Europe, Cold War and Coexistence, 1953-1965

Europe, Cold War and Coexistence, 1953-1965

Europe, Cold War and Coexistence, 1953-1965

Europe, Cold War and Coexistence, 1953-1965


Including all Europeans and not just the Western European ones, this edited collection assesses their role in the Cold War to find out if they aggravated the conflict, whether they achieved greater security by participating in the conflict and whether they were merely victims of a superpower game.


The European origins of détente have long been a key research area for those historians who believe that the Cold War was more than just a superpower conflict. By attempting to find the reasons why European leaders developed their own concepts of the need for confidence-building and stability between the military blocs roughly in parallel with those that emerged in the United States and the Soviet Union, European Cold War historians want to stress both the autonomy and the inter-relationship between continental and superpower causes in the new 1960s direction in international politics. This re-evaluation is a significant project, because it promises a new and better understanding of what was perhaps the crucial turning point in Cold War history.

The present volume concentrates on explaining why, in many different West European countries, the period from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s saw attempts at improving relations across the Iron Curtain. Most of these attempts may have been sporadic and contradictory, and there are only a few cases where the policies left a lasting legacy. But the beginning of a reconsideration of the methods that could be used in inter-bloc diplomacy signalled a willingness-on the side of some European policymakers-to move beyond the hardline Cold War confrontation of the Stalin era.

Many of the means by which a reduction of tension could be achieved were-in the minds of key leaders-economic rather than political. By the mid-1950s the long-awaited West European post-war economic recovery had started, and it was thought that the new economic potential of the West had something to offer to the Soviet-controlled states in Eastern Europe. Perhaps even more importantly, economic progress increased the self-confidence of West European leaders, in the sense that they not only seemed to win the confrontation with Communism in their own countries, but also that their systems would be able to out-produce and out-compete the socialist economies of the East (something that had been in no way given in the first post-war decade).

Second, there were the new Soviet European policies that emerged immediately after Stalin's death in 1953. In Moscow, everyone in the new leadership agreed that the Soviet Union needed to decrease the tension with Western Europe, in part in order to get European assistance in their attempts at an even more significant détente with the United States, but also because of long-term hopes of detaching key West European countries from the Atlantic alliance. Generally, the Soviet overtures were seen as much more significant by European leaders than by the US administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower, and-as

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