Berlin Crisis of 1961 from Perspective of Realism Theory

Topics: Cold War, World War II, Soviet Union Pages: 11 (4317 words) Published: April 19, 2012
Berlin Crisis of 1961 was the most dangerous moment of the Cold War. This conflict was mainly about the occupational status of Berlin. Berlin Crisis initially emerged in 1958 by the provocation of the Soviet Union. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev threatened to conclude a separate peace treaty with East Germany unless the western powers recognized the Germany Democratic Republic (GDR) (I. W. Trauschweizer, 2006). However, the escalation of tensions began after the Vienna Summit in June 1961, where the USSR again raised the issue of ultimatum, which gave the United States six months for the withdrawal of Western armed forces from West Berlin. Berlin Crisis was not the only crisis during Cold War. Through the whole history of humanity there has always been a question why do wars and conflicts occur? In order to give an answer to this question we should explain some factors which made the war to occur. Crisis and especially Berlin Crisis can be understood from several perspectives, but in this paper it will be explained from realism theory perspective. As a famous representative of realism theory, Waltz asked himself the question why do wars occur? “Waltz’s question is as old as war itself, possibly because “to explain how peace can be more readily achieved requires an understanding of the causes of war” (Waltz, 1959: 2). By the time Waltz posed this question, many answers to it already existed. These answers fell into three categories (or as IR theorists came to define them, were found at the three “levels of analysis” or in the “three images”). These three categories/levels/images are: the individual, the state, and the state system” (C. Weber, 2009, p. 17). These main causes of conflict will be represented in detail in the main body of the paper by the example of Berlin Crisis. Although Waltz’s three categories of the causes of war explained many processes in the Berlin Crisis, there are also important points in the theory of realism, which typically explain Berlin Crisis, one of those points is the issue of bipolarity or multipolarity of the world. Morgenthau, an American academic and journalistic writer, in contrast to Waltz saw the stable world in multipolar rather than in a bipolar system. From his perspective bipolarity was dangerous for the world’s stability, because as we will see next, Berlin Crisis was the result of bipolar system, where two great powers tried to dominate the others, by increasing their power and authority. As Waltz said, each great power sought to survive. Thus, realism theory explained Berlin Crisis from many points of view. In order to better understand Berlin Crisis of 1961 from realism theory perspective, I will present the main points of realism theory. After, I will give a short historical background of Berlin Crisis and to summarize all these, I will illustrate how well realism theory explained the Berlin Crisis.

The Realism Theory
The most dominant theory throughout the Cold War was realism. Realism had a negative viewpoint concerning to abolishment of conflict and war. It described international relations as a struggle for power. The domination of realism during the Cold War was due to the fact that it gave simple but powerful explanation for war, alliances, imperialism, obstacles to cooperation, and other international phenomena, and of course, the competition was mainly related with the features of the American-Soviet rivalry (S. M. Walt, 1998). However the realist thought developed during the Cold War. ''Classical'' realists such as Hans Morgenthau considered that states, as human beings, had a wish to dominate others, which brings about a war. Giving advantage to multipolarity, Morgenthau considered that the bipolar rivalry between United States and the Soviet Union was very dangerous (S. M. Walt, 1998). “In contrast to “classical” realism, the “neorealist” theory, advanced by Kenneth Waltz, ignored human nature and focused on the effects of the international...
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