Identify key developments of the Cold War and analyze the relative significance of these events as they relate to the origin, development, and end of the Cold War.

Some ideas to get you started (in no particular order):

Postdam Conference (July-August, 1945)
On July 16 the “Big Three”: Stalin of the Soviet Union, Truman of the United States, and Churchill/Attlee of Great Britain, met nPotsdam.jpgear Berlin. The Potsdam Conference is the last of the war-time conferences. At the conference, it was decided that an Ultimatum was to be placed upon Japan; either Japan would surrender or they would expect total destruction. The atomic bomb was never actually mentioned at Potsdam but the presence of the atomic bomb in Truman’s hands definitely brought the presence of tensions at the conference. This ultimatum allowed for the United States to drop the bomb in Hiroshima and in Nagasaki where it may be seen that gaining the surrender of the Japanese was not the primary goal of the United States. By dropping the bomb in a city with little destruction from WWII and a city in close proximity to the Soviet Union, the United States was able to examine the efficiency and the total effects of the atomic bomb. While doing this, the United States also set out a threat to the Soviet Union leading to the need by both countries to gain the upper hand in this balance of power. The dropping of the bomb initiated the building of arms by the Soviet Union who also wished to gain more technology to maintain the balance of power. This building up of arms by the Soviet Union initiated the building of more arms by the United States. This building up of arms by both superpowers is known as the arms race, an important aspect to the Cold War.

The extreme difference in ideologies between Stalin (the Soviet Union) and Truman (the United States) also aided in the growth of tensions amongst these two countries. These two differing ideologies, communism and democratic capitalism, brought upon many disagreements amongst Stalin and Truman at the Potsdam Conference. One of the major goals at the conference was to re-organize the map of Germany. This newly wanted map of Europe was greatly debated upon. It is this debate which created the “Iron Curtain”. Germany was to be divided in communist East Germany and democratic West Germany (Berlin in East Germany to be divided the same way). Therefore, crossing Germany is the Iron Curtain...the point where the division of these two ideologies occur. This definite division of the two ideologies in Germany was bound to provoke conflict as having two clear ideologies in one nation greatly brings upon instability. It is this instability which will aid in the development of the Cold War.

Here is the link to look at the conclusions achieved by the Potsdam Conference

Division of Germany

Churchill In America (Iron Curtain Speech)

Berlin Blockade and Airlift

Marshall Plan (European Recovery Program) and Comcon

Truman Doctrine (Containment)

The Truman Doctrine served as the major US policy in regards to the Soviet Union, and outlined the policies of Containment, which was to be used to prevent the further spread of Soviet Influence throughout the world. The Truman Doctrine was basically outlined and set forth in an address made to the congress by President Truman. This address was initally made to outline a course of action to be taken for both Greece and Turkey, which were in danger of falling to communism. "The very existence of the Greek state is today threatened by the terrorist activities of several thousand armed men, led by Communists, who defy the government's authority at a number of points, particularly along the northern boundaries...There is no other country to which democratic Greece can turn...No other nation is willing and able to provide the necessary support for a democratic Greek government...The peoples of a number of countries of the world have recently had totalitarian regimes forced upon them against their will. The Government of the United States has made frequent protests against coercion and intimidation, in violation of the Yalta Agreement, in Poland, Rumania, and Bulgaria. I must also state that in a number of other countries there have been similar developments...I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures...Should we fail to aid Greece and Turkey in this fateful hour, the effect will be far reaching to the West as well as to the East." This speech is an early outline to the future US policy in regards to communism, and the containment of the ideology. Greece and Turkey were umong the first countries to undergo American containment policies during the Cold War. Both Greece and Turkey were heavily damaged by the war, and vunerable to invasion by the Soviet Union. To prevent the expansion of the Soviet Sphere of Influence Truman's speech asked Congress with the power of the purse to send financial and econmic aid to stabilize the democratic capitalist government's of both countries, and ensure they would not fall to the Soviet Union. The reasons for the enacting of such a policy become clear when the Soviet's methods of expansionism are considered. As mentioned
Truman's Speech
in his speech, Truman stated that the Soviet Union have maintained their prescence in a numer of Eastern European countries and were displaying the tendencies for further expansion. This prompted a defensive policy by the United States, to ensure the country had allies in Europe, and to prevent the Soviet Union from completly taking over a rebuilding Europe. The Truman Doctrine itself was not the official policy outlineing the American containment, but was the foundation, and starting point, first dealing with Greece and Turkey, but later becoming the basic blueprint that directed American forigen policy, and drove the policy of containment throughout the Cold War.

NSC-68 was a major document in regards to the Truman Doctrine, and outlined the political, economic and military policies that the USA should adopt to counter the growing Soviet threat. NSC-68 was developed from the influences of the author of the long telegram, George Kennan, and determined American foriegn policy in regards to the USSR for the majority of the Cold War. NSC-68 outlined many of the policies practiced on the American side of the Cold War, and to a great extent the policy of isolating and containing communism, and it's spread world wide. As seen through the recomendations made by this document of: "Strengthen the orientation toward the United States of the non-Soviet nations; and help such of those nations as are able and willing to make an important contribution to U.S. security, to increase their economic and political stability and their military capability... Place the maximum strain on the Soviet structure of power and particularly on the relationships between Moscow and the satellite countries...In summary, we must, by means of a rapid and sustained build-up of the political, economic, and military strength of the free world, and by means of an affirmative program intended to wrest the initiative from the Soviet Union, confront it with convincing evidence of the determination and ability of the free world to frustrate the Kremlin design of a world dominated by its will. Such evidence is the only means short of war which eventually may force the Kremlin to abandon its present course of action and to negotiate acceptable agreements on issues of major importance." The United States adopted a policy that was vastly different from their previous world role, turning the country from an isolationist to a interventionist nation. This policy outlined many other procedures and scenerio's in which the country should take to counter the growing communist threat, but some of the key policies in regards to containment vouch for the weakening of ties between the Soviet Union, and it's satilites, and also supporting those countries politically, militarily, and economically, which are on the verge of a communist takeover. NSC-68 refers to people free from communist control as the free world, and protect them against the Soviet Union, which is bent on world domination. This document is definetly written from an American perspective, but outlines many of the policies that defined American intervention in the Cold War, and gives that perspective on the American side of thinking, labeling the Soviet Union as an evil Empire and such. In regards to containment and the Truman Doctrine, this basically summarizes the policies of the Truman Doctrine, and changing the role of the United States from that of an isolationist to interventionist power, dedicated to the containment of the communist ideology.

The Military Industrial Complex was America's key policy on the home front during the Cold War for national defense, and the futhering of the arms race. The Miliaty Industial Complex was very similar to that of Total War used in WWII, in which a huge amount of the countries resources are spent on war, and the furthering on national defense. The Military Industrial Complex was outlined in NSC-68, and was basically geared to creating a constant military powerhouse in the United States, as opposed to the previous American defense economy, in which the military took effect only in times of need, such as the First and Secoud World Wars. The policies of the Military Industrial Complex went to great lengths to further the arms race between the United States, and the Soviet Union. Huge amounts of the United States economy

Alliances (Nato and Warsaw Pact)

Nuclear Testing and Proliferation

Berlin Wall
The division of Germany into four zones essentially separated the country in two; the capitalist side and the communist side. The proximity of the two differing ideologies created a lot of tension between the superpowers involved mainly because the German people living on the East side of the city were being highly influenced by what they saw in west-Germany. Many were leaving East Germany. By 1961, 2.7 million East Berliners had fled to West-Berlin and West Germany. As was said by the Soviet ambassador to East-Germany Mikhail Pervukhin: “The presence in Berlin of an open and essentially uncontrolled border between the socialist and capitalist worlds unwittingly prompts the population to make a comparison between both parts of the city, which, unfortunately, does not always turn out in favour of East-Berlin”.

To "define" the East/West Berlin spheres of influence, East German authorities turned to Soviet Russia for help. Nikita Krushchev launched the Berlin Crisis on November 27, 1958. He threatened that if the Western powers did not sign an agreement in which West Berlin would be transformed into a demilitarized "free city" within six months, he would take control of all access routes between West Germany and West Berlin. Ultimately this led to the building of the Berlin Wall in August 1961.
With new archives opening up, it has been discovered that, not only did the building of the Berlin Wall a crisis between superpowers, it was also a crisis between East German authorities and Soviet authorities. According to these archives, East German authorities had a lot more control than was thought previously. The GDR and the USSR disagreed especially on the idea of closing the border in Berlin.

Harrison, Hope M. "Driving the Soviets up the Wall: A Super-Ally, a Superpower, and the Building of the Berlin Wall, 1958-61." Cold War History 1.1 (Aug. 2000): 53. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. Calgary Public Library, Calgary, AB. 8 Apr. 2008 <>.</span>

The Korean War officially started on June 25 1950. North Korea under the support of Stalin crossed the 38th parallel in an effort to unite Korea under on communist banner. Stalin had been very cautious with his support of North Korea because he feared that America would intervene in the conflict and they might have to come into conflict with each other. When America removed its soldiers from South Korea claiming that this area was not of major importance. This led too Stalin giving his support to North Korea, which enabled the invasion to begin. This event is pointed as the first event in which the strength of the newly formed UN would be tested. The UN had agreed to send a UN force into South Korea and stop the North Korean invasion. This was all made possible because the U.S.S.R. and other communist nations were boycotting the UN, and so when it came to voting about action in Korea, it was unanimously agreed upon that a force should be sent in. With the UN force coming in to support South Korea, they fought off the North Korean's and pushed them back past th 38th parallel. On July 27 1953 an armistice agreement was signed and it was agreed upon that Korea would remain divided. This is a key event during the cold war because it enabled the world to see the strength of the UN and their strength's when called to action.

In 1949 the communists under Mao consolodated their control over China, forcing the old president Chaing Kai-shek to seek refuge in Taiwan with his one million followers. Chiang fortified his defenses in preparation for his re-conquest of China. On two occasions Chiang provoked China, the Americans supported these provocations. Initially Truman's stance on Taiwan was one of nonintervention but after the outbreak of the Korean war it became apparent that Taiwan was essential in containing the spread of communsim. He then declared the Taiwan strait to be neutral waters and deployed the seventh fleet to establish a blockade. This signified a major shift in American foreign policy to more aggresive intervention in this area.

First Taiwan Strait Crisis
President Dwight Eisenhower soon after taking office, lifted the blockade, which gave Chiang the chance to mobilize his troops near mainland China. This caused China to retaliate claiming that Taiwan must be liberated. Although the US warned against taking action against Taiwan, the Communists began bombing Quemoy on September 3, 1954. Due to this and other factors such as the long jail sentences of US airmen who were shot down, pressure on Eisenhower to bomb China or use American troops was increasing, yet he refused. The Mutual Defense Treaty was then signed between the US and China. This however, did not include the islands along mainland China, and after another conflict, the Formosa Resolution was created. This pledged America to the defense of Taiwan from Communism. After multiple indirect negotiations between China and America, China eventually agreed to stop bombing. Thus ended the first Taiwan Strait Crisis.

Second Taiwan Strait Crisis
Tensions increased again in 1958, due to increased American activites in Taiwan, along with Mao's current moderate strategy not working. Then believing that Taiwan was pivitol in his new domestic policy, he ordered renewed bombing. Mao claimed that this renewed shelling was his way of punishing the American's for interfering in Chinese affairs. This also served to showcase America as an imperialistic capitalist force and to show that China could stand on its own without the Soviet Union. In response to the attack Eisenhower ordered a naval contingent to the strait, threatening nuclear weapons. This time Mao immediately ceased firing and sought out peaceful resolutions with America.


Sino-Soviet Agreement

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Sino-Soviet Split
A number of treaties that split the USSR and the PRC(People’s Republic of China). There were several tries and they stated in 1950 until 1980. This was a key event because both nations were communist and by splitting then, in this way the communist movement was splitting. The split was about each one not intervening in the other one at the same time respecting each other’s communist ideologies.
This occurred because Mao did not want China to be a satellite state. Given the fact that the USSR had the idea of ‘socialism in one country,’ meaning that China had to subordinate their interest to the USSR interest. Also another factor was that the communist in China compared to the USSR communist was really different. The revolution of each nation was different. Therefore the same things could not be applied.

Everything started in `1930 when Mao not yet in power but the leader of the communist party had a war of resistance against Japan. Mao did not pay attention to Stalin’s advices of how to carry out the revolution. This was because China’s situation was really different from the USSR situation; China did not have an urban working class. Mao worked more with the peasants and farmers.
In 1962, the USSR refuse to help China with the Sino-Indian War, the USSR had friendly relations with India. In many things Mao disagrees with the USSR’s actions. In 1962, the highest point of the split happened; Mao disagreed with Khrushchev, with the actions taken and the final resolution that happened with the Cuban missile crisis. Mao did not fear the west on the other hand the USSR leaders had boundaries of how far to go, they were careful but Mao was not.


Interventionism in Latin America

May Day (U2 Spyplane) Incident

On May 1, 1960 an American U-2 spy plane was shot down in Soviet airspace. The plane, piloted by Francis Gary Powers, was on a reconnaissance mission taking pictures and gathering information on Soviet Missile capabilities. A few days after the plane went missing, fearing that it had been shot down, the State Department quickly came up with a cover storyfor the plane. They claimed that the plane had been a NASA weather research plane based in Adana Turkey. During its mission in southeast Turkey the civilian pilot reported having difficulties with his oxygen equipment. They claimed that the pilots last reported whereabouts was in the Lake Van area and that a search effort was underway. On hearing this, Nikita Khrushchev revealed that the Soviet Union had shot down an American Plane that had violated Soviet airspace. He intentionally withheld information regarding what had happened to the remains of the plane and the pilot. After this, the US State Department came back and reinforced their claims of an civilian pilot flying a weather plane. Believing that the pilot was dead they claimed in a press releasethat the pilot was having problems with his oxygen and it was possible that after his last communication he fell unconscious. The plane, which had been on autopilot, may have kept travelling north from Turkey and accidentally crossed the border into the Soviet Union. To back up their claim, they painted another U-2 plane with NASA colours and photographed it for the newspapers. After hearing this, Khrushchev revealed that the Soviet Union shot down a spy plane and had the pilot in custody for questioning. The plane was also largely undamaged. The Soviets had also managed to salvage the camera used to take the pictures and developed some of the film. Powers was sentenced to 3 years in prison and 7 years hard labor. He served almost 2 years of his sentence and was released in exchange for a Soviet spy.

This incident was extremely detrimental to American-Soviet relations during the Cold War. The incident happened just fifteen days before a scheduled conference between countries of the East and West in Paris. This summit collapsed after Eisenhower did not acknowledge that the plane was spying and refused to apologize to Khrushchev. Khrushchev, after making a speech about the Americans’ total disregard for Soviet sovereignty , left the conference on the first day. He claimed that under the circumstances there was nothing that could be negotiated at the conference. Eisenhower’s response was that Khrushchev was overreacting and that the act of espionage committed was not an aggressive one, but one that was just trying to ensure the safety of the American people.


Cuban Missile Crisis
During September 1962, American U-2 spy planes were flying over Cuba when they discovered something that would completely alternate the relationship held between the Soviet Union and the United States. The U-2 spy planes, through the use of reconnaissance discovered that the Soviet Union was secretly building surface-to-air missile launch sites in Cuba. This meant trouble from an American perspective, especially from President John F. Kennedy’s perspective because S.A.M.’s were still permitted on the basis that they were for defense purposes. On top of that, America had recently attacked Cuba in what was known as the Bay of Pigs invasion. Mr. Kennedy knew that it would be hard to convince the Soviets to remove the missiles based on the motivation for the missiles being in Cuba in the first place created by the American invasion. However, Kennedy did suspect that offensive weapons were being shipped from the Soviet Union on boats and complained to the Soviet Union that he would not accept offensive weapons in a place like Cuba which is right next to America. The Soviet Union showed no indications of backing down and as a result this led to an increase in tension between the superpowers. One may argue that the tensions reached through the Cuban missile crisis were perhaps the closest indication of brinkmanship.

The tension only increased as time progressed. On September 27th, 1962 a CIA agent overheard a pilot of Fidel Castro saying that Cuba now had nuclear weapons. On 15th October photographs taken from planes indicated that the Soviet Union was placing long range missiles in Cuba. The missiles had the ability to wipe the major U.S cities and knowing this President John. F. Kennedy knew that he had to do something and quick.

A meeting was called to discuss what should be done and Secretary of State, Robert S McNamara suggested the creation of the executive Committee for the National Security Council. His advice was taken and 14 men that professionals in their own trade met and gave Kennedy valuable advice. For the next couple of days the meetings continued with different plans for dealing with the crisis from ‘Do nothing” to “Nuclear Weapons against the Soviet Union”. After having dismissed many ideas having considered the reactions that might be taken by Cuba and the Soviet Union based on American decisions, it was decided that a Cuban blockade would take place to protect America from possible attacks. In addition, Kennedy ordered the air-force to prepare for attacks on Cuba and the Soviet Union. About 125,000 men were armed in Florida and told to wait for further instructions to invade Cuba. The plan was that if Soviet ships did not stop supplying Cuba with weapons then a war would likely start.

On October 24, President Kennedy heard that the Soviet ships had stopped before reaching Cuba due to the United States blockade. President Nikita Khrushchev of the U.S.S.R wrote an angry letter to Kennedy blaming him for creating a crisis that would insure the Democratic Parties win of the elections. On October 26th, Mr. Khrushchev sent Mr. Kennedy another letter indicating that he would be willing to remove the Cuban missiles in exchange for the United States agreeing to not invade Cuba. The next day President Khrushchev also demanded the United States to remove their missiles which were placed in Turkey. Gradually tensions cooled down as both Presidents worked together. Although the event caused an increase in tension for a moment in time and brought the superpowers to brinkmanship, it at the same time marked a change in the development of the cold war which pointed to its gradual ending.

Partial Test Ban Treaty

Non-Profliferation Treaty

The first sereis of the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks, SALT1, took place between 1969 to 1972. They resulted in the signing of the ABM Treaty and the Interim Agreement of stategic defense arms. These treaties prohibited the addition of strategic ballistic missile launchers, including those operational and those under construction, to Societ and American arsenals. Also the agreement permitted, "an increase in SLBM launchers up to an agreed level for each party only with the dismantling or destruction of a corresponding number of older ICBM or SLBM launchers." ( The second series of Strategic Arms Lmitations Talks




Czechoslovakian Coup

Hungarian Revolution

Brezhnev Doctrine

Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan (1979)

Moscow (1980) and LA Olympics (1984)

Praugue Spring

Polish Solidarity

Non-Aligned Movement

Iran-Contra Affair

The information dilemma:
The Iran-Contra scandal of 1987 still holds various unanswered questions due to the alleged destruction of evidence by the Regan administration as well as the heavy classification of information by the white house and by the central intelligence agency.
Organizations such as the non-profit National Security Archive have had to use the freedom of information act to gather the information required to understand the dilemma.
“Arms for Hostages”:

The Iran-Contra scandal was exposed in 1987 and had been in development since 1985. It began with the fact that Hezbollah terrorists loyal to the Ayatollah Khomeini (Iran’s leader) were holding American Hostages in Lebanon. The Regan administration decided to trade weapons to Iran, a sworn enemy of the United States, in hopes of securing the release of the American hostages. This consequently meant that the United States was aiding Iran in its war with Iraq.
The hostages of the affair where 51 men captured from the American Embassy by an angry mob of Iranian students who called themselves “imam’s disciples.”
Americans became increasingly frustrated with the failure of President Jimmy Carter’s administration to effectively deal with the Ayatollah Khomeini and free the hostages. This contributed greatly towards the election of Ronald Regan, who through the “arms for hostages” negotiation, was able to free the hostages within minutes of his inauguration.
“The Contra guerrillas”
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The united-states was able to make millions of dollars from the sale of arms to Iran which were used to illegally fund the "contras" in Nicaragua. The contras where a group of right-wing anti-sadinista rebels. These transactions where illegal because they went against both Regan's official policies as well as the legislation of American congress.
The negotiation:
The U.S. was to send 508 anti-tank missiles from Israel to Iran in exchange for one hostage, after which the Israelis would ship 500 HAWK surface-to-air missiles to Iran in exchange for the release of all remaining American hostages. The Americans would reimburse the Israelis once the transaction was completed. The proceeds from the sales of the secret weapons to israel would fund the contras, and the hostages were released.

The Hezbollah terrorists then saw the potential profit made from these transactions, consequently electing to kidnap more hostages. This marked an important point in American-Iranian relations as all future dealings would be considered meaningless.

The influence of this event on the cold war comes largely from the fact that it caused a great decline in the Reagan Administration's popularity. This caused a desire for an arms agreement that would counteract the increasing resenment. This contributed towards the initation of the START talks in 1987 (the same year the scandal was exposed) .


Perestroika and Glasonst