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Cold War in the 1960s

John Kennedy followed Eisenhower as president in 1961. During his early days in office, Cuban exiles invaded Cuba. They wanted to oust the communist government of Fidel Castro. The exiles had been trained by America's Central Intelligence Agency. The United States failed to send military planes to protect them during the invasion. As a result, their mission failed.

In Europe, tens of thousands of East Germans had fled to the west. East Germany's communist government decided to stop them. It built a wall separating the eastern and western parts of the city of Berlin. Guards shot at anyone who tried to flee by climbing over.

During Kennedy's second year in office, American intelligence reports discovered Soviet missiles in Cuba. The Soviet Union denied they were there. American photographs proved they were. The Cuban Missile Crisis easily could have resulted in a nuclear war. But it ended after a week. Khruschchev agreed to remove the missiles if the United States agreed not to interfere in Cuba.

Some progress was made in easing Cold War tensions when Kennedy was president. In 1963, the two sides reached a major arms control agreement. They agreed to ban tests of nuclear weapons above ground, under water, and in space. They also established a direct telephone line between the white house and the kremlin. Relations between east and west also improved when Richard Nixon was president. He and Leonid Brezhnev met several times. They reached several arms control agreements. One reduced the number of missiles used to shoot down enemy nuclear weapons. It also banned the testing and deployment of long-distance missiles for five years.

When communists were pressing for joint action in 1963, what it had meant was Soviet commitment to the policy of all-out anti-US struggle long demanded by the Chinese; in the context of that time, a call for joint action was a definite anti-Soviet and pro-Chinese move. However by early 1965 the Soviets and the Chinese had both changed their positions. With the new Soviet leadership's decision to go ahead with Khrushchev's plan for a preparatory meeting of Communist parties in Moscow in March 1965, an old issue suddenly became a major point in the Sino-Soviet dispute in 1965 and 1966 -- the matter of joint action of the international Communist movement against imperialism.

In a major break with Khrushchev policy, the new Soviet leaders were now trying to reassert their influence with the North Vietnamese, to which end they began to provide substantial military and political support in the war against the US; the joint action line on Vietnam now served their purposes for several reasons. As Soviet policy under Brezhnev and Kosygin gradually began to meet Communist China's earlier demand for anti-imperialist action, at least in Vietnam, Mao Tse-tung reacted by adopting an even more extreme position. He was unwilling to cooperate with the "modern revisionists" or to admit that they were in fact opposing "imperialism" in Vietnam; there could be no joint action with the USSR on Vietnam, or anything else. As the subject of joint action in Vietnam became more and more a matter of debate in the world Communist movement.




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