A Worldwide Cold War
A Worldwide Cold War
"Y ou have to take chances for peace just as you musttake chances for war.… If you are scared to go to the brink, you are lost." As noted in Ronald E. Powaski's Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917–1991, these are the words of John Foster Dulles (1888–1959), secretary of state for President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969; served 1953–61). During the Cold War, Dulles orchestrated a strategy known as "brinkmanship." Brinkmanship is the practice of forcing a confrontation in order to achieve a desired out-come; in the Cold War, brinkmanship meant using nuclear weapons as a deterrent to communist expansion around the world. Communism is a system of government in which a single political party controls almost all aspects of society. All property is owned by the government, which controls all industrial production; wealth is, in theory, shared equally by all. Religious practices are not tolerated under communist governments.
Dulles was a hard-line anticommunist; he viewed the Soviet Union, China, and other communist governments as enemies of democracy, government run by citizens who are represented by elected officials. Dulles asserted that President Harry S. Truman's (1884–1972; served 1945–53) containment policy had been too reactionary, meaning that Truman only reacted to communist threats and never went on the offensive. Containment was a key U.S. Cold War policy intended to restrict the territorial growth of communist rule. Dulles wanted the United States to take the initiative, freely using the threat of nuclear war, perhaps even liberating Eastern Europe from Soviet control. Dulles's position reflected the prevailing mood of the American public in the early 1950s.
In 1953, following the end of Truman's presidency in January, the death of Soviet premier Joseph Stalin (1879–1953) in March, and the end of the Korean War (1950–53) in June, the Cold War took on a new look, with new superpower leaders. Although the Cold War spread around the globe, the United States and the Soviet Union had at least begun talking, and a fairly stable military balance had been established in Europe. The United States stood behind the Western European countries, and the Soviet Union controlled the Eastern European countries. Ironically, the stability in Europe was made possible by the presence of nuclear weapons. Each superpower's arsenal of weapons ensured that in the event of an attack and counterattack, both the Soviet Union and the United States—along with much of the rest of the world—would be devastated. Neither superpower desired such an outcome. So even as the Soviet Union and the United States continued arms buildup, talks between the two helped lessen the tensions of the period and fears of nuclear war.
The superpowers tried to keep pace with each other in weapons production, but in economic terms, it was no contest: The capitalist West was far more prosperous than the communist East. This was especially apparent in Europe. In a capitalist economy, property and businesses are privately owned. In a marketplace operating relatively free of government regulation, competition determines prices of goods, production levels, and how goods are distributed. The stark contrast in prosperity between East and West contributed to a decline in Communist Party support throughout Western Europe. Communist rule was increasingly associated with political purges, labor camps, and show trials, none of which appealed to people in the free (democratic) and capitalist nations of Western Europe.
Only a few weeks after Dwight D. Eisenhower was inaugurated as the thirty-fourth U.S. president in January 1953, Soviet premier Stalin died. The new Soviet premier was Georgy Malenkov (1902–1988). Nikita Khrushchev (1894–1971) became the secretary general—the new Soviet Communist Party leader. With Stalin gone, the Soviet Union changed from a dictatorship to an authoritarian government in which centralized power rested with the Soviet Communist Party. (In an authoritarian government, a ruling political party assumes full governmental authority, demands complete obedience of its citizens, and is not legally accountable to the people.)
Malenkov wanted to focus on internal Soviet issues. Stalin had previously declared that capitalism and communism could not peacefully coexist in the world. In contrast, Malenkov declared that peaceful solutions could end international Cold War problems. In early April, shortly after taking office, he called for talks to reduce military forces in Europe. In response, in a speech on April 16, President Eisenhower expressed interest in discussing arms reduction. However, Eisenhower gave Malenkov a number of conditions: He said that Malenkov would need to allow free elections in Eastern Europe, stop supporting communist revolutionary movements in Asia, permit on-site inspections as part of nuclear disarmament, and accept West Germany's membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). (NATO is a military defense alliance of several Western European nations, the United States, and Canada.) On May 11, British prime minister Winston Churchill (1874–1965), who had been reelected in 1951, proposed that the world leaders hold a meeting to resolve Cold War tensions. However, U.S. secretary of state Dulles and West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer (1876–1967) argued against such a meeting. They claimed the Soviets were likely not sincere in pursuing peaceful coexistence, but merely trying to weaken the West. With the strong anticommunist mood in the United States, which was spurred by U.S. senator Joseph McCarthy (1908–1957) of Wisconsin, Dulles did not want the federal administration to appear weak in dealing with the communists. The idea of arms reduction talks soon faded away.
Senator McCarthy and the hunt for communists at home
Senator McCarthy and his supporters stepped up anticommunist rhetoric, or overblown, dramatic statements or speeches, in the United States (see Chapter 5, Homeland Insecurities). Under their strong influence, Eisenhower signed an executive order in April 1953 giving heads of federal agencies authority to fire employees whom they suspected of disloyalty to the country. Although no one was actually charged with spying or subversion (an attempt to overthrow or undermine an established political system), hundreds of federal employees lost their jobs. Caught in the purge were some of the top political analysts who monitored China and the Soviet Union, people who were needed for developing an informed foreign policy. Also among those fired from their public service jobs was the father of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904–1967). He had supposedly associated with communists and strongly opposed the development of the hydrogen bomb. A later investigation revealed no disloyalty on the part of Oppenheimer. (In fact, in 1963,U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson [1908–1973; served 1963–69] presented an Atomic Energy Commission award to Oppenheimer in recognition of his service to the nation.)
In April 1954, Senator McCarthy launched a televised investigation of supposed communist subversion in the U.S. Army. However, the public and members of Congress had finally had enough of McCarthy's unfounded accusations. The Republicans in the Senate passed a resolution officially criticizing McCarthy for denying citizens their constitutional right of a fair public trial to answer the accusations McCarthy was making with little evidence. As a result, McCarthy was not allowed to conduct any more inquiries, but the influence of his earlier actions would last for years.
The Warsaw Pact
In Berlin in January 1954, the foreign ministers of the United States, France, Britain, and the Soviet Union met to discuss the reunification of Germany. However, each country still had differing concerns and points of view on how to build a postwar Germany, so no agreements could be reached. Further, the Soviets insisted that NATO be abolished, and the United States insisted on free elections throughout Germany. Separately, the three Western allies agreed to give West Germany full national sovereignty and the opportunity to rearm. West Germany would join NATO in 1955. The Soviets responded to the expansion of NATO by creating the Warsaw Pact in 1955. The pact set up a mutual military alliance between the Soviet Union and the Eastern European nations under Soviet influence, including East Germany.
The New Look—brinkmanship
During the Berlin conference, on January 12, 1954, Secretary of State Dulles announced a new U.S. military strategy in the fight against communism. In response to communist aggression of any kind, he said, the United States would retaliate with a massive nuclear attack. The strategy was designed to prevent war by threatening the ultimate war. This strategy was referred to as an "asymmetrical response." ("Asymmetrical" means out of proportion or unequal.) In other words, the U.S. reaction would potentially be much harsher than the original aggression. The Soviets or any other aggressor would pay heavily for even minor hostile actions. Former president Truman had favored a containment policy, calling for military responses tailored to the nature of each hostile action—that is, calling for the U.S. response to be at the same general level as the hostile action. The new strategy introduced by Dulles increased secret operations and promoted more-aggressive diplomatic activity, such as directly confronting countries that allowed growth of internal communist influences and threatening economic sanctions.
Dulles argued that focusing on nuclear capability would be much cheaper than maintaining the massive conventional air and ground forces that were called for in National Security Council Document 68 (NSC-68). Truman had adopted the NSC-68 strategy in 1950. But for Eisenhower, the U.S. economy was a priority, and less spending appealed to him. Dulles's strategy, which included a major reduction in conventional forces, was one way to reduce spending. TheU.S. military budget dropped from over $41 billion in Truman's last annual budget proposed for 1954 to less than $31 billion, the amount requested by Eisenhower for 1955, a 25-percent decrease. The number of army personnel dropped from 1.5 million to 1 million. The air force became much more prominent, playing a key role in the new massive retaliation strategy. The B-52, the nation's first intercontinental jet bomber capable of delivering nuclear bombs on Soviet targets, became the backbone of the strategic air power. Planning emphasized development of long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles and intermediate-range missiles, all armed with nuclear warheads, as well as smaller-scale tactical nuclear weapons for the army and navy. (Tactical weapons allow for more flexible maneuvering of military forces.) By December 1954, NATO's tactical nuclear weapons supple-menting conventional forces (troops, ships, and airplanes) included atomic cannons and small nuclear missiles. The brinkmanship strategy, featuring a scaled-down but much more powerful military, was called the New Look.
Though it saved NATO members money by requiring fewer conventional forces, the new U.S. policy made Western European nations uneasy. The original goal of ninety-six NATO military divisions was reduced to twenty-five by late 1954. Fewer ground forces in Europe could make the West unable to respond to small incidents with anything less than U.S. nuclear retaliation. Therefore, one of the weaknesses of brinkmanship was that it gave the U.S. president fewer options for responding to hostile actions. To Europeans and many Americans, too, nuclear war seemed a drastic response to a localized hostile action. The United States tried to ease their worries by continuing to arm NATO forces with tactical nuclear weapons and maintaining U.S. troops in West Germany.
Khrushchev considered the new U.S. strategy very aggressive and threatening to Soviet interests. However, Khrushchev was interested in reviving the Soviet industrial and agricultural economy rather than pursuing massive funding for conventional arms. Like Eisenhower and Dulles, he decided to concentrate on development of nuclear ballistic missiles, a much less expensive option than development of conventional arms. As a result, Khrushchev significantly increased the Soviet nuclear weapons program. By 1955, the Soviets had over three hundred atomic and thermonuclear
weapons and intercontinental bombers. Soon the United States feared the Soviets had many more nuclear arms than they actually did. Nevertheless, when conflicts arose, both the Soviet Union and the United States could threaten each other with nuclear war. The strength of both countries deterred them from actually starting a war; whoever fired first would not only destroy the other but be destroyed itself.
The Third World
Europe remained divided along East-West lines: Western European countries were backed by the United States, and the Soviet Union oversaw the Eastern European countries. "Nation-building," installing friendly governments willing to join in combating or promoting communism, became a key strategy for the United States and the Soviet Union during this Cold War period. Third World countries were key targets for nation-building. (The term "Third World" refers to poor underdeveloped or developing nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America; most Third World countries have economies primarily based on agriculture, with few other industries.) Another major U.S. strategy was to create military defense alliances around the borders of the Soviet Union. For example, the United States made defense agreements with South Korea and with the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan; the agreements were patterned after NATO in Europe. The United States would eventually have formal agreements to defend forty-five nations around the world.
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), led by Allen Dulles (1893–1969), the brother of John Foster Dulles, would play a key role in nation-building. Less expensive than military operations and less open to congressional and public review, the CIA supported friendly leaders and their governments through secret operations; they also supported the overthrow of unfriendly governments. Various extreme methods, even assassination plots against foreign leaders, were planned. Historians later presumed that targets included Cuban president Fidel Castro Ruz (1926–), China's premier Zhou Enlai (1898–1976), and Congo prime minister Patrice Lumumba (1925–1961). To identify possible communist influences, the CIA also infiltrated various kinds of organizations, including student groups and church groups.
The U.S. policy of nation-building was not always welcomed by Third World countries. Most Third World countries were or had been European colonies. But colonialism was coming to an end. (Colonialism is control over an economically weaker country and/or its citizens. Most often colonialism refers to Western European nations exercising control over various Third World countries.) Nationalist movements were gaining strength: Third World countries increasingly sought independence from foreign control. Nationalism refers to the strong loyalty of a person or group to its own country.
Driven by poverty and despair, people in Third World countries often wanted to overthrow local rulers who controlled the countries' wealth; generally the wealth was benefiting a controlling colonialist power, or a capitalist country. Seeing an opportunity to weaken colonialist powers such as France, communist leaders stepped in to help. In the early twentieth century, communists in China and Russia had aligned themselves with the peasants and common workers. Communist political ideas were in general supportive of the common people; therefore, the communists were already inclined to help Third World countries in the mid-twentieth century. In 1955, Soviet Communist Party leader Khrushchev and Soviet premier Nikolay Bulganin (1895–1975), who replaced Georgy Malenkov, visited India, Burma, and Afghanistan to offer economic aid to the nationalist movements there.
Since India had gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947, it chose a path of neutrality (not aligning with either the Soviet Union or the United States). As a result, it became a Third World leader. In 1955, India and twenty-eight other neutral countries attended a conference in Southeast Asia; they held another meeting in 1961 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. They formed a bloc, or group, of countries that agreed to focus on economic development, not Cold War politics. Many U.S. businesses began locating offices and industrial factories in neutral Third World countries, providing much-needed jobs. However, many Third World nations would equate the growing U.S. presence with the earlier hated European colonialism.
Because the communists often assisted nationalist movements, the United States had difficulty distinguishing nationalist ideologies from communism. The United States sometimes perceived nationalist movements as communistinspired revolutions. Land reform, a common feature of nationalist movements, often involved confiscation of large foreign land holdings, which were then parceled out to citizens for small farming operations. American corporations sought U.S. government support in defending their extensive holdings in Third World nations. In an effort to keep perceived revolutionary movements in check, President Eisenhower established the Inter-American Development Bank in 1959 to provide economic assistance to governments that remained friendly to the United States. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy (1917–1963; served 1961–63) followed this policy with the formation of the Alliance for Progress program.
Another complicating factor for the United States was that longtime colonial powers, such as Britain and France, were also longtime friends of the United States. Therefore, the U.S. government felt compelled to defend colonial holdings. A dilemma existed: If the United States supported a nationalist movement, it would be criticized by allies and hard-line anticommunists. If it did not support these movements, the nationalists would likely find support from the Soviets, America's Cold War enemy.
The Middle East
As part of the New Look strategy, the Eisenhower administration decided to counter Soviet-supported nationalist movements with CIA covert operations, particularly in Third World countries in the Middle East. The Middle East is a vast region including parts of southwestern Asia, southeastern Europe, and northern Africa. It includes Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, and Sudan to the south. It also includes Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Yemen, Lebanon, Cyprus, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates. Iran provides one example of covert CIA activity: In 1951, Iranian premier Mohammad Mosaddeq (1880–1967) nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, a British-owned company, so that profits would not go to a foreign-held company but would stay within Iran. In response, international oil companies boycotted (joined together and refused to buy) Iranian oil. In reaction to the boycott, on May 28, 1953, Mosaddeq appealed to Eisenhower for help. In his message, Mosaddeq commented that he would have to go to the Soviets if the United States did not help. Already leery of Mosaddeq's control of Iranian oil, which was critically needed by Western nations, Eisenhower declined Mosaddeq's request. In July, Mosaddeq dissolved the Iranian parliament and established relations with the Soviets. The CIA went into action in August to orchestrate a change in government by bringing in the shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (1919–1980), to restore a monarchy, or rule by a single person, friendly to the United States and Western Europe. On August 19, 1953, the CIA paid antigovernment rioters to take to the streets and force a coup d'état, an illegal or forceful change of government. After several hundred deaths, Mosaddeq resigned, and the shah ultimately became the ruler.
The United States provided military and economic aid to the new Iranian government in 1954. That year, an international oil consortium, or business alliance, was established, replacing the earlier exclusively British control of Iranian oil. American oil companies owned 40 percent of the new Iranian operations. The Iranian army would become the best equipped and largest in the Middle East. The United States was particularly pleased with the regime change because Iran shared a long border with the Soviet Union. This potentially blocked a possible Soviet expansion of influence in the direction of the oil-rich Persian Gulf.
Latin America was another Third World region of concern to the U.S. administration during the Cold War period. Latin America includes the entire Western Hemisphere south of the United States. It includes Central and South America as well as Mexico and the islands of the West Indies. The rapidly growing population in Latin America suffered greatly from poverty, disease, and illiteracy in the mid-twentieth century. A small upper class controlled the governments, armies, and most wealth. For landless peasants, the ideas of communism, in contrast to the existing governmental systems, could be appealing. To prevent the spread of such ideas and a full-blown communist revolution, the U.S. government often felt it must support the ruling elite.
For example, in Guatemala, 2 percent of the population owned 70 percent of the nation's wealth. In 1953, President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán (1913–1971), the popularly elected leader of Guatemala, began a program of land reform to ease some of his country's poverty. The reform program included nationalizing 234,000 acres of uncultivated land owned by the Boston-based United Fruit Company. Arbenz provided payment to the company for the land, but the company was un-happy with the payment it received. The company appealed to the Eisenhower administration for help. Since Arbenz's support base included the Guatemalan Communist Party, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles claimed that Arbenz posed a communist threat to the region. (Coincidentally, Dulles had performed legal work earlier for United Fruit Company.)
As a result of Dulles's input, Eisenhower authorized a CIA overthrow of the Guatemalan government. The United States trained and armed a small group of Guatemalan political exiles in neighboring countries. Suspecting a U.S.-led coup attempt, Arbenz sought help from the Soviet Union. The Soviets arranged shipments of arms to Guatemala from Czechoslovakia. Claiming Soviet interference in the Western Hemisphere, the U.S.-trained army launched an attack against the Guatemalan army under air cover flown by CIA pilots. On June 27, 1954, Arbenz fled the country. Carlos Castillo Armas (1914–1957), one of the soldiers supported by the United States, established a military junta (a group of military leaders in political control). Castillo banned all political opposition parties, then imprisoned suspected political opponents and killed many of them. Castillo also ended the land reform program and gave United Fruit Company its land back.
Guatemala would serve as a U.S. base for future operations in the region. Although the United States claimed the uprising was the will of the Guatemalan people, many Latin Americans were dismayed by the covert military force the United States used to over-throw a legally elected government. However, some Latin American leaders who were friendly with the United States took the action in Guatemala as a strong and welcome signal that they could count on U.S. help to protect them from internal uprisings. The United States worked with harsh and dictatorial regimes in Latin America—Fulgencio Batista (1901–1973) in Cuba; Anastasio Somoza (1896–1956) and sons Luis Anastasio Somoza (1922–1967) and Anastasio Somoza (1925–1980) of Nicaragua; and Alfredo Stroessner (1912–) in Paraguay—because these regimes shared the U.S. government's anticommunist views. The United States preferred to support strong central governments, even brutal ones, rather than let communist influences take hold in struggling Latin American countries.
Indochina is a peninsula in Southeast Asia that extends from the southern border of China into the South China Sea. It includes, among other countries, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Because these three countries had good natural resources, especially rubber and rice, they became French colonies in the nineteenth century. In 1947, the French began fighting communist revolutionary Ho Chi Minh (1890–1969) and his Vietminh army. Over ninety thousand French troops were killed in a seven-year period. Then, in early 1954, French forces in northern Vietnam were put on the defensive by the Vietminh forces. On April 26, approximately fifteen thousand French troops became trapped at a garrison at Dien Bien Phu. France desperately appealed to the United States for military help. In deciding whether to provide assistance, Eisenhower considered the popular "domino theory"—that if Vietnam fell to communism, other countries would follow. First would be Burma, Thailand, and the rest of Indochina. Next would be Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines, and finally Australia and New Zealand. The president considered a plan that would use both conventional and nuclear weapons against Vietminh positions surrounding the French troops. However, the American public did not want to see U.S. forces sent to a far-off war so soon after the Korean War (see Chapter 2, Conflict Builds). Therefore, Eisenhower chose not to respond, and the French forces surrendered at Dien Bien Phu on May 7, 1954.
At the urging of Britain and France, the United States joined in a conference about Vietnam in Geneva, Switzerland, that also included China and the Soviet Union. On May 8, the day after the fall of the French at Dien Bien Phu, the issue of Indochina was raised. By July, a settlement had seemingly been reached, ending the Vietnamese conflict. France agreed to recognize the independence of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Vietnam was divided in two at the seventeenth parallel. The communists would control the north half; they established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. In the south was a government aligned with the West called the Republic of Vietnam. The Geneva agreement called for national elections throughout Vietnam, as well as in Laos and Cambodia, in two years. It also prohibited any of the three countries from joining military alliances or allowing foreign military bases within their borders. Despite the agreement, the United States objected to communist control of the north and refused to observe the ban on military assistance to South Vietnam. The United States was eager to provide economic and covert support. Like the United States, the communists in northern Vietnam would defy the agreement, refusing to allow the national elections. The Soviet Union and communist China supplied the Vietminh army with weapons.
To combat the expansion of communism in the region, in September 1954 the United States led the creation of a Southeast Asian alliance patterned after NATO. It was called the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). Member nations included the United States, Great Britain, France, New Zealand, Thailand, Australia, Pakistan, and the Philippines. Since the Geneva settlement banned Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos from joining alliances, SEATO extended protections to those countries without their signatures. By November, U.S. military advisers were training a South Vietnamese army called the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). For the next five years, U.S. aid to South Vietnam would total $1.2 billion, financing 80 percent of the military expenses and almost half of the country's nonmilitary government spending.
The Geneva settlement called for public elections in all of Vietnam by 1956, but the United States opposed such elections, fearing a communist victory. Instead a tightly controlled public election was held in October 1955, in South Vietnam only. The referendum led to a 98 percent voter approval of the Republic of Vietnam's government, with Ngo Dinh Diem (1901–1963) as its president. Formal U.S. recognition came quickly to Diem, even though he had little popular support. His support came mostly from the small landlord class, the military, and his own corrupt bureaucracy. Because of this weak support, Diem moved to eliminate all political opposition. In reaction, the Vietminh, still located in pockets of southern Vietnam, began a military resistance movement with the goal of reunifying Vietnam under a communist government.
The Far East
The easternmost part of Asia is often referred to as the Far East. Included under this general term are China, Korea,
Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and eastern Siberia. By late 1953, the United States withdrew its Seventh Fleet from the Taiwan Strait, where ships had been sent during the Korean War to guard against any possible invasion of Taiwan by the People's Republic of China (PRC), the communist government that had been controlling Mainland China since 1949. The PRC feared that the removal of the Seventh Fleet meant Chinese nationalists, who controlled Taiwan and its surrounding islands, had U.S. approval to invade Mainland China. It was no secret that Taiwan's president, Chiang Kai-shek (1887–1975), had hopes of militarily retaking Mainland China. The United States and the PRC made no progress in establishing formal relations at the 1954 Geneva conference, and on September 3, 1954, the PRC began bombarding two islands held by Taiwan, Jinmen (Quemoy) and Mazu (Matsu). Two U.S. soldiers were killed. The PRC also attacked the Tachen Islands and captured the island of Ichiang. In October, the PRC established stronger ties with the Soviets. As part of a formal Sino-Soviet (Sino means "Chinese") agreement, the PRC regained control of Manchuria, and the Soviets agreed to financially assist PRC industrialization programs.
Given China's aggression against Taiwan and strengthening relationship with the Soviets, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended to President Eisenhower a full military response including use of atomic weapons. Eisenhower, however, was unwilling to go to war with the PRC over the small islands. Instead, the United States signed a mutual defense treaty with Taiwan on November 23, 1954. Approved by the U.S. Senate on February 9, 1955, the treaty promised U.S. military support to Taiwan in exchange for Chiang's agreement to drop any plans of invading China. The PRC nevertheless viewed this pact with great suspicion and still saw Taiwan as a threat; therefore, the PRC's hostile actions continued. In January 1955, Congress had also passed the Taiwan Resolution, authorizing Eisenhower to use whatever force he felt necessary to protect Taiwan and its islands. Given that broad authority, Eisenhower threatened to use nuclear weapons to resolve the crisis if the PRC did not halt its bombardments in the Taiwan Strait. This act of brinkmanship forced the PRC to reconsider its position, and in April 1955 PRC foreign minister Zhou Enlai indicated an interest in discussing solutions to the Taiwan crisis; the following month, a cease-fire, or an ending of all hostilities, went into effect. Even though the two countries had no formal relations, they began meetings in Geneva. The discussions dragged on, and the crisis faded away for the time being.
The key victim of the Taiwan Strait crisis was the Communist Party cause. A lack of Soviet support during the crisis greatly bothered the PRC communists. Their disillusionment with the Soviet Union would become a major factor in a later political split between the two countries, the two largest communist nations in the world. It also led the PRC to greatly accelerate its nuclear weapons program, because leaders there felt they could not rely on Soviet protection.
A Cold War thaw
As their relationship with the PRC deteriorated, the Soviets sought to improve relations with the West. For example, on May 15, 1955, the United States and the Soviet Union reached an agreement over the future of Austria. The agreement removed all postwar occupation forces of the Soviet Union, the United States, France, and Britain. It established Austria as a fully independent and neutral country.
With both the United States and the Soviet Union having successfully tested powerful hydrogen bombs, Eisenhower and Khrushchev wished to limit the escalating arms race and reduce tensions. The two met in Geneva on July 18,1955. It was the first meeting of superpower leaders since the Potsdam Conference ten years earlier. Little progress toward arms control was made, but having such talks was considered a good sign. The Soviets proposed to close all foreign military bases operated by the United States and the Soviet Union. They also suggested banning the use of nuclear weapons for offensive first strikes and restricting the size of armed forces in smaller nations. The United States believed such restrictions would inhibit the rearming of West Germany and jeopardize the future of NATO, potentially limiting U.S. military presence and the general military strength of the alliance. The reunification and rearming of post–World War II (1939–45) Germany continued to be a central sticking point between the two superpowers. The Soviets also proposed replacing NATO and the Warsaw Pact with an all-Europe security agreement. Germany would be unarmed, reunified, and neutral. Because of the wounds Germany inflicted on the Soviets in World War II, the Soviets could not accept a reunified, well-armed Germany made stronger by an alignment with the West. If Germany could not remain unarmed, the Soviets stated, then they would strongly prefer two separate countries: East Germany and West Germany. East Germany, under Soviet influence, would serve as a cushion between West Germany and the Soviet-controlled countries of Eastern Europe.
The West rejected the Soviets' proposals to disband NATO and reunify a weakened Germany. They feared the Soviets were merely trying to weaken Western alliances with false promises of peaceful coexistence and then turn around and attack later. The United States would only accept a reunified Germany if nationwide free elections were allowed; there was no doubt that such elections would align Germany with the West. Eisenhower countered the Soviet military proposals with a proposal of arms control; however, the Soviets found Eisenhower's plan unacceptable. The proposed plan, "Open Skies," called for extensive aerial inspections. The Soviets feared that aerial inspections would reveal all Soviet military installations and make them vulnerable to U.S. nuclear missile attack.
Although the most concrete result of the conference consisted of cultural exchanges, involving the fine arts of theater, dancing, writing, etc., the conference did establish a friendlier spirit and for a time lessened fears of nuclear war. The period is often referred to as a Cold War thaw, because relations between the United States and the Soviet Union gradually began to warm. The Geneva conference revealed two major Cold War facts: A nuclear stalemate had been reached between the United States and the Soviet Union, and the West no longer expected to militarily win the Cold War in the event of a "hot" war.
The Cold War thaw allowed Khrushchev to turn to Soviet domestic issues. In February 1956, he gave an epic speech, the "Crimes of Stalin" speech, to the Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party. By denouncing the activities of former Soviet premier Joseph Stalin, Khrushchev attacked his most serious opponents in the Soviet Communist Party, who still preferred Stalin's hard-line policies. Khrushchev described the torture and executions of many innocent people and the self-glorification that Stalin sought. Stalin's behavior, Khrushchev contended, was counter to communist principles. According to Khrushchev, Stalin served the Soviet Union poorly. Khrushchev pointed to a new direction for the Soviet Union: He would accept different forms of socialism, or a state-controlled society, such as the communist government led by Josip Tito (1892–1980) in Yugoslavia; it remained independent of Soviet control. Unlike Stalin, Khrushchev also claimed that communism and capitalism could peacefully coexist; conflict was not necessarily inevitable, as Stalin had preached. Khrushchev's speech seemed to suggest that expansion would no longer be a communist goal. By mid-1956, members of the Eisenhower administration were cautiously hopeful that a new era might be beginning, with the Soviets gradually relaxing their control of Eastern Europe.
For More Information
Ambrose, Stephen F. Eisenhower: The President. London: Allen and Unwin, 1984.
Collier, Christopher. The United States in the Cold War. New York: Benchmark Books/Marshall Cavendish, 2002.
Gleijeses, Piero. Shattered Hope: The Guatemalan Revolution and the United States, 1944–1954. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991.
Marks, Frederick W., III. Power and Peace: The Diplomacy of John Foster Dulles. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1993.
Mayers, David A. Cracking the Monolith: U.S. Policy Against the Sino-Soviet Alliance, 1949–1955. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1986.
Powaski, Ronald E. The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917–1991. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Rabe, Stephen G. Eisenhower and Latin America: The Foreign Policy of Anti-communism. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988.
Ulam, Adam B. The Rivals: America and Russia Since World War II. New York: Penguin Books, 1976.
Words to Know
Brinkmanship: An increased reliance on nuclear weapons as a deterrence to threats of communist expansion in the world; an international game played between the Soviet Union and the United States of who has the highest number of and the most powerful weapons with which to threaten the enemy.
Capitalism: An economic system in which property and businesses are privately owned. Prices, production, and distribution of goods are determined by competition in a market relatively free of government intervention.
Cold War: A prolonged conflict for world dominance from 1945 to 1991 between the two superpowers, the democratic, capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union. The weapons of conflict were commonly words of propaganda and threats.
Communism: A system of government in which the nation's leaders are selected by a single political party that controls all aspects of society. Private ownership of property is eliminated and government directs all economic production. The goods produced and accumulated wealth are, in theory, shared relatively equally by all. All religious practices are banned.
Nation-building: Installing friendly governments wherever feasible around the world by the United States and the Soviet Union.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO): A peacetime alliance of the United States and eleven other nations, and a key factor in the attempt to contain communism; the pact meant that the United States became the undisputed global military leader.
Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO): An alliance of nations created to combat the expansion of communism in the Southeast Asian region, specifically Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Member nations included the United States, Great Britain, France, New Zealand, Thailand, Australia, Pakistan, and the Philippines.
Third World: Poor underdeveloped or economically developing nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Many were seeking independence from political control of Western European nations.
Warsaw Pact: A mutual military alliance between the Soviet Union and the Eastern European nations under Soviet influence, including East Germany.
People to Know
Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán (1913–1971): Guatemalan president, 1950–54.
Carlos Castillo Armas (1914–1957): Guatemalan president, 1954–57.
John Foster Dulles (1888–1959): U.S. secretary of state, 1953–59.
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969): Thirty-fourth U.S. president, 1953–61.
Nikita S. Khrushchev (1894–1971): Soviet premier, 1958–64.
Georgy M. Malenkov (1902–1988): Soviet premier, 1953–55.
Mohammad Mosaddeq (1880–1967): Iranian premier, 1951–53.
Ngo Dinh Diem (1901–1963): Republic of Vietnam president, 1954–63.
Joseph Stalin (1879–1953): Dictatorial Russian/Soviet leader, 1924–53.
Harry S. Truman (1884–1972): Thirty-third U.S. president, 1945–53.
The Cold War was not the beginning of global competition between Russia and the United States. They had crossed paths in their efforts to expand in the early nineteenth century. This interaction led to the establishment of a major U.S. foreign policy that would last into the Cold War over a century later.
In 1821, Tsar Alexander I (1777–1825) of Russia claimed the lands of Alaska and part of the Pacific Northwest. The Russian claim extended southward into an area the United States believed it had already acquired in a treaty with Spain. In addition, Russia had formed an alliance with two other European nations, and fears rose among the British and Americans that this alliance might try to gain control of some of Spain's former colonies in Latin America. The colonies had recently gained their independence from Spain. The young United States, having just defeated Great Britain in the War of 1812, wanted to rid the Western Hemisphere of European influence. Seeking new trade opportunities and territories for future expansion, it debated what to do.
Finally, U.S. secretary of state John Quincy Adams (1767–1848) recommended that President James Monroe (1758–1831; served 1817–25) announce a policy prohibiting further establishment of European colonies in the Western Hemisphere. On December 2, 1823, in the president's annual address to Congress, Monroe pronounced a new policy that has guided the nation ever since—the Monroe Doctrine. Monroe stated that the United States would stay out of European internal affairs and wars; that the Western Hemisphere was closed to further colonization by European nations, including Russia; and that the United States would not interfere with existing colonies. Lastly—and most significantly for the later Cold War era—Monroe stated that any attempt by a European nation
to control a nation in the Western Hemisphere would be considered a hostile act. In the Cold War, the Monroe Doctrine would support efforts by the United States to combat Soviet communist influences in Latin America. Following the announcement of the Monroe Doctrine, Russia shifted the southern boundary of its claim farther north, and the perceived threat against the former Spanish colonies never materialized. Russia sold the territory of Alaska to the United States in 1867 for $7.2 million. From that point through the Cold War era, the entire Western Hemisphere was under U.S. influence, meaning the United States was willing to challenge any new European influence in the broad region.