Berlin and Cuba Cold War Hotspots

By Broderick, Jim | History Today, December 1998 | Go to article overview

Berlin and Cuba Cold War Hotspots

Broderick, Jim, History Today

Jim Broderick looks at the crisis management of two moments when the spectre of nuclear war shadowed relations between the superpowers

The status of Berlin had been an ongoing problem to the Allies since the conferences of Yalta and Potsdam in 1945 when the `Big Three' (Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union) had agreed to divide the defeated Germany into four occupied zones. They also split Berlin, which was located some 110 miles inside the Soviet zone, into four sectors each governed by a military commander from the respective victorious powers. But divisions among the Allies soon emerged concerning the future of Germany in general and Berlin in particular. Instead of treating Germany as a single economic entity -- as decided at Potsdam -- the Soviet Union governed its zone as if it were an independent unit and opposed Western moves for German reunification along democratic lines.

These disagreements led to the first of the Berlin crises, when in March 1948 the Soviet Union announced a series of measures aimed at curbing access to West Berlin, culminating in the suspension of all rail passenger and freight traffic on June 24th. The ostensible reason for the Soviet blockade was in response to plans for currency union in the newly merged Western sector, but its deeper purpose was to test the commitment of the US to West Berlin. In response, President Truman applied counter-sanctions to Eastern Germany and undertook a massive operation to supply West Berlin by air. The next few months witnessed futile diplomatic negotiations, but the airlift and counter-blockade did eventually cause the Soviet leadership to reconsider its strategy and on May 4th, 1949, after a series of secret meetings of their ambassadors at the UN, the two superpowers agreed to a mutual lifting of restrictions.

Nevertheless, Berlin remained a thorn in the side of US-Soviet relations and the next ten years witnessed an increasing isolation of the Eastern and Western sectors from each other. Then, suddenly in 1958, Soviet premier Khrushchev precipitated the second Berlin crisis when he demanded that a formal German peace treaty be negotiated which legitimised the permanent division of Germany and transformed West Berlin into a `demilitarised free city'. Moreover, he insisted that the transformation be completed within six months or the Soviet Union would seek an independent solution.

President Eisenhower rejected the demands, observing the United States did not recognise the Eastern German regime and, therefore, could not conclude any separate agreement with it; thus Allied routes and access to Berlin were still governed by agreements concluded at the end of the Second World War. In May 1959 the two sides met in Geneva to hammer out a compromise. However, a stalemate resulted in which the Soviet Union insisted that the Berlin question must be resolved within the next eighteen months. Already, it seems, the Soviet leaders were eyeing the prospect of a new, inexperienced president succeeding Eisenhower.

Having tied his personal prestige to removing this `splinter from the heart of Europe', Khrushchev used his first meeting with newly-elected J.F. Kennedy at the June 1961 summit meeting in Vienna to restate his position on Berlin. On the second day, the Soviet leader told Kennedy a formal end to the Second World War was needed and recognition should be given to the existence of two separate Germanies. If the Allies could not agree to such a position, the Soviet Union would act unilaterally and sign a peace treaty with East Germany. This would mean an end to the state of war which still existed on paper, abrogating those commitments arising from the terms of the German surrender -- including occupation rights, access to West Berlin and the use of land corridors through East Germany. Kennedy responded that Berlin was of the highest concern for the United States and a key national security issue. To lose the right of access would undermine the credibility of US commitments elsewhere and put an end to any hope of German reunification. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Berlin and Cuba Cold War Hotspots


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.