How Far Was the Dispute over Berlin in the Years 1958 – 1961 the Primary Cause of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962?

Topics: Cold War, Soviet Union, Cuban Missile Crisis Pages: 9 (3914 words) Published: April 16, 2013
Between the years 1958 and 1961, the dispute over Berlin (often known as the ‘Berlin Crisis’) was one of the main issues between the USA and USSR, and caused a considerable amount of growing tension between the two states. The dispute over Berlin was a continuing issue over who was to occupy Berlin, the capital city of Germany. The city was seen as an important area for both states and led to several conflict issues throughout the time period. It could be argued that this issue and the tension caused by this was the primary reason (or, the main reason) for the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. The Cuban missile crisis was an issue over the placement of nuclear weapons on the island of Cuba by the Soviet Union and brought the world closer than ever to nuclear war. However, the Cuban missile crisis cannot be solely blamed on the dispute over Berlin. Other reasons that could be linked to the development of the Cuban missile crisis include Bay of Pigs, the actions of individuals (such as Kennedy’s personal views and actions over Fidel Castro and Cuba), the existence of US Jupiter missiles in Turkey, the validity of storing Soviet missiles on Cuba and the need to close the missile gap. This essay will examine the significance of each of these possible causes and how far they affected the Cuban missile crisis, in comparison to the dispute over Berlin. The Berlin crisis between 1958 and 1961 was a primary issue for the USA and the USSR. Since the end of World War Two in 1945, Berlin had been divided into the West Berlin (for the USA, UK and France) and East Berlin (for the USSR). Both sides were determined to keep control of their half of Berlin and it was seen as vital in the strength and success of each country as a whole. US General Clay said ‘when Berlin falls, western Germany will be next. If we mean to hold Europe against communism we must not budge’. This suggests that keeping control of West Berlin was incredibly important to the Americans and if they were to lose West Berlin, they would begin to lose countries that were allied with them too. Between 1945 and 1961, there is evidence that East Berlin was starting to become weaker. Within this time period, approximately one-sixth of the population of East Germany had moved westward, towards a capitalist regime aided by the US and away from a communist regime aided by the USSR. West Germany (FRG) had had a ‘miraculous economic recovery’ following the devastation of the Second World War, and therefore appeared stronger to the habitants of East Germany (GDR), influencing many of them to leave. This mass emigration was supported and encouraged by the USA and Adenauer, the Chancellor of FRG at the time. It made the USSR’s communist regime weaker and therefore less able to spread throughout Europe – this supports the US policy of containment. However, Khrushchev (leader of the USSR) would see this as unacceptable – anything that would strengthen the USA’s power and weaken the USSR’s power cannot benefit the USSR and therefore caused further damage between the two powers, which had a large amount of tension between one another since the end of the Second World War. To attract people back to GDR, Khrushchev will have needed skilled workers and professionals to improve the standard of living. However as many of these had now migrated elsewhere, there was little that could be done. This created a large amount of conflict and added tension between the USA and the USSR that made an event to relieve the tension, such as the Cuban missile crisis, more likely. Khrushchev may have felt that the USSR were ‘falling behind’ the success of the USA and that it was necessary to prove that the USSR were still strong. This could occur through such means as the Cuban missile crisis and shows how it can be argued that the dispute over Berlin could have contributed to the Cuban missile crisis. In autumn 1958, Khrushchev was confident that the USSR had the power to force the USA into making concessions...
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