Cold War crises and Confrontations 1961 - 90 Flashcards Preview

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Outline the main developments in the Cold War during the 1950s [5]


  • Korean War
    • 1950-53 - Containment in Asia
    • Korea divided along 38th parallel / North communist, South non-communist.
    • North invades South: Condemned by UN - UN troops (Mostly US) intervene. 3 year ‘stalemate’, 1.4 million people die.
  • Peaceful co-existence
    • Stalin died in 1953, replaced by Nikita Khrushchev.
    • 1956 - destalinisation - blaming Stalin for poor relations between East and West. Talks of ‘Peaceful co-existence’
    • Some progress - Geneva conference - but mostly empty (Overshadowed by arms race)
  • Arms race / Space Race
    • US President, Eisenhower adopts a policy of ‘Mass Retaliation.
    • Both sides building nuclear arsenals including hydrogen bombs. (Khrushchev says he ‘is building them like sausages’ - a lie!)
    • USSR launch a satellite into space (SPUTNIK, 1957) USA panic!
    • New ways of delivering missiles - by end of 50’s ICBMs and SLBMs

Cold War Crisis 1: The Berlin Wall


Outline why a wall was built in around West Berlin in 1961 [5]

Ted EdLecture: The Rise and the Fall of the Wall (5 mins)



Big Picture: Berlin divided - deep in East Germany, West Berlin an outpost of democracy and capitalism - a problem for the USSR

  • 1950s, Skilled / Educated East Germans fleeing (DEFECTING) in big numbers to the West via Berlin - low standard of living and political oppression (The Stasi).
  • In 1958 Khrushchev had already hinted that there would be a ‘solution’ - had given the West an ultimatum to get out within 6 weeks (Deadline ignored and passed)
  • JFK had become President (1961) Khrushchev thought he could dominate the relationship - at Vienna Conference repeated Soviet ultimatum for West to leave Berlin.
  • Kennedy stood firm - sent 150,000 troops to West Berlin (escalation of crisis) Made his famous ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech.
  • Night of August 13 1961, East German soldiers and workers constructed a barbed-wire fence along the East-West Berlin border.
  • This was replaced over time by a physical Wall.
  • USSR called it the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart - Willy Brandt, the West German CHancellor called it ‘The Wall of Shame’.
  • The wall remained in place until 1989.

Cold War Crisis 2: The Cuban Missile Crisis


Outline why Cuba became a Cold War crisis [5]


5 Minute Video Summary of the Cuban Crisis

Ted EdLesson

  • Big Picture: In the late 1950s, Fidel Castro had taken control of Cuba and established a socialist republic. He upset the US by nationalizing US owned businesses, and in response, the US placed a trade embargo ob Cuba.
  • Cuba moved closer to the USSR who provided Cuba with economic aid worth $100 million and conventional military equipment and advisers.
  • Tere was then an attempted invasion, by 1400 Cuban exiles, backed by the US, at the Bay of Pigs (1961) to overthrow Castro. The invasion was a miserable failure and embarrassment for the US. (The CIA called it a ‘perfect failure’!
  • The USSR continued to supply Cuba - with modern weaponry - Kennedy warned Khrushchev not to place ‘offensive weapons (he meant nuclear missiles) on Cuba.
  • Sunday, October 14, 1962 a U2 spy plane on a reconnaissance (recon) mission photographed missiles sites being built on Cuba and 20 Soviet ships were bound for Cuba.
  • Kennedy had to decide what his course of action would be.

Cold War Crisis 2a: The Cuban Missile Crisis


Outline what actions Kennedy took over the discovery of missiles in Cuba [5]

  • On being advised of the situation, Kennedy established EXCOMM (16 October) to advise him.
  • Split between ‘hawks’ and ‘doves’ they had different advice!
  • Kennedy opted for GRADUAL ESCALATION - announcing a ‘quarantine’ around Cuba. He informed the US people on TV on the 22nd.
  • Khrushchev called it an act of piracy - but Kennedy stood firm and the Soviet ships turned about.
  • Khrushchev then sent a telegram (26th) to Kennedy - offering to remove the missiles if Kennedy promised not to invade Cuba.
  • As Kennedy deliberated the offer - he received a second telegram, adding the demands to remove US Jupiter missiles from Turkey.
  • Kennedy ignored the second telegram - used back channels to get an agreement.
  • Kennedy agreed not to invade Cuba, Khrushchev removed the missiles and US removed the missiles in Turkey in secret.

Cold War Crisis 2b: The Cuban Missile Crisis


Describe the main outcomes of the Cuban Missiles Crisis [5]


  • A potential nuclear exchange was averted!
  • Communications were improved with a ‘hotline’
  • Agreement that such weapons needed international controls - leading to Test ban Treaty (1963)
  • A realization that ‘brinkmanship’ was too risky in a nuclear age - talk of ‘détente’. (Talking!)
  • It enhanced the reputation of Kennedy did little for the reputation of Khrushchev - he was ‘replaced’ in 1964 by Lenoid Brezhnev.
  • Cuba had the US commitment they would not invade (and Cuba became a useful communist ally to help spread the ideas to South America)

Cold War Confrontation 3: The Vietnam War

1954 - 75

Outline why the USA became involved in Vietnam [5]



  • At the end of WWII, the US (Truman) supported France with economic aid and advisers to help them regain their former colony, but the French were defeated in 1954.
  • Vietnam was divided along the 17th parallel - North was a communist under Ho Chi Minh, South non-communist under Ngo Diem.
  • The US feared Ho Chi Minh would unite the country under his leadership - they increased aid to the South.
  • In 1962 President Kennedy committed 11,500 ‘advisers’ to the South rising to 30,000 under President Johnson.
  • In August 1964 the Gulf of Tonkin incident occurred; a US ship was attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats.
  • This lead to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution - which gave Johnson the authority to commit troops to Vietnam.

Cold War Confrontation 3a: The Vietnam War

1954 - 75

Outline what military tactics the US adopted in Vietnam [5]

  • The US under General Westmoreland went for a War of attrition
    • Chemical defoliants (Agent Orange & Napalm)
    • Search & Destroy missions: [Zippo raids] - body count
    • Sustained bombing
  • Operation Rolling Thunder:
    • A heavy and sustained bombing campaign against North Vietnam.
    • Designed to be a demonstration of America’s near-total air supremacy.
    • Aim was to demoralise and force the North and the Viet Cong into submission.
    • Started in March 1965 - Failed on all counts!
  • Strategic Hamlet
    • Started 1962 (Under Kennedy) Newly constructed villages under the control of the South Vietnamese Army (With a stockade around it and patrolled by guards)
    • Peasants resented working without pay to dig moats, implant bamboo stakes, and erect fences against an enemy that did not threaten them.

It also meant peasants had to travel long distances to reach their rice fields which naturally angered them. Others were upset for religious reasons for they believed that it was vitally important to live where their ancestors were buried. [Land was sacred]

* Aimed to reduce the influence of the NLF on the peasants of South Vietnam. * *

Cold War Confrontation 3b: The Vietnam War

1954 - 75

Outline what military tactics the Viet Cong adopted in Vietnam [5]

  • Initially, they launched large-scale offensives over a wide area of South Vietnam.
  • When this failed, they resorted to guerrilla warfare
  • From 1965: hit & run and ambushes.
  • Avoid pitched battles with the US soldiers.
  • Called - ‘Hanging onto the belt’ of the USA
  • Extensive tunnel networks (e.g Cu Chi tunnels)
  • Destroy US morale through traps (Punji)
  • Demonstrated self-discipline amongst the peasantry.

Cold War Confrontation 3c: The Vietnam War

1954 - 75

Outline the problems facing the US troops in Vietnam [5]

  • Low morale as war dragged on and injuries increased. (Punji traps esp. reducing US combat effectiveness) Fragging, desertion
  • Long war - meant conscription and inexperienced US troops
  • Boredom - led to extensive drug taking.
  • Unable to locate and identify the enemy
  • Could not engage the VC in an open pitched battle
  • Inability to cut off supply lines from the North (via the Ho Chi Minh Trail)
  • A determined and resourceful enemy.

Cold War Confrontation 3d: The Vietnam War

1954 - 75

Outline How President Nixon withdrew the USA from Vietnam [5]

  • By 1969 public opinion turning against the war.
  • President Johnson was replaced by President Nixon’s whos policy was to ‘end US involvement with honour’.
  • He began the withdrawal of US troops (Between 69 & 71, 400,000 left)
  • & trained South Vietnamese Provide equipment & supplies - VIETNAMIZATION.
  • At the same time, he wanted to force the North to the negotiating table so he carried on the bombing.
  • The bombing was even extended to Laos and Cambodia.
  • 1973 the warring parties met in Paris - where the Paris Peace Accords were signed. The USA left Vietnam.
  • By 1975 the North and full control over the South!
  • Containment was in tatters!

Cold War Confrontation 3e: The Vietnam War

1954 - 75

Explain why the USA withdrew from Vietnam [10]





(Starter 1) Firstly, the USA was faced with a determination and resourceful enemy which meant they were unable to get a ‘quick’ victory.

  • The VC - guerrilla warfare meant the war ‘dragged on’ (The title of a popular protest song!. The VC was a well-equipped force that had modern weaponry (thanks to China and the USSR) and effective tactics. The USA was unable to destroy the supply lines via the Ho Chi Minh trail, despite sustained bombing operations. The US tactic of a war of attrition just was not working and this was made obvious in 1968 when the North launched the TET offensive. 31st January 1968, 70,000 members of the NLF [VC] launched a surprise attack on more than a hundred cities and towns in Vietnam. The NLF even attacked the US Embassy in Saigon. Walter Cronkite (Newsreader - referred to as the most trusted man on US TV) called the war a ‘bloody stalemate’. The Offensive convinced many people, including the President, Johnson, that the war could not be won without further escalation – and the Government nor the people had an appetite for this. In short, A key reason why the USA left Vietnam was that their military strategy was failing. (Johnson did not stand again for Presidency – replaced by Nixon who said he would get out of Vietnam)

(Starter 2) Furthermore, as the war dragged on there was growing public protest & pressure from Civil rights campaigners to students in anti-war demonstrations.

  • Kent State University 12 students shot dead / Tearing up / burning ‘draft papers (Mohamed Ali) / May 1968 (The hinge of the war) over 500 US soldiers killed in one week alone. (58,000 US deaths in total & 75,000 injured) / In 1967, 100,000 took part in a protest rally in Washington DC - in 1971 this was 300,000. / Returning soldiers ‘publically discarding’ their tour medals. (A powerful image) / There was particular protest at the high cost of the war - $100 billion (What about ‘The promise of a Great Society’?) Life magazine claimed is cost $400,000 to kill 1 VC, whereas to take a US family out of poverty took only $53!

(Starter 3) Finally, it could also be argued that the US could no longer justify the war as a moral crusade against communism and the media had a part to play in this.

  • Pre ‘67, Media coverage was reasonably ‘supportive’ but perceptions of the war changed after 1967 / Impact of My Lai massacre (504 brutally killed) / So much for the USA’s claim they were on a moral crusade to combat communism! / The horrors of war entered the living rooms of Americans for the first time during the Vietnam War. / For almost a decade in between school, work, and dinners, the American public could watch villages being destroyed, Vietnamese children burning to death, and American body bags being sent home!

Cold War Confrontation 4: The Soviet War in Afghanistan

1979 - 89

Outline the reasons why the USSR became involved in Afghanistan [5]

  • Afghanistan bordered the USSR and had strategic and economic value to the USSR - just as in Eastern Europe they wanted friendly and reliable neighbours on their borders.
  • By 1979 the USSR felt Afgahistan was becoming politically unstable
  • Although it was in the hands of the communist, Taraki, his land, social and education reforms were unpopular amongst the Muslim population, especially in the countryside.
  • Meanwhile, in neighbouring Iran, the Shah was overthrown by a militant Islamic cleric Ayatollah Khomeini, who offered support to the Afghan Muslims, who had become known as the Mujahadin (soldiers of god)
  • In 1979, Taraki died and was replaced by Amin - who was threatening to work with the US to defeat his internal enemies.
  • The USSR would not tolerate a regime sympathetic to the West on their borders.
  • And so, just as the US had tried to help Diem’s regime in South Vietnam, the USSR tried to support Taraki.

Cold War Confrontation 4a: The Soviet War in Afghanistan

1979 - 89

Outline the response of the USA to the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan [5]

  • President Carter warned Premier Brezhnev that an invasion would upset world peace.
  • He imposed trade sanctions - especially on grain (The USSR could not produce enough themselves)
  • The US provided military aid to the Mujahedin (in the same way the Soviet’s had supported the VC in Vietnam)
  • The US walked away from SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) and increased their defence spending.
  • Carter called for a boycott of the Moscow Olympic games - the US didn’t go, but most nations ignored this. (In ‘84 the Soviet’s boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics!)

Cold War Confrontation 4b: The Soviet War in Afghanistan

1979 - 89

Explain why the USSR withdrew from Afghanistan [10]


(Starter 1) Firstly, the USSR could not find a military strategy that worked.

  • Afghanistan a mountainous country – difficult to move and supply the army / Afghans knew the terrain well and used it to their advantage – Soviet tanks vulnerable in mountain passes (of which there were many).
  • Soviets found it difficult to confront the enemy – which meant they ended up killing 1000s of civilians – Local people refused to co-operate with the Soviets / Soviets could not maintain territorial control.
  • By 1982 5,000 Soviet troops had been killed and there was no sign that they could succeed.

(Starter 2) Furthermore, as the war dragged because the Mujadhen were well equipped and determined

  • They were highly committed and motivated – being Muslim, they viewed communism as an atheist ideology / USSR seen as an occupying force, not an army there to help the regime / atrocities against the civilian population made them more determined / had support of Saudi Arabia ($600 million a year) from 1981 anti-communist Ronald Reagan sent military support via Pakistan including (late on) stinger missiles – especially important against the Soviet helicopter battleships – their most effective weapon against the Mujahideen.

(Starter 3) There was a change of policy when Gorbachev came to power in 1985 – the USSR came under pressure to leave from its own people

  • Gorbachev had eased censorship and the Soviet people knew that the war had cost 15,000 soldier’s lives with 55,000 injured. Also cost of war $20 billion – the USSR could not afford this, and public condemnation as over 1 million Afghans had been killed – it had clearly become the USSR’s ‘Vietnam’.