Berlin

In 2011 NATO celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Berlin crisis and the construction of the wall.  “Celebrate” may be an odd word choice.  “Recognized” might be better.

The casual student of history will often equate the end of WWII with the start of the Cold war and the construction of the wall.  You, of course will know that the wall was 15 years after the start of the Cold war, almost 10 years after the death of Stalin, and just before a series of events that will lead to the fall of Khrushchev and a stormy chill in the Cold war.

At the end now of our studies of the “Eisenhower Era” we must allude to the era to come.  As one of you commented in your IA the baby boomers of the coming 1960s will have a decidedly different relationship with their government, their world and one another.

JFK is our first president born in the 20th century.  He comes in as a hard liner, believing Eisenhower has been weak on communism.  Why he may have believed this is the real undercurrent of this chapter which of course culminates in not just the erection of the wall in Berlin, but the closest we ever got to nuclear war, the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kissinger’s assessment of Eisenhower and Khrushchev here is most interesting.  “How the threat of war translated into coexistence was never explained” coming from the American ambassador.

If you’re looking for a little extra credit find a copy of Alec Guinness in “the prisoner” I think its called.  Based on a real character and real events in Hungary after the war.  Do an OPVL on that after googling around about events portrayed in the film and you’ll start you second semester out in the lead!

2 Responses to “Berlin”

  1. Claire Olmstead says:

    I always enjoy when Kissinger talks about himself in his own chapters, even though it comes across as a little bit “name-drop-y” sometimes. I thought that it was funny when Kissinger had the interaction with Adenauer, who then used him as a supporter, upsetting Kennedy. It really brings home the fact that Kissinger definitely knows what he’s talking about, and has even had a fair amount of influence in world events.

    At the end of the chapter, Kissinger says that containment had been a success in the case of Berlin. I thought this was interesting, considering that first Eisenhower and then Kennedy thought that containment was not the solution to the Cold War. I also think that this chapter was an interesting look into Khrushchev’s personality. He seems to be held up as some hope for negotiation, but in the case of Berlin, he came off as spontaneous and unpredictable.

  2. Adam Wright says:

    I now see how, as Kissinger stated in a previous chapter, how the fall of the Soviet Union at least started with Khrushchev. I never realized that the Berlin crisis lasted for so long; years after he issued his first six-month deadline, Khrushchev was putting yet another six-month deadline on the West’s withdrawal from Berlin, and with each deadline came a loss of credibility and urgency. In the beginning, Khrushchev had the power; he successfully managed to place the West in a pickle. Would the West give up Berlin and let the Soviet Union hold onto both Berlin and all of East Germany, or would the West wage war (possibly and most likely nuclear war) over access routes in Berlin (or as Kissinger points out frequently, who would stamp the access papers)? But Khrushchev doesn’t hold to his six-month deadline, and the West eventually sees his ultimatum as a bluff. Why didn’t Khrushchev demand withdrawal? Was he that weak, or was the entire Soviet structure as a whole that weak?

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