The Calm Before the Storm: A Look into the Cold War Tension
The nuclear arms race between the US and Soviet Union during the Cold War led to a state of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). The tension between the superpowers increased due to the unpredictability of Soviet leader Khrushchev’s foreign policy, the question of Berlin’s status, and the issue of intermediate-range nuclear weapons in West Germany. The Soviet launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile and space satellite followed by the American equivalent led to heightened anxiety of a nuclear attack from space. The tension came to a head during the Cuban missile crisis, the only time the world came close to nuclear war. The crisis ended with the installation of a ‘hot line’ between the White House and the Kremlin and a limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, leading to a temporary calm in the Cold War.
Table of Contents
- Khrushchev’s Unpredictability in foreign affairs
- The Issue of Berlin’s status and intermediate-range nuclear weapons
- The Launch of satellites and the Space Race
- The Cuban Missile Crisis
- Anti-Nuclear Movements and Fear of Nuclear Weapons
What caused the tension in the Cold War between the US and Soviet Union?
The tension in the Cold War was caused by a combination of factors. Khrushchev’s unpredictability in foreign affairs increased the danger of conflict, while the status of Berlin remained a thorn in the side of the East German leadership. The issue of intermediate-range nuclear weapons in West Germany also added to the tension between the superpowers. The Soviet launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile and a space satellite followed by the American equivalent led to heightened anxiety of a nuclear attack from space.
What was the Cuban missile crisis and how was it defused?
The Cuban missile crisis was the only time during the Cold War that the world came close to nuclear war. Khrushchev authorized the deployment of intermediate- and medium-range nuclear missiles on Cuba in response to American missile bases aimed at the Soviet Union from bases in Britain, Italy, and Turkey. The crisis was defused when Khrushchev backed down and ordered the return of the missiles to the Soviet Union after taut brinkmanship. The installation of a ‘hot line’ between the White House and the Kremlin and a limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, prohibiting other than underground testing was a sign of willingness to defuse tension rather than running the risk of escalation to the point of nuclear conflict.
What was the Space Race?
The Space Race was a competition between the US and Soviet Union to achieve advances in space technology. The Americans followed the Soviets and launched their own satellite, forming the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), with part of its funding coming from the Pentagon. The space race was characterized by the emphasis placed on the military significance of the program, which was driven in large part by the possibility of using space for military purposes.
How did the building of the Berlin Wall affect Cold War tension?
The building of the Berlin Wall had a calming effect politically, but was also an appalling indictment of Soviet-style socialism. The Wall brought calm not only to Germany, but to the whole of Central Europe. The Soviet leader, Khrushchev, threatening to transfer all Soviet rights over the air corridor to the German Democratic Republic, led to Khrushchev agreeing to sealing off the border between West Berlin and the territory of the German Democratic Republic. Plans to wall off West Berlin dated back to 1952, and on 12 August 1961, Ulbricht gave the orders for the border to be closed from midnight. The West’s response was muted, and Kennedy stated that a wall was better than war.
What was the impact of the Cold War on anti-nuclear movements?
Opposition to nuclear weapons was relatively muted when Cold War confrontation was at its most dangerous between 1950 and 1962. Anti-nuclear movements were in their infancy and unable to win wide popular resonance. In Western Europe, fear of nuclear weapons was largely one-sided. Soviet weapons were a source of fear, while NATO was a source of security.
The Cold War between the US and Soviet Union was characterized by tension, unpredictability, and fear. The tension was caused by a variety of factors, including Khrushchev’s foreign policy, the issue of Berlin’s status, and the arms race. The Space Race and the Cuban missile crisis were two key moments in the Cold War, which led to temporary periods of calm in the relationship between the superpowers. Opposition to nuclear weapons was relatively muted during the Cold War due to the fear of nuclear war between the US and Soviet Union, with anti-nuclear movements unable to gain wide-spread support in Western Europe.