Kennedy’s foreign policy
* Dominated by American Soviet relations
* Revolved around interventions in the context of the stages of the cold war Key features:
* Shifting policy from coexistence to containment
* Strength via strategic alliances: NATO
The cold war:
* Period of intense hostility, tensions and contest between USA and soviet union. Mainly due to conflicting ideologies, communist vs democratic capitalist. * Soviets created the Eastern Bloc and the US established containment of communism. * Periods of calm and periods of high tension. Examples of high tension periods include: * The berlin Blockade (1948)
* Korean War (1950-1953)
* Berlin Crisis of 1961
* Vietnam War (1959-1975)
* Cuban Missile Crisis (1962
* Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979 – 1989)
* Both sides sought an easing of strained relations to relieve poltical tensions and deter military attack. * Threat of nuclear war was real and alarming
Instead of an open war the USA and soviets:
* Had a policy of trying to dominate parts of the world
* Used spies, economic pressure and propaganda against each other * Built up all types of weapons
* Threatened armed conflict, but always drew back at the last minute. E.g. Cuban Missile Crisis * “Helped” smaller nations being “threatened”
Kennedy and Krushchev:
* Kennedy wanted to peacefully coexist with the Soviets.
* Nikita Krushchev had been liberalising society and abandoned Stalinism. This made Kennedy believe peace would be possible * However, the Soviets saw Kennedy’s offer as weakness and began to behave aggressively * In 1961, Kennedy travelled to Vienna to meet with Krushchev who threatened to sign a peace treaty with East Germany. This would have cut off Allied access to West Berlin, which the “West” claimed as their right after WW2.
The Berlin Crisis:
* Kennedy undercut his own bargaining position by essentially conveying US acquiescence to the permanent division of Berlin. This made his later, more assertive public statements less credible to the Soviets. * While he indicated his willingness to renew peace talks, he increased military spending and recruitment numbers at home. * The crisis led to the partition of Germany through the Berlin wall. Soviet’s built this to prevent the flood of refugees trying to escape to the West of Berlin.
JFK’s Reaction to the Wall:
* JFK received much criticism for “weakness” in this conflict. * He condemned the building of the wall but did not take further action as he was trying to establish peaceful relations with the Soviets. * 27th October 1961, there was a stand-off between Soviet and US tanks at “Checkpoint Charlie” (main crossing point between East and West Germany) * Kennedy contacted Khrushchev and Soviet tanks withdrew. * The Berlin Wall remained in place until 1989.
From Co-existence to Containment:
* 1962 JFK returned to the policy of battling communism and it’s influence. * After the Cuban Missile the official policy became containment * Containment was based on the belief that communism would eventually collapse internally, but in the meantime, vigilance was needed to ensure that this dangerous political virus did not spread. * June 1963 JFK travelled to West Berlin to show support, and demonstrated the US anti communist policy.
Cuba and Fidel Castro:
* During 19600 campaign, JFK criticised Eisenhower for not taking action towards Castro when he initially overthrew the government and took control of Cuba. * JFK wanted Castro overthrown, by force if necessary.
* He inherited the plan for the Bay of Pigs invasion from Eisenhower’s government and followed through with the secret attack in April 1961. * Partly motivated by Castro’s imprisonment and execution of political opponents, and partly his socialist policies. * It was carried out by Cuban rebels/exiles....
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