Causes Of The Cold War Summary And Analysis History Essay
The Big Picture: Who, What, When, Where & (Especially) Why. In 1945, the United States and Soviet Union were allies, jointly triumphant in World War II, which ended with total victory for Soviet and American forces over Adolf Hitler's Nazi empire in Europe. Within just a few years, however, wartime allies became mortal enemies, locked in a global struggle—military, political, economic, ideological—to prevail in a new "Cold War."
How did wartime friends so quickly turn into Cold War foes?
Who started the Cold War?
Was it the Soviets, who reneged on their agreements to allow the people of Eastern Europe to determine their own fates by imposing totalitarian rule on territories unlucky enough to fall behind the "Iron Curtain?"
Or was it the Americans, who ignored the Soviets' legitimate security concerns, sought to intimidate the world with the atomic bomb, and pushed relentlessly to expand their own international influence and market dominance?
The tensions that would later grow into Cold War became evident as early as 1943, when the "Big Three" allied leaders—American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin—met in Tehran to coordinate strategy. Poland, which sits in an unfortunate position on the map, squeezed between frequent enemies Russia and Germany, became a topic for heated debate. The Poles, then under German occupation, had not one but two governments-in-exile—one Communist, one anticommunist—hoping to take over the country upon its liberation from the Nazis. Unsurprisingly, the Big Three disagreed over which Polish faction should be allowed to take control after the war, with Stalin backing the Polish Communists while Churchill and Roosevelt insisted the Polish people ought to have the right to choose their own form of government. For Stalin, the Polish question was a matter of the Soviet Union's vital security interests; Germany had invaded Russia through Poland twice since 1914, and more than 20 million Soviet citizens died in World War II. (The Soviets suffered nearly sixty times as many casualties in the war as the Americans did.) Stalin was determined to make sure that such an invasion could never happen again, and insisted that only a Communist Poland, friendly to (and dominated by) the Soviet Union, could serve as a buffer against future aggression from the west. Stalin's security concerns ran smack into Anglo-American values of self-determination, which held that the Poles ought to be allowed to make their own decision over whether or not to become a Soviet satellite.
At Tehran, and at the next major conference of the Big Three at Yalta in 1945, the leaders of the US, UK, and USSR were able to reach a number of important agreements—settling border disputes, creating the United Nations, organizing the postwar occupations of Germany and Japan. But Poland remained a vexing problem. At Yalta, Stalin—insisting that "Poland is a question of life or death for Russia"—was able to win Churchill's and Roosevelt's reluctant acceptance of a Communist-dominated provisional government for Poland. In exchange, Stalin signed on to a vague and toothless "Declaration of Liberated Europe," pledging to assist "the peoples liberated from the dominion of Nazi Germany and the peoples of the former Axis satellite states of Europe to solve by democratic means their pressing political and economic problems." The agreements allowed Churchill and Roosevelt to claim they had defended the principle of self-determination, even though both knew that Poland had effectively been consigned to the Soviet sphere of interest. The provisional Communist government in Poland later held rigged elections (which it, not surprisingly, won), nominally complying with the Declaration of Liberated Europe even though no alternative to Communist rule ever really had a chance in the country.
In the end, the Yalta agreements were not so much a true compromise as a useful (in the short term) misunderstanding among the three leaders. Stalin left happy he had won Anglo-American acceptance of de facto Soviet control of Eastern Europe; Roosevelt and Churchill left happy they had won Stalin's acceptance of the principle of self-determination. But the two parts of the agreement were mutually exclusive; what would happen if the Eastern Europeans sought to self-determine themselves out of the Soviet orbit? Future disputes over the problematic Yalta agreements were not just likely; they were virtually inevitable.
And the likelihood of future conflict only heightened on 12 April 1945, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt unexpectedly died of a brain hemorrhage. Vice President Harry S. Truman—a former Missouri senator with only a high-school education, who had served just 82 days as vice president and had not been part of FDR's inner circle—suddenly became the President of the United States. Truman, who may not have ever known just how much Roosevelt had actually conceded to Stalin at Yalta, viewed the Soviets' later interventions in Eastern Europe as a simple violation of the Yalta agreements, as proof that Stalin was a liar who could never be trusted. Truman quickly staked out a hard-line position, resolving to counter Stalin's apparently insatiable drive for power by blocking any further expansion of the Soviet sphere of influence, anywhere in the world. Under Truman, containment of Communism soon came to dominate American foreign policy. The Cold War was on.
So who started the Cold War?
In the early days of the Cold War itself, American historians would have answered, nearly unanimously, that the Soviets started the Cold War. Josef Stalin was an evil dictator, propelled by an evil Communist ideology to attempt world domination. Appeasement hadn't worked against Hitler, and appeasement wouldn't work against Stalin either. An innocent America had only reluctantly joined the Cold War to defend the Free World from otherwise inevitable totalitarian conquest.
In the 1960s, a new generation of revisionist historians—disillusioned by the Vietnam War and appalled by seemingly endemic government dishonesty—offered a startingly different interpretation. In this revisionist view, Stalin may have been a Machiavellian despot but he was an essentially conservative one; he was more interested in protecting the Soviet Union (and his own power within it) than in dominating the world. Americans erroneously interpreted Stalin's legitimate insistence upon a security buffer in Poland to indicate a desire for global conquest; Americans' subsequent aggressive efforts to contain Soviet influence, to intimidate the Soviets with the atomic bomb, and to pursue American economic interests around the globe were primarily responsible for starting the Cold War.
More recently, a school of historians led by Yale professor John Lewis Gaddis have promoted what they call a "post-revisionist synthesis," incorporating many aspects of the revisionist critique while still insisting that Stalin, as a uniquely powerful and uniquely malevolent historical actor, must bear the greatest responsibility for the Cold War.
In the end, it may be that "Who started the Cold War?" is simply the wrong question to ask. World War II destroyed all other major rivals to American and Soviet power; the US and USSR emerged from the conflict as the only two nations on earth that could hope to propagate their social and political systems on a global scale. Each commanded powerful military forces; each espoused globally expansive ideologies; each feared and distrusted the other. In the end, it may have been more shocking if the two superpowers had not become great rivals and Cold War enemies.
What was the Cold War
The Cold War is the name given to the relationship that developed primarily between the USA and the USSR after World War Two. The Cold War was to dominate international affairs for decades and many major crises occurred - the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, Hungary and the Berlin Wall being just some. For many the growth in weapons of mass destruction was the most worrying issue.
Do note that USSR in 1945 was Russia post-1917 and included all the various countries that now exist individually (Ukraine, Georgia etc) but after the war they were part of this huge country up until the collapse of the Soviet Union (the other name for the USSR).
Logic would dictate that as the USA and the USSR fought as allies during World War Two, their relationship after the war would be firm and friendly. This never happened and any appearance that these two powers were friendly during the war is illusory.
Before the war, America had depicted the Soviet Union as almost the devil-incarnate. The Soviet Union had depicted America likewise so their ‘friendship’ during the war was simply the result of having a mutual enemy - Nazi Germany. In fact, one of America’s leading generals, Patton, stated that he felt that the Allied army should unite with what was left of the Wehrmacht in 1945, utilise the military genius that existed within it (such as the V2’s etc.) and fight the oncoming Soviet Red Army. Churchill himself was furious that Eisenhower, as supreme head of Allied command, had agreed that the Red Army should be allowed to get to Berlin first ahead of the Allied army. His anger was shared by Montgomery, Britain’s senior military figure.
So the extreme distrust that existed during the war, was certainly present before the end of the war……..and this was between Allies. The Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, was also distrustful of the Americans after Truman only told him of a new terrifying weapon that he was going to use against the Japanese. The first Stalin knew of what this weapon could do was when reports on Hiroshima got back to Moscow.
So this was the scene after the war ended in 1945. Both sides distrusted the other. One had a vast army in the field (the Soviet Union with its Red Army supremely lead by Zhukov) while the other, the Americans had the most powerful weapon in the world, the A-bomb and the Soviets had no way on knowing how many America had.
So what exactly was the Cold War?
In diplomatic terms there are three types of war.
In diplomatic terms there are three types of war.
Hot War : this is actual warfare. All talks have failed and the armies are fighting.
Warm War : this is where talks are still going on and there would always be a chance of a peaceful outcome but armies, navies etc. are being fully mobilised and war plans are being put into operation ready for the command to fight.
Cold War : this term is used to describe the relationship between America and the Soviet Union 1945 to 1980. Neither side ever fought the other - the consequences would be too appalling - but they did ‘fight’ for their beliefs using client states who fought for their beliefs on their behalf e.g. South Vietnam was anticommunist and was supplied by America during the war while North Vietnam was pro-Communist and fought the south (and the Americans) using weapons from communist Russia or communist China. In Afghanistan, the Americans supplied the rebel Afghans after the Soviet Union invaded in 1979 while they never physically involved themselves thus avoiding a direct clash with the Soviet Union.
The one time this process nearly broke down was the Cuban Missile Crisis.
So why were these two super powers so distrustful of the other?
No elections or fixed
Autocratic / Dictatorship
‘Survival of the fittest’
Everybody helps everybody
Richest world power
Poor economic base
Society controlled by the NKVD (secret police)
Freedom of the media
This lack of mutually understanding an alien culture, would lead the world down a very dangerous path - it led to the development of weapons of awesome destructive capability and the creation of some intriguing policies such as MAD - Mutually Assured Destruction.
Cold War chronology
1945 : ‘A’-Bomb dropped on Hiroshima + Nagasaki. USA ahead in the arms race.
1947 : Marshall Aid to the west of Europe. Stalin of USSR refused it for Eastern Europe.
1948 : start of the Berlin Blockade - ended in 1949
1949 : NATO established; USSR exploded her first ‘A’-bomb; China becomes communist
1950 : Korean War started.
1952 : USA exploded her first hyrogen bomb.
1953 : Korean War ended. USSR exploded her first hydrogen bomb. Stalin died.
1955 : Warsaw Pact created. ‘Peaceful coexistence’ called for.
1956 : Hungary revolts against USSR. Suez Crisis.
1957 : Sputnik launched.
1959 : Cuba becomes a communist state.
1961 : Military aid sent to Vietnam by USA for the first time. Berlin Wall built.
1962 : Cuban Missile Crisis.
1963 : Huge increase of American aid to Vietnam.
1965 : USA openly involved in Vietnam.
1967 : Six-Day War in Middle East.
1968 : USSR invades Czechoslovakia.
1973 : Yom Kippur War.
1979 : USSR invaded Afghanistan.
1986 : Meeting in Iceland between USSR (Gorbachev) and USA (Reagan).
1987 : INF Treaty signed.
The Iron Curtain
On March 5th 1946, Winston Churchill made his ‘iron curtain’ speech at Fulton, Missouri, USA. The speech was officially entitled “The Sinews of Peace” but became better known as the “Iron Curtain” speech. It set the tone for the early years of the Cold War. Some saw it as unnecessary warmongering while others believed it was another example of how well Churchill was able to grasp an international situation.
“I am glad to come to Westminster College this afternoon, and am complimented that you should give me a degree. The name "Westminster" is somehow familiar to me. I seem to have heard of it before. Indeed, it was at Westminster that I received a very large part of my education in politics, dialectic, rhetoric, and one or two other things. In fact we have both been educated at the same, or similar, or, at any rate, kindred establishments.
It is also an honour, perhaps almost unique, for a private visitor to be introduced to an academic audience by the President of the United States. Amid his heavy burdens, duties, and responsibilities - unsought but not recoiled from - the President has travelled a thousand miles to dignify and magnify our meeting here to-day and to give me an opportunity of addressing this kindred nation, as well as my own countrymen across the ocean, and perhaps some other countries too. The President has told you that it is his wish, as I am sure it is yours, that I should have full liberty to give my true and faithful counsel in these anxious and baffling times. I shall certainly avail myself of this freedom, and feel the more right to do so because any private ambitions I may have cherished in my younger days have been satisfied beyond my wildest dreams. Let me, however, make it clear that I have no official mission or status of any kind, and that I speak only for myself. There is nothing here but what you see.
I can therefore allow my mind, with the experience of a lifetime, to play over the problems which beset us on the morrow of our absolute victory in arms, and to try to make sure with what strength I have that what has been gained with so much sacrifice and suffering shall be preserved for the future glory and safety of mankind.
The United States stands at this time at the pinnacle of world power. It is a solemn moment for the American Democracy. For with primacy in power is also joined an awe-inspiring accountability to the future. If you look around you, you must feel not only the sense of duty done but also you must feel anxiety lest you fall below the level of achievement. Opportunity is here now, clear and shining for both our countries. To reject it or ignore it or fritter it away will bring upon us all the long reproaches of the after-time. It is necessary that constancy of mind, persistency of purpose, and the grand simplicity of decision shall guide and rule the conduct of the English-speaking peoples in peace as they did in war. We must, and I believe we shall, prove ourselves equal to this severe requirement.
When American military men approach some serious situation they are wont to write at the head of their directive the words "over-all strategic concept." There is wisdom in this, as it leads to clarity of thought. What then is the over-all strategic concept which we should inscribe today? It is nothing less than the safety and welfare, the freedom and progress, of all the homes and families of all the men and women in all the lands. And here I speak particularly of the myriad cottage or apartment homes where the wage-earner strives amid the accidents and difficulties of life to guard his wife and children from privation and bring the family up in the fear of the Lord, or upon ethical conceptions which often play their potent part.
To give security to these countless homes, they must be shielded from the two giant marauders, war and tyranny. We all know the frightful disturbances in which the ordinary family is plunged when the curse of war swoops down upon the bread-winner and those for whom he works and contrives. The awful ruin of Europe, with all its vanished glories, and of large parts of Asia glares us in the eyes. When the designs of wicked men or the aggressive urge of mighty States dissolve over large areas the frame of civilised society, humble folk are confronted with difficulties with which they cannot cope. For them all is distorted, all is broken, even ground to pulp.
When I stand here this quiet afternoon I shudder to visualise what is actually happening to millions now and what is going to happen in this period when famine stalks the earth. None can compute what has been called "the unestimated sum of human pain." Our supreme task and duty is to guard the homes of the common people from the horrors and miseries of another war. We are all agreed on that.
Our American military colleagues, after having proclaimed their "over-all strategic concept" and computed available resources, always proceed to the next step - namely, the method. Here again there is widespread agreement. A world organisation has already been erected for the prime purpose of preventing war, UNO, the successor of the League of Nations, with the decisive addition of the United States and all that that means, is already at work. We must make sure that its work is fruitful, that it is a reality and not a sham, that it is a force for action, and not merely a frothing of words, that it is a true temple of peace in which the shields of many nations can some day be hung up, and not merely a cockpit in a Tower of Babel. Before we cast away the solid assurances of national armaments for self-preservation we must be certain that our temple is built, not upon shifting sands or quagmires, but upon the rock. Anyone can see with his eyes open that our path will be difficult and also long, but if we persevere together as we did in the two world wars - though not, alas, in the interval between them - I cannot doubt that we shall achieve our common purpose in the end.
I have, however, a definite and practical proposal to make for action. Courts and magistrates may be set up but they cannot function without sheriffs and constables. The United Nations Organisation must immediately begin to be equipped with an international armed force. In such a matter we can only go step by step, but we must begin now. I propose that each of the Powers and States should be invited to delegate a certain number of air squadrons to the service of the world organisation. These squadrons would be trained and prepared in their own countries, but would move around in rotation from one country to another. They would wear the uniform of their own countries but with different badges. They would not be required to act against their own nation, but in other respects they would be directed by the world organisation. This might be started on a modest scale and would grow as confidence grew. I wished to see this done after the first world war, and I devoutly trust it may be done forthwith.
It would nevertheless be wrong and imprudent to entrust the secret knowledge or experience of the atomic bomb, which the United States, Great Britain, and Canada now share, to the world organisation, while it is still in its infancy. It would be criminal madness to cast it adrift in this still agitated and un-united world. No one in any country has slept less well in their beds because this knowledge and the method and the raw materials to apply it, are at present largely retained in American hands. I do not believe we should all have slept so soundly had the positions been reversed and if some Communist or neo-Fascist State monopolised for the time being these dread agencies. The fear of them alone might easily have been used to enforce totalitarian systems upon the free democratic world, with consequences appalling to human imagination. God has willed that this shall not be and we have at least a breathing space to set our house in order before this peril has to be encountered: and even then, if no effort is spared, we should still possess so formidable a superiority as to impose effective deterrents upon its employment, or threat of employment, by others. Ultimately, when the essential brotherhood of man is truly embodied and expressed in a world organisation with all the necessary practical safeguards to make it effective, these powers would naturally be confided to that world organisation.
Now I come to the second danger of these two marauders which threatens the cottage, the home, and the ordinary people - namely, tyranny. We cannot be blind to the fact that the liberties enjoyed by individual citizens throughout the British Empire are not valid in a considerable number of countries, some of which are very powerful. In these States control is enforced upon the common people by various kinds of all-embracing police governments. The power of the State is exercised without restraint, either by dictators or by compact oligarchies operating through a privileged party and a political police. It is not our duty at this time when difficulties are so numerous to interfere forcibly in the internal affairs of countries which we have not conquered in war. But we must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence.
All this means that the people of any country have the right, and should have the power by constitutional action, by free unfettered elections, with secret ballot, to choose or change the character or form of government under which they dwell; that freedom of speech and thought should reign; that courts of justice, independent of the executive, unbiased by any party, should administer laws which have received the broad assent of large majorities or are consecrated by time and custom. Here are the title deeds of freedom which should lie in every cottage home. Here is the message of the British and American peoples to mankind. Let us preach what we practise - let us practise what we preach.
I have now stated the two great dangers which menace the homes of the people: War and Tyranny. I have not yet spoken of poverty and privation which are in many cases the prevailing anxiety. But if the dangers of war and tyranny are removed, there is no doubt that science and co-operation can bring in the next few years to the world, certainly in the next few decades newly taught in the sharpening school of war, an expansion of material well-being beyond anything that has yet occurred in human experience. Now, at this sad and breathless moment, we are plunged in the hunger and distress which are the aftermath of our stupendous struggle; but this will pass and may pass quickly, and there is no reason except human folly of sub-human crime which should deny to all the nations the inauguration and enjoyment of an age of plenty. I have often used words which I learned fifty years ago from a great Irish-American orator, a friend of mine, Mr. Bourke Cockran. "There is enough for all. The earth is a generous mother; she will provide in plentiful abundance food for all her children if they will but cultivate her soil in justice and in peace." So far I feel that we are in full agreement.
Now, while still pursuing the method of realising our overall strategic concept, I come to the crux of what I have travelled here to say. Neither the sure prevention of war, nor the continuous rise of world organisation will be gained without what I have called the fraternal association of the English-speaking peoples. This means a special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States. This is no time for generalities, and I will venture to be precise. Fraternal association requires not only the growing friendship and mutual understanding between our two vast but kindred systems of society, but the continuance of the intimate relationship between our military advisers, leading to common study of potential dangers, the similarity of weapons and manuals of instructions, and to the interchange of officers and cadets at technical colleges. It should carry with it the continuance of the present facilities for mutual security by the joint use of all Naval and Air Force bases in the possession of either country all over the world. This would perhaps double the mobility of the American Navy and Air Force. It would greatly expand that of the British Empire Forces and it might well lead, if and as the world calms down, to important financial savings. Already we use together a large number of islands; more may well be entrusted to our joint care in the near future.
The United States has already a Permanent Defence Agreement with the Dominion of Canada, which is so devotedly attached to the British Commonwealth and Empire. This Agreement is more effective than many of those which have often been made under formal alliances. This principle should be extended to all British Commonwealths with full reciprocity. Thus, whatever happens, and thus only, shall we be secure ourselves and able to work together for the high and simple causes that are dear to us and bode no ill to any. Eventually there may come - I feel eventually there will come - the principle of common citizenship, but that we may be content to leave to destiny, whose outstretched arm many of us can already clearly see.
There is however an important question we must ask ourselves. Would a special relationship between the United States and the British Commonwealth be inconsistent with our over-riding loyalties to the World Organisation? I reply that, on the contrary, it is probably the only means by which that organisation will achieve its full stature and strength. There are already the special United States relations with Canada which I have just mentioned, and there are the special relations between the United States and the South American Republics. We British have our twenty years Treaty of Collaboration and Mutual Assistance with Soviet Russia. I agree with Mr. Bevin, the Foreign Secretary of Great Britain, that it might well be a fifty years Treaty so far as we are concerned. We aim at nothing but mutual assistance and collaboration. The British have an alliance with Portugal unbroken since 1384, and which produced fruitful results at critical moments in the late war. None of these clash with the general interest of a world agreement, or a world organisation; on the contrary they help it. "In my father's house are many mansions." Special associations between members of the United Nations which have no aggressive point against any other country, which harbour no design incompatible with the Charter of the United Nations, far from being harmful, are beneficial and, as I believe, indispensable.
I spoke earlier of the Temple of Peace. Workmen from all countries must build that temple. If two of the workmen know each other particularly well and are old friends, if their families are inter-mingled, and if they have "faith in each other's purpose, hope in each other's future and charity towards each other's shortcomings" - to quote some good words I read here the other day - why cannot they work together at the common task as friends and partners? Why cannot they share their tools and thus increase each other's working powers? Indeed they must do so or else the temple may not be built, or, being built, it may collapse, and we shall all be proved again unteachable and have to go and try to learn again for a third time in a school of war, incomparably more rigorous than that from which we have just been released. The dark ages may return, the Stone Age may return on the gleaming wings of science, and what might now shower immeasurable material blessings upon mankind, may even bring about its total destruction. Beware, I say; time may be short. Do not let us take the course of allowing events to drift along until it is too late. If there is to be a fraternal association of the kind I have described, with all the extra strength and security which both our countries can derive from it, let us make sure that that great fact is known to the world, and that it plays its part in steadying and stabilising the foundations of peace. There is the path of wisdom. Prevention is better than cure.
A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory. Nobody knows what Soviet Russia and its Communist international organisation intends to do in the immediate future, or what are the limits, if any, to their expansive and proselytising tendencies. I have a strong admiration and regard for the valiant Russian people and for my wartime comrade, Marshal Stalin. There is deep sympathy and goodwill in Britain - and I doubt not here also - towards the peoples of all the Russias and a resolve to persevere through many differences and rebuffs in establishing lasting friendships. We understand the Russian need to be secure on her western frontiers by the removal of all possibility of German aggression. We welcome Russia to her rightful place among the leading nations of the world. We welcome her flag upon the seas. Above all, we welcome constant, frequent and growing contacts between the Russian people and our own people on both sides of the Atlantic. It is my duty however, for I am sure you would wish me to state the facts as I see them to you, to place before you certain facts about the present position in Europe.
From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow. Athens alone - Greece with its immortal glories - is free to decide its future at an election under British, American and French observation. The Russian-dominated Polish Government has been encouraged to make enormous and wrongful inroads upon Germany, and mass expulsions of millions of Germans on a scale grievous and undreamed-of are now taking place. The Communist parties, which were very small in all these Eastern States of Europe, have been raised to pre-eminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control. Police governments are prevailing in nearly every case, and so far, except in Czechoslovakia, there is no true democracy.
Turkey and Persia are both profoundly alarmed and disturbed at the claims which are being made upon them and at the pressure being exerted by the Moscow Government. An attempt is being made by the Russians in Berlin to build up a quasi-Communist party in their zone of Occupied Germany by showing special favours to groups of left-wing German leaders. At the end of the fighting last June, the American and British Armies withdrew westwards, in accordance with an earlier agreement, to a depth at some points of 150 miles upon a front of nearly four hundred miles, in order to allow our Russian allies to occupy this vast expanse of territory which the Western Democracies had conquered.
If now the Soviet Government tries, by separate action, to build up a pro-Communist Germany in their areas, this will cause new serious difficulties in the British and American zones, and will give the defeated Germans the power of putting themselves up to auction between the Soviets and the Western Democracies. Whatever conclusions may be drawn from these facts - and facts they are - this is certainly not the Liberated Europe we fought to build up. Nor is it one which contains the essentials of permanent peace.
The safety of the world requires a new unity in Europe, from which no nation should be permanently outcast. It is from the quarrels of the strong parent races in Europe that the world wars we have witnessed, or which occurred in former times, have sprung. Twice in our own lifetime we have seen the United States, against their wishes and their traditions, against arguments, the force of which it is impossible not to comprehend, drawn by irresistible forces, into these wars in time to secure the victory of the good cause, but only after frightful slaughter and devastation had occurred. Twice the United States has had to send several millions of its young men across the Atlantic to find the war; but now war can find any nation, wherever it may dwell between dusk and dawn. Surely we should work with conscious purpose for a grand pacification of Europe, within the structure of the United Nations and in accordance with its Charter. That I feel is an open cause of policy of very great importance.
In front of the iron curtain which lies across Europe are other causes for anxiety. In Italy the Communist Party is seriously hampered by having to support the Communist-trained Marshal Tito's claims to former Italian territory at the head of the Adriatic. Nevertheless the future of Italy hangs in the balance. Again one cannot imagine a regenerated Europe without a strong France. All my public life I have worked for a strong France and I never lost faith in her destiny, even in the darkest hours. I will not lose faith now. However, in a great number of countries, far from the Russian frontiers and throughout the world, Communist fifth columns are established and work in complete unity and absolute obedience to the directions they receive from the Communist centre. Except in the British Commonwealth and in the United States where Communism is in its infancy, the Communist parties or fifth columns constitute a growing challenge and peril to Christian civilisation. These are sombre facts for anyone to have to recite on the morrow of a victory gained by so much splendid comradeship in arms and in the cause of freedom and democracy; but we should be most unwise not to face them squarely while time remains.
The outlook is also anxious in the Far East and especially in Manchuria. The Agreement which was made at Yalta, to which I was a party, was extremely favourable to Soviet Russia, but it was made at a time when no one could say that the German war might not extend all through the summer and autumn of 1945 and when the Japanese war was expected to last for a further 18 months from the end of the German war. In this country you are all so well-informed about the Far East, and such devoted friends of China, that I do not need to expatiate on the situation there.
I have felt bound to portray the shadow which, alike in the west and in the east, falls upon the world. I was a high minister at the time of the Versailles Treaty and a close friend of Mr. Lloyd-George, who was the head of the British delegation at Versailles. I did not myself agree with many things that were done, but I have a very strong impression in my mind of that situation, and I find it painful to contrast it with that which prevails now. In those days there were high hopes and unbounded confidence that the wars were over, and that the League of Nations would become all-powerful. I do not see or feel that same confidence or even the same hopes in the haggard world at the present time.
On the other hand I repulse the idea that a new war is inevitable; still more that it is imminent. It is because I am sure that our fortunes are still in our own hands and that we hold the power to save the future, that I feel the duty to speak out now that I have the occasion and the opportunity to do so. I do not believe that Soviet Russia desires war. What they desire is the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines. But what we have to consider here to-day while time remains, is the permanent prevention of war and the establishment of conditions of freedom and democracy as rapidly as possible in all countries. Our difficulties and dangers will not be removed by closing our eyes to them. They will not be removed by mere waiting to see what happens; nor will they be removed by a policy of appeasement. What is needed is a settlement, and the longer this is delayed, the more difficult it will be and the greater our dangers will become.
From what I have seen of our Russian friends and Allies during the war, I am convinced that there is nothing they admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness, especially military weakness. For that reason the old doctrine of a balance of power is unsound. We cannot afford, if we can help it, to work on narrow margins, offering temptations to a trial of strength. If the Western Democracies stand together in strict adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter, their influence for furthering those principles will be immense and no one is likely to molest them. If however they become divided or falter in their duty and if these all-important years are allowed to slip away then indeed catastrophe may overwhelm us all.
Last time I saw it all coming and cried aloud to my own fellow-countrymen and to the world, but no one paid any attention. Up till the year 1933 or even 1935, Germany might have been saved from the awful fate which has overtaken her and we might all have been spared the miseries Hitler let loose upon mankind. There never was a war in all history easier to prevent by timely action than the one which has just desolated such great areas of the globe. It could have been prevented in my belief without the firing of a single shot, and Germany might be powerful, prosperous and honoured to-day; but no one would listen and one by one we were all sucked into the awful whirlpool. We surely must not let that happen again. This can only be achieved by reaching now, in 1946, a good understanding on all points with Russia under the general authority of the United Nations Organisation and by the maintenance of that good understanding through many peaceful years, by the world instrument, supported by the whole strength of the English-speaking world and all its connections. There is the solution which I respectfully offer to you in this Address to which I have given the title "The Sinews of Peace."
Let no man underrate the abiding power of the British Empire and Commonwealth. Because you see the 46 millions in our island harassed about their food supply, of which they only grow one half, even in war-time, or because we have difficulty in restarting our industries and export trade after six years of passionate war effort, do not suppose that we shall not come through these dark years of privation as we have come through the glorious years of agony, or that half a century from now, you will not see 70 or 80 millions of Britons spread about the world and united in defence of our traditions, our way of life, and of the world causes which you and we espouse. If the population of the English-speaking Commonwealths be added to that of the United States with all that such co-operation implies in the air, on the sea, all over the globe and in science and in industry, and in moral force, there will be no quivering, precarious balance of power to offer its temptation to ambition or adventure. On the contrary, there will be an overwhelming assurance of security. If we adhere faithfully to the Charter of the United Nations and walk forward in sedate and sober strength seeking no one's land or treasure, seeking to lay no arbitrary control upon the thoughts of men; if all British moral and material forces and convictions are joined with your own in fraternal association, the high-roads of the future will be clear, not only for us but for all, not only for our time, but for a century to come.”
The Truman Doctrine
The Truman Doctrine was the name given to a policy announced by US President Harry Truman on March 12th, 1947. The Truman Doctrine was a very simple warning clearly made to the USSR – though the country was not mentioned by name – that the USA would intervene to support any nation that was being threatened by a takeover by an armed minority.
The Truman Doctrine has to be assessed against the background of what had happened in Europe at the end of World War Two and in the immediate aftermath.
During the war conferences, Stalin had made it clear (as far as Roosevelt and Churchill were concerned) that he would allow free elections in the east European countries previously occupied by Nazi forces and that had been liberated by the Red Army in its drive to Berlin. To Roosevelt, his successor Truman and Churchill this seeming promise meant that anyone could stand for election, anyone over a certain age could freely vote and that voting would be done in secret – effectively a carbon copy of what the west took for granted when it came to elections. Stalin clearly had other ideas. He wanted to put what Churchill was to call an “Iron Curtain” around the USSR and that meant each eastern European country that was near to the Soviet border had to have a loyal communist government in power with leaders who would do what Stalin wished. Therefore, elections were never going to be fair. Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Rumania all ended up with communist governments and had leaders who looked to Moscow for advice as opposed to the people of the country they governed. The only oddity for Stalin was Yugoslavia led by Tito. He was communist but Tito was not prepared to simply see the Nazis replaced by the influence of Soviet communists.
Then in 1946 communists in Greece attempted a takeover. They were in the minority in the country but received moral support from the USSR in their efforts to overthrow the monarchy and actual material support from Yugoslavia.
Greece was in a highly sensitive position militarily and Truman, while not wanting to involve America in any military action, wanted to give the Greek government as much support as he could during the Greek Civil War. The USSR’s Black Sea Fleet was effectively bottled up in the Black Sea. It had to use the narrow waterway through Turkey – the Dardanelles – to get into the Mediterranean Sea. All its movements were easy to monitor – even submarines, as listening devices had been placed on the seabed that easily picked up the noise of a submarine’s engines. If the USSR could get an ally physically in the Mediterranean Sea, then such a hindrance would not exist as a naval base could be built in a Soviet-friendly state.
So Truman’s stated policy – the Truman Doctrine – was not just about supporting the rights of a majority against the armed might of a minority, it also had a strategic bearing to it.
Truman stated that it would be "the policy of the United States to support free people who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures."
Congress agreed to send $400 million in military and economic aid to support the government of Greece. There was a shared view that if Greece fell to the communists, Turkey would be next and that the Soviet Union was slowly creeping towards the oil fields of the Middle East. However, there was no support to send US military forces into Greece.
The Truman Doctrine was to set the tone for US foreign policy throughout the world post-March 1947. Greece and Turkey became members of NATO – a clear message to Moscow that an attack on either would be deemed by other members of NATO to be an attack on all of them.
Europe in 1945
Europe by the summer of 1945 was very different to the Europe that had started out on war in September 1939. The Allies (USA, Britain and France) had started to fall out with Stalin’s Russia during the war itself. Stalin had wanted the Allies to start a second front in 1943. This, the Allies claimed, was not possible. Stalin got it into his mind that the Allies were deliberately allowing Russia to take on the might of two-thirds of the Wehrmacht in eastern Europe. Such a military campaign, he believed, would leave the USSR so weakened once the war was over that the Allies would have major military superiority over Russia almost immediately hostilities ceased.
This distrust also came out in the meetings that were held during the war. At Casablanca, Yalta and Potsdam, the one thing that clearly united the Allies and Russia was a common enemy - Nazi Germany. Little else did unite them. In fact, Stalin was not invited to Casablanca which increased his belief that the Allies were planning things behind his back. The Casablanca meeting only concerned the western front, so there was no need to invite Stalin. However, Stalin interpreted this differently.
The three war leaders - Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin - did meet at Yalta in February 1945. They agreed on the following:
The people freed from Nazi rule in Europe should be allowed to set up their own democratic and independent governments. Germany should be divided into four zones at the end of the war. USA, USSR, GB and France would occupy one zone each. Berlin would also be divided into four sections for the Allies. Half the $20 billions that would be collected from Germany as reparations would go to Russia. The eastern part of Poland would go to Russia so that Russia could build up her defences. Land would be taken from eastern Germany and given to Poland in compensation. Russian forces would be used against Japan in the Far East. A United Nations would be set up to promote world peace.
A key issue at Yalta was how to treat those nations that had been under Nazi occupation. It became clear to the Allies, that Stalin’s idea of free and democratic governments was different to theirs. In Stalin’s mind a free and democratic government should be subordinate to Moscow and have pro-Russian people in power so that those nations should do as Moscow wished. There was little that the Allies could do as the huge Red Army advanced west across eastern Europe towards Berlin. By 1945, the Red Army was a well equipped and well lead army and getting very used to victory.
By May 1945, the month of Nazi Germany’s surrender, the Red Army and therefore Moscow, effectively controlled the bulk of eastern Europe. Initially, the people of Roumania, Bulgaria and Hungary saw the Red Army as their liberators. But the murder of anti-Moscow politicians soon tainted their new found freedom. The death of Roosevelt lead to Harry Truman becoming American president. He was far less sympathetic to Russia than Roosevelt had been. He was also president of a country armed with a new and fearsome weapon - the atomic bomb.
After the Nazi surrender, the Allies and Russia met at Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin. They discussed what to do with the newly surrendered Germany. Half-way through the conference, Winston Churchill was replaced with the new British prime minister Clement Atlee, the leader of the Labour Party. Despite the celebrations of victory, a number of issues were not fully addressed at Potsdam. There was a failure to re-confirm the promise made at Yalta - of free and independent elections in eastern Europe. The new border between Poland and Germany was also missed out.
Stalin was also told at Potsdam about America’s new weapon. However, very little information was given to him. When the atomic bombs were used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it became clear to Stalin that Russia was years behind America in terms of modern weaponry. Though the Red Army was huge, its tanks some of the most modern in the world and its air force as good as any, this new weapon made all this conventional power of less value.
By the end of 1945, the seeds of the Cold War had been well and truly sown. Both sides were no longer linked by a common enemy. One side had massive conventional forces while the other had an unknown number of atomic bombs which could be used against Moscow - as Stalin knew.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was created in 1949. NATO was seen as being a viable military deterrent against the military might of the Soviet Union. In response to NATO admitting the membership of West Germany, the Soviet Union was to gather all its client states in Eastern Europe into the Warsaw Pact in May 1955. The heart of NATO beat around the military and financial muscle of the United States. However, because the post-war Soviet threat was perceived to be against Western Europe, the headquarters of NATO was based in Brussels, Belgium.
The original members of NATO were USA, UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, France, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. Greece and Turkey joined in 1952.
The principal part of NATO membership states:
“The parties of NATO agree that an armed attack against one of more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against all of them. Consequently, they agree that if such an armed attack occurs, each of them in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence will assist the party or parties being attacked, individually and in concert with other parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”
This agreement did not tie a member state down to a military response but a response as “deemed necessary” was expected.
In 1952 at the Lisbon Conference, member states discussed expanding NATO to 96 divisions – this was in response to the perceived threat of communism after the North Korean invasion of South Korea and the subsequent Korean War. However, in 1953, it was agreed to limit NATO to 35 divisions but with a greater reliability on nuclear weapons.
For many years, only America provided the nuclear weaponry for NATO, though both the United Kingdom and France were eventually to produce their own nuclear capability.
France, angered by what they saw as the dominance of America in NATO, effectively withdrew in 1959 and developed her own independent nuclear force. Charles de Gaulle made it clear that only the French government would determine when and if such weaponry would be used. He ordered the withdrawal of the French Mediterranean Naval Fleet from NATO command and in the same year banned all foreign nuclear weapons from French soil. In 1966 all French military forces were withdrawn from NATO’s command. France remained a member of NATO but had its armed forces under the control of the French government. However, in secret talks, plans were made to put French forces back under NATO command in the event of an invasion of Western Europe by Warsaw Pact states.
In the immediate aftermath of World War Two, Western Europe relied on American support and power to defend itself against the Soviet threat. However, as Western Europe found its feet after World War Two, a more independent streak was identified that deemed America to be too dominant in NATO and West European affairs – hence the move by France to make herself an independent nuclear state. In the UK something similar occurred – though the UK was less openly critical of America’s dominance of NATO – and an independent nuclear capability was developed based around the V Force (Vulcan, Victor and Valiant bombers) and the Blue Streak missile development. Both France and the UK developed an independent nuclear submarine capability as well – though the UK purchased US missiles, thus empathising America’s importance to Western Europe and NATO.
To defend the heart of Europe, NATO based a huge land and air force in West Germany. This was a clear response to the Soviet Army that dominated the Warsaw Pact. In 1979, in response to a build-up of Warsaw Pact military strength, NATO agreed to deploy American Cruise and Pershing II missiles in Western Europe. In 1983-84, when the Warsaw Pact deployed SS-20 missiles in Eastern Europe, NATO responded by deploying more modern Pershing missiles. Combined with her nuclear capability, NATO could also call on a formidable conventional force.
In 1983, NATO claimed to have within Western Europe:
1,986,000 ground force troops
20,722 main battle tanks
2,080 anti-tank guided weapon launchers
385 anti-submarine submarines
314 capital ships (carriers, cruisers etc)
821 Other naval craft
4,338 fighter aircraft
6869 anti-aircraft guns and surface to air missiles.
With such a military capacity, NATO and Western governments were in a strong position to negotiate with Moscow an arms reduction. It was generally considered that the USSR had major financial troubles and could not compete with NATO in the modernisation of its weaponry. This dual approach – reducing weapons while at the same time maintaining a very strong military force - reaped dividends in the era of Gorbachev and Reagan and helped to end the Cold War.
The Korean War
The Korean War lasted from 1950-1953. What happened in Korea pushed the boundaries of the Cold War towards 'Warm War'. Though America and Russia did not officially clash, client states did in that Communist China fought and was armed and encouraged by Russia.
The peninsula was divided after World War Two into a Russian-backed north (The People’s Democratic Republic) and the American-backed south (the Republic of Korea). Each claimed the right to the other half in an effort to unify both. The division was the result of the occupation of Korea by the communists after the end of the war with the country eventually being divided at the 38th parallel.
In June 1950, the North Koreans launched a surprise attack against the south and the capital Seoul fell in just three days.
The United Nations Security Council (which was being boycotted by Russia at this time) asked for UN states to send troops to the region under a UN flag. The huge bulk of the troops sent were American (15 nations sent troops) and command of them was given to Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
By the end of August 1950 only Pusan in the south-east corner of South Korea had not fallen to the North.
In September, MacArthur took the huge risk of launching an amphibious landing at Inchon 200 miles behind enemy lines and from here he launched an attack against the North Koreans at Pusan.
The North Koreans had no choice but to retreat as they faced being cut in two.
MacArthur chose to ignore his orders and advanced north towards the Chinese border at the Yalu River. This provoked the Chinese to launch a massive attack against the UN forces and South Korea. A Chinese army of 180,000 men supported by 100,000 reserves forced the UN troops to retreat and Seoul fell once again in January 1951 and the Chinese forces were halted only 60 miles from the 38th Parallel. Between January 1951 and June 1951 a stalemate took place though the UN forces managed to stabilise themselves near the 38th Parallel.
The war became one of static warfare as both sides entrenched their positions. Peace talks started at Panmunjom and lasted for 2 years. Two occurrences helped to move the peace talks - the death of Stalin in 1953 and the replacement of Truman with Eisenhower as US president
An armistice was signed in 1953.
Casualties from the war were very high : USA - 142,000 killed
Other UN states - 17,000 killed
Between 3.5 and 4 million civilians were killed.
Once again a political belief had been fought for - the halting of communist expansion in south-east Asia - but the superpowers had avoided any direct conflict -a classic occurrence in the Cold War.
Casualties : dead and wounded : 1.3 million South Korean military;
520,000 North Korean military;
Over 3 million civilian casualties. Much industry destroyed, agriculture ruined, millions of refugees
Gained respect by taking prompt and direct action. Used combined force to stop aggression. Achieved joint action by members.
17,000 casualties; conduct of war almost entirely by USA and UN could have been seen as a USA puppet.
Saved South Korea from communism. Containment policy seen to work against Asian communism
142,000 casualties. Defence spending went up from 12 to 60 billion dollars and failed to liberate North Korea.
Achieved closer friendship with China. Conflict between China and USA was to Russia’s advantage.
Forced into an expensive arms race with America.
Gained the respect of Asian communism. Saved North Korea from America. Kept a crucial buffer state on the eastern frontier. Achieved closer friendship with Russia
Cost of the war was immense for a poor country. Failed to win South Korea for communism. Increased American protection for Taiwan (Formosa). Isolated by America in trade and politics.
The Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Pact was the Soviet Union’s response to West Germany joining NATO and came into being in May 1955. The Warsaw Pact, named after the meeting to create it was held in Warsaw, was based throughout the Soviet Bloc and troops in it were used in the ending of the 1968 Czech Revolt.
The Warsaw Pact, officially the ‘Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance’, was obviously very much dominated by the Soviet Union. Soviet made tanks, aircraft and guns were used throughout the Warsaw Pact and the military command was dominated by decisions made in Moscow.
Like NATO, the Warsaw Pact had a political Consultative Committee with a civilian Secretary-General. It also, like NATO, had a commander-in-chief who was the most senior military figure in it. Each member of the Warsaw Pact had to pledge to defend other members if they were attacked.
Whereas the military in NATO was primarily made up of professionals (except for the years when member nations had conscription), the Warsaw Pact very much depended on conscription, whereby young men and women had to serve in their respective country’s military. This reliance on enforcement almost certainly undermined the professional capability of the Warsaw Pact – though its overall military capability was never challenged by NATO as neither side ever fought the other. In the west, the Warsaw Pact was demonised as a massive military monster waiting its chance to attack Western Europe. While this served a useful propaganda purpose, figures acquired by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) tend to undermine this as the Warsaw Pact had fewer of everything when compared to NATO except fighter aircraft and battle tanks.
IISS claimed that in 1983, the Warsaw Pact had:
1,714,000 ground forces
25,490 main battle tanks
1,787 anti-tank guided weapon launchers
183 anti-submarine submarines
206 capital ships (carriers, cruisers etc)
607 Other naval craft
8,512 fighter aircraft
6,737 anti-aircraft guns and surface to air missiles.
NATO, on the other hand, had in 1983:
1,986,000 ground forces
20,722 main battle tanks
2,080 anti-tank guided weapon launchers
385 anti-submarine submarines
314 capital ships (carriers, cruisers etc)
821 Other naval craft
4,338 fighter aircraft
6869 anti-aircraft guns and surface to air missiles.
One of the fears NATO had was that the Warsaw Pact probably recognised that her weaponry was more dated than NATO’s and that Moscow, if required to, would fall back on the use of nuclear weapons. A 1984 report by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences estimated that if the Warsaw Pact had attacked NATO bases in West Germany in a ‘limited’ nuclear attack, 10 million West Germans would have been killed and another 10 million would have been injured with most medical facilities put out of operation. These figures were based on an attack involving 200 kilotons of ground burst bombs – considered a “relatively small attack”. Papers released by the Polish government after the fall of the Warsaw Pact, showed that plans were in place for such an attack if a swift land based attacked failed. By the late 1980’s 250 nuclear missiles were based in Poland alone.
With the collapse of the Cold War at the end of the 1980’s the Warsaw Pact became both unnecessary and unwanted. It ceased to exist on July 1st 1991. Most former member states of the Warsaw Pact have now joined NATO – the one state that has not is the former Soviet Union.
The Suez Crisis of 1956
Events in Egypt, the nationalisation of the Suez Canal and the increasing heroic status of Nasser, made conflict looked inevitable. On November 3rd 1956, Anthony Eden prepared to address the nation. By now it was clear to those around him, that Eden’s health was suffering. The director of the broadcast, David Attenborough, stated “He looked dreadful, very ill.” At the start of his address, Eden stated:
“All my life I have been a man of peace…. I still have the same devotion to peace.”
However, in the same speech, Eden then went on that now was the right time to stand firm and that action was required to undo what Nasser had done with regards to the Suez Canal.
In Egypt, civilians were given rifles in an effort to produce a makeshift militia that would support the army. The military in Cairo fully expected a full-scale Anglo-French invasion and wanted as many to help as was physically possible.
On November 4th, a major demonstration was held in London with regards to the military build-up. The demonstration was organised by the Labour Party and the most common banner on display was “Law Not War”. The main speaker at Trafalgar Square was Aneurin Bevan. The man credited with founding the National Health Service said:
“If he is sincere in what he is saying, then he is too stupid to be Prime Minister.”
The demonstration turned more unpleasant and the police were needed to restore order near 10, Downing Street.
In Cairo, Nasser saw images of the demonstration. He turned to a colleague and said “Eden is weak, weak in character.”
Diplomatically, the course of events seemed to be turning against Eden. It appeared as if the Israelis were going to accept a United Nation’s proposal for a ceasefire. Even Eden’s cabinet was split on what course of action should be taken. The main opponent to military action was the Leader of the House, Rab Butler. When it became clear that Israel was not going to accept the UN’s ceasefire proposal, the cabinet decided that military action would start. In theory, the action by the armed forces should have been easy, as the Israelis had tied up a lot of the Egyptian Army in the Sinai.
On November 5th, ironically Gunpowder Plot day in Britain, men from the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment took off for El Gamil airfield, to the west of Port Said. At 05.00, the first men landed at the airfield – 668 paratroopers were to parachute into El Gamil in total. The paratroopers faced a mixture of civilians and army fighters. French paratroopers, with some British in support, landed to the west of Port Said. At El Gamil, the resistance put up by the Egyptians was greater than expected and 3 Para took more casualties than had been anticipated. From El Gamil, 3 Para moved on Port Said itself at the mouth of the Suez Canal. The Royal Air Force gave the men fighter cover as they moved. Despite fierce resistance in a cemetery near Port Said, the British force had a successful first day.
However, on that day a letter was received in London – but not shown to the sleeping Eden until the following day – from Bulganin, the Soviet Union’s Prime Minister. As Suez was played out in the background of the Soviet invasion of Hungary, seeming Soviet involvement was a worrying occurrence. Bulganin made it clear that the Soviet Union would take action against any aggressors in Egypt.
In the era of the Cold War and with the world reeling from the Soviet invasion of Hungary, it would have been expected that Britain’s primary ally at the time – the United States of America – would have rallied to support Great Britain. This did not happen – in fact, the opposite happened. Dwight Eisenhower, America’s president, was campaigning to be re-elected as President of America. The global image of an American ally acting like an imperial bully against a nation that probably could not protect itself against such a force was unacceptable to Eisenhower. He had already told Eden that the use of force was unacceptable to the Americans. In a letter to Eisenhower, Eden wrote:
“History alone can judge whether we have made the right decision.”
Militarily, Day One went as well as could have been expected. Diplomatically, things were not going well for Eden.
On November 6th, the sea landings took place in support of the paratroopers on the ground. At 04.00, guns from Royal Navy ships started to pound known defences in Port Said. At 04.45, men from 40 and 42 Commandos, Royal Marines, started their assault on Port Said. 45 Commando went in via helicopters. Faced with a combination of British and French paratroopers, British commandos and the Israeli Army in Sinai, it seemed obvious to many that the Egyptian forces would not last for long.
However, on the same day, politics started to take its toll. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Harold McMillan, told a cabinet meeting that there was a run on sterling, especially in New York and the Britain faced the real prospect of having to devalue sterling and also face the possibility of an Arab oil embargo. Both would have a major negative impact on the British economy. This was also coupled with the prospect of United Nation sanctions. Eisenhower had also made it clear to his cabinet that America would not do anything to prop up sterling until Britain and France had started to withdraw their forces from Egypt.
Faced with the possibility of a major dent in the UK economy, the cabinet took the decision to order a ceasefire.
By the end of November 6th, Port Said had been taken and the military estimated that full control of the Suez Canal would only take another 24 hours. However, they were ordered to stop fighting at midnight on the same day.
By November 7th, casualty figures could be assessed. It is believed that about 650 Egyptians were killed including civilians, with 2,000 wounded.
The Anglo-French forces lost 26 men killed and 129 wounded – included in these figures were Royal Marines killed and wounded in a friendly-fire incident involving the RAF.
There was little doubt that Britain had been humiliated on the international scene. However, Eden remained defiant. On November 17th he said:
“We make no apology and will never make one for the actions which we took.”
On December 20th, in the House of Commons, Eden was asked if he had ever had prior knowledge of an Israeli attack preceding a British/French one. Eden told the House that he had not – clearly misleading the House on what he actually did know. However, his health was failing.
British troops started to withdraw on December 23rd.
On January 8th, 1957, Eden addressed his cabinet for the last time. He gave his reason for resigning as increasingly poor health. The Queen accepted his resignation on January 9th and Harold McMillan succeeded him.
In Egypt and in the whole Arab world, Nasser became a hero idolised by millions. He was seen as the man who had stood up to the ‘imperial ambitions’ of Britain and France and had defeated them.
The Nuclear Arms Race
The nuclear arms race was central to the Cold War. Many feared where the Cold War was going with the belief that the more nuclear weapons you had, the more powerful you were. Both America and Russia massively built up their stockpiles of nuclear weapons.
The world greatly changed when USA exploded the H-bomb in 1952. This one bomb was smaller in size than the Hiroshima atomic bomb but 2500 times more powerful. The Russians produced an H-bomb in 1953 and the world became a much more dangerous place.
However, it is possible that the sheer power of these weapons and the fear that they evoked, may have stopped a nuclear war.
USA produced a bomber - the B52 - that could fly 6,000 miles and deliver a nuclear pay-load. Such a development required massive financial backing from the government - something which America could afford to do and which Russia could not. Russia concentrated on producing bigger bombs - a far more cost effective procedure.
In October 1957, the world was introduced to the fear of a missile attack when Sputnik was launched. This was to lead to ICBM’s : Inter-continental ballistic missiles. As a result, America built the DEW line around the Artic - Defence and Early Warning system.
At the end of the 1950’s, American Intelligence estimated that in a Russian missile attack, 20 million Americans would die and 22 million would be injured.
During the 1960’s, the Russians put their money into producing more missiles regardless of quality while America built fewer but better quality missiles - the Atlas could go 5,000 miles at a speed of 16,000 mph. By 1961, there were enough bombs to destroy the world.
Despite this, great emphasis was put on new weapon systems - mobile missile launchers were built, missiles were housed underground in silos and in 1960 the first Polaris submarine was launched carrying 16 nuclear missiles. Each missile carried four warheads which could targeted on different cities; hence one submarine effectively carried 64 nuclear warheads.
In 1967, China exploded an H-bomb. China was a communist country. In the west, NATO felt out-numbered as the table below shows and so had to place her faith in nuclear missiles.
Troops : NATO 2.6 million. Warsaw Pact 4 million
Tanks : NATO 13,000. Warsaw Pact 42,500
Artillery : NATO 10,750. Warsaw Pact 31,5000
During the 1960’s the theory of MAD developed - Mutually Assured Destruction. This meant that if Russia attacked the west, the west would make sure that they would suitably retaliate i.e. there would be no winners.
By 1981, USA had 8,000 ICBM’s and USSR 7,000 ICBM’s
By 1981, USA had 4,000 planes capable of delivering a nuclear bomb. Russia had 5000.
USA defence spending for 1981 = 178 billion dollars. By 1986, it was 367 billion dollars.
By 1986, it is estimated that throughout the world there were 40,000 nuclear warheads - the equivalent of one million Hiroshima bombs.
British Intelligence estimated that just one medium sized H-bomb on London would essentially destroy anything living up to 30 miles away.
Confronted by such awesome statistics, world leaders had to move to a position where they trusted each other more. Throughout the 1960's and 1970's "detente" had been used to ease bad relations between the superpowers. This was to culminate in the Reykjavik meeting between presidents Reagan and Gorbachev that started real progress in the cut in nuclear weaponry in future meetings (if little was actually gained at the meeting in Reykjavik).
In October 2011, the US started the process to dismantle the last of its B53 bombs, the production of which epitomised the arms race of the Cold War. Many were dismantled during the 1980’s but the final B53 in the US military arsenal will be similarly dismantled in Texas. The B53 was officially in the US arsenal until 1997. Since then it has been in ‘storage’ having been superseded by smart bomb technology.
The B53, at 9 megatons, was one of America’s most powerful nuclear bombs. It was designed to create shockwaves so great that they would kill anyone sheltering underground – i.e. those who controlled the Soviet nuclear programme in the USSR who operated and effectively lived underground.
The B53 was 600 times more powerful than ‘Little Boy’ dropped by ‘Enola Gay’ over Hiroshima on August 6th 1945. In the current era of smart bombs, the B53 was very much a throwback to the days of the nuclear arms race between the USA and USSR. The B53 was actually put into production during the most dangerous event of the Cold War – the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. It was produced up to 1965 and around 340 B53’s were built.
The B53 weighed 8,5000 lbs and at 3.80 metres in length, was the size of a minivan. It was primarily carried by B-52 bombers. The B53 was very much seen as a “monster weapon” and was built to compete with the USSR’s ‘Tsar’ bomb – the ‘king’ of bombs designed by Andrei Sakharov and at 50 megatons, the most powerful bomb ever exploded. The B53 would have created a fireball nearly 3 miles in diameter if it had ever been used in anger and the heat created would have almost certainly been lethal up to 18 miles from the blast’s epicentre. Most buildings would have been destroyed up to 10 miles from the actual blast. However, the B53 was primarily designed as a bunker buster to eradicate the Soviet Union’s command structure that existed in deep underground bunkers.
The B53 will be disassembled at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo. In April 2010 Presidents Obama and Medvedev signed an agreement in Prague that would see a significant reduction in the number of nuclear weapons stocked by the USA and USSR and the dismantling of the final B53 was part of this deal.
Russian invasion of Afghanistan
Afghanistan hit the world's headlines in 1979. Afghanistan seemed to perfectly summarise the Cold War. From the west's point of view, Berlin, Korea, Hungary and Cuba had shown the way communism wanted to proceed. Afghanistan was a continuation of this.
In Christmas 1979, Russian paratroopers landed in Kabal, the capital of Afghanistan. The country was already in the grip of a civil war. The prime minister, Hazifullah Amin, tried to sweep aside Muslim tradition within the nation and he wanted a more western slant to Afghanistan. This outraged the majority of those in Afghanistan as a strong tradition of Muslim belief was common in the country.
Thousands of Muslim leaders had been arrested and many more had fled the capital and gone to the mountains to escape Amin's police. Amin also lead a communist based government - a belief that rejects religion and this was another reason for such obvious discontent with his government.
Thousands of Afghanistan Muslims joined the Mujahdeen - a guerilla force on a holy mission for Allah. They wanted the overthrow of the Amin government. The Mujahdeen declared a jihad - a holy war - on the supporters of Amin. This was also extended to the Russians who were now in Afghanistan trying to maintain the power of the Amin government. The Russians claimed that they had been invited in by the Amin government and that they were not invading the country. They claimed that their task was to support a legitimate government and that the Mujahdeen were no more than terrorists.
On December 27th, 1979, Amin was shot by the Russians and he was replaced by Babrak Kamal. His position as head of the Afghan government depended entirely on the fact that he needed Russian military support to keep him in power. Many Afghan soldiers had deserted to the Mujahdeen and the Kamal government needed 85,000 Russian soldiers to keep him in power.
The Mujahdeen proved to be a formidable opponent. They were equipped with old rifles but had a knowledge of the mountains around Kabal and the weather conditions that would be encountered there. The Russians resorted to using napalm, poison gas and helicopter gun ships against the Mujahdeen - but they experienced exactly the same military scenario the Americans had done in Vietnam.
By 1982, the Mujahdeen controlled 75% of Afghanistan despite fighting the might of the world's second most powerful military power. Young conscript Russian soldiers were no match against men fuelled by their religious belief. Though the Russian army had a reputation, the war in Afghanistan showed the world just how poor it was outside of military displays. Army boots lasted no more than 10 days before falling to bits in the harsh environment of the Afghanistan mountains. Many Russian soldiers deserted to the Mujahdeen. Russian tanks were of little use in the mountain passes.
The United Nations had condemned the invasion as early as January 1980 but a Security Council motion calling for the withdrawal of Russian forces had been vetoed......by Russia.
America put a ban on the export of grain to Russia, ended the SALT talks taking place then and boycotted the Olympic Games due to be held in Moscow in 1980. Other than that, America did nothing. Why ? They knew that Russia had got itself into their own Vietnam and it also provided American Intelligence with an opportunity to acquire any new Russian military hardware that could be used in Afghanistan. Mujhadeen fighters were given access to American surface-to-air missiles - though not through direct sales by America.
Mikhail Gorbachev took Russia out of the Afghanistan fiasco when he realised what many Russian leaders had been too scared to admit in public - that Russia could not win the war and the cost of maintaining such a vast force in Afghanistan was crippling Russia's already weak economy.
By the end of the 1980's, the Mujahdeen was at war with itself in Afghanistan with hard line Taliban fighters taking a stronger grip over the whole nation and imposing very strict Muslim law on the Afghanistan population.
Timeline of World War One
Francis Ferdinand assassinated at Sarajevo
Kaiser William II promised German support for Austria against Serbia
Austria declared war on Serbia
Germany declared war on Russia
Germany declared war on France and invaded Belgium. Germany had to implement the Schlieffen Plan.
Britain declared war on Germany
The BEF started its retreat from Mons. Germany invaded France.
Russian army defeated at Tannenburg and Masurian Lakes.
Battle of the Marne started
First Battle of Ypres
Turkey entered the war on Germany’s side. Trench warfare started to dominate the Western Front.
The first Zeppelin raid on Britain took place
Britain bombarded Turkish forts in the Dardanelles
Allied troops landed in Gallipoli
The “Lusitania” was sunk by a German U-boat
Italy declared war on Germany and Austria
The Germans captured Warsaw from the Russians
Start of the Battle of Loos
The Allies started the evacuation of Gallipoli
Conscription introduced in Britain
Start of the Battle of Verdun
British forces surrendered to Turkish forces at Kut in Mesopotamia
Battle of Jutland
Start of the Brusilov Offensive
Start of the Battle of the Somme
End of the Brusilov Offensive
First use en masse of tanks at the Somme
Lloyd George becomes British Prime Minister
Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare campaign started
USA declared war on Germany
France launched an unsuccessful offensive on the Western Front
Start of the Third Battle at Ypres
Battle of Caporetto – the Italian Army was heavily defeated
Britain launched a major offensive on the Western Front
British tanks won a victory at Cambrai
Armistice between Germany and Russia signed
Britain captured Jerusalem from the Turks
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed between Russia and Germany.
Germany broke through on the Somme
Marshall Foch was appointed Allied Commander on the Western Front
Germany started an offensive in Flanders
Second Battle of the Marne started. The start of the collapse of the German army
The advance of the Allies was successful
Turkish forces collapsed at Megiddo
Germany asked the Allies for an armistice
Germany’s navy mutinied
Turkey made peace
Austria made peace
Kaiser William II abdicated
Germany signed an armistice with the Allies – the official date of the end of World War One.
Post-war – 1919
Peace conference met at Paris
The surrendered German naval fleet at Scapa Flow was scuttled.
The Treaty of Versailles was signed by the Germans.
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