23 March y
Assess the significance of events in Korea (1950-1953) on the development of the Cold War
In July 1953, an armistice was signed at Panmunjom to signal a ceasefire between the Sino-Soviet backed North and the US-UN backed South Korea. Although the Korean War was not the beginning of Cold Wa, the events from Korea are important in assessing the development of the Cold War. Whilst it is sometimes seen as a watershed in the development of the Cold War, a more compelling analysis is that it was a catalyst which accelerated the tensions between world superpowers in the wake of WW2 and origins of the Cold War which were already gaining impetus. With hardening lines since 1948, mounting fears of the enemy and fears of espionage within, the events in Korea set a template for the development of the Cold War.
The Korean War set the precedent for a new way of fighting, not only in the Cold War, but for future conflicts to come. This comes through indirect military intervention from larger powers to back smaller countries with similar policies to the larger nations. This is known as a proxy war. The root of proxy war stems from paranoia in the American-Soviet leadership. For Truman, the ‘Domino Theory’, the idea that change of ideology in one country may be replicated in other neighbouring countries, allowed him to justify US intervention to prevent the spread of world wide Communism (containment). One could argue that a ‘mirror image’ argument can justify Soviet intervention in Korea. Being one of the only Communist states in the world, the soviets felt encircled by countries influenced by the West. Therefore Stalin and the USSR felt any country facing a Communist revolution should have the backing of the USSR. This would not only give the USSR more allies around the world, but would also reduce world-wide US influence. Because the Korean War was the first ‘hot war’ of the Cold War, it was the first time this concept of a proxy war could be used. The events in Korea were significant in the development of the Cold War because it allowed the US and USSR to use their military resources to defend their own interests, without direct conflict. With both sides now possessing nuclear arms, any direct conflict may have led to a new type of warfare, nuclear war. However, because there was no direct attacks to either side in Korea, the use of nuclear weapons would not be justified. Total victory was unattainable. Proxy wars in Africa, Latin America and other Asian battle grounds, would allow both sides to defend their interests, without mutually assured destruction.
Despite the absence of nuclear weapons in Korea, the war led to an unprecedented level of militarisation throughout the Cold War. Fearing further Soviet aggression around the world, the US carried out measures to heighten their military strength. Examples of this are increasing the number of troops in Europe, strengthening NATO, placing nuclear warheads in countries neighbouring the Soviet Union and most notably, passing NSC -68, tripling the US defence budget. The actions of the US forced the USSR to become embroiled in massive military spending. The size of the Red Army grew from 2.8 million in 1950 to 5.8 million in 1955. However, although military spending was cut in 1955 in Russia, funding was continued for the development of nuclear weapons . This extortionate spending on weapons resources would mean the magnitude of fighting would become even greater, with the possibility for unprecedented levels of casualties in future battles. The events of Korea were significant because as Secretary of Defence Johnson said before Congress “communism is willing to resort to armed aggression…any free nation…when it believes it can win”. For the US, the need to increase military spending was seen as necessary to act against the ruthless USSR. For the USSR, it was this exact view of America, along with US militarisation, which led to...
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