In an unprecedented move, Khrushchev denounced many of Stalin's excesses and set about changing Soviet policy towards the developing world. This change, some call it flexibility, was the branch the Soviets offered to developing countries, like Cuba. Looking around and seeing the alienated or disenfranchized, Khrushchev felt the time was right to solidify alliances with anticolonialists in Ghana, the Congo, and especially, Cuba (Hopf).
After the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Khrushchev viewed President Kennedy as too indecisive and not prepared to make hard decisions, felt that Kennedy would back down even if he discovered missiles in Cuba. However, intelligence gathering continued after the Bay of Pigs in 1961, and regular U-2 flights over the island finally presented the evidence Kennedy needed to prove the Soviets were indeed, placing missiles off the American shore (Franklin).
During President Dwight Eisenhower's term one of his great concerns was the mounting tensions between the U.S. And the Soviet Union. Many conservative "hawks" in his government were demanding further and faster military build up and cited reports that the Soviets had exceeded the U.S. In the capacity to build and deliver nuclear weapons. This was only exacerbated in October of that year when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first orbital satellite. It did not matter that the device did nothing but emit a pulse and lasted less than a few weeks in space. The perception was that the Soviets had led the race into space, and were close to adding military capability to their satellites (Mitchell).
Because the U.S. had no way of actually "knowing" what the true nature of the Soviet military might was, Eisenhower comissioned American intelligence to develop a plane that could fly over Soviet territory and photograph potential military installations. This, of course, was clearly illegal and highly secret, so the plan had to be light, fly quickly and high, and be everything possible to escape notice by Soviet radar. The unique and remarkable design that allowed for this type of performance made the winning design, the U-2, difficult and dangerous to fly, let alone elude high-powered Soviet MIG fighters (French).
The U-2 planes came to the world's attention in May of 1960 whenC IA pilot Francis Gary Powers was shot down over Soviet territory. At first the U.S. denied it was a spy plane, but based on evidence recovered and shown on international television, was finally forced to admit that it had sent the plane over Soviet territory specifically to photograph missle bases. The incident happened just two weeks before a scheduled East-West Summit in Paris, and resulted in the Soviets refusing to negotiate with the U.S. For fear of duplicity. Ironic, too, within weeks after this flight the United States placed its own satellites in orbit and were able to glean the same type of information safer, and without resorting to illegal actions (Bescholss).
Part of the joy of revisionist history revolves around the nature of chronology. It is far easier, three decades or more later, to review events when clearer heads prevail, or after additional material is unearthed from archives that show a clearer path. It is somewhat like a macro version of the Arm Chair Quarterback who, after seeing the post-game show, is able to minuetly find errors in coaching and execution from the previous game. This is a superb analogy when dealing with foreign policy events, particularly those that deal with such an enigmatic country as the Soviet Union. For years, Sovietologists used clues from Pravda, who was reviewing certain parades or official events, and what statements Soviet Press Agency TASS allowed over the wires. Sometimes these interpretations were correct (as in predicting the ousting of Nikita Khrushchev), sometimes incorrect (as in thinking the Soviets had far more missiles and fighter planes than thought based on photographs of fly-overs during official events). However, when it comes to the central issue of Cold War foreign policy, it is really the mistrust that began during World War II, exacerbated by Winston Churchill's issues with Stalin, and then Truman's dislike and distrust of Stalin at Yalta.
The "fault" of the Cold War was, much like the origins of the First World War, a series of misinterpretations that resulted in misunderstandings, fear, paranoia, and projection. The United States was, in fact, the only country in possession of nuclear weapons and the only economy that was poised and ready at the end of the war. The Soviets were, in fact, surrounded by suspicious and potentially hostile neighbors. However, Stalin had a history of guile and intrigue and made it quite clear that he needed more territory and felt that Russia deserved payment for the devastation felt during the war. Since both sides were ultimately so suspicious of each other, tensions grew, dialog lessened, allies were reestablished, and the global fight was on for the dominance of the Communist paradigm or Western-style democracy, a war not really ended until the Gorbachev regime in the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Thus, looking at the evidence of the time, Truman's meeting with Stalin, the Kennan telegram (Kennan), Soviet Atomic espionage, the "Iron Curtain," political and social events in Eastern Europe, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the exporting of communism into the developing world -- one can certainly conclude that while it may seem American foreign policy was a bit paranoid and reactionary, with the information available at the time, the response was likely not only reasonable, but prudent. In effect, combined with the hawkish nature of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and American President Ronald Reagan, contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union, certainly a goal of Cold War policy.
The End of the Cold War and the Collapse of Communism- However, the Cold War effectively ended for Europe with the fall of communism, also known as the "Revolutions of 1989." These were the events that overthrew Soviet-influenced Communist States in Eastern Europe and, eventually, the Soviet Union itself. The reasons for this are complex, but may be grouped into four major templates: 1) the economies were bankrupt, the system broke and unable to perform; 2) Standard of living declined and people were dissatisfied; 3) a new generation of leadership, not born under Stalinism, saw that change was inevitable; and 4) Technology and communication improved to the point where Eastern Europe wanted to join Western Europe to profit from a new free-enterprise system (Brown, 2007).
The basic commonality for all the above is economics coupled with nationalistic tendencies. The Cold War was expensive for both sides, but particularly for the Soviets who, despite 5-year plans, were simply unable to continue to pour billions of rubles into defense just to keep up with NATO and U.S. spending. Money was continually diverted from the social needs of the population (food, housing, consumer goods) in order to prop up the military. Mikhail Gorbachev, for one, knew that the U.S.S.R. could not continue to fiscally support the occupation of Eastern Europe and to keep their governments in power (Gorbachev, 2000). Once this was relaxed, popular revolution took care of the rest. With the exception of Romania, most of these were fairly non-violent, the so-called "velvet" revolutions. By 1991, the Warsaw Pact was officially dissolved, and in July of that year, the U.S. And USSR declared a strategic partnership and an end to the Cold War. It was, however, easier for Eastern Europe to morph into a Western Style government than for the U.S.S.R., who had years of infighting, corrupt and inept governments, until finally many of the former republics were granted independence and Perestroika (Restructuring) finally realized (Media, 2007).
It is said that nature abhors a vacuum, and so also the political nature of Europe. The collapse of communism and the realization that globalism was now a reality, caused the unification movement in Europe to coalesce in 1993, with the establishment of the European Union (EU) with the treaty of Masstrict. It developed a single, regionalized, market structure through a system of standardized laws that apply in each member state so that citizens, goods, capital, and services are regional rather than local. With the establishment of a common currency, the Euro, the EU is also concerned with the overall economic and fiscal health of each member country. EU banks oversee localized financial institutions, and have the legal authority to enact localized changes in order to keep currency balanced. There are also branches of the EU that focus on legal and foreign policy issues, which sometimes blend into the economic realities of globalism (Europa, 2009).
The EU acts as much more than an economic modifier, though, and member nations are encouraged to participate in cultural sharing (music, the arts, etc.), religious tolerance, and of course sport. This changes the overall rubric of the EU in that it actively seeks out foreign trade and markets as a large regional economic sector, so successfully that it counts for approximately 30% of world trade output (How the EU Single, 2009).