To what extent was Berlin the main centre of conflict in the Cold War during the early 1960s?
The Cold War lasted from 1945 to 1991 and saw tensions arise from ideological (political and economic) and personality (show of ‘strength’) conflict between the USA and its Capitalist allies, and the USSR and its Communist allies. Such conflict amid the two superpowers was clearly revealed in the events of the early 1960s in Berlin whereby the Berlin Wall symbolised the great divide and impossibility of any agreement between the two superpowers and events underscored the potential of such divisions to erupt into a nuclear war. However, whilst it can be argued that Berlin was, to a fairly large extent the main centre of conflict in the Cold War during the early 1960s, significant events in the Americas and Asia also revealed tensions and conflicts between the Capitalists and Communists.
During the Yalta Conference in 1945 Germany’s future was considered of utmost importance. Berlin became a divided city in a divided country split into four occupational zones (USA, Britain, France and USSR). Although Berlin was laying 160km in the Russian zone, West Berlin was an anomaly – an island of freedom in a sea of communism. For decades Berlin was the political, social and cultural centre of Germany and thus considered a great prize to capture and control, to the extent that it seemed as if whoever controlled Berlin, controlled the war. The Berlin Blockade in 1949 already established Berlin as a site of conflict, however the Vienna Summit in 1961 took the question of Berlin to a higher level.
At the Vienna Summit Khrushchev’s ultimatum from 1958 resurfaced from desperation – West Berlin’s thriving economy and growing military strength posed a direct threat to the future of Soviet-controlled East Germany. Khrushchev vehemently demanded the recognition of East Berlin and the internationalisation and demilitarisation of Berlin. Kennedy refused, wanting an agreement to keep...
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