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Between 1953 61 Us Soviet Relations Were Based On Confrontation Rather Than Co Existence. How Far Do You Agree With This View?

1666 words - 7 pages

The period of 1953-1961 is widely considered to be one of a thaw in Cold War tensions between the two global superpowers of the USA and USSR. The death of Josef Stalin in 1953 and the election of Dwight Eisenhower – serving two terms in this period - brought a change in leadership in both nations and with that, an inevitable change in policies. Confrontation in this period did not necessarily only apply to direct military intervention, with both sides talking pugnaciously towards one another, making grand threats to the other’s safety. It could also be argued however that this was a period of co-existence with both nations respecting the other's sphere of influence, shown in both the US ...view middle of the document...

The U2 crisis of 1960 suddenly threw espionage into the global public eye. Gary Powers' flight was shot down over the Soviet Union, showing signs of confrontation from both superpowers; the USA for clearly attempting to gain intelligence on the USSR and the Soviets for their reaction in shooting down the plane. When Kennedy was elected in 1961, he too was seen to be staunchly anti-Communist. The Berlin Crisis of 1961 was Kennedy's first experience of utilizing foreign policy and his response to the USSR could have been seen as somewhat confrontational. When the Berlin Wall was constructed, Kennedy sent tanks and bulldozers to the border. This was a particularly confrontational manoevre, very much leaving the Soviets with the next move which could certainly have been an attack on these tanks. It is therefore clear to see that in this period the USA were still particularly confrontational. The methods in which these confrontations were shown changed however, mostly to espionage and the tough talking of Eisenhower and Dulles.
However, to a certain extent, the 'New Look' policy served to aid co-existence between the two superpowers in this period. Firstly, due to his background as an army general in the Second World War, Eisenhower was aware of the damage that nuclear weapons could do, suggesting that his policy of massive retaliation would be unlikely to occur, due to the destruction it could cause. Eisenhower was not prepared to use nuclear weapons due to their destruction, suggesting neither superpower was prepared to use nuclear weapons. The US reaction towards the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 was one of co-existence, choosing not to interfere with a nation which was deeply rooted within the Soviet sphere of influence. Evidently there is a great chance that this was for self preservation, but by respecting such boundaries the US forces were opting for a co-existent policy on this particular matter. Eisenhower also greatly reduced military spending on conventional weaponry which appeared to be a co-existent move. More funding was put towards nuclear weapons which could potentially seem confrontational, but due to mutual deterrence (the reluctance to go nuclear in fear of the enemy's capability), funding of nuclear weapons could be seen to be a less confrontational move than direct military funding. In addition, U-2 spy planes had ensured that Eisenhower was aware of the Soviet Unions nuclear capability. He was therefore confident that the US was superior and so was more prepared to negotiate with the USSR knowing that he was in a position of strength. This consequently led to co-existence because he no longer needed to assert his authority of the Soviets. Moreover, the presidency of Kennedy also helped encourage co-existence. Kennedy’s ‘Flexible Response’ offered a more diverse approach to communism and the USSR, moving away from the basis on nuclear weapons to a wider range of options. This move from an emphasis on nuclear weapons can be seen to...

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