Cold War History: Red Scare & The Arms Race – The ’50 s Korean War, Arms Race, Red Scare, The Soviet Master, Sputnik Communist power and influence became world threatening by 1950. The Russians exploded their first atomic weapon in August 1949. In China, a bitter civil war was brought to an end with the Chinese Communists under Mao Zedong driving the Nationalist forces under Chiang Kai-Shek off the mainland to set up a U. S. backed government on the island of Taiwan. More than 500 million people came under communist rule as a result of the defeat.
A Cold War hallmark was a U. S. foreign policy to support and defend the Republic of China (Nationalist) government against any attack by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), by basically stationing the U. S.
Navy’s 7 th Fleet in the Strait of Taiwan. Korean War The Korean War was the first “hot” confrontation of the Cold War. Korea had been invaded and occupied by Imperial Japan for 30 years. When American and Soviet troops accepted the Japanese surrender, an arbitrary dividing line for occupation zones was set at the 38 th parallel. The Soviets set up a communist government under Kim II Sung in the North while the U. S.
backed the government of Syngman Rhee in the South. In a bid to reunite the country under the communist banner, the North, equipped with Soviet weapons, invaded the South in June 1950. In response, the U. S. led a United Nations sanctioned military force under the command of famed world war II American hero General Douglas MacArthur to counter the North Korean advance.
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The mainly American UN forces could not stop the invasion. UN forces were pushed all the way down the Korean peninsula where they held a perimeter around Pusan. The perceived readiness of U. S. ground forces was called into question. In September 1950 MacArthur executed an amphibious landing behind enemy lines at Inchon, on the Korean west coast.
Simultaneously, the UN forces were able to break out of Pusan. Steadily the North Koreans were pushed back up the peninsula. By October 1950 UN troops had advanced as far north as portions of the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China. Feeling obviously threatened by a United States presence on their border, Communist China counterattacked in November 1950 throwing over half a million soldiers across the river causing a United Nations forces rout. But by the Spring of 1951 UN troops had rallied from the retreat and fought their way back north to a position slightly above the 38 th parallel.
By this time General MacArthur was publicly advocating invading China. President Truman had no intensions of widening the war and possibly bringing in the Soviets. It would have led to World War III. Truman had no choice but to reel MacArthur in. MacArthur was relieved of his Command in April 1951. Although peace negotiations began in June 1951, the war dragged on for another two years, virtually at a stalemate.
Public support for the war vanished in the U. S. Dwight Eisenhower was elected President in 1952, and Stalin died in 1953. With this backdrop a truce was finally signed between UN forces and North Korea (South Korea’s Rhee did not sign) in July 1953 leaving the border as it was before the invasion. There were more than 34, 000 U. S.
deaths. (Visit the Korean War Veterans Memorial) South Korean dead were 415, 000 and 3000 United Nations allied dead. Communist dead were estimated at 2 million. Out of the Korean War came the first jet to jet aircraft combat and the introduction of the first series of modern jet fighters like the U. S. F-86 Sabre and Russian MiG 15.
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“MiG”, the abbreviation for one of many Russian aircraft design bureaus became synonymous with Russian jet fighter. Today North and South Korea are still technically at war with each other and stare each other down across one of the most heavily defended borders in the world. U. S. Forces are still deployed here. This represents one of the few remnants of the Cold War still looking for a place to boil over.
Arms Race Begins The 1950 s was characterized by the arms race between the U. S. and the Soviet Union. Atomic weapons, of increasingly destructive power, were developed by both sides to be delivered by air and artillery. By 1953, hydrogen bombs of potentially unlimited destructive power, had been successfully detonated by the U. S.
and Russia. Nuclear weapons become practical instruments of warfare since new jet-powered bomber aircraft, such as the U. S. B-47 Strato jet, B-52 Strato fortress, B-58 Hustler and Russian Mya-4 Bison and Tu-95 Bear, were capable of delivering the bombs anywhere in the world.
There was no immunity to the possibility of total destruction. The spectre of total destruction formed the basis of American nuclear defense strategy. The U. S.
would develop such overwhelming superiority in nuclear weapons that if the Soviet Union dared attack, the U. S. would retaliate swiftly and decisively. This policy of massive retaliation assured the U.
S. could knock the Soviets back to the stone age. The U. S. Air Force’s Strategic Air Command (SAC), headed by General Curtis LeMay, was entrusted with maintaining and delivering the nuclear weapons. LeMay had bombers standing ground and air alert 24 hours a day.
SAC reconnaissance and intelligence gathering aircraft routinely flew border missions and overflew the Soviet Union. The U. S. and Canada formed NORAD, the North American Air Defence Command consisting of a network of DEW Line radars (distant early warning), surface to air missile (SAM) sites, and fighter-interceptor bases intended to provide a protective umbrella over North America against the Soviet bomber threat. To equip the bases, the U. S.
Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force deployed Bomarc SAMs and the U. S. Army Air Defence Command replaced it’s anti-aircraft guns with Nike missiles. New interceptors like the “Century Series” F-101 Voodoo, F-102 Delta Dagger, F-104 Starfighter, and F-106 Delta Dart, and the controversial Canadian Avro Arrow were developed to replace the first generation of jet fighters like the F-86 Sabre, F-89 Scorpion, F-94 Starfire, and CF-100 Canuck. To extend the warning radar coverage provided by the DEW, the first airborne early warning aircraft, the EC-121 was deployed around the North American continent. Red Scare American Style In the United States the fear of communist infiltration and subversion led to several sensationalized Congressional hearings and criminal trials.
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In 1947 the Congressional House Committee on Un-American Activities took on Hollywood, calling many famous producers, directors, and actors like Robert Taylor and Gary Cooper to testify about communist activities within the American film industry. Ten witnesses objected to the very nature of the questioning and were found in contempt of the hearings. The so-called Hollywood Ten went to jail for a year. Many more had their film careers ruined from blacklisting. Two widely reported trials further fuelled the fear of the communist bogey-man. Alger Hiss, a Roosevelt adminstration official was accused of passing secrets to the Soviets.
In the event Hiss was jailed for perjury but the proceedings made a name for the young Congressman leading the inquiry: Richard Nixon. Two less fortunate souls were Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Convicted of espionage after giving atomic weapons secrets to the Russians, they were executed in June 1953. The threat of communism to the American way of life and resulting paranoia is well illustrated by the witch-hunt led by U. S. Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Between 1950 and 1954 he claimed the U. S. government was infiltrated by communists. His hearings received widespread radio and television (a relatively new medium) coverage. After stepping on some obviously patriotic toes along the way, Senator McCarthy’s excesses were exposed. The damage was done though as his hearings fed the flames of communist hatred, intensifying Cold War mistrust between the superpowers.
The Soviet Master During his rule Stalin spent considerable resources eliminating all dissent and outside influence. There was one form of communism and that was Stalin’s form of communism. Gulags were erected to deal with perhaps the millions of dissidents. With the death of Stalin in March 1953, Soviet society remains closed but Soviet satellite countries began to test the waters of reform, if not outright rebellion. In June 1953 worker demonstrations in East Berlin required Soviet troop intervention. As a result more than 40 people were killed and thousands arrested.
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In June 1956 a Polish workers revolt in the City of Poznan also ended in bloodshed with over 70 people killed. Encouraged by the Polish revolt, demonstrators took to the streets of Budapest, Hungary in October 1956. They demanded the withdrawal of Soviet troops and free elections. Soviet forces and the citizens of Budapest faced off against one another with bloodshed let by both sides.
After a short-lived cease-fire, Soviet tanks crushed the revolt. Thousands were killed. The West ignored Prime Minister Imre Nagy’s appeals for help, choosing not to get involved with the affairs of the Soviet Union and one of it’s satellites. Sputnik: Technology Wakeup Call In early October 1957 the Russians stunned the world when they successfully orbited Sputnik, the first artificial satellite. The military implications were obvious and immediate. Ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapon payloads intercontinental distances were now possible.
The U. S. failed miserably in their first attempt to launch the Vanguard satellite. The first successful U.
S. satellite, Explorer, was launched three months after Sputnik. The Soviet success was a rude wake-up call, calling into question the very credibility of the American scientific and technological community and the national education system. In any event, the land and sea-based ballistic missile race was on. Nuclear warfare moved up a notch in it’s ability to terrify as there was no effective defence against a missile attack. “ICBM” (intercontinental ballistic missile) and U.
S. missile names like Titan, Atlas, Polaris, and Minuteman became household words. To deal with the new Soviet ballistic missile threat, a series of Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) sites were constructed. The first was operational in 1960 at Thule, Greenland.
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Two other sites, one in Alaska and the other in England were eventually built by the mid-’60 s. This system of radars was built to provide early warning of a missile attack from over the north polar region and therefore allow the United States time to launch a nuclear counterattack. An upgraded BMEWS, is still in operation today. Here Come the ’60 s Despite the gloom and doom, 1959 saw the decade close with hope for future peaceful co-existence between democracy and communism. President Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev held the Camp David Summit, a meeting designed to produce a more cooperative attitude between East and West. It was the first time a Soviet leader had step foot in America.
But in the following year the ongoing mistrust between the U. S. and the Soviet Union would manifest itself in the shot-down wreckage of a U. S. spy plane.
Cold War History: Hot Spots – The ’60 s Deterrence, Concepts, Heating Up, The Cold War, Berlin Crisis, Cuban Missile Crisis, Czech Crisis, Vietnam War Nuclear Deterrence Concepts During the 1950 s the United States had clear superiority in the number of nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles (SAC’s bomber aircraft).
The concept of massive retaliation only worked as long as the U. S. maintained their superiority. However, the Soviets embarked on an ambitious catch up plan in both bombers and missiles.
By 1960 both countries put vast resources into new missile programs and bigger and more destructive weapons. More than half the 1960 U. S. federal budget went to defense largely to prevent a “missile gap.” As more weapons were massed against each other, it became clear that the United States and the Soviet Union had enough firepower to destroy each other several times over and take the rest of the world with them. The U. S.
came to the conclusion that under these circumstances the only purpose of nuclear weapons was deterrence value; an enemy would not even think of using nukes against the U. S. because if they did, an immediate retalitory attack was guaranteed to destroy them. This deterrence concept was appropriately called mutual assured destruction or MAD. The peace would therefore be maintained by keeping your finger on the trigger of the nuclear gun but never thinking of pulling that trigger first. And so it was throughout the ’60 s.
Regional conflicts invariably pitted the opposing superpowers against each other, with the nuclear trigger being squeezed tighter to one degree or another at every crisis. The potential was always in the back of your mind. What a way to live! The U. S. nuclear deterrent force was composed of three elements: bombers (B-47, B-52, B-58, and later FB-111), ICBMs (Atlas, Titan, Minuteman and later Peacekeeper), and SLBMs – submarine launched ballistic missiles- (Polaris, Poseidon, and later Trident).
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This “triad” assured survivability during an attack so a retalitory strike could be carried out by the surviving elements.
The Soviets didn’t subscribe to the MAD concept and destabilized the situation by deploying an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system capable of intercepting U. S. ballistic missiles. The U.
S. countered the ABMs by developing multiple independently target able reentry vehicles (MIRV).
Up to ten nuclear warheads could be placed on one missile. The Soviets would now have to deploy ten times the ABMs to counter the new U. S. missile systems.
The burden of defense Soviet-style was becoming very expensive. MAD was complimented with another doctrine known as “mutual deterrence.” The theory was that if the Soviets unleashed a nuclear attack on the U. S. , the attack would be met in kind. This concept along with MAD did nothing to reduce the continuing stockpiling of nuclear weapons by either side. MAD and mutual deterrence were later supplemented by the doctrine of “flexible response.” This provided a way to introduce conventional weapons (non-nuclear) into any defensive / offensive strategy.
Flexible response doctrine included the use of biological and chemical weapons. The ’60 s Heat Up Espionage by both sides was a Cold War trademark. The Soviet KGB and the U. S. CIA were very active during the Cold War era. The U.
S. Air Force and Royal Air Force had been flying covert photo-reconnaissance missions over the Soviet Union with RB-50 piston-engined and RB-45, RB-47 and Canberra PR jet aircraft since the early ’50 s in order to get targeting information and disposition of Soviet forces. CIA spy activities hit the front page in May 1960 when a relatively new aircraft, the very high-altitude U-2 single-engine jet reconnaissance aircraft, was shot down over the Soviet Union and its pilot, Francis Gary Powers, captured. The U. S.
government was caught with it’s hand in the cookie jar and could no longer explain away these reconnaissance flights as wayward weather observation sorties. Berlin Crisis Throughout the 1950 s East Germans had fled to the West through Berlin. Berlin was an open city in that residents were allowed to move freely from side to side. By 1961 the losses of especially the young and skilled prompted the East German leader Walter Ulbricht to ask Khrushchev to help seal the Berlin border. In August 1961, the Berlin Wall began to be built.
This structure, more than anything else, became the ultimate symbol for a world divided between the forces of democracy and communism during the Cold War. The Berlin Wall was Cold War Ground Zero. West Berliners demonstrated against the building of the wall that now separated friends and family. The U.
S. was not willing to go to war over Berlin since their rights in Berlin or access to West Berlin from West Germany had not been jeopardized. Vice President Lyndon Johnson and General Lucius Clay of Berlin Airlift fame were sent to show support. It was not until 1963 that U. S. President John F.
Kennedy himself came to Berlin to view the wall and give a speech offering the people of Berlin and the rest of Eastern Europe hope for the future. Cuban Missile Crisis In the fall of 1962 the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the brink of all-out war between the U. S. and the Soviet Union. After leading a popular revolution against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, Fidel Castro ‘s new government nationalized most of the land owned by American companies. Rebuffed by the U.
S. , Castro accepted aid, including oil, from the Soviet Union. When U. S. owned oil refineries in Cuba refused to process the oil, he nationalized the rest of the U.
S. companies. As a result, the U. S. initiated a trade embargo against Cuba. Castro was now firmly in the Soviet camp.
In an attempt to get rid of Castro, the CIA devised an invasion plan to be carried out by Cuban exiles driven from the island in the wake of the Cuban Revolution. The Bay of Pigs invasion in April, 1961 was a complete disaster and prompted Castro to ask the Soviets for increased military aid. By July 1962 the Soviets began placing medium range SS-4 and intermediate range SS-5 ballistic missiles in Cuba along with thousands of Russian “technical advisors.” These offensive missiles with ranges of up to 2500 miles could hit practically anywhere in the U. S.
By October, Air Force reconnaissance photos had clearly detected the missile site build-ups. President Kennedy, after considering several options including air strikes, ordered a naval blockade of Cuba, to prevent any ship carrying weapons from reaching Cuba. He also demanded the removal of all the missiles, threatening nuclear war if the missiles were not removed from America’s “back yard.” It was a standoff for several anxious days. The U.
S. and the Soviets were eyeball to eyeball. The U. S. went to it’s highest military readiness posture, DEFCON 2. Then, as the world seemed to hold its breath, the Soviets blinked.
Khrushchev ordered his ships to return to the Soviet Union. Soviet missiles would be removed and returned as well. A deal had been struck between the two countries. The U.
S. secretly promised to never invade Cuba and agreed to remove its ballistic missiles from NATO partner Turkey. It was the closest you’d ever want to come to feeling threatened by nuclear war in your life. Ask someone who remembers October 1962. The Cuban Missile Crisis helped accelerate the deposition of Khrushchev.
His mishandling of the situation almost ended in World War III. His grand domestic farm reforms were failures and there were perpetual shortages of consumer goods. Khrushchev was quietly retired to his dacha and replaced by Leonid Brezhnev. In the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, after both the U. S.
, the Soviet Union, and the world had stared over the abyss of nuclear Armageddon, the superpowers decided that something must be done to limit the spread and use of weapons of mass destruction. A Limited Test Ban Treaty was signed by the U. S. , Great Britain, and the Soviet Union banning the testing of nuclear weapons in space, the atmosphere or underwater. The space deployment of nuclear weapons was also banned. Before the end of the decade the first SALT (Strategic Arms Limitations Talks) negotiations began.
SALT was designed to limit the growth of the U. S. and Soviet nuclear arsenals. (See The ’70 s – Era Of Detente) Czech Crisis 1968 revealed that the Soviet Union was as deadly a bedfellow as ever where it concerned its East European satellites. By the mid-1960 s in Czechoslovakia, the economy was stagnating, as it was in much of the Eastern Bloc. Western influence in the form of music, dance, clothing, art, and ideas were seeping into the countries under Soviet domination.
Reforms were introduced in 1966 to partially decentralize the decision making and turn towards making more consumer goods. Increased student activism prompted Czech leader Alexander Dubcek to introduce more radical reforms like reduced media censorship. Brezhnev grew uneasy with these actions and felt Czechoslovakia was a weak link in the Warsaw Pact. There was the fear that the legitimacy of the communist party was in question. To re-establish the hard line way of doing things the Soviet Union and members of the Warsaw Pact invaded the country with paratroops and armour on 20 August, crushing the “Prague Spring.” Once again, the Cold War flared, but like with Hungary in 1956, the West could do nothing but watch and register its complaints against the brutality. Czech freedom was not worth possibly “going nuclear” over.
Reform within the communist sphere of influence was once again crushed under the heal of Soviet oppression. Vietnam War The Cold War ’60 s is best remembered for the U. S. involvement in the the Vietnam War. In an attempt to prevent communist North Vietnam, led by Ho Chi Minh, from taking over the U. S.
backed South Vietnam, political, financial, and covert military aid was given to South Vietnam early in the decade. This “advisory” role gave way to full scale conventional military operations by the U. S military by 1964. Justification for direct U. S. military intervention in Vietnam was provided by the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, prompted by a skirmish between North Vietnamese patrol boats and a U.
S. destroyer, the Maddox, on 30 July, 1964. The Resolution, overwhelmingly passed by both houses of Congress, allowed President Lyndon Johnson to “take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.” By the end of 1964 there were over 20, 000 U. S. military personnel in South Vietnam, mostly Air Force. Russia and China both supplied the North Vietnamese and their South Vietnamese guerrilla troops, the Viet Cong.
After several attacks on the U. S. air bases in South Vietnam, Johnson started the sustained aerial bombing campaign against the communists known as Rolling Thunder in March 1965. The bombings would continue for nearly eight years, only interrupted when used as a peace talks negotiating tool. At the same time, the first ground troops, U.
S. Marines, waded ashore at Da Nang. And so it began… By the end of 1965 there were more than 180, 000 U. S.
ground troops in South Vietnam under the command of General William C. Westmoreland. The U. S.
presence destroyed the fabric of Vietnamese life and culture. Farmers were forced to re-locate, their fields and villages destroyed. The bombing and defoliation of the countryside produced tens of thousands of refugees. The country was literally destroyed in order to be saved from communism. U. S.
troops could not tell the difference between friend and “Charlie.” Armor was almost useless in the jungle undergrowth. Aerial targets were often undefined and nebulous. This was no place for the European conflict trained U. S. forces to be. Yet escalation continued.
By December 1967 the number of U. S. troops in South Vietnam had risen to 485, 000. The war, a widely supported adventure in 1964, was becoming increasingly unpopular. It was consuming billions of dollars, money that could have been spend on Johnson’s “Great Society” programs.
American casualties steadily increased. Every day on the nightly news Americans were brought up to date on the enemy body count and the number of U. S. casualties. Anti-war protest movements gained momentum. Potential military draftees fled to Canada or Europe or resisted induction to avoid serving.
In early 1968, during the Vietnamese lunar new year or “Tet” celebrations, the communists launched a country wide coordinated attack against U. S. and South Vietnamese forces. The Tet Offensive dramatically showed the world that the communists were capable of striking out despite the apparent heavy losses inflected on them by the Americans. In March 1968, Johnson announced he would not run for a second term and stopped the bombing of North Vietnam as incentive to begin peace talks. Peace talks did indeed begin in May 1968 in Paris, France, but it was a painfully long process.
The negotiators couldn’t even decide on the shape of the table and who would be allowed to sit at it! In the meantime, people were dying. With the election of Richard Nixon to the presidency in November 1968, negotiations continued. Nixon wanted “Peace with Honor” for the U. S, and the disengagement of U.
S. troops from the war. “Vietnamizing” the war was the strategy that would allow for U. S.
withdrawal. By 1970 the war was tearing at the country’s conscience. When Nixon actually escalated the fighting by invading Cambodia in order to destroy communist supply lines, violent protest erupted across the country. These protests are forever symbolized by the tragic shootings at Kent State University.
U. S. troop withdrawals proceeded through 1972 as the air campaign continued. In May 1972 the North Vietnamese launched a Spring Offensive into South Vietnam. The U. S.
responded by mining North Vietnamese ports and increasing the air attacks (Operation Linebacker I).
Sustained bombing continued through the year. Although many South Vietnamese Army units fought valiantly, it was American airpower that prevented a general rout in the face of the persistant North Vietnamese and Viet Cong. After peace talks stalled in December, Nixon unleashed Linebacker II, bombing the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table in the most relentless air campaign of the war.
The Soviets urged the North Vietnamese to settle. In January a cease-fire was signed. U. S. prisoners of war were released. There are many left unaccounted for however.
The American nightmare was nearly over. The last U. S. troops pulled out of South Vietnam in March 1973 after suffering more than 58, 000 killed. The South eventually fell to the Communists in 1975.
For the United States the Vietnam War does not so much represent the Cold War struggle of democracy against communism as it does the uselessness of war and the idealistic rebellion against government authority. The war’s stigma greatly affected a generation of U. S. veterans, unfairly labeled “baby killers.” The U.
S. military suffered low public esteem for the rest of the ’70 s, hurting morale and retention rates. The healing began with the construction of the Vietnam Memorial. JANE FONDA, YOU WILL NEVER BE FORGIVEN. Cold War History – Detente: The ’70 s China Mainland China has often been called a “sleeping giant.” This label has vast economic and militaristic implications today.
China is seen as a vast unexploited market for quality western consumer goods. Dealing with the Communist Government has been an exercise in patience and perseverance. It was the same way politically during the Cold War. With the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the spectre of a monolithic communist enemy stretching from the Pacific to the Baltic and beyond greatly alarmed the U.
S. The Soviet Union and China signed a mutual defense treaty with one another. Massive aid was supplied to China to help rebuild the war-devastated country. A taste of what fighting the Chinese “hordes” would be like was experienced by the UN troops during the Korean War. The U. S.
found it necessary to prop up what was left of the Nationalist Chinese Government on Taiwan in order to maintain Western interest in the region. However relations between the two communist giants became strained when Khrushchev began denouncing Stalin’s harse rule. Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong, who went to the Stalin “My Way Is The Only Way” School of Leadership, kicked out the Soviet advisers and openly challenged Khrushchev for leadership of the world communist movement… During the ’50 s and ’60 s the Chinese people suffered untold misfortune under Mao.
In 1958 it was the “Great Leap Forward.” This plan was suppose to revolutionize industrial and agricultural production. The only great leap forward taken was slowing down the growth of the population as an estimated 30 million people died of starvation. In 1966 Mao turned Chinese society on its head with the youth oriented “Great Cultural Revolution.” Thousands of zealous “Red Guards” waved aloft Mao’s “Little Red Book” of thoughts, roamed the country destroying China’s precious past and ran amuck through the general population. Books, artwork, museum pieces were destroyed. Teachers and government officials were ridiculed and beaten.
Tens of thousands were tortured or killed. The country was in chaos and anarchy, all encouraged by Mao. By the end of the ’60 s the hysteria was beginning to subside but the damage was done. The education system was in ruins as was the industrial and agricultural base.
Recovery would take decades. Against the backdrop of the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution relations between the Soviet Union and China continued to deteriorate to the delight of the West. Throughout the ’60 s there were Central Asia border clashes between Soviet and Chinese troops, resulting in military force concentrations along the Kazakhstan-Xinjiang border… In 1970 U.
S. President Richard Nixon saw a chance to capitalize on the Sino-Soviet rift and to possibly seek an accelerated end to the Vietnam War still tearing at the fabric of American life. The big break came in April 1971 when a U. S.
ping-pong team visited Beijing, the Chinese capital, to participate in a tournament. The visit was under the direct approval of Mao. In July 1971 Nixon’s National Security Advisor, Dr. Henry Kissinger secretly visited China and met Chairman Mao and Zhou En lai, the Chinese Premier. This paved the way for Nixon’s historic China visit in February 1972. Photo-ops at the Great Wall made great TV viewing but the visit did not result in any substantial political breakthroughs other than to perhaps worry the Soviet Union about U.
S. and China intentions. China U. S.
relations remained at a relatively low level after the visit however… But after Mao’s death and the reign of the “Gang of Four” was over in 1976, China embarked on a rebuilding, moderate course under Deng Xiaoping. He sought closer ties with the U. S. In one of the few foreign affairs bright spots of president Jimmy Carter’s Administration, the United States normalized relations with the Peoples Republic of China in 1979. This action brought to an end U.
S. policy to absolutely defend Taiwan against China, which always considered Taiwan a renegade province… The Soviets were, of course, alarmed by renewed vigor in Sino-U. S. relations and thought the U.
S. and China were conspiring to gang up on them somehow. This was validated when China invaded USSR-backed Vietnam in retaliation for invading Cambodia. The U. S. didn’t have much to say about the event other than it had no intention of getting involved in wars between Asian communist nations…
Commies in the Backyard American foreign policy towards its Caribbean, Central, and South American neighbors can be described as disjointed, bullying, nonproductive, and self-serving. One constant theme emerges. The United States seems to consider it a right to interfere with any Western Hemisphere country’s internal affairs. Politicians wrap themselves up in the flag and mumble something about the Monroe Doctrine and freeing oppressed people. It has always been the American attitude to keep order in Central and South America to safeguard the lives of Americans and their property (read businesses).
With the advent of the Cold War, keeping America’s backyard non-communist no matter what, became a prime goal.
Communism could not be allowed to get a foothold in the Americas. Guatemala An early Cold War example of this was U. S. involvement in Guatemala, a country with a history of military dictator governments. The majority of land had come to be owned by the American United Fruit Company. In the early 1950 s the company feared nationalization of its assets by President Jacob Arbenz.
In addition the country was buying Communist Bloc weapons. Arbenz was labeled a communist and the CIA secretly orchestrated a coup removing him from office in 1954. Subsequent Guatemalan history has been plagued with a succession of right-wing leaders who used political killings to stay in power. Civil war strife and the associated suffering would continue into the 1990 s. Cuba Near the end of the 1950’s Cuba was ripe for revolution.
The corrupt Batista government was the target of a two year struggle by nationalist Fidel Castro and his followers. Castro was victorious in early 1959 and established a coalition government. In 1960 the Soviets signed a trade agreement with Cuba and Castro nationalized American owned industries. A U. S. trade embargo resulted throwing Castro into a bear hug with Khrushchev.
Thinking the same stunt could be pulled off as in Guatemala, the CIA planned a Cuban-exile invasion of the island in 1961. The Bay of Pigs invasion was a total disaster for the U. S. government. Castro was now firmly in the communist camp with huge popular support.
In 1962, the Soviet placement of strategic missiles in Cuba nearly ended in World War III. (See The ’60 s – Cuban Missile Crisis) Cuba continued to be a pimple on America’s backside. Cuba began exporting its brand of revolution to neighbouring countries like El Salvador, Nicaragua and as far away as Africa. The U. S. blundered into a Dominican Republic civil war in 1965 with troops because it thought the war was Castro inspired.
In 1967 the Bolivian government caught and killed one of Castro’s celebrated revolutionaries, Che Guevara who was trying to inspire South American revolt against American “imperialism.” Chile In 1964 Chile, the CIA stuffed the ballot box to ensure that socialist Salvador Allende would not be elected. This was done apparently to offset Soviet attempts to stuff the ballot box as well. However in 1970 Allende stood for office again and this time his leftist coalition succeeded. Chile had the world’s first democratically elected Socialist leader despite CIA attempts to prevent it.
Allende instituted agrarian land reform, nationalized the banks, industry, and communications companies. U. S. aid stopped and Chile couldn’t get loans from the World Bank. The CIA inspired strikes by teachers, doctors, and truck drivers. Chile was racked with high unemployment, high inflation, and starvation.
There was widespread rioting and civil disobedience. A military coup followed in August 1973. Allende was murdered and General Augusto Pinochet took over. Chili an democracy was over. A rein of dictatorial terror began.
Pinochet suspended the Constitution, imposed strict censorship and banned all political parties. Hundreds of thousands of people were arrested and thousands tortured, killed or just disappeared. The U. S. got what it wanted in Chile.
It was the Ugly American in its most gruesome personification. Why should any Central or South American country ever want to trust the United States again? Nicaragua Considering the lesser of two evils, the United States preferred to support a non-democratic despotic and corrupt government over a communist government. This was the case for many years in Nicaragua. The Somoza family or close associates had been in power since the 1930 s and was well supplied with American economic and military aid. But by the mid 1970 s opposition to Anastasio Somoza’s dictatorship and harse rule grew. There were the Cuban supported Sandinistas who represented the peasants.
Their leader was Daniel Ortega. Another opposition group was composed of the business class led by Joaquin Chamorro, the editor of a Managua city newspaper. The new United States President, Jimmy Carter, was reluctant to support the Somoza regime because of its very poor human rights record. With Chamorro’s assassination by Somoza’s soldiers in 1978, the country was thrown into a series of strikes, riots and then civil war. In a shift from historical U. S.
policy in the region, Carter did not want to intervene but provided some support to the business classes. However, in mid-1979 Ortega’s Sandinistas triumphed and deposed Somoza. The U. S. provided some initial aid to the new government but this aid stopped when the country slowly turned politically to the left.
Uncle Sam opened the back screen door and saw unwelcome neighbours walking on the lawn. It wouldn’t be long before the next U. S. President would attempt to do something about it. Era of Detente The Soviets were quite anxious over Nixon’s China visit and beginning rapprochement with China. It was time to conclude the first arms limitations agreement, SALT I, Strategic Arms Limitations Talks with the West.
Negotiations began back in 1969 but moved along slowly as weapons continued to be produced and modernized. By 1972 an agreement was reached to limit the number of anti-ballistic missiles each side could deploy, and the Soviets were allowed to continue to raise their stockpile of ICBMs and SLBMs. Globe trotting President Nixon signed the agreement in the Kremlin, Moscow, the first American President to enter the bastion of communism. As SALT I did not address Mirv, the U. S. continued to have the advantage in warheads.
In addition to signing SALT I Nixon and Brezhnev signed a charter outlining how the two countries should conduct worldly affairs with one another to include avoiding military confrontation and do whatever necessary to prevent nuclear war. Although seen as a sell-out by Nixon’s critics, SALT I was important as a first step in the easing of tensions between the two superpowers, a breathing space as it were. MAD prevailed but this first blast of warm air in the Cold War was refreshing. Trade between the two countries grew and Western tourists began to visit Moscow. Amid the ping-pong and shuttle-diplomacy by the Americans, there was quiet rethinking going on in West Germany. The new German chancellor Willy Brandt decided that East Germany should be politically recognized.
He made conciliatory overtures to the Soviet Union. With the Soviet pressured resignation of pain-in-the-butt East German Stalinist hardliner Walter Ulbricht in 1971, the way was open for easing tensions. In December 1972 East and West Germany signed documents that recognized each other’s right to exist. The heat was off Berlin. The Soviets recognized the legitimacy of West Berlin and guaranteed Western access to West Berlin from West Germany. American foreign affairs breakthroughs took a back seat to President “Tricky Dick” Nixon’s Watergate break-in investigation that finally resulted in Nixon’s resignation from Office in August 1974.
The new President, Gerald Ford, firmly believed in further rapprochement with the Soviets. A new round of SALT talks were initiated and further tentative cuts were negotiated at a conference at Vladivostok in late 1974. The watershed of detente was the “Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe”, known as the Helsinki Accords. Thirty-three European nations, Canada, and the U.
S. signed this accord in Helsinki, Finland in August 1975. The agreement confirmed existing borders, encouraged trade, cultural, industrial, and scientific exchanges. It also addressed human rights concerns: free movement of people and the freedom to express ideas and circulate information.
This immediately started creating problems for the Soviets who considered the issue of human rights a state internal affair. The signatories thus accepted the status quo in Europe. This was a good as detente was going to get. Third World Hotspots During the Cold War many established and emerging nations, for political or economic reasons, capitalized on the East-West conflict by seeking aid.
Favor was curried from whoever would supply the grain and guns. To extend their political and military influence in a given region both the U. S. and the Soviet Union readily stepped in either as an initiative or as a response to the other’s actions. Middle East In the Middle East there was a classic pairing up of sides. The Soviets had early influence in Egypt as they helped the country build the Aswan High Dam across the Nile River in the late 1950 s.
The United States backed Israel, created from the British Protectorate Palestine in 1948 as a Jewish homeland, much to the distress of neighboring and displaced Arabs. By the early ’70 s after one major regional conflict, tensions were still high in the area. U. S.
economic, military, and political support for Israel was high. Syria, Egypt, and Iraq were getting the same sort of thing from the Soviets. The Middle East is always a war waiting to happen and on October 6, 1973 Egyptian and Syrian forces attacked Israel. After more than two weeks of fighting that saw initial Arab successes and massive airlifts of arms and supplies to the Arabs and Israelis by the Soviets and Americans respectively, a United Nations cease-fire was brokered by Moscow and Washington.
The ceasefire failed. The Soviet Union wanted to introduce American and Soviet troops into the region to enforce the ceasefire since the Arab forces were facing devastating defeat. The U. S.
said no way and the Soviets replied that they would go in alone. The U. S. told the Soviets to back off or face the consequences. The U. S.
military went to its highest state of readiness since the Cuban Missile Crisis. After a couple of tense days the Israelis accepted the cease-fire and agreed to UN peace-keeping forces being introduced to monitor the cease-fire. Read the text of the Camp David Accords, brokered by President Carter. Tensions loosened and detente continued.
Africa As European countries gave up their African colonial possessions in the ’50 s and ’60 s, new nations emerged. Would they end up despotic, democratic or communist? Of course the U. S. and Soviets were happy to help things along. This is best illustrated by the civil war in Angola. In early 1974 Portugal announced it was going to set its province (Portuguese West Africa free in November.
There were three nationalist factions vying for power: the Marxist Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the anti-communist Front for the National Liberation of Angola (FNLA) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), a FNLA splinter group. The CIA supplied the FNLA and UNITA with money and arms. South Africa helped UNITA as well. The Soviets backed the MPLA. Castro also threw his support behind MPLA with arms and supplies but more significantly with military advisors. In August 1974 the FNLA, based in northern Angola made a bid for power by marching on the capital Luanda.
From the south, South Africa, supporting UNITA and encouraged by the U. S. , committed its own troops to the civil war and also marched on Luanda. The MPLA asked for and got Soviet arms and direct Cuban support in the form of thousands of ground troops. The Cuban force was decisive in defeating the South African and FNLA forces.
The MPLA declared an independent Angola. There was immediate Soviet recognition. The two countries signed a long friendship treaty. Eventually the Cuban troops were withdrawn and Angola settled into years of civil war strife. The U. S.
, concerned over the Angolan defeat, was also worried about the political situation in Ethiopia. Ethiopia went Marxist in 1974 and invited Soviet support and influence. Somalia, Ethiopia’s long-time enemy, was also friendly to the Soviets but turned color and asked for Western aid. Somalia became aggressive in July 1977 and invaded Ethiopia’s Ogaden desert region. The Soviets rushed military aid to Ethiopia and thousands of Cuban troops intervened.
The Somalis were defeated and withdrew. The U. S. felt this action, along with Soviet and Cuban intervention, was hurting detente and showed that the Soviets still had aggressive intentions around the world. It was starting to get cold again.
Afghanistan In 1974, the new Afghan leader Mohammed Daoud Khan made overtures to the West for economic aid. The United States was only too pleased to oblige as it would help displace Soviet influence in the area. (Click here for an overview of the Afghan Marxist Revolution).
The Soviets were understandably alarmed by this development as Afghanistan bordered the USSR.
Daoud was deposed in a bloody military coup in 1978 and a pro-communist government under Nur Mohammed Taraki was set up. Reforms instituted by the new government upset the fundamentalist Islamic factions. Soon the fundamentalist rebels called the Mujahedeen (Soldiers of God) were receiving assistance from Iran (that had just undergone a fundamentalist revolution orchestrated by the Ayatollah Khomeini).
The Mujahedeen started an uprising, killing Afghans and Soviet advisors alike. In early 1979 Taraki asked the Soviets to send military equipment and troops.
The Kremlin resisted direct intervention. In September Taraki was overthrown and killed by Hafizullah Amin, one of his ministers. The Soviets feared Amin wanted to align with the West or Pakistan and perhaps China. The failure of an Afghan communist revolution would have a negative effect on other world communist movements.
Against the military’s and other Politburo members better judgement, it was decided to invade. On 25 December Soviet troops crossed the Afghan border and parachuted into the capital Kabul. Within 48 hours it was over. Amin was killed and replaced by Barak Karma.
And so the Soviets started going down the road to their own “Vietnam” hell. Taking Steps Backwards Jimmy Carter won the 1976 U. S. presidential election. He wanted to throttle back the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union by reducing the levels of nuclear armaments below that tentatively agreed to in 1974. The Soviets refused to entertain the thought.
Carter also wanted to push the Soviets on human rights issues. In Helsinki 35 nations (including the USSR) signed the previously mentioned Helsinki Accords. In Czechoslovakia dissidents drew up their own human rights document, Charter 77. There was growing awareness of and sympathy for Soviet dissidents who were jailed, sent to labor camps, drugged and otherwise mistreated by the authorities (better than a bullet in the head? ).
The spotlight was cast on Soviet Jews who were denied exit visas out of the Soviet Union as guaranteed by the Helsinki Accords. The human rights issue was a sharp pin jabbing in the side of the Soviets and they were becoming more and more irritated by it. This put a big strain on Soviet-U. S.
relations. In an effort to upgrade their European missile systems, the Soviets introduced the SS-20 medium range ballistic missile into the European theater in 1977. It was MIRV’d and was fired from a mobile launcher. This was viewed as an aggressive act by NATO, an attempt to introduce a weapon system that could be used in a limited European war. It was a way to separate the United States from Europe. Would the U.
S. want to fight despite its NATO ties and risk world war if the targets were only in Europe? In order to reassure its European allies and counter the Soviet threat, the United States made plans to station still-under-development ground-launched cruise missiles and the new Pershing II ballistic missiles in Western European countries. Carter encouraged NATO members to increase their conventional war-fighting capabilities, to take a larger responsibility for the defense of Europe. All this was going on while the Soviets and Americans were negotiating the second round of nuclear arms limitations, SALT II.
European theater weapons were not part of SALT II. The treaty was foremost designed to put an upper limit on the number of missiles each side could possess. It also limited MIRV’d warheads to 10 per missile… The protracted SALT II negotiations were formalized by a treaty signed in Vienna in June 1979 by Carter and the ailing Brezhnev, the first and only time the two met. Carter had a hard time selling the U. S.
Congress on SALT II because it was perceived as making too many concessions. Carter could not win with his critics. He was unskilled in foreign affairs and viewed as being soft on the Soviets in arms negotiations. He called for very modest boosts in defense sending. He canceled a new strategic bomber, the B-1. He did not deal effectively with Soviet intervention in Africa and the American hostage crisis that began in Tehran, Iran in November 1979.
Then, with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December, Carter gave up trying to get SALT II ratified. He called for increases in the defense budgets and approved development of the new MX (later called Peacekeeper) ICBM system. He wanted Soviet trade sanctions and a boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics being held in Moscow. Detente was over. It was too little too late for President Carter though. Plagued with foreign policy disasters and a stagnated U.
S. economy he was swept from the Whitehouse by “cowboy” Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election. Reagan promised a “get tough” policy with the Soviets and to restore the prestige and glory of the United States as the world’s bastion of freedom. With all the trouble in the world at the end of 1979 it was unclear whether the new decade offered anything new or just more of the same. As events unfolded the 1980 s turned out to be anything but “more of the same.” Cold War History – Glasnost: The ’80 s The first year of the new decade saw the first real cracks in communist rule appearing. In Poland, worker unrest led to major labor strikes that year and the emergence of the Solidarity movement.
Although concessions were made, Solidarity was eventually forced underground. However, the movement drew worldwide attention to itself and its leader Lech Walesa, both becoming symbols of the struggle of Eastern Europeans against their Soviet oppressors. In the early 1980 s the U. S. renewed an arms build-up under newly-elected President Ronald Reagan against the Soviet “Evil Empire.” The world had to look no farther than the cold-blooded Soviet shoot down of an off-course Korean Airlines Boeing 747 to realize how morally corrupt the Soviet Union and its systems were.
President Reagan would protect America with the “Star Wars” Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).
U. S. ground-launched cruise missiles (GLC M) were deployed to Europe with great fanfare.
A new ICBM was developed, the Peacekeeper, and the 1970’s B-1 swing-wing strategic bomber was resurrected from obscurity. However by 1985 winds of change began to blow in the Soviet Union… After Leonid Brezhnev ‘s death in 1982, the Soviet Union went through two short-lived Premiers until Mikhail Gorbachev came along in 1985. As the new Soviet President and Premier, he started a “glasnost” or openness policy concerning political and cultural affairs. He promoted “perestroika” or reform and restructuring of the Soviet economy. His policies led to domestic constitutional reforms and serious arms reduction talks with the U.
S. In 1988 he reduced Soviet conventional forces in Eastern Europe and along the Soviet-China border. In 1989 he withdrew Soviet troops from Afghanistan and pursued a non-intervention policy in East European reform movements. This eventually led to the peaceful breaching of the Berlin Wall, the symbol of a world divided for more than 28 years… Gorbachev’s policies led to renewed vigor in arms reduction negotiations, now renamed the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START 1).
This ongoing series promises deep cuts in both the numbers and types of nuclear weapons each country can possess.
Cold War History – The End: The ’90 s By the early 1990 s Eastern European governments were no longer able to hold back the will of their people and one after the other elected non-communist governments. The Soviet Union did nothing to intervene. Germany was reunited. In 1991 twelve Soviet Republics formed a new union, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), with the other three going their own way. The Soviet Union ceased to exist. The Cold War was over.
Today, Communism still exists. Stockpiles of nuclear weapons held by the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, and China still exist. Efforts are being made to get rid of up to 75% of the weapons held by these countries through continued START 2 negotiations. What doesn’t exist today is the threat that an ideological difference of opinion between those countries possessing nuclear weapons and practical delivery systems can plunge the world into a nuclear winter.