THE BERLIN WAR
This was an essay from three years ago...so my writing is not as cogent as it currently stands.
The Berlin Crisis divided a nation, but its impact also stretched across the Atlantic Ocean, most notably into the United States. A wall was constructed in 1961 to further demonstrate the division of Communism from the rest of the world, and its denizens would suffer from it. As a result, the gravity of the “war” was exacerbated through the Berlin Crisis because the world was watching a live example of the despotic atmosphere under which Communism reigned. Individual liberties were curtailed if not completely voided, which propelled East Berliners to believe, hope and literally risk their lives to reach out to the democracy that manifested itself over the Wall on the west side. Yet, the Wall also embodied a global division, pitting the United States against the Soviet Union. Both regimes were motivated by similar feelings of fear and psychological warfare. The United States was afraid of a nuclear war just as much as the Soviets were, which is why although tensions rose due to such events as the Berlin Airlift and Berlin Wall, those same tensions always dissipated before nuclear weapons were deployed. The evolution of the city of Berlin played a significant role during the Cold War, helping to spark the heated struggle for global influence between the United States and Soviet Union as well as ending the struggle through the tearing down of the Wall. The Berlin Crisis can be seen as a mirror that reflects the progression of the Cold War
The history of Berlin demonstrates the economic, social and political influence it had on Germany and why it became a highly contested city during the Cold War. The city of Berlin began as the capital of Prussia in 1701. As Frederick II the throne in 1740, he would christen the city of Berlin as the epicenter of the Enlightenment, a revolutionary period of progressive intelligence and human advancement. Following the Franco-Prussia war, Germany was officially recognized as a country on January 18, 1871. Since Berlin was so prosperous, it would continue to serve as the capital under Germany. As the Industrial Revolution formulated in the 19th century, it would also become the center of Germany's economic prosperity, as numerous suburbs would spring around the flourishing city. As the 1920s rolled in, Berlin would become a bastion for advances in all art forms. Music, film and other forms of expression would come to fruition during this time period. Film would begin to have sound, as “Talkies” would rise in popularity. Sagacious pioneers of human advancement would peak during this time, as people like physicist Albert Einstein and political playwright Bertolt Brecht would discover or write about laws of the world, whether scientific or social. Political thinking branched out into heated debates on the streets of Berlin as there were right-wing fascists aggressively debating with left-wing communists. Innovative religions known as “mysticism” began to surface as people became more open-minded and were in search for an alternative religion in the wake of the travesties and tragedies of World War I. All of these factors helped Berlin prosper as a city of eclectic knowledge and culture, (arguably comparable to modern day New York City). People flocked to this city because there was clearly an identity that everyone could relate to, and nearly all ideas from all social circles were welcomed and digested fully by the public, though sometimes not agreed upon. Nevertheless, with the Great Depression diffusing across the world along with severe repercussions from World War I, these economic constraints would soon put these prosperous times to an end and a new system of government would rise from the ashes and take over the fledgling city along with its country.
The Nazi party took over Berlin in 1933 and reigned terror upon races and groups believed to be responsible for Germany’s suffering while using Berlin as a its part headquarters. Fears of death and hopelessness would later be coaxed from these same people during the Berlin Crisis. The Nazi party was derived from the Nationalist Socialist German Workers Party, of which the malevolent Adolph Hitler led. The idea of “Dolchstosslegende,” or “Dagger Stab Legend” led the impoverished and hopeless people to believe certain groups such as Catholics and especially Jews were responsible for the loss of World War I and the Great Depression. Hence, people were galvanized by these issues and led to believe Germany needed to take back their title as a “super power” and punish those culpable for the dismantling of Germany. Another motivation for this process was the Treaty of Versailles, which had reduced Germany's territory by a third and demobilized its army and reparations to other countries of which Germany caused destruction and havoc to were owed for the next seventy years (until 1988). Arguably what propelled the Nazi movement the most was the War Guilt Clause, which stipulated that Germany was to accept complete undeniable responsibility for the first World War, although it was contrary to what many Germans believed to be true. As a result, these extreme emotions propelled people to commit horrible crimes and one of the first places these acts would begin in was Berlin.
These emotions would translate into nearly 170,000 Jewish deaths alone in Berlin after the Nazi party rose to power, making Berlin an arena for the struggle of the common people against the Nazi. These deaths would increase by way of pogroms led against the city's Jews, and those who that managed to survive these targeted riots were eventually shipped to the adjacent concentration camp known as Sachsenhausen, located on the edge of Berlin in Oranienburg and the headquarters for all the concentration camps. Fear became the tool to which the Nazi would rule Germany and most directly Berlin. On the heels of anger and upset over the loss of Germany's loss as a “super power” the rogue nation was fueled by the words of Hitler to feed millions of Jews to fires and gas chambers, and only as World War II would draw to a close would the rest of the world would understand the horrors committed at those camps. Nevertheless, although Berlin along with Germany would be divided up among the “Four Powers” as a remedy against any future aspirations of warfare, through the Potsdam Conference, fear would creep into international relations and a psychological war would become a by-product of the created policies. The blood of Berlin citizens had been spilt over the streets by reckless leaders, which foreshadowed the importance Berlin would play in the future. Apprehension was colored into the lives of all Berliners, and between the deaths along with being the capital of Germany, the city was extremely important. It had served for decades as headquarters for several governmental regimes and was famous for its art and culture, evolving into a representation of what Germans took pride in (akin to how most New Yorkers may feel about New York City). Along with the country of Germany, Berlin would become a territory fought over by all the superpowers as a vital city in the battle to contain Communism. The Potsdam conferences, an extension of what the Yalta conference laid as a foundation for what the Allies should do with Germany, ultimately led to the division of Berlin and the unification of fear across the globe.
The Yalta Conference took place during a week in February 1945 with the three leaders of the “Super Powers,” Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin. Among the many issues that were unraveled during the conference, the dilemma of what to do with post-war Germany was figured out. Germany would be divided into three zones of occupation, as there would be one zone for each of the nations. Furthermore, the city of Berlin would also be divided up in the same process, even though it was located in what would later be known as East Germany. Later on, France would fall into this plan as well, receiving a slice of Germany and Austria from the portions of Britain and the United States. In late July and August of that same year, the Potsdam Conference was held. The participants were Harry Truman from the United States, Joseph Stalin from the Soviet Union, and Winston Churchill from Britain; although he'd later be replaced by Clement Attle after he'd lost the election. This conference cemented what was decided only in dialogue in Yalta, and therefore subsequently following this conference and the end of World War II, Germany along with Austria would be partitioned among the four powers into designated zones. Ultimately, this would foster fear in the eyes of many of the East German people since they would fall under the rule of the Soviet Union, who’s regime would be summarized as hiding behind the “Iron Curtain”, used by Winston Churchill in a speech at a college in the United States to encapsulate the hidden workings behind Soviet boundaries. As the people of Berlin began to understand the kind of government the Soviet Union was, many would run for their lives over the border and into the occupied zones of the Allies. Berlin would reinforce its significance as an arena for the political struggles between the Allies and the expanding Soviet Union, which would start, most unlikely of all, through the air.
The Berlin Airlift escalated the war as well as the growing concern in the United States over Communism. The Berlin Airlift occurred, among other sources, from a squabble about a particular currency. England and the United States wanted to implement a new currency in West Germany, known as “Operation Bird Dog”(Destroying the Village p2) to obliterate the thriving black market and help corporate West Germany into the Western Europe economy, which operated as a “free market” economy. Nevertheless, Soviets vehemently opposed this, believing that it split up Germany and countered by sealing off frontiers with the West along with implementing more restrictions for travel in the Soviet zone of East Berlin. In addition, the Soviets declared that a new currency would be used in its Eastern zone, which included all of Berlin (although half was under the rule of the Allies). The Allies of West Berlin answered by introducing their own currency, which the Soviets would denounce since Berlin lay in their zone. On March 30, the Soviets would begin to interfere with western rail and road traffic within and around Berlin along with subjecting citizens and soldiers to closer inspections of vehicles as well as other harassments (Destroying the Village Ch.1 p2). Although there were some dissenters who wanted to leave after encountering this, General Lucius Dubignon Clay, the Maericna military governor in Germany, believed otherwise, stating:
Why are we in Europe? We have lost Czechoslovakia. We have lost Finland. Norway is threatened. We retreat from Berlin...If we mean that we are to hold Europe against communism, we must not budge. We can take humiliation and pressure short of war in Berlin without losing face. If we move, our position in Europe is threatened. If American does not know this, does not believe the issue is cast now, then it never will and communism will run rampant.” (Destroying the Village ch.1 p.2).
Clay was convinced that “Berlin symbolized American commitment to Europe,” and believed that Germans, Europeans and even Americans could encumber severe “psychological repercussions” if America pulled out because the Soviets were trying to bully them out with aggressive but harmless tactics. (Destroying the Village ch.1 p.2). Berlin was a strategic must in this war of chess with the Soviet Union; it provided a battle ground and was the only place within the Soviet Union that the West could legal have influence over. It served as the link to the division of the two Germanys, of which East Germany was part of the growing Soviet Union. West Berlin served the West Allies as a medium through which to convey aggression and military force against the Soviet Union on its borders. Political ideologies would begin to consistently butt heads together; pitting communism against democracy. This situation would continue to escalate into a whole different stratum of significance and Berlin would begin to be tugged back and forth by the two superpowers.
This dispute intensified on the morning of June 24, 1948 this when the Soviets of East Berlin cut off the energy supply to West Berlin, in an attempt to get the Western Allies to nullify their policies or to move out of Berlin. The Allies, though more significantly the United States, would respond to this by introducing their own counter-blockade on the same day. They decided to halt all rail traffic into East Germany from United States and British zones. The United States didn’t want to wage war, but President Truman also wanted to be resolute against the Soviets’ blockade. Truman supported this stand when contemplating what the long-term American policy in Berlin would be. Truman would later put this situation in retrospect, stating:
What was at stake in Berlin was not a contest over legal rights, although our position was entirely sound in international law, but a struggle over Germany, and, in a larger sense, over Europe... the Kremlin tried to mislead the people of Europe into believing that our interest and support would not extend beyond economic matters and that we would back away from any military risks. (Destroying the Village Ch.1p3)
Truman unabashedly denounced the Soviets' feet-dragging over the control of Berlin and simply stated that there would be “no discussion on that point...we were going to stay period” (Destroying the Village ch.1p.3). The Allies decided the best solution to this predicament was to embark on an airlift project, which would aid the people of West Berlin with resources. On June 26, 1948 airlifts to Western Berlin began that would last approximately four hundred sixty-two days. Hundreds of airplanes nicknamed “Rosinenbomber” (raisin bombers) were used to fly in a wide variety of cargo, even items as trivial as packets of candy attached to little parachutes for children. In fact, sometimes even sick children were taken back to the US on return flights for better medical care. The United States flew in the latest bomber planes into Britain to send a message to the Soviets that they wouldn’t yield to the aggression the Soviets illustrated through the construction of their blockade of goods and services to West Berlin (Cold War) (It would come out later that this was for pure imitational purposes, as there were no actual bombs in those planes). The United States, France and the United Kingdom supplied these aircraft although planes would even come from Australia, Canada and South Africa to help out in the cause. At the peak of the airlift effort, an aircraft from the allies landed nearly every minute, which totaled to 1,398 flights in 24 hours bringing in 12, 940 tons of goods. In total, the airlift was responsible for bringing the West Berliners 2, 326, 406 tons of supplies and food, including roughly 1.5 million tons of coal. This was spread out in the course of 278,228 flights that were made. In this respect, the US was taking a stance against not only the mistreatment of the people of West Berlin, but just as well communism as a whole. These airlifts were an attempt to placate the crisis at hand and to take care of the innocent West Berlin citizens. Enough coal was shipped to keep the people from freezing; overall it was 65% of the cargo. Thanks to the largest humanitarian operation in military history, millions of lives were saved and the economy would begin to pick up (The Berlin Airlift Series, The Washington Post). Lives were lost during the airlift, as crashed on the ground and collisions with structures such as building took seventy-nine people; 31 American airmen, nine civilians and 39 British airmen. Weather also played a role in taking the courageous lives, which flew these planes over deadly terrain (50 Years after the Berlin Airlift, Denver Post). Eventually, the West would succeed in breaking down the blockade although the crisis would only appear to be over.
The blockade on West Berlin would eventually be struck down on May 12, 1949; though the airlift would not officially end until the last day of September 1949 in an attempt to provide enough resources to cover the possibility of another blockade. In continuing this policy, the United States recognized the intellect and resourcefulness of their enemy, which was no surprise as less than a decade ago they had fought side by side with its leader, Joseph Stalin. In fact, the United States realized that it needed more money for its military, leading to the creation of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), which called on those Western Allies who signed it to create mutual security against the Soviet Union. Furthermore, Truman and the policy makers were forced to consider whether or not to follow up on this and wage a war; and if so, whether or not to utilize atomic weapons. Truman signed on to NSC-30, which was the first formal document of American policy concerning weapons. Not wanting to alarm American citizens, Truman left it up to the Soviets as to instigate the Americans into using these weapons (Destroying the Village ch.1 p4). Truman would adhere to this plan through his term as president, though was grateful later on to never have had to be in that position. As a result of the Berlin Airlift, it formulated the first basic American security position, specifically on atomic weapons and thus moved the chains in the Cold War. The Berlin Airlift however, would illustrate the reprehensible characteristics of the Soviet Union.
Although the Soviets were convinced that capturing East Berlin and shutting it out to the rest of the world was a brilliant agenda, it actually fostered a deep concern within the United States and Western Europe, forcing them to unite and even expect a possible World War III. Socially, this win was immense for the United States as it illustrated its noticeable superiority both in technology and justice. The Berlin Airlift also helped expose the Soviets as merciless and in turn was a calamitous public relations event for the Soviets. West Berlin was fought over by both sides because of its symbolic impact as the only sector in East Germany under Allied rule and under a different political system. The United States exemplified their desire to keep West Berlin as a place of democracy through their dynamic airlifts, which came to the aid of 2.3 million West Berliners. As a result, during the next decade, West Berlin would climb into a comfortable economic system laden with consumer goods and capitalistic optimism for opportunity. On the other hand, though fed and housed, East Berlin would be a far cry from this “free society” as everyone would have to wait even for certain appliances to come to them. While the nation had just closed the door on a depression along with a war and was enjoying the booming economy of the 1950s, Communism’s shadow was still prevalent and demanded the attention of millions around the world. The next United States president, Dwight Eisenhower, would continue the military and security strategies first created during the Truman administration in an attempt to answer the Soviets' challenge for the right to control Berlin.
President Eisenhower would implement a ”static policy of massive retaliation” (Destroying the Village ch.8). He had managed this impending crisis by taking precautions to avoid war rather than taking a consistent diplomatic position. Eisenhower also created a rigid military policy, which included a reduction of U.S. non-nuclear forces in Europe, the West armies encompassing Berlin were outnumbered against Soviet troops. With the passing of Stalin, Khrushchev would take over the Soviet Union and would succeed in creating a wall that isolated the Soviet World from the rest of the world. Of course, the government was keenly set on circumventing war or use of nuclear weapons at all costs, giving the military the option of fighting without conventional forces or waiting for the administration to give clearance to use nuclear arms. Eisenhower felt fortunate to not have to go through any arduous decision making, unlike what President Kennedy would be faced by the new Soviet Union leader who would rise in Stalin’s place to lead the Berlin dilemma into the 1960s and beyond.
At a Moscow reception in November 1958, Khrushchev wanted the western portion of Berlin to be free from the Allies and join the Soviet Union. Khrushchev was so adamant about this happening that he gave an ultimatum that the US must get out of West Berlin in six months or it would completely lose its rights for the Soviet Union was willing to sign its own peace treaty with East Berlin (which was still part of Berlin and hence West Berlin would be part of that agreement). This changed the landscape of the battle, as the United States had previously triumphed over the total Soviet domination over the city of Berlin. Nevertheless, it was believed that containing Communism was vital to American diplomacy and to democracy. The United States had already decided that it was essential to hold Berlin together. Furthermore, under the watchful eye of the United States, West Berlin continued to flourish undaunted by its counterpart in the east. As the 1950s would draw to a close, Khrushchev would be met with critical opposition in 1961 from newly elected president John F. Kennedy.
When elected in 1961, John F. Kennedy was met with the Berlin crisis and Khrushchev’s opposition to American policy there; yet Kennedy chose to take a firm stand against Khrushchev. He indelibly believed that Berlin was a city the United States had a right to be in according to the provisions decided after World War II. Furthermore, he believed national security of the United States was tied to the welfare of that city; hence it was extremely imperative for the United States to hold on. Khrushchev acknowledged this, saying “Berlin is the testicles of the West…Every time I want to make the West scream, I squeeze on Berlin” (Cold War). Khrushchev adamantly desired his terms be met concerning Berlin, which he’d hope would result in auspicious control of the greater Cold War against the United States. Kennedy decided to attempt to placate the crisis through dialogue with the dogmatic leader.
Kennedy chose to have a summit with Khrushchev, who'd already negotiated with Eisenhower and was satisfied with the negotiations although nothing was signed; only rhetoric on United States' influence was agreed upon. However, he'd find out Kennedy wasn’t as sympathetic to his needs. When Kennedy accused him of risking war, Khrushchev simply replied that it is up to the United States to sign a peace treat and get out. Khrushchev wanted a peace treaty since these migrations by East Berliners were fueled by hundreds of professionally skilled Germans leaving for West Berlin due to the lucrative opportunities that the Marshall Plan helped create (which helped rebuild nearly all of Europe). Kennedy did not have any authority to invade East Germany since it was built a few feet into its own borders so if anyone on the opposite side came close to the wall, it was technically trespassing. However, it was imperative that the United States met this conflict head on, and Kennedy would make an initial attempt to hold discussions with Khrushchev. Although Khrushchev had attempted to take advantage of the green Kennedy with strong convictions about what should be done with Berlin, Kennedy held that the United States held West Berlin as a right since World War II. Kennedy would begin to implement decisions that would slowly build up and mobilize the military to protect the United States against a potential war.
In response to Khrushchev's increase in military budget, he would ask Congress for an additional 3.25 billion dollars in United States military, nearly all spent for weapons. Kennedy also implemented six divisions for the army and two for the marines. He asked for the American people to defend themselves and in response air raid shelters were installed at alarming rates along with air sirens placed in many communities. This division that was brewing between Kennedy and Khrushchev would help instigate the Soviets to construct the Berlin Wall. Soviets increasingly became agitated to the acknowledged problem of East Berliners leaving for West Berlin and decided to halt this migration once and for all. Through all the technological advancements that would take place in space or with nuclear weaponry during the 1950s to the 1980s, nothing would be as poignant or symbolic as the wall constructed to divide East Berlin (and hence the Soviet Union) from Western Berlin (as well as from the rest of the free world).
As construction of the wall began on August 13, 1961, East German workers along with East German soldiers known as “Vopos”, slaved away to build a wall that would make the largest statement of the war to that point. In fact, this wall upset many Germans in the city, yet the Soviets quelled any potential protests by mobilizing tanks throughout East Berlin; the city streets would become empty (We Know Now). This was a violation of the agreements over the divided control over Berlin because the city was still supposed to exist as a whole (Similar to the Cold War, this illustrated the broken relationship between the Soviets and United States, which had been a “whole” acting as one force in World War II). The United States was only concerned with West Berlin because it had control over it legally. Also, the United States, as throughout the Cold War, would be more inclined to side-step warfare and gravitate towards a compromise no matter how unfavorable it was. As a result of this, crowds of West Berliners booed the Vopos as they pounded barriers into the cobblestone of Berlin. Many East Germans made a running dash towards the border to democratic freedom; unfortunately, some along the way were shot. Those shot were sometimes left bleeding to death, such as the notorious killing of Peter Fetcher who was left to bleed to death as on-lookers from both East and West Berlin could only watch in horror. Although most believe that there were no deaths in the Cold War, roughly two hundred people lost their lives attempting to surmount the wall. People like Peter Fetcher were sometimes left to bleed to death without any medical attention (Cold War). The Wall would depict the Soviets as bankrupt in faith of their people, hesitant to give the freedom of choice and therefore allowing themselves to become feared and loathed by their own people (The Wall in Orbit, Pittsburgh Courier).
The Berlin Wall was the final cog in the Soviets' political machine and was a reminder of its repressive politics, although not all supported its construction. Over the course of time, the wall would eventually be built roughly one hundred miles long and nearly twelve feet high, multi-layered with reinforced concrete, laden with booby-traps along with mines and employed Soviet police watching for any East Berliners attempting to defect to the other side. Stalin had foreseen this coming, as between the different currency the Allies wanted to install into the European economy coupled with seeing a waning East Germany government struggle for support. Stalin told East German leaders to stand against the Allies, saying, “Let's make a joint effort...Perhaps we can kick them out” (We Know Now). However, not all of the Soviets were proponents of the Wall, as some believed it would depict communism as an abhorrent way of life, helplessly locking the citizens away behind a barrier. Indeed, this wall would work extremely well in cutting off these daily migrations; allowing 2.5 million between 1949 and 1962 to only 5,000 between 1962 and 1989. However, the US was only concerned with West Berlin and would only protect those people.
While the Soviets were convinced the Wall would make the world their audience along with solidifying a bold statement, the Berlin Crisis had fastidiously shaped the United States first security policy that would be the foundation of the defense strategy against the Soviets during Cold War. The East German government rationalized the construction of the oppressive wall as an “anti-fascist protection barrier,” protecting East Berlin especially against the reprehensible tactics of the west. In effect, this would destroy the appeal of East Germany and would become a symbolic reminder of corrupt communism. Socially, the people believed the actions taken by the government spoke louder than any speech or rational explanation for the Wall. Families were separated and the people felt enslaved under the austere Soviet Union regime. Although freedom for the East Berliners lay just over a Wall and in a land that was still in East Germany, ironically hope had never lain so far away. Berlin served as the discussion table not only between the superpowers, as negotiations would be passed over it through aggressive dialogue or threatening mobilization of defense. Without the Berlin Crisis, American security policy may have evolved differently or not been so flexible in the Cold War. The Berlin crisis showed that Soviet expansionism in Europe created notable resistance from the Allies to terminate it and also furnish many resources to defend against the Soviet Union (Berlin Wall).
As defense strategies were being crafted by both superpowers, Berlin truly became a dual city despite the efforts of the United States to keep the city unified. U.S. saw West Berlin as imperativeve to their defense against Communism and therefore guarded their section of it closely. Of course, this was met with opposition from the Soviets who demanded complete control of the city, but never got it. The cultural differences of these cities became staggering and warranted concern from East Berliners about their government. West Berlin was brimming with economic goods and services. Street cafes dotted the city streets and a cosmopolitan atmosphere settled over the booming city. East Berlin was diametrically opposite to this, as many waited on lists for appliances and other goods. The economy was under the thumb of the Soviets, and the government allotted all resources “fairly”, though sucking the life out of the city in the process (Cold War). There was no optimism for the future, as all means of life were directly controlled by the Soviets. In fact, it would later on be discovered that in the Stasi (secret police) headquarters, rooms were filled with jars of cloth; used for bloodhounds to seek out certain citizens. Under this inhumane rule, the East Berliners were subjected to wiping their crotches and armpits with these cloths, as a marker and threat that they were always watched (Super Snoopers, The Washington Post). The Soviets would come to be known as cold and calculating, and they would not open themselves up to any more exposure. Since West Berlin was flabbergasted at the division of its city, it called on the United States to intervene and unite the city together.
Kennedy would send militaristic reinforcements only to restore West Berliners' morale that the United States had not abandoned them since there was not much else the United States could do that wouldn’t be seen as encroachment towards a war (Destroying the Village ch.9 p.1). Kennedy was weary of inflaming “the Berlin wound” by waging war, and moreover felt safe in a sense that the Wall was put up. This reduced the U.S. government's fear of a war, for the time being, but they still wanted to send a strong, salient message to the citizens of West Berlin that the United States had not forsaken them. Still, the countries of NATO refused to go along with a war based on maintaining consistent access to West Berlin. Kennedy's Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, was whimsical on this decision, constantly changing his opinion as new information and new insight became available. Finally, it was decided that the United States' policy within the context of Berlin would “match” the movements of the Soviet Union; be it the mobilization of military or polarizing politics. The mayor of Berlin, Willy Brandt, livid over the lack of United States response to the building of the wall, called on America to act, although the United States would reiterate its commitment was only to West Berlin. One particular checkpoint known as “Checkpoint Charlie” was the site for one of the standoffs between the United States and Soviet Union.
This particular checkpoint allowed the West Berliners, foreigners, and Allies to come and go into East Berlin, but East Berliners could only leave with a special permit. Americans continued to cross into East Berlin through this checkpoint, and as a result US military was used to escort them over the border. Nonetheless, this site would provide one of the tensest times of the Cold War, as on October 27, 1961 there would be a standoff between Soviet and American tanks, although no one would fire. After this situation was settled, both sides of the Cold War realized how important the city of Berlin was to the Cold War. The city had been split, and hopelessness was palpable on every street corner in not only East Berlin but West Berlin as well. In June 1963, Kennedy went to West Berlin and addressed thousands from a balcony from which he could see East Berlin. Kennedy stated
There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system but it permits us to make economic progress. Let them come to Berlin.
This standoff was indicative of how the battle between the United States and Soviets which continued from the Korean War in the 1950s into the late 1960s with the Vietnam war. Although the United States wasn't always entirely concerned with Berlin during these tumultuous wars, inadvertently they were fighting for their cause, since these wars were created through the fear and threat of spreading Communism. The division of Berlin marked the cultural differences between the United States and the Soviet Union, further dividing the countries and extending these tensions onward.. Although initially there were strict restrictions on travel even for the West, the policies soon would be relaxed at the turn of the 1970s. As the “Arms Race” and “Space Race” would play out during the ensuing decades, neither side was willing to drive its agenda too far as the fear of war overrided any desire either side had. As for the Berlin Wall, that conflict would be relaxed with the Four Power Agreement.
As the Korean and Vietnam wars raged on through the 1950s and into the 1970s, the outlook on Berlin remained the same although in 1971 progress would start to be made. Of course, tensions were still high as the seemingly impregnable Berlin Wall was the site of dozens of deaths of those who had tried to surmount it. In September of 1971, the four powers that held divided portions of Germany and West Berlin signed an agreement that would allow for more travel and trade between West Berlin and West Germany along with aiming to improve communications between West Berlin and East Berlin. This treaty would slightly ameliorate the concerns of Germans and other countries around the world, as this would be interpreted by some as a sign of nearing the end of the Cold War. Just as well, tourism, diplomacy and communications were to resume and become more regular.
Having made this accord over Berlin, it helped destroy the last obstacle between negotiations between both German countries and inadvertently making a dent in the Soviet Unions' “Iron Curtain”. In fact, this event persuaded Soviet leader Neonid Brezhnev go to East Berlin personally to ensure that international tensions continue to be lowered through negotiations. This would lead to other installments of agreements between West and East Germany, as amount and use of arms would be cut down (The Two Germanies, p155). The cut-down of arms would foreshadow the eventual agreement between the United States and Soviet Union, in cutting-back on Nuclear weapons and regaining comrader unseen for nearly forty years. Both Germanies joined the United Nations in 1973 as a result of this treaty, which would aid East Germany in its plight to sever itself away from the Soviets, as the majority was not happy under Soviet rule, coupled with the fact that West Germany citizens were free. Indirectly, the Soviet Union would begin to suffer from this as these agreements would slowly chip away at the wall they created from the West Allies. Although, this would prove to be a critical crack in the Berlin Wall, which would come down in the near future, there was still much to lament about in the 1970s in Berlin.
Unemployment had caught up with West Berlin, as Italians, Spaniards and Greeks had come for work as the result of an economic boom over a decade ago. Now millions were jobless and inflation was escalating to East Berlin levels of poverty and dismay. This was indicative of the Communist regime itself, as people were still in poverty and things like updated technology were put on the back-burner. The relations between East and West Berlin had improved, yet leaders were still lead by fear as to what moves to make and what hands to shake. Just as in the greater Soviet Union, unemployment rates were high along with interest rates which concerned even the free world. With both West and East Berliners suffering from poverty and wanting answers, 1981 would elect new hope for some in Ronald Reagan.
In the final chapter of the Cold War, Ronald Reagan took a hard stance against the Berlin division and called for reform quickly. In 1982, President Reagan toured Europe and met with NATO affiliates, communicating that he wanted a reduction of arms between the two superpowers. President Reagan adamantly asserted his view of the Soviets immediately, stating:
We're approaching the end of a bloody century plagued by a terrible political invention-totalitarianism...Optimism is...proving itself to be a not-at-all-fragile flower...regimes planted by bayonets do not take root...A country which employs one-fifth its population in agriculture is unable to feed its own people.
President Reagan did not believe that this type of government would survive nevermind reign much longer over its constellation of satelite nations. He also acknowledged that nuclear arms was very real and showed great concern in this subject.
The Berlin Wall would be dismantled in 1989, in effect also taking the infrastructure of the Cold War with it. Egon Krenz, a Communist Party chief, announced that there would be no more restrictions on emigration and travel by East Germans to the West effective November 10, 1989. Crowds began to swarm in light of this news but with cynicism since over two hundred people had been killed in attempts to surmount the wall. Soon, thousands were marching through the wall into the arms of loved ones and well-wishers, as this would mark the symbolic end of the Cold War. Over the next year, the wall would be torn down gradually, as people would chisel away at its representation of communism. While it may have seemed that the Soviets simply allowed for this to occur, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, in Moscow wasn't pleased with this occurrence. Gorbachev wanted East Germany to remain as an ally and not become an economic superpower. The re-unification of Germany, and in effect the world, would be gradual but it would wash over into the Soviet Union as well. Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of “Glasnost” relaxed stringent policies that had been in place in Europe for dozens of years. Basically, in Russian, “Glasnost” means “openness” or “public”. The reason for its creation was in response to conservative leaders who didn't agree with Gorbachev's economic proposals. If Soviets were allowed to discuss and participate in government and, in turn free speech, he believed the people would eventually come to support “perestroika” or his economic reform policies. While the economic changes weren't drastic, ultimately the freedom of speech is what was associated to “Glasnost” and for good cause. The people's voice had been muted under the austere control of the Soviet Union for many decades, as they could only watch with ambivalence the moves their government would make during the Cold War. Hence, the media began to cover and exploit the raging problems within the Soviet Union, such as food shortages and alcoholism. Pressure began to rise and, when the Berlin Wall fell, other countries began to win their freedoms as well.
Since countries were clamoring for independence, and the rise of nationalism swept through the Soviet Union, and numerous countries began to be liberated from the Soviet Union as a result. This affected the United States because finally they were able to get into contact with the suffering people of the countries under the Soviet rule. Myriad political prisoners were also freed, yet Gorbachev's original goals of using these policies to reform the Soviet Union never were completed. The reunification of Berlin finally began to put the US and the rest of the world at ease (Cold War). On November 9th 1989, the Berlin Wall would finally come down; the reunification of Germany took place on October 3, 1990. The East Berlin enclave was once again associated with the West and Berlin itself was fully restored. Over the next year, people would tear down the wall, which separated loved ones and friends for nearly six decades. The response from the United States would be hesitant toward this momentous occasion, however.
The United States reaction to this historic event was of cheer and joy, although President George Herbert Walker Bush was ambivalent towards it since he didn’t want to aggravate Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union. Communism had reared its ugly head for the last time in respect to being a Super Power, and the fears of nuclear attacks subsided (though not for long).
The city of Berlin acted as a spark to the Cold War and ultimately became the symbol of the end of the Cold War through a simple demonstration, which was motivated by repressed emotions, and voices of the better part of the twentieth century. Berlin was the playground for the psychological warfare that raged between the United States and Soviet Union for over forty years, of which not many lives were lost in comparison to other wars of lesser duration. Berlin helped the United States formulate its first militaristic security policy, which in turned aided them in the Cold War. Yet, Berlin’s significance lies most importantly in the wall that was constructed, as dozens would lose their lives attempting to abscond from the clutches of the Soviet Union to the free society West Berlin offered. Without the city of Berlin, no one at all may have died from the Cold War, or it could’ve possibly played out differently. The United States’ defense could’ve been in perpetual danger, or perhaps riots would’ve broken out throughout the city of Berlin. Germany may still have remained unified, and in turn the Soviet Union may have continued to survive, waiting for another catalyst to break down its politically tormented rule. Although it is often said the Truman doctrine sparked the Cold War, it merely provided aid to Turkey and Greece in order to contain Communism. The division of Germany and of Berlin, which occurred subsequent to the end of World War II, was far more controversial and required more attention from both the United States and the Soviet Union. When the Berlin Wall was finally torn down in November of 1989, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Cold War was officially over. What if the Soviets had won and perhaps spread across the Atlantic to the United States? Would the US still be an economic giant? There’s a distinct possibility that its economics could be compromised social impacts such as not celebrating religions such as Christmas, which is a lucrative pillar in the foundation of the American economy.
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