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C O U R S E 
The Modern World: Global History since 1760
Prof. Philip Zelikow, University of Virginia
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
1958-1962: The World at the Brink
Notes taken on August 2, 2014 by Edward Tanguay
1958-1962: the years of maximum crisis during the Cold War
1957: Sputnik
the curtain raiser for this four-year period
USSR demonstrates its ability to launch heavy missiles and put things into space
October 4, 1957: Sputnik
circled globe at 18,000 M.P.H.
was crossing the United States
1958 crises
1. Middle East crisis
monarchy that had long been supported by British and Americans was overthrown
Kingdom of Iraq's Hashemite monarchy was overthrown, ruler murdered
Hashemite monarchy had been established by King Faisal I in 1921 under the auspices of the British
ruler murdered
nationalist dictatorship takes its place
worried that Soviets would meddle
tried to stay on the right side of Arab nationalism
tried to create an Arab bulwark against Soviet penetration there
2. Taiwan Straits crisis
USA defends the Republic of China (Taiwan) because of a treaty
finds itself in a long-grade confrontation with mainland China
meanwhile the Chinese are secretly pleading to the Soviet Union to give them nuclear weapons so that they will be in a better position in this confrontation with the United States
the Soviet refusal to give the Chinese nuclear weapons intensifies the split between Mao and Khrushchev
3. Berlin crisis
Berlin sitting divided in the middle of a new communist East German state
West Berlin is a kind of hole in the East German state
Khrushchev wants to convert this embarrassment to East Germany
wants to force the West out of Berlin
grand designs of communist leaders
Great Leap Forward
convulsing his country in an effort to rapidly industrialize it
Sino-Soviet split
Khrushchev doesn't want Mao to get in a war with the United States
he doesn't trust him enough
Khrushchev wants himself and the Soviets to remain the leader of the global communist movement
this splits was largely in secret but which breaks open by 1960
creates a dangerous triangle
Soviets and Chinese are competing for who is to lead the global communist movements, with the United States opposing them both
Khrushchev's designs
September 1959: visited the United States
speech at UN
increase nuclear power or at least its appearance
win victory in Berlin
cut spending on the huge conventional forces of Soviet military
use this money to develop the Soviet economy and perhaps instigate a thaw in the hard communist approach to the economy, which is a bit of a contradiction with being global communist leader
1960 Soviets shoot down American spy plane
USA denies it
Khrushchev reveals captured pilot Gary Powers
summit with Eisenhower cancelled
April 1961: Cuban Crisis: Bay of Pigs
Fidel Castro's Cuba becomes tightly aligned with Soviets
USA attempts invasion of Cuba
Cuban exiles invade but fail
Americans do not come to their aid
embarrassment to Kennedy administration
Kennedy wants little to do with Cuba, sees it as a distraction
June 1961: Vienna Conference, Khrushchev and Kennedy
ended in failure
Kennedy comes away convinced that the superpowers are headed toward a confrontation centered on Berlin
August 1961: Khrushchev and the East Germans build a physical wall which cuts off West Berlin
shooting down anyone who tries to scale the wall
1961: Americans are realizing that Soviet brandishing of missile power is a bit of a bluff
they don't have as many long range missiles as the USA feels they might
Soviet perform many nuclear tests
the largest nuclear weapons ever detonated in history where during this time: 50 megatons of explosive power and more
Americans follow with their own tests
May 1962: Khrushchev secretly deploy missiles and troops to Cuba
making Cuba a point for striking the US
this would make the USA unable to defend Berlin
the USA could not defend Berlin with conventional forces, because it is sitting in the middle of East Germany
the USA's stance was: if you attack Berlin, we will escalate to using nuclear weapons first
the Soviet's response was: if you start a nuclear war, we have these missiles right off your shore which can devastate your country
you have to ask: why would the Cubans go along with this plan?
they aren't asking for nuclear missiles
their worry was that this will help make them a target
Khrushchev is convinced Cuba will do this in return for other favors
September 1962: Kennedy speech
we will tolerate this if Soviets are just giving Cubans conventional supplies
Soviet plan is discovered before Krushchev was going to reveal it
October flight: spots missiles being prepared for deployment
Kennedy debates what to do
October 19th, 1962, meeting
five people in the room: Kennedy and four military leaders
Kennedy: first clinically and coldly empathizes with the other side trying to work through their calculations
sees reasons why the Russians did this:
1. if we do nothing, they have a missile base there
2. if we do anything, it gives the Soviets the excuse to retaliate on Berlin
Kennedy feels that any action he takes on Cuba, Khrushchev will take on Berlin
yet Kennedy has to do something, otherwise Khrushchev will take Berlin in November, since: they take Berlin, USA only has nuclear war as response, won't do it now because of nuclear weapons in Cuba
does he attack or negotiate
Kennedy develops a third, middle option
he blockades with an ultimatum
Americans launch diplomatic offensive in secret
rallied international support with Latin American countries and in Europe
Moscow reacts:
we will have to step down somehow now
Americans don't want the missiles to become a fait accompli
October 27, the most dangerous day of the crisis
Castro expects an invasion, ready for war
the Soviets and Cubans start shooting at spy planes, another U2 is shot down, pilot killed
Castro is writing a letter to Krushchev, called "The Armegeddon Letter", basically saying, the invasion is underway, you might as well get prepared for nuclear war
October 28, Khrushchev capitulates and decides to remove missiles
America mentions that they will remove missiles from Turkey at some point
aftermath of Cuban Missile Crisis
world is saved from nuclear war
with both superpowers having stepped up to the brink, there is a sense that they need to keep this from happening
incentive to manage the arms race
in Europe, the Berlin crisis comes to an end
Soviets simply don't make that move in November 1962
Soviets feel they have the wall, that is enough
in Europe the Cold War settles down into grim routine
the Cold War goes back to proxy battles in the Third World