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How Did The Berlin Crisis Of 1958 61 Affect And Change The Cold War?

2489 words - 10 pages

"Berlin is the testicles of the West...every time I want to make the West scream I squeeze on Berlin". This philosophy, professed by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, was the root of the Berlin Crisis that mainly occurred from the years 1958-1961, as the superpowers USSR and US argued over the status of Berlin. At this time, Germany was still under four-power occupation; however it was split up into the German Democratic Republic (GDR) under Soviet control, and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) under Allied control. The crisis began on November 10th, 1958, when Khrushchev demanded from the Allies that Germany be officially split up into two separate states, and that the Allies withdraw from Berlin. The crisis was handled by the two leaders through verbal wars, diplomatic negotiations, summits, and military posturing, all of which culminated in the erection of the Berlin Wall on August 13th, 1961. The multiple events which were the components of the Berlin Crisis affected the Cold War and its participants in that it nearly brought the superpowers to the brink of another war, it shifted the focus of the Cold War back to Europe and Germany, it changed the world's perceptions of the superpowers and each other, and it caused a rift between the allies.The Berlin Crisis caused a shift in the military position of the superpowers involved in the Cold War, bringing the USSR and the US to the brink of hot war. Since 1955, the Soviet presence in East Berlin had remained at 20 divisions. Since his election, Kennedy was also dramatically building up military presence in Europe, meaning that a war over Berlin could escalate in a matter of days with the mutual military presence in Europe. The US had purchased 53 U2 spy planes in 1956 that were based in Turkey, Japan and Britain. On May 1st, 1960, the Soviets shot down an American U2 spy plane that was on a reconnaissance flight to check for Soviet missile bases. This military action further heightened the military tension between the two superpowers, causing Khrushchev to cancel the intended Paris Summit which aimed to discuss the Berlin question. However, revisionist historian Klessmann called the U2 crisis a "gift from heaven", as Khrushchev could have used the shooting as an excuse to avoid a conference where he had no idea what his opponents were planning regarding the question of Berlin. According to that school of thought, it could be said that Khrushchev was not intending on reaching full-scale war. However, military tensions did come to a head on October 27th 1961, after the initial construction of the wall. As ten American tanks accompanied diplomats into East Berlin, the Soviets mistakenly believed that the tanks were aiming to take down the wall, and so deployed 33 of their own tanks. Ten Soviet tanks and ten US tanks faced each other down at Checkpoint Charlie, for the first time in the Cold War. Soviet troops were told to respond with force if they encountered force, and NATO was alerted by the...

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