“Evaluate the proposition that: Conflict leads to changing relationships between nations and the emergence of new issues for resolution.”
By Matt Ashbolt
In the closing months of World War II, as the United States and Soviet Union closed in on Berlin, with victory in sight, their focus began to shift from winning the war, to establishing themselves as world superpowers. The clash of these two ideological opposed powers led to the defining conflict of the late 20th century, the Cold War. Because the countries feared nuclear crisis that would ensue with open warfare, they competed to surpass each other technologically and to spread their spheres of influence as much as possible, from Cuba to Afghanistan, which led to Détente and then the second Cold War. The outcome of these events put the world on the brink of nuclear destruction, however, these close conflicts led to better relations between the two superpowers and eventually the end of the Cold War. For thirteen days in October 1962, everyone braced for the end of the world -The Cuban Missile Crisis is the closest the world has ever come to nuclear annihilation or M.A.D, and was a clear demonstration of ‘brinkmanship’. The foundation of the crisis can be traced back three years earlier in the Cuban Revolution; this revolution was the outcome of brutal and corrupt regime commanded by Batista. When Castro came to power, he originally wasn’t a problem towards America’s interests, however, it soon became clear that Castro was indeed a nationalist and wanted to reduce his countries dependence on the U.S’s government, and he could do this by nationalising US industries in Cuba. Castro then made what some might consider a fatal mistake and announces that his government is communist. This scared the U.S, for now just 70 miles off their coast, there was a communist country, and the soviets were quick to make a friendly relationship with Cuba, they started to buy all the exports that the U.S.A has abandoned, Castro then allowed the Soviet military to start pouring into the country, which was a tremendous upper hand to the U.S.S.R, for now they could place nuclear missiles just off the coast of America. On September 4th 1962, Kennedy publically warned that Soviet missiles in Cuba would not be tolerated, and on the 15th of October a U2 spy plane revealed there nightmare, between 16 to 32 missiles were identified in Cuba. This was a very dangerous situation for the U.S.A, for this was the first time that the U.S had its own security directly threatened, it was understood by the leaders and people of America, that missiles could reach their capital city in a matter of minutes. This made it extremely difficult for Kennedy, for his reputation was already under scrutiny for the embarrassing Bay of Pigs Fiasco, and he was considered to be soft towards communism with this famous quote, “ A wall is better than a war”, however, to the modern day viewer, this seems the sensible approach. Kennedy decided to blockade Cuba with over a hundred navy ships, there was a five hundred mile line which the Soviets were told they could not cross, “it shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba...as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States requiring a full retaliatory response...”, on the 24th of October the Soviet ships turned away from Cuba, the tension was so high that when it finally ended Dean Rusk stated, “ We’re eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked”. The Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest the world has ever come to nuclear annihilation, however, both of the leaders of the superpowers showed their interest of peace, it was also the beginning of Detente; hence, conflict does lead to change in international relations. Détente was a reduce in tensions between the superpowers, and there were numerous reasons for this. The Cuban Missile Crisis initiated détente and in 1963 the Nuclear Test ban Treaty was signed, several years later the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed in 1968, thus, better relationships were becoming evident through the signing of these peace treaties. A reason for detente was the economic strain on both of the superpowers, for the arms race was very demanding and drained a lot of the superpowers money, so a reduce in the arms race would be very convenient, in the U.S inflation rates were rising through the roof and continuation of budget deficits signified the extent to which the arms race was crippling the economy. The soviets had it off much worse however; they were experiencing horrible standards of living in the Eastern bloc, due to the expenditure of the arms race and failure of collectivised agriculture. During detente was the Sino- soviet split, the reasons for this split can be placed on the fact that China was gradually becoming an increasing threat on the Soviet Union, this tension between the two can be linked back to a long history of ideological and political differences, differences that couldn’t be smothered by the teaching of Karl Marxist. The split caused the Soviets to seek better relations with the U.S, for the Soviets didn’t want to be fighting on two different fronts, hence, better relationships were being formed between the two superpowers. The U.S and U.S.S.R. also experienced a form of somewhat independence in their spheres of influence. In West Germany, Willy Brandt’s policy of Ostpolitik represented a whole new approach; it veered away from the Hall-Stein Doctrine and attempted to approach the East. Ostpolitik, simply meant supporting the arms control in Europe and establishing trade links in Eastern Europe or over the ‘iron curtain’, which has not been done since the end of World War ll. ‘Gaullism’ was a term indentified for the France-American split. Named after the leader of France, Charles De Gaulle, who was a fierce nationalist that believed the U.S played a too big of role in European affairs and didn’t want to see France fall subservient to them as well. ‘Gaullism’ saw France sign a friendship treaty with West Germany, officially recognizing Mao’s government in 1964, and in 1966, France officially withdrew themselves from NATO, none of this really bothered the U.S, it was in no way threatening to Capitalism, the U.S just felt a little betrayed by it all. Hence, countries seeking their own independence since the end of World War Two, and in doing so forming better relationships around the world. However, for the U.S.S.R, the situation was much worse, the Soviets experienced a breakdown in their domination and control of Eastern Europe, Romania breaks away from the Soviet influence and then removes itself from the Warsaw Pact in 1966. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, Albania openly supports China, and withdraws itself from the Warsaw Pact after the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Through the event of “Prague Spring” Czechoslovakia was given more freedom and started to move away from communism. It was evident to the world and indeed the Soviets that communism was failing, and the satellite states were starting to gather more independence, hence, the conflict of the Cuban Missile Crisis, lead the Soviets to allow more freedom within the Eastern Bloc, and this resulted in better relations between the USSR and the USA. Afghanistan represented a new conflict that led to the change in national relationships between the U.S.S.R and U.SA. The end of Detente was finalized in 1979, when the Soviet Union forces invaded Afghanistan, the U.S.S.R saw Afghanistan as an important buffer state, and the situation was becoming increasingly worse, for in 1979 Shah of Iran (who was thoroughly supported by the U.S) was removed from power, and replaced with the Muslim Fundamentalist, Ayatollah Khomeini, who was violently anti-American, and this meant that Americas main source of oil was under threat, and this related in the U.S having a bad relationship towards the middle eastern countries, for that was where a large percent of their oil came from. However, the Iran under new leadership wasn’t only bad news for the U.S, but also the Soviet Union, the Central Asian republics of the USSR that boarded Afghanistan contained Muslim populations whose integration into the Soviet Union had been superficial. Hence, the importance of maintain a pro-soviet government in Afghanistan was given added significance. The Soviets sent over more than 100,000 troops to ensure the survival of the Pro-soviet faction PDPA, the troops were needed, for this government was increasingly unpopular with the Afghans. The USSR justified this invasion under the Brezhnev Doctrine, however, President Carter was unwilling to let the Soviets get away with another intervention of foreign affairs, in retaliation Carter withdraws from the SALT II treaty from the Senate, this is evidence that the treaties signed in detente, were now being ended, also Carter cut off trade between the USSR and USA, and encouraged a western boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. However, this was perceived as a weak retaliation against communism and Ronald Reagan used this against him efficiently enough to become President in 1980. Reagan was a hard right-winged politician, and was very blatant about his hate for communism. Reagan viewed the Soviets as having unsophisticated morals and communism begin the embodiment of evil, in one of Reagan’s famous speeches he labels the Soviet Union as the ‘Evil Empire’. Like the USA found in the Vietnam War, the USSR found Afghanistan and painful and costly policy. Hence, Reagan’s blunt hostility towards the USSR signifies the change relations between the two superpowers, for once again, the Cold War had began. In 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union. Gorbachev was a younger, more energetic leader, compared to the last three rulers, who were aged and followed by the more traditional methods of ruling. He seized many new initiatives on many fronts to resolve the Cold War. As soon as Gorbachev got into power he offered to withdraw missiles from Western Europe, and even offered to hold talks without precondition. The U.S and alas, the rest of the world were astonished by this sudden change in Soviet leadership, for the world was used to the hardline and aggressive tendencies, that have now been replaced by this new leader with approaching peace. In the Reykjavik conference of 1986, Gorbachev offers arms reduction for the removal of the ‘star wars’ initiative, Gorbachev preached, “What we need is Star Peace and not Star Wars”, however, Reagan refuses and nothing was achieved, and the world starts losing hope that this could be the end of the Cold War. However, one year later in 1987, the Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) was signed. Gorbachev then implemented new domestic reforms, the first was Glasnost, which gave the Soviet people a range of social freedom, “Without glasnost there is not, and there cannot be, democracy, the political creativity of the masses and their participation in management”, the meat churches were opened, and political prisoners were realised. The second Perestroika changed a range of social and economic issues, improving efficiency and productivity (space budget cut by 50%), so simply money was put is more needed places. The third reform was democratisation; this was an attempt to get more people in the communist party to engage in political debate in the Soviet Union. In 1991, START 1 is signed, and Gorbachev doctrine marks the collapse of communism and the USSR, Gorbachev believed excessive soviet involvement in international affairs was counterproductive, he sums his beliefs in this quote, ”If what you have done yesterday still looks big to you, you haven't done much today.” The doctrine stated that the Soviet Union wouldn’t interfere in and limit the power of soviet satellites. The Cold War came to an end when the USSR has lost its will for empire. It could no longer sustain the resources needed to pursue a world superpower. Gorbachev helped the collapse of communism, and indeed the Soviet Union. With victory insight in late 1945, the United States and Soviet Union’s focus began to shift from defeating Hitler, to establishing themselves as world superpowers. The alliance between the two, was merely an alliance of convenience, however, with the common enemy defeated, these two ideologically opposed powers inevitably turned on each other, leading to the defining conflict The Cold War. Both the superpowers feared nuclear warfare, so instead of conflict, they competed through technology and spreading their spheres of influence, through Cuba to Afghanistan, which led to Detente, and then the second Cold War. The outcome of these conflicts, put the world on the brink of nuclear destruction, however, at the brink of a nuclear holocaust, both sides realised that better relations were needed, which led to treaties being signed, handshakes, and eventually the end of the Cold War.
The Cold War – Steve Phillips
The Cold War: A New History – John Gaddis
Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended - Jack Matlock Revision Package – Matthew Nowotny-Walsh
Booklet 17 – End of the Cold War - History Department
Booklet 17(b) – The Arms Race & Space Race – History Department Booklet 18 – End of the Cold War (2) – History Department
[ 2 ]. Mutually Assured Destruction
[ 3 ]. Fidel Castro overthrows Batista’s government in Cuba. [ 4 ]. The U.S government supported a group of Batista’s men, trying to reclaim Cuban government, however, the operation was a tremendous failure and numerous countries frowned upon the U.S.A’s involvement. [ 5 ]. US Secretary of State
[ 6 ]. It banned the testing of nuclear weapons above ground or under water. [ 7 ]. It was designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries. [ 8 ]. A policy introduced by Willy Brandt, that resulted in better relations between West Germany and the counties over the ‘iron curtain’, it also recognized the official borders left after WWll. [ 9 ]. It said that the Federal Republic would not establish or maintain diplomatic relations with any state that recognized East Germany. [ 10 ]. Period of attempts to institute political and economic reforms in Czechoslovakia, led by communist party First Secretary Alexander Dubcek, in 1968. [ 11 ]. People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan.
[ 12 ]. The second treaty between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics resulting from the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. [ 13 ]. The first Nuclear Weapons agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union to reduce their arsenals of nuclear weapons. [ 14 ]. Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty