Warsaw Pact was a potent symbol of Moscow’s power over its satellites and any threat to withdraw would provoke a harsh response, as the crushing of the Hungarian revolt in 1956 demonstrated.
Explain the importance of the formation of the Warsaw Pact, 1955 (5)
The Soviet Union forced Hungary to belong to Comecon, the economic union of all states under Soviet control. They had to develop industries which did not suit Hungary, an agricultural country, and sell their produce at fixed prices.
The question of who ruled Hungary was decided in Moscow not Budapest. Rakosi was installed as Prime Minister by Stalin in 1947 but two years after the Soviet dictator died Nagy became the new leader.
Outline two ways in which the Soviet Union controlled Hungary before 1956 (4)
The formation of the Warsaw Pact was important in international relations because it was a military alliance of Eastern Bloc countries, under Moscow’s direction, against NATO. It ensured that Europe was now divided into two armed camps and any conflict between two opposing members would quickly escalate into a World War as their respective allies were drawn in, much as the alliance system of 1914 had done. The Warsaw Pact was a particularly dangerous development because it maintained an offensive strategy in the event of war. Furthermore, both sides were armed with nuclear weapons and the loser in a conventional fight would be likely to use them. The Warsaw Pact was a potent symbol of Moscow’s power over its satellites and any threat to withdraw would provoke a harsh response, as the crushing of the Hungarian revolt in 1956 demonstrated.
Outline two steps which Khrushchev took to re-establish Soviet control of Hungary (4)
A key feature of Soviet rule is that it was a dictatorship. The Red Army established a permanent garrison to impose its will and a secret police was introduced to root out opponents. Elections were fixed, non-Communist parties were banned and membership of Cominform and the Warsaw Pact were made compulsory.

Another key feature was economic control according to communist principles, such as collectivization of agriculture. In addition, Hungary had to belong to Comecon, which meant much of its production was shipped off to the USSR on unfavourable terms. Soviet rule reduced Hungary to a satellite status.

Briefly explain the key features of Soviet rule over Hungary in the years 1945-55 (6)
A key feature of the Hungarian Uprising was that it was prompted by the Soviets themselves when Khrushchev came to power and made a secret speech in 1956 denouncing Stalin’s oppression and promising de-Stalinisation in the Soviet satellites of Eastern Europe. People in Hungary resented the Communist leadership of Rakosi for being too harsh and they believed Khrushchev’s statement that he would tolerate ‘different roads to Socialism’ to be a signal for a relaxation of Soviet control.

Another key feature was that Khrushchev was not in practice willing to accept reform of communism and he crushed the uprising. When Nagy replaced Rakosi and proposed to make Hungary a democracy and then leave the Warsaw Pact, Khrushchev responded by ordering the Red Army to invade. 20,000 Hungarians died, including Nagy, and a hard line Communist called Kadar was installed as the new leader of Hungary. Khrushchev had thereby demonstrated that he held an ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’.

Briefly explain the key features of the events of the Hungarian Uprising (1956) (6)
One reason the Hungarian uprising occurred was because it was encouraged by the Americans, such as the Secretary of State, Dulles, who promised to ‘roll back’ the Iron Curtain and said ‘you can count on us’. Hungarians were aware of this view because Radio Free Europe was used by the Americans to promote anti-communist propaganda. But the American role was not the key factor because President Eisenhower himself was more cautious in offering support and in the Presidential election campaign of 1956 he presented himself as ‘the peace candidate’.

A more important reason for the uprising than the Americans was Khrushchev’s policy of de-Stalinisation. He made a speech in 1956 denouncing Stalin’s oppressive government and promising to allow ‘different roads to socialism’ in the satellite states of Eastern Europe. This speech was a major reason for the uprising because Hungarians were no longer so fearful of the Soviet response to reform. The people of Hungary began to riot against the government and Nagy came to power proposing to introduce democratic government and that Hungary should leave the Warsaw Pact.

Khrushchev’s policy of de-Stalinisation provided Nagy with the opportunity, but the most important reason for the uprising in the first place was resentment of Soviet rule, which had been building up ever since Hungary was occupied by the Red Army in 1945. The government under Rakosi had fixed elections, got rid of opposition to Communism by using a secret police and enforced censorship. The people of Hungary had also suffered lower living standards because they had been forced to trade with the Soviet Union on unfavourable terms.

Explain why there was an uprising in Hungary in 1956 (13)
One reason Khrushchev invaded Hungary was because he knew the Red Army, numbering millions of soldiers, had overwhelming power. The Hungarian army was no match and the Americans, for all their talk about ‘rolling back the iron curtain’, were unlikely to intervene. President Eisenhower was facing re-election on a ‘peace ticket’ and he was distracted by the Suez Crisis. Moreover, the Soviet possession of a nuclear arsenal was a major deterrent.
The Soviet Union’s military capability, however, does not explain the root cause of Khrushchev’s decision to invade. He was very concerned that the reform programme of Nagy, the new Hungarian prime minister, was a challenge to communist principles. The prospect of free elections, abolishing censorship and developing trade with the west was too radical for Khrushchev to ignore because these measures went beyond his willingness to accept ‘different roads to socialism’.
The most important aspect of Nagy’s policies that triggered Khrushchev into taking action was the decision for Hungary to quit the Warsaw Pact. This was completely intolerable because it threatened Soviet authority not only in Hungary but among all of the satellite states of Eastern Europe. Khrushchev could not afford to set a precedent and, furthermore, his own personal position as General Secretary would be untenable in the eyes of his Kremlin colleagues if he didn’t invade.
Explain why Khrushchev invaded Hungary in 1956 (13)
The Hungarian Revolt was important to international relations because when it was crushed by Red Army tanks, killing 20,000 Hungarians, it revealed the extent that the Soviet Union would take to impose its authority over Eastern Europe. A clear message was given to all members of the Warsaw Pact that Moscow was in charge and there would be no weakening of Communism despite Khrushchev’s promise to allow ‘different roads to Socialism’. It also signalled to the West that the thaw in superpower relations was unlikely to last. Khrushchev had claimed to be different to Stalin and that he wanted ‘peaceful co-existence’ with America, but he had now shown that he actually had an ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’. Tensions would be renewed from this moment onwards, eventually leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis six years later
Explain the importance of the Hungarian Revolt, 1956 (5)
A key feature of the refugee problem in Berlin was the damage to the Eastern Bloc’s image, having claimed to have established a ‘Workers Paradise’. Between 1949 and 1961 almost 3 million refugees fled to the west looking for a better life. Many of them were young and highly skilled workers, the kind of people East Germany could least afford to lose. It was a propaganda disaster for the Soviet Union because people were voting with their feet and making capitalism look more attractive than communism.
Another key feature was that it led to Khrushchev to search for a radical solution to the problem. At a summit meeting with the Americans in 1958 he failed to find a solution to the crisis because President Eisenhower refused his request to withdraw US troops from West Berlin. Lack of agreement made Berlin ‘a fishbone in his throat’ and Khrushchev began to consider the option of building a wall to stop the flow of refugees, a decision that would eventually be implemented in 1961.
Briefly explain the key features of the refugee problem in Berlin in the late 1950s (6)
One reason Berlin was a Cold War flashpoint was because the stakes were so high. The city was located deep within the East Germany and it was divided in two with one half being controlled the West and the other by East Germany. The West deliberately made their section of Berlin a glittering outpost of capitalism, causing almost 3 million East Germans to flee to the West via Berlin. This was a big problem for the East German government because the refugees were often highly skilled workers.
Another reason was because Khrushchev was willing to take drastic action. When he failed to persuade Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy to withdraw American troops from West Berlin, Khrushchev concluded in 1961 that a wall had to be built. This decision escalated tensions so that tanks from both sides squared up to each other at Checkpoint Charlie. It made Kennedy prepared to defend West Berlin, expressed in his ‘I am Berliner’ speech of 1963. Berlin was therefore capable of sparking off WW3.
Briefly explain why Berlin was a Cold War flashpoint 1957-63 (6)
One reason the Berlin Wall was built was because Khrushchev believed President Kennedy was weak. Khrushchev met Kennedy at the Vienna Summit in 1961 and was not impressed, concluding that the new President was young, inexperienced and a rich playboy who would not resist his plans for a wall preventing movement between the two halves of the city. This was not a vital factor, however, because he would probably have constructed the wall regardless who was President since the alternative candidate in the 1960 election, Richard Nixon, did not advocate a tougher line than JFK.

A more important reason than the personality of the American President was the wider context of the end of the thaw. Tension had already been mounting between the superpowers ever since Khrushchev invaded Hungary in 1956, and this escalated during the U2 crisis in 1960 in which an American spy plane was shot down over Soviet air space. Khrushchev walked out of the Paris Summit in protest, showing his increasing aggressiveness and reluctance to negotiate with the Americans. A crisis over Berlin was therefore likely to occur.
The end of the thaw, however, does not explain the root cause of problems in Berlin. The most important reason for building the wall was to stop the flow of refugees. During the 1950s almost 3 million people had used Berlin as a gap in the iron curtain to escape to the West. Khrushchev was determined to stop this exodus because they were mostly young and skilled, the people East Germany could least afford to lose. Moreover, the refugees, who were seeking a better life under capitalism, undermined communist propaganda claims about the benefits of the ‘Workers Paradise’. This was key because Khrushchev had to take radical action or risk losing credibility.

Explain why the Berlin Wall was built in 1961 (13)
The construction of the Berlin Wall was important to international relations because it symbolised, in stark physical form, the deep division between the capitalist West and the communist East. By plugging the gap in the iron curtain, the wall halted any further mass exodus of East Germans, almost 3 million of whom had used Berlin as an escape route for a better life in the West. The wall demonstrated that the Communists were willing to imprison their own people and enforce their power by brute force – dozens of people were killed trying to overcome the barrier. Cold War relations grew worse as a result of the wall and this was shown in a dangerous confrontation of Soviet and American tanks at Checkpoint Charlie, an incident that might have triggered World War Three as neither side wanted to lose face by backing down.
Explain the importance of the construction of the Berlin Wall, 1961 (5)
One impact of the Berlin Wall is that it increased tensions between the superpowers and could have sparked off World War Three. When Red Army and American tanks, fully loaded and with engines running, squared up to each other at Checkpoint Charlie, two months after the wall was built, an accidental triggering of cannon might have escalated into a full-scale shoot-out. The danger led to the start of a nuclear bunker building programme to accommodate all West Berliners.
Another impact of the Berlin Wall is that the refugee crisis was resolved. The gap in the iron curtain was filled, preventing any further loss of young and skilled people. Many families and friends also suddenly found themselves torn apart. This proved to be a propaganda disaster for the government of East Germany, which could be accused by President Kennedy, in his 1963 ‘I am a Berliner’ speech, of imprisoning its own people. The Wall became a powerful symbol of communist oppression.
Briefly explain the impact of the Berlin Wall in the years 1961-63 (6)
A key feature of the Bay of Pigs invasion was that the Americans wanted to remove Castro from power but were not prepared to admit that they were involved. The Americans believed that they had a Communist ruler on their doorstep but they did not wish to be seen as the aggressor because they did not want world condemnation. This resulted in the CIA secretly training 1,500 Cuban refugees, who invaded Cuba but were beaten back after two days due to lack of American backup.
Another key feature of the Bay of Pigs invasion was that it drove Castro into the arms of the Soviets. Castro rightly believed the USA had been behind the incident and he turned to the Soviets for support because he feared the Americans might try again. This then gave the Soviets the opportunity to offer protection in return for placing missiles on Cuba, directly threatening most of the USA with nuclear disaster.
Briefly explain the key features of the Bay of Pigs invasion 1961 (6)
A key feature of the Cuban missile crisis was that it was caused by Khrushchev’s decision to place nuclear missiles on Cuba. He did this because the USSR did not have the capability to attack American soil with their medium range missiles and when Castro approached Khrushchev for protection, following the failed invasion of the Bay of Pigs, Khrushchev saw major advantages in making use of Cuba as a missile base.
Another feature of the crisis was that it nearly triggered a nuclear war. At the height of the crisis in October 1962 the American military was on the highest level of alert and both sides were preparing for war. The possibility of nuclear war loomed large when President Kennedy ordered the US navy to enforce a blockade of Cuba and Soviet ships only turned around at the last minute.
Briefly explain the key features of the Cuban Missile Crisis (6)
The immediate impact of the Cuban Missile Crisis was to raise tensions between the superpowers and bring the world to the edge of nuclear Armageddon. The Soviets had installed IRBMs on Cuba and the Americans were not willing to tolerate these weapons on their doorstep. The decision in October 1962 to impose a quarantine with the US navy led to a stand-off in which Soviet ships only turned around at the last minute.
In the following year, however, both sides were keen to make steps towards détente (improved relations) because the crisis had shown how close they had come to Mutually Assured Destruction. A telephone hotline to improve communications was set up between the Kremlin and the White House, and a partial nuclear test ban treaty was agreed.
Explain the impact of the Cuban Missile Crisis in the years 1962-63 (6)
He set up a telephone hotline between the White House and the Kremlin. This meant there could be instant communication between the leaders of the USA and the USSR and so avoid the slow process of giving letters to each other,
He agreed to a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. This was only partial because it did not apply to testing underground.
Outline two steps that Kennedy took to improve American relations with the Soviet Union after the Cuban Missile Crisis (4)
The Cuban Missile Crisis was important to international relations because this was the closest the superpowers came to starting World War Three. By stationing soviet nuclear missiles on Cuba, only 90 miles away from Florida, Khrushchev was making a highly provocative act since his IRBMs would be within range of most American cities. He denied their existence but the Americans had photographic proof from their U2 spy planes and they could not ignore the threat. During the ten days of October a dangerous game of brinkmanship took place in which President Kennedy considered bombing or invading Cuba. He finally resolved on a blockade of Cuba, but it was only at the last minute that Khrushchev stopped the Soviet supply ships and avoided a shoot-out that might have escalated into nuclear war.
Explain the importance of the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962 (5)
In 1962 the relationship between the Soviet Union and the USA got much worse. One reason for the change was that the USSR placed missiles on Cuba, which was only 90 miles from the coast of Florida and the Americans felt very threatened by the arrival of soviet IRBMS on their doorstep. These had the capability of reaching most cities in Amerce and Kennedy regarded it as a very aggressive act. This was a limited factor, however, because the Soviets already had the ability to make a nuclear strike with their ICBMs.
A more important reason for change was Kennedy’s reaction when the missiles were spotted by a U2 spy plane. He publicly demanded the removal of the missiles, ordered a blockade of Cuba and told the US navy to open fire if the Russian supply ships crossed the line. This made the relationship worse because Kennedy raised the stakes. Nonetheless, he resisted the advice of his generals to either bomb or invade Cuba and so he was not the main cause of the crisis.
The most important reason for the height of tension during the ‘thirteen days’ was not so much Kennedy’s reaction but Khrushchev’s brinkmanship, revealed, for example, when he only halted the supply ships at the last minute. This dangerous policy brought the world closest to the edge of nuclear confrontation than at any moment in the history of the Cold War.
Explain why relations between the Soviet Union and the USA changed in 1963 (13)
One reason relations between the USA and the USSR worsened was because of the U2 crisis in 1960. An American spy plane was shot down over Soviet airspace and President Eisenhower denied its existence. Khrushchev, however, was able to expose Eisenhower as a liar by showing off the captured pilot, Gary Powers. In protest, Khrushchev walked out of the Paris Summit. The U2 Crisis was not that critical because spying on each other was common practice and the incident was more of an excuse for Khrushchev to break off relations.
Tensions had already been developing over the more serious issue of Berlin. Almost 3 million East Germans had been using the city as a way to escape to the West and Khrushchev was anxious to plug this gap in the iron curtain. He decided to build a wall in 1961to physically stop the exodus and this provoked the Americans into squaring up to the Russians with tanks at Check Point Charlie. Berlin was considered the most important city in Europe and neither side wanted to be seen backing down. But it would have required an accident to have actually triggered fighting and the Americans gradually accepted the existence of the wall.
The possibility of World War Three was evident in Berlin but it was even more likely to have occurred over the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. This is because nuclear weapons were installed by the Soviets on the island of Cuba, which was on America’s doorstep. President Kennedy considered the military option in response to Khrushchev’s brinkmanship and only at the last minute was catastrophe avoided. The crisis was the most critical point of the whole of the Cold War and was therefore much more vital than either the U2 crisis or Berlin in affecting superpower relations.
Explain why relations between the Soviet Union and the USA changed in the years 1957 to 1962 (13)
A key feature of the Brezhnev Doctrine was that it was introduced in response to the Prague Spring of 1968 when Dubcek had pressed for changes in Czechoslovakia to create ‘Socialism with a human face’. Encouraging free market reforms and allowing non-Communists to form political parties and contest free elections was a direct threat to Communism.
Another key feature was that the Brezhnev Doctrine clearly showed that no socialist state would be allowed to break away from Soviet influence because it stated that the USSR had the right to invade any country in Eastern Europe that threatened to quit the Eastern Bloc. The Soviets could not afford to set a precedent encouraging other satellite states to challenge their authority, especially membership of the Warsaw Pact.
Briefly explain the key features of the Brezhnev Doctrine (6)
A key feature of the invasion of Czechoslovakia was the fact that Brezhnev was putting the Brezhnev Doctrine into practice by crushing the revolt and ensuring that no country tried to leave the Eastern Bloc or threaten its security. He had been unconvinced by Dubcek’s re-assurance that he did not plan to quit the Warsaw Pact. Brezhnev was also encouraged into taking action by the leaders of East Germany, Poland and Hungary who offered a joint military invasion.
Another key feature was the Americans expressed outrage about what had happened yet gave no military support to those trying to change life in Czechoslovakia. This showed that the Americans were not prepared to risk provoking the Soviets nor were they prepared to get involved with those who were challenging Communist rule behind the iron curtain. Outnumbered and surrounded, Czech resistance to the invasion was limited and quickly crumbled.
Briefly explain the key features of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia (6)
A key feature was that the re-establishment of Communist control was part of the Brezhnev Doctrine being used for the first time. This was a declaration that the USSR had the right to invade any country in Eastern Europe whose actions seemed to threaten the security of the whole of the Eastern Bloc. Brezhnev was supported in his invasion by the leaders of East Germany, Poland and Hungary.
Another key feature was that resistance was limited. When the Warsaw Pact troops invaded the West did nothing to stop the re-establishment of Soviet control. The Americans were unwilling to get involved, partly because they had already committed over 500,000 troops to the Vietnam War. Outnumbered and surrounded, Czech resistance to the invasion was limited and quickly collapsed. So complete was the re-assertion of Soviet authority over Czechoslovakia that it was not to be challenged again until 21 years later in 1989.
Briefly explain the key features of the re-establishment of Soviet control over Czechoslovakia after the Prague Spring 1968 (6)
The Prague Spring was important to international relations because the Soviet reaction showed the satellite states of Eastern Europe that any challenge to Moscow’s authority would be suppressed. When Dubcek proposed liberal reforms, known as ‘socialism with a human face’, Warsaw Pact forces invaded Czechoslovakia. Dubcek was removed from power and the Brezhnev Doctrine was declared, stating that the Soviet Union had the right to invade any country which threatened to break away from the Warsaw Pact. The crushing of Prague Spring was a confirmation of Soviet power and the fact that the Americans made no attempt to help Dubcek demonstrated that the iron curtain was still firmly in place and would remain so for another 20 years. The Prague Spring did not have a massive impact on superpower relations since it did not prevent SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) from starting one year later.
Explain the importance of the Prague Spring, 1968 (5)
One reason why the relationship changed for the worse was because in 1968 Brezhnev ordered Warsaw Pact forces to crush the ‘Prague Spring’, an attempt by Dubcek to reform Czechoslovakia. The Americans protested because they had welcomed Dubcek’s effort to introduce democratic government and free market economics. However, the Americans had no intention of doing anything more than making speeches condemning the invasion of Czechoslovakia. This was because they had already accepted the right of the Soviets to assert their control over Eastern Europe, as shown by their muted response to the squashing of the Hungarian revolt 12 years earlier.
More important than Prague Spring in changing relations was the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Khrushchev wanted to stop the flow of refugees leaving East Germany for the west and he demanded that the Americans leave West Berlin. When Kennedy refused, the relationship between the Soviet Union and the USA broke down. Khrushchev decided to erect the Berlin wall and it became the most potent symbol of communist ‘evil’ that would last for decades. Tension increased between the superpowers and there was a stand-off between the tanks of both sides at Check Point Charlie. Nevertheless, the superpowers were not going to go to war over this issue because West Berlin itself was not being attacked.
The most likely trigger of World War Three, and thereby pushing the relationship to its lowest point, was the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The Russians installed nuclear missiles on the island, which was only 90 miles away from the USA and therefore a grave threat. Kennedy declared a blockade of Cuba which would have meant sinking Soviet supply ships had they crossed the line. Fortunately, Khrushchev backed down at the last moment in a game of brinkmanship. During the crisis Kennedy had been advised to bomb or invade Cuba, and had he done so then MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) could have resulted. The danger presented by the Cuban Missile Crisis therefore had a much greater impact on relations than either Prague Spring or the Berlin Wall.
Explain why relations between the Soviet Union and the USA changed in the years 1957-69 (13)
One reason relations worsened was because of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Warsaw Pact forces crushed Dubcek’s attempt at liberalising his country, known as the ‘Prague Spring’, and this provoked expressions of outrage from the Americans. The event was not that significant, however, because it was merely confirmation of the Soviet Union’s authority over Eastern Europe and its unwillingness to tolerate any reforms. Also, Czech resistance was swiftly crushed with relatively few casualties. The Americans had absolutely no intention of intervening and the event was soon overshadowed by other problems in the world.
A more important reason than the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, for growing superpower hostility, was the Vietnam War, which was fought on a larger scale than any other war in the 1960s. By 1968 the Americans had committed half a million troops to fight Soviet backed communist forces. But at no point was the war likely to escalate into more direct confrontation between the superpowers because Vietnam was not that strategically important. Moreover, the Soviets were secretly pleased by the war because it was distracting the Americans and consuming a vast proportion of their military resources that could have been spent on US forces in Europe.
Greater than either Prague Spring or the Vietnam War, in causing relations to worsen, was the continuing nuclear arms race. Despite efforts to avoid another Cuban Missile Crisis by, for example, introducing a telephone hotline in 1963, both sides were building more and more weapons capable of blowing each other up several times over. There was also an intense technological competition, reflected in the space race in which the Americans put a man on the moon in 1969. The stakes could not have been higher and fear of nuclear Armageddon dominated government thinking in both Washington and Moscow.
Explain why relations between the Soviet Union and the USA changed in 1963-69 (13)