The Cold War Era (Problems in American History)


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The Cold War

Sailing under false manifest, these cargo ships were secretly bringing Soviet-made, medium range ballistic missiles to be deployed in Cuba. Once operational, these highly accurate missiles would be capable of striking as far north as Washington, D. An army of over 40, technicians sailed as well. Because the Soviets did not want their plan to be detected by American surveillance planes, the human cargo was forced to stay beneath the deck during the heat of the day. They were allowed to come topside only at night, and for a short time.

The ocean crossing, which lasted over a month, was horrendous for the Soviet advisers.

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The first unmistakable evidence of the Soviet missiles came from a U-2 reconnaissance flight over the island on October 14, , that showed the first of twenty-four launching pads being constructed to accommodate forty-two R medium range missiles that had the potential to deliver forty-five nuclear warheads almost anywhere in the eastern half of the United States. Kennedy suddenly saw that he had been deceived by Krushchev and convened a war cabinet called ExCom Executive Committee of the National Security Council , which included the Secretaries of State and Defense Rusk and McNamara , as well as his closest advisers.

At the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs began planning for an immediate air assault, followed by a full invasion. Kennedy wanted everything done secretly. He had been caught short, but he did not want the Russians to know that he knew their plan until he had decided his own response and could announce it to the world. Kennedy shared his decision to pursue negotiation and a naval blockade of Cuba while keeping the option of an all-out invasion on the table with the Joint Chiefs on Friday, October Of all the Chiefs, Kennedy and his team saw LeMay as the most intractable.

But that impression may have come from his demeanor, his candor, and perhaps his facial expressions, since he was not the most belligerent of the Chiefs. Shoup was crude and angry at times. LeMay differed from Kennedy and McNamara on the basic concept of nuclear weapons. Back on Tinian, LeMay thought the use of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, although certainly larger than all other weapons used, were really not all that different from other bombs. He based this on the fact that many more people were killed in his first incendiary raid on Tokyo five months earlier than with either atomic bomb.

But McNamara and Kennedy realized that there was a world of difference between two bombs in the hands of one nation in and the growing arsenals of several nations in Upon entering office and taking responsibility for the nuclear decision during the most dangerous period of the Cold War, Kennedy came to loathe the destructive possibilities of this type of warfare. McNamara would sway both ways during the Cuban Missile Crisis, making sure that the military option was always there and available, but also trying to help the President find a negotiated way out.

His proportional response strategy that would come into play in Vietnam in the Johnson Administration three years later was born in the reality of the dangers that came out of the Cuban crisis. Finally, Nikita Krushchev, who created the crisis, brought it to an end by backing down and agreeing to remove the weapons.

As a political officer in the Red Army during the worst of World War II, at the siege of Stalingrad, the Soviet leader understood what could happen if things got out of hand. In an effort to help him save face, Kennedy made it clear to everyone around him that there would be no gloating over this victory. Castro, on the other hand was quite different in his response. There was also a feeling of letdown among the Joint Chiefs.

They thought the U. They also did not trust the Russians to stand by their promise to dismantle and take home all the missiles. The Soviets had a long track record of breaking most of their previous agreements. LeMay considered the final negotiated settlement the greatest appeasement since Munich. It was a hollow gesture as they were scheduled to be removed already, but it allowed Krushchev to save face internationally.

Castro continued to be a thorn in the side of the United States. But ultimately, he was mostly inconsequential. Despite his Quaker roots, Nixon had a reputation as a staunch anticommunist. This plan was part of his broader theory that came to be known as the Nixon Doctrine. Nixon and Henry Kissinger first as national security adviser and then secretary of state agreed on the need to accept the world as it was—conflicted and competitive— and to make the most of it. Containing communism was no longer U. In a multipolar world—comprising the United States, the Soviet Union, China, Europe, and Japan—America could work even with communist countries as long as they promoted global stability, the new core of U.

Gone was the Truman-Eisenhower-Kennedy understanding that a loss of freedom anywhere was a loss of freedom everywhere. Nixon was most lucid about the Nixon Doctrine in his June commencement speech at the U. Naval Academy. He suggested that U. But the president spent much of his speech on what he really thought was important: making his kind of realism the basis for American foreign policy in general and Cold War policy in particular. Because there were limits to what America could achieve and because U.

The Nixon-Kissinger foreign policy team went to work, beginning with Vietnam. In four years, the Nixon administration reduced American forces in Vietnam from , to twenty-four thousand. Spending dropped from twenty-five billion dollars a year to less than three billion. In , the president abolished the draft, eliminating a primary issue of the anti-war protestors. At the same time, he kept up the American bombing in North Vietnam and added targets in Cambodia and Laos that were being used by Vietcong forces as sanctuaries, while seeking a negotiated end to the war.

An impatient Congress and public pressed the administration for swifter results and accurate accounts of the war. President Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had been guilty of making egregiously false claims about gains and losses in Vietnam. Escalation of the war produced widespread student protests, including a tragic confrontation at Kent State University, where four students were killed by inexperienced members of the Ohio National Guard.

On June 24, the Senate decisively repealed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which had first authorized the use of U. But the Nixon Doctrine also contained elements of force. Nixon tried to exploit the open differences between the Soviet Union and Communist China, reflected in the armed clashes in March along the Sino-Soviet border.

Nixon warned the Kremlin secretly that the United States would not take lightly any Soviet attack on China. It hardly mattered that the United States could maintain aircraft carriers in South Vietnamese waters and use planes based in Taiwan and Thailand if Hanoi broke the accords. The North Vietnamese began violating the peace treaty as soon as it was signed, moving men and equipment into South Vietnam to rebuild their almost decimated forces.

The only tangible result was that in August an angry Congress cut off the funds for such bombing. In November , it passed a War Powers Resolution requiring the president to inform Congress within forty-eight hours of any overseas deployment of U. It is possible, although doubtful, that Nixon and Kissinger might have come up with a scheme to extend aid to the beleaguered South Vietnamese, but the Watergate scandal engulfed the Nixon White House, ending the reign of the Nixon Doctrine.

He acknowledged his personal defeat in August , resigning as president—the first president in U. In January North Vietnam launched a general invasion, and one million refugees fled from central South Vietnam toward Saigon. The new president, Gerald R. Ten days later, North Vietnamese forces took Saigon, and Marine helicopters lifted American officials and a few Vietnamese allies from the rooftop of the U. South Vietnam was no more. But the dominoes had only begun to fall. Between April and the beginning of , the Marxist-Leninists ruling Cambodia killed an estimated 1.

Widespread atrocities also took place in Laos, which remains under communist rule to this day. The Arab-Israeli war the Yom Kippur War , in which the Soviet Union openly supported Syria and Egypt with a massive sea and air lift of arms and supplies, also set back detente.

When the Israelis turned the tide and came close to destroying Egyptian forces along the Suez Canal, Brezhnev threatened to intervene. Nixon put the U. The Carter Foreign Policy has been summarized by some analysts as good intentions gone wrong. So he set about eliminating the causes of conflict. He negotiated a treaty turning over the Panama Canal to Panamanian control by the end of the century. He cut off U. As part of its human rights campaign, the Carter administration advised the Iranian military not to suppress accelerating pro-Islamic demonstrations and riots.

The shah of Iran, the chief U. Carter made the mistake of admitting publicly that he felt the same helplessness that a powerful person feels when his child is kidnapped. The renowned scholar of foreign affairs Jeane Kirkpatrick later the U. The foreign policy of the Carter administration failed not for lack of good intentions but for lack of realism about the nature of traditional versus revolutionary autocracies and the relation of each to the American national interest. They were an historic achievement but had little impact on the Cold War. Ronald Reagan would permanently change the global picture, which looked bleak when he took office in From martial law in Poland imposed by the communist regime and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua and communist rule in Mozambique and Angola, Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev claimed victories for Marxism-Leninism.

Within the free world, the Atlantic alliance was strained. To counter the deployment in the late s of Soviet SS intermediate-range nuclear missiles aimed at major European cities, NATO proposed a dual-track approach—negotiations to remove the missiles and the deployment of U. Pershing II and cruise missiles aimed at Soviet cities.

Reagan put the deployment of the Euromissiles at the center of his new foreign policy. Unlike the foreign policy realists who viewed all regimes through the same lens, Reagan placed regime differences at the heart of his understanding of the Cold War. With his modest Illinois roots and biblical Christian faith learned from his mother, he emerged as a screen star and a committed anticommunist, fighting communist efforts to take over the Hollywood trade unions in the postwar period. Poor eyesight kept him stateside with the army during World War II, but his varied experiences contributed to his appreciation of the need for military strength.

Two terms as a Republican governor of California confirmed his conservative, pro-freedom political views. Reagan considered communism to be a disease and regarded the Soviet government as illegitimate. Like Truman, he believed Soviet foreign policy to be offensive by its very nature, and he saw the world as engaged in an ideological struggle between communism and liberal democracy.

But unlike Truman, he sought in the circumstances of the s not merely to contain the USSR but to defeat it. Reagan had endorsed the strategy and insights of NSC 68 shortly after that key document of the Truman administration was declassified and published in , devoting several of his radio commentaries to it. Also in the s, he called for reductions, not limitations, in U.

He identified as central weaknesses of the Soviet bloc the denial of religious freedom and the inability to provide consumer goods. In a radio commentary, Reagan remarked that the pope, in his final public appearance, had invited the people to bring forward several large crosses for his blessing. Suddenly there was movement among the multitude of young people before him.

Try to make a Polish joke out of that. For Reagan, as for Truman, the gravest threat to the United States and the free world came from the Soviet Union, whose continuing imperialist designs on every continent demanded a new Cold War strategy.


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It approved U. To his credit, President Carter had begun helping the anti-Soviet mujahideen in Afghanistan during his final months in office. But a key Reagan decision was to supply Stinger ground-to-air missiles, which the mujahideen promptly used to shoot down the Soviet helicopters that had kept them on the defensive for years. In Latin America, the Sandinistas were not only establishing a Leninist state in Nicaragua but supporting communist guerrillas in El Salvador and elsewhere.

A New Cold War Has Begun – Foreign Policy

The Reagan administration directed the CIA to form an antiSandinista movement—the Contras—and asked Congress to approve funds for them. Reagan never contemplated sending U. He believed that with sufficient military support and firm diplomatic negotiation, Nicaraguans could rid themselves of the Marxist regime. He was proved correct by the results of the democratic elections of February , when the anti-Sandinista Violeta Chamorro decisively defeated the Sandinista commandante Daniel Ortega for president. With people, funds, and weapons, the Reagan Doctrine pushed containment to its logical conclusion by helping those who wanted to win their freedom.

After months of strikes, roundtable talks began in Poland between leaders of the still-outlawed Solidarity union and the communist government. What would follow was a domino-like collapse of socialism throughout Eastern Europe and, eventually, Russia itself. The pivotal year of was later dubbed the Year of Miracles. Thousands did. In October hundreds of thousands of people began demonstrating every Monday evening in East Germany, leading to the forced resignation of Communist Party boss Erich Honecker, who had boasted in January that the Berlin Wall would stand for another hundred years.

On November 9, , a tidal wave of East Germans poured across the West Berlin border when travel restrictions were lifted, and the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. The waves of liberty, however, did not reach the shores of China. In the spring of , pro-democracy Chinese students, inspired in part by the events in Eastern Europe, were demonstrating by the many thousands in Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing.

They underestimated the willingness of Deng Xiaoping and other communist leaders to use maximum force to eliminate any threat to their political control. The Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward were among the mistakes, but among the things Mao had done right were making China once again a great power, maintaining the political monopoly of the Communist Party, and opening relations with the United States as a counterweight to the Soviet Union.

In nineteen fifty-nine, cold war tensions eased a little. The meeting was very friendly. But the next year, relations got worse again. An American U-2 reconnaissance airplane was shot down over the Soviet Union. The plane and its pilot, Francis Gary Powers, were captured. Eisenhower admitted that such planes had been spying on the Soviets for four years. In a speech at the United Nations, Khrushchev got so angry that he took off his shoe and beat it on a table.

John Kennedy followed Eisenhower as president in nineteen sixty-one. During his early days in office, Cuban exiles invaded Cuba.

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It came to be known as the Bay of Pigs invasion. The forces wanted to oust the communist government of Fidel Castro. America's Central Intelligence Agency had provided training for the exiles. But the United States failed to send military planes to protect them during the invasion.

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As a result, almost all were killed or taken prisoner by Cuban forces trained and supported by the Soviet Union and its allies. At the same time in Europe, tens of thousands of East Germans had fled to the West. East Germany's government decided to stop them. It built a wall separating the eastern and western parts of the city of Berlin. Guards shot at anyone who tried to flee by climbing over.

During Kennedy's second year in office, American intelligence reports discovered Soviet missiles in Cuba. JOHN F. Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the western hemisphere. The Soviet Union denied the missiles were there. Yet American photographs, taken from high in the air, proved they were.

Yes or no? Stevenson, would you continue your statement, please? You will receive the answer in due course, do not worry. The Cuban missile crisis easily could have resulted in a nuclear war. Americans felt especially threatened, with those missiles just one hundred fifty kilometers from the Florida coast. But the crisis ended after a week. Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles if the United States agreed not to interfere in Cuba.

Some progress was made in easing Cold War tensions when Kennedy was president. In nineteen sixty-three, the two sides reached a major arms control agreement. They agreed to ban tests of nuclear weapons above ground, under water, and in space. They also established a direct telephone link between the White House and the Kremlin.

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Relations between East and West also improved when Richard Nixon was president. He and Leonid Brezhnev met several times. They reached several arms control agreements. One reduced the number of missiles used to shoot down enemy nuclear weapons. One postwar pattern quickly became clear.

The United States would not retreat into its former isolationist stance as long as there was a Cold War to wage. The long-term causes of the Cold War are clear. Western democracies had always been hostile to the idea of a communist state. Domestic fears of communism erupted in a Red Scare in America in the early Twenties. American business leaders had long feared the consequences of a politically driven workers' organization.

World War II provided short-term causes as well. There was hostility on the Soviet side as well. Stalin was enraged that the Americans and British had waited so long to open a front in France. This would have relieved pressure on the Soviet Union from the attacking Germans. Finally, the Soviet Union believed in communism. Stalin made promises during the war about the freedom of eastern Europe on which he blatantly reneged.


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In return, the United States awarded the Soviets territorial concessions from Japan and special rights in Chinese Manchuria. When the Soviet Union entered the war between the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United States no longer needed their aid, but Stalin was there to collect on Western promises.

All these factors contributed to a climate of mistrust that heightened tensions at the outbreak of the Cold War. At Potsdam, the Allies agreed on the postwar outcome for Nazi Germany. After territorial adjustments, Germany was divided into four occupation zones with the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union each administering one. Germany was to be democratized and de-Nazified. Once the Nazi leaders were arrested and war crimes trials began, a date would be agreed upon for the election of a new German government and the withdrawal of Allied troops.

This process was executed in the zones held by the western Allies. In the eastern Soviet occupation zone, a puppet communist regime was elected. There was no promise of repatriation with the west. Soon such governments, aided by the Soviet Red Army came to power all across eastern Europe.

Stalin was determined to create a buffer zone to prevent any future invasion of the Russian heartland. Report broken link. American History 1. The Iroquois Tribes 2. The House of Burgesses 3. Witchcraft in Salem 4. The Ideas of Benjamin Franklin 5. Life in the Plantation South 6. A New African-American Culture 7. The Treaty of Paris and Its Impact 9. The Intolerable Acts The Declaration of Independence Yorktown and the Treaty of Paris When Does the Revolution End?

The Cold War Era (Problems in American History) The Cold War Era (Problems in American History)
The Cold War Era (Problems in American History) The Cold War Era (Problems in American History)
The Cold War Era (Problems in American History) The Cold War Era (Problems in American History)
The Cold War Era (Problems in American History) The Cold War Era (Problems in American History)
The Cold War Era (Problems in American History) The Cold War Era (Problems in American History)
The Cold War Era (Problems in American History) The Cold War Era (Problems in American History)
The Cold War Era (Problems in American History) The Cold War Era (Problems in American History)
The Cold War Era (Problems in American History) The Cold War Era (Problems in American History)
The Cold War Era (Problems in American History) The Cold War Era (Problems in American History)

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