After World War II, the USA and the USSR were competing with each other in the space race and the arms race. Although the Russians were ahead in the space race, perhaps more importantly, the USA had advanced further in the arms race.The nuclear balance was 5:1 in favour of the Americans.Here is a timeline to show how each side were doing from 1944-60.Source A1 shows a cartoon published in a British news magazine in 1960.
The Olympic Games were being held in Rome at the time and so both the arms race and the Olympics themes were incorporated. It shows Eisenhower from the US in first place, closely followed by Khrushchev from the USSR, and then Britain and France trailing as 3rd and 4th respectively. It clearly shows how the arms race was intensifying. As Britain were one of America’s allies it could be possible that putting the US in front, the British news magazine was being biased. However from the timeline (above), the USA were clearly more advanced than the Russians in the arms race.
It would be wrong to state that the Americans were “winning” in the arms race as in reality there is no winner in an arms race. The text underneath the Olympics logo on the flag in Source A1 supports this with the text reading “The important thing is not winning…
but taking part”. This is a clever pun as no winner can come of the race. I consider the arms race as a headlong race to destruction.Source A2 shows how desperate the United States wanted to know how far ahead of Russia they were. It shows the means of what lengths they went to – U2 spy planes. In 1960 they were curious of how Russia were doing and publicly deemed Russia as a “closed society”.
However, this gave the USA no right to use spy planes. They were blatantly breaking international law by flying over Russian territory.Source A3 shows the flight path of just one of the US spy planes piloted by Francis Gary Powers. Powers’ plane was shot down by Russia and Powers was broadcast on Russian television and published in Russian newspapers in an attempt to humiliate the USA and show the world what America were doing.Source A4 is an extract from a book written in 1986, therefore making it a secondary source that may be influenced by the author’s opinion, describing how a ‘summit’ conference was arranged between Soviet and Western leaders in Paris. Possibilities of re-uniting Germany were to be discussed and a German peace treaty to be arranged. However, Russia announced that the U2 pilot, Powers, was to stand trial in Moscow.
Eisenhower, the US president, claimed that the US had every right out send out the spy plane and condoned their actions. The Russians demanded an apology and when the Americans refused they went home. The treaty discussions were once again postponed.Source A5 is an extract from part of a speech made by Khrushchev on his return from Paris to Moscow. He claims the Americans had been caught ‘red-handed’ and had no right to disregard international laws.
His tone obviously conveys anger and an increase in East-West tension.Section B – The Cold War in South-East AsiaAs the Americans viewed the situation of the domino effect spreading communism as knocking over a row of dominos, Vietnam was considered as one of the dominos they intended to stop ‘toppling down to communism’.Source B1 is a speech Eisenhower made to the press in 1954. Here he explains his view on the domino effect. He clearly states “…we can’t afford greater losses.
..” This statement shows how serious the US were in stopping the spread of communism.Source B2 shows a map of Vietnam and it’s neighbours in the early 1960s. It shows how North and South Vietnam were split and how the Ho Chi Minh Trail travels across both sides.Source B3 shows part of a report to President Kennedy from Vice-President Johnson after a visit to Vietnam in 1961.
He states that the US must decide whether to help the countries to the best of their ability or to ‘throw in the towel’ and draw back their defences. This is clearly an implication for the US to push strong. The Americans have a strong sense of pride and Kennedy needed to prove himself as a strong presidential figure. Johnson knows that Kennedy’s first reaction will be “We are the United States and we will not give up”. He later recommends the prompt move for a major effort to help the countries ‘defend’ themselves.Source B4i shows an extract from a book written in 1985, therefore making it a secondary source and so we can never be sure whether Ambrose is adding hints of opinion. He is clearly behind the United States and his closing sentence backs this: “When all was ready he sent them out to save the world.”Source B4ii shows an American helicopter used by South Vietnamese troops during the early stages of the Vietnam War.
I can’t help but think that the North Vietnamese must have realised that these arms and equipment were coming from the US and they must have had strong opposition against it.Source B5 shows another secondary source from a book written in 1976. It states of how the ‘Viet Cong’ had been successful in taking over much of South Vietnam. Also of how Kennedy dispatched 4,000 “American Advisors”.
The source implies to me of how the writer is trying to show disregard to the Truman Doctrine.Section D – Berlin: the focal point of the Cold WarAnother source of the conflict was Germany and in particular Berlin. After the Second World War, Germany was divided into two halves. East Germany was communist and Western Germany was democratic. Berlin was also divided into the same way; however Berlin was surrounded by the Eastern communist sector.Source D1 shows the amount of people leaving the East for the West. Source D2i shows Russian and American leaders face-to-face in 1961.
Although they occasionally talked, compromise was non-existent.Source D2ii shows a secondary source regarding a summate conference arranged in Vienna. It shows how Khrushchev was out to try and scare Kennedy. However Kennedy left in a sombre mood rather than a scared one. Tensions from this event rose yet again.Source D3 shows a primary source of a speech made by President Kennedy in 1961. He talks of hope for Berlin and how it is “an island of freedom in a communist sea”.
This source is useful to use as it helps us understand Kennedy’s feelings of Berlin.Source B4i shows a photograph of the building of the Berlin wall. This was Russia’s solution to stop people travelling from the East to the Wes (see source D1). Source D4ii shows Kennedy visiting the wall in 1963. The wall resulted in the number of refugees decreasing, the tension decreasing and the Eastern part of Berlin controlled.Source D5 is a primary source showing part of Kennedy’s speech at the Berlin wall. He states that Communism doesn’t work and the tension increased.
ConclusionBefore 1961 the East-West tension existed, both sides competing against each other in the arms and space race. It was hoped that they could discuss it in summit conferences but tensions had grown too much for reasonable debates. The USA was too curious in terms of finding out how far the USSR had advanced and the Russians were extremely secretive. As the summit conference in Vienna was about to start Gary Powers’ U2 spy plane was shot down. The US had problems with communism else where also. In Vietnam the US felt they had to involve themselves in the war against communism. They began helping with weapons, ammunition and other equipment. Then 4000 US “advisors” were sent to help the Vietnamese.
Eventually their actions involved them in a full scale war in which thousands of Americans died with no victory from their efforts. The Vienna conference hoped that the two super powers could discuss European conflict. Britain and France were eager to see the discussions take place but they never did. The USSR then delivered an ultimatum – the Berlin Wall. Suddenly it is noticeable of how serious the Cold War had become during 1961-3.
In my opinion I believe that the USA and USSR were too suspicious of each other and so imaginary threat emerged in each others heads which lead to the escalation of the Cold War.