IBDP Paper 1 Prescribed Subject: The Cold War 1945-1964


May 2000

These documents relate to rising tension in the Cold War in Europe 1946 to 1951.


An extract from the long telegram sent by George Kennan, 22 February 1946. Kennan, a diplomat working in Moscow, had been asked by the US State Department to explain the increase in anti-Western references in speeches by Soviet policy-makers.

At the bottom of the Kremlin’s neurotic [abnormally sensitive] view of world affairs is traditional and instinctive Russian sense of insecurity. Originally, this was insecurity of a peaceful agricultural people trying to live on vast exposed plain in neighbourhood of fierce nomadic peoples. To this was added, as Russia came into contact with economically advanced West, fear of more competent, more powerful, highly organised societies in that area. ... They have always feared foreign penetration, feared direct contact between the Western world and their own, feared what would happen if Russians learned truth about the world without or if foreigners learned truth about the world within. And they have learned to seek security only in patient but deadly struggle for total destruction of rival power, never in compacts [agreements, treaties] and compromises with it.


An extract from a speech in which General George C. Marshall announced an ambitious plan of economic aid to the whole of Europe, 5 June 1947.

The truth of the matter is that Europe’s requirements for the next three or four years of foreign foods and other essential products – principally from America – are so much greater than her present ability to pay that she must have substantial economic help, or face economic, social and political deterioration [decline] of a very grave character.
... It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return to normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist.

An extract from a speech by Vyshinsky, deputy Foreign Minister and Soviet spokesperson at the United Nations, to the UN on 18 September 1947 (published in the UN records of that meeting).

The so-called Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan are particularly glaring examples of the manner in which the principles of the United Nations are violated [disregarded], of the way in which the organisation is ignored.
... It is becoming more and more evident to everyone that the implementation of the Marshall Plan will mean placing European countries under the economic and political control of the United States and direct interference by the latter in the internal affairs of those countries.
Moreover, this Plan is an attempt to split Europe into two camps and, with the help of the United Kingdom and France, to complete the formation of a bloc of several European countries hostile to the interests of the democratic countries of Eastern Europe.
... The intention is to make use of Western Germany and German heavy industry as one of the most important economic bases for American expansion in Europe, in disregard of the national interests of the countries which suffered from German aggression.

An extract from ‘The Blockade of Berlin’ by historian Philip Windsor (published in History of the Twentieth Century, BPC publishing, London, 1968).

When the Russians cut road and rail links to the West, the four-power city of Berlin was left stranded a hundred miles inside the Soviet sector of occupied Germany. ... It was over Berlin that the Soviet Union and the United States came to their decisive trial of strength. But is that what the Soviet rulers intended? Did they intend to cut off Western access to Berlin? Was the trial of strength deliberate, or was it the product of a series of accidents and misapprehensions [misunderstandings]?

Cartoon from Krokodil, a Soviet magazine, April 1951. The word above one of the heads means ‘They have hatched [produced] it out’. 

1 (a) Explain briefly the reference ‘... if Russians learned truth about the world without’ [Document A].
1 (b) What propaganda/political message is intended by Document E?

2. In what ways and to what extent do Marshall in Document B and Vyshinsky in Document C disagree about the motives behind the Marshall Plan?

3. With reference to their origin and purpose assess the value and limitations for historians studying the Cold War of Documents A and C.

4. Using the documents and your own knowledge explain why the Soviet Union launched the Berlin Blockade in June 1948.

Student response which received top marks (click to enlarge):

November 2000

Prescribed Subject 3 The Cold War 1945–1964
These documents relate to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

An extract from America, Russia and the Cold War 1945-1984, Walter LaFeber, Alfred Knopf, New York, 1985.

...The roots of the crisis ran back to Krushchev’s ICBM-orientated foreign policies after 1957 and his intense concern with removing NATO power from West Berlin. By 1962 these policies were related, for the Soviets needed credible strategic force if they hoped to neutralise Western power in Germany. By the spring of 1962, however, American high officials had publicly expressed their scepticism of Soviet missile credibility. President Kennedy further observed in a widely publicised interview that under some circumstances the United States would strike first. In June Defence Secretary McNamara insisted that American missiles were so potent and precise that in a nuclear war they could spare cities and hit only military installations.

Inside the Kremlin’s Cold War: from Stalin to Krushchev, Vladislav Zubok and Constantine Pleshakov, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1996.

Despite the firm belief of an entire generation of American policy makers and some prominent historians that Krushchev’s gamble in Cuba was actually aimed at West Berlin, there is little evidence of that on the Soviet side.... What pushed Krushchev into his worst avantyura [reckless gamble] was not the pragmatic search for the well being of the Soviet empire. On the contrary, it was his revolutionary commitment and his sense of rivalry with the United States. ... What mattered for Krushchev was to preserve the impression of communism on the march, which in his opinion, was critical to dismantling the Cold War on Soviet terms. The loss of Cuba would have irreparably damaged this image. It would also have meant the triumph of those in Washington who insisted on the roll-back of communism and denied any legitimacy to the USSR. Krushchev decided to leap ahead, despite the terrible risk, as he had done at the Twentieth Party Congress, revealing Stalin’s crimes against the Party and communism.

Khrushchev Remembers: The Glasnost Tapes, Krushchev’s memoirs, trans. and ed. Jerrold L Schecter and Vyacheslav v. Luchkov, Little Brown, Boston, 1970.

Everyone agreed that America would not leave Cuba alone unless we did something. We had an obligation to do everything in our power to protect Cuba’s existence as a socialist country and as a working example to other countries of Latin America ... I had the idea of installing missiles with nuclear warheads in Cuba without letting the United States find out they were there until it was too late to do anything about them ... My thinking went like this: if we installed the missiles secretly and then if the United States discovered the missiles were there after they were already poised and ready to strike, the Americans would think twice before trying to liquidate our installations by military means ... The Americans had surrounded our country with missile bases and threatened us with nuclear weapons, and now they would learn just what it feels like to have enemy missiles pointing at you ... I want to make one thing absolutely clear. We had no desire to start a war. Only a fool would think that we wanted to invade the American continent from Cuba. We sent the Americans a letter asking the president to promise there would not be an invasion of Cuba. Finally Kennedy gave in and agreed to make such a promise. It was a great victory for us, though, a triumph of Soviet foreign policy. A spectacular success without having to fire a single shot.


Cartoon (published in 1962, origin unknown) showing Khrushchev and Kennedy engaged in a trial of strength over the Cuban missile issue.



President Kennedy, speech to the nation, October 22, 1962 in Michael H Hunt, Crises in US Foreign policy, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1996.

Good evening, my fellow citizens:
Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island [Cuba]. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere ...
This urgent transformation of Cuba into an important strategic base by the presence of these large, long-range, and clearly offensive weapons of sudden mass destruction constitutes an explicit threat to the peace and security of all the Americas ...
For many years, both the Soviet Union and the United States, ... have deployed strategic nuclear weapons with great care, never upsetting the precarious status quo which insured that these weapons would not be used in the absence of some vital challenge. Our own strategic missiles have never been transferred to the territory of any other nation under a cloak of secrecy and deception; and our history – unlike that of the Soviets since the end of World War II – demonstrates that we have no desire to dominate or conquer any other nation or impose our system upon its people.
But this secret, swift, and extraordinary build-up of Communist missiles – in an area well known to have a special and historical relationship to the United States and the nations of the Western Hemisphere, in violation of Soviet assurances, and in defiance of American and hemispheric policy, this sudden, clandestine decision to station strategic weapons for the first time outside of Soviet soil – is a deliberately provocative and unjustified change in the status quo which cannot be accepted by this country, if our courage and our commitments are ever to be trusted again by either friend or foe ... Acting, therefore, in the defence of our own security and of the entire Western Hemisphere, and under the authority entrusted to me by the Constitution as endorsed by the resolution of the Congress, I have directed that the following initial steps to be taken immediately.

1. (a) According to Document A “what were the roots of the crisis...”? 
(b) What message is portrayed in Document D?

2. How far do the views expressed in Document A agree or disagree with the views expressed in Documents B and C?

3. With reference to their origin and purpose, assess the value and limitations, for historians studying the Cold War, of Documents C and E.

4. Using these documents and your own knowledge, explain what Krushchev wanted to achieve by placing nuclear missiles in Cuba.

In-class student example under test conditions (click to enlarge):

May 2001

These documents relate to the Cold War in the period 1946-1949.

An extract from President Truman's letter of 5 January 1946 to his Secretary of State [Foreign Minister] James Byrnes.

There isn't a doubt in my mind that Russia intends an invasion of Turkey and the seizure of the Black Sea Straits to the Mediterranean. Unless Russia is faced with an iron fist and strong language another war is in the making. Only one language do they understand: "How many divisions [fighting units] have you?" We should maintain complete control over Japan and the Pacific. We should rehabilitate [restore to effectiveness] China and create a strong central government there. We should do the same for Korea.


An extract from the October 1947 Manifesto [statement of aims and policies] of Cominform, the Communist Information Bureau that the USSR created that year.

The Truman-Marshall Plan is only one part, the European part, of a general plan of world expansion being carried out by the United States in all parts of the world. The plan for the economic and political enslavement of Europe by American imperialism is being complemented [accompanied] by plans for the economic and political enslavement of China, Indonesia and the South American countries. Yesterday's aggressors, the capitalist magnates [wealthy business leaders] of Germany and Japan, are being prepared by the United States for a new role - that of becoming a weapon of US imperialist policy in Europe and Asia [...].
Under these conditions it is essential for the anti-imperialist democratic camp to unite, to work out a co-ordinated programme of action, and evolve its own tactics against American imperialism and its British and French allies.

Cartoon published in July 1948 in Punch, a British magazine famous for its political comments and cartoons.

An extract from Russia, America and The Cold War by Martin McCauley published by Longman, London and New York, 1998. McCauley is a British historian and expert on Soviet history and politics.

Access to Soviet archives, since 1991, has thrown little light on Stalin's maladroit [clumsy] diplomacy. But they have revealed that Stalin's advisers in Germany had not anticipated the airlift and, once it was under way, thought that it would fail. The Berlin blockade made east-west relations adversarial [hostile]. [...] The Berlin blockade also promoted the establishment of NATO. West Europeans felt insecure and appealed to the Americans to retain their military presence and to guarantee the security of the region. Only the United States could do this, as it was a nuclear power. The Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine were tangible [definite] successes for west European lobbying [efforts to gain support]. It was the weakness of the region which led to the Americans playing a vital role in the economic development and security. The Marshall Plan kick-started the west European economies and an extraordinary growth of the region got under way. Britain obtained the largest share of Marshall Aid, but it was West Germany which benefited most, as it retooled [re-equipped] its industries.

An extract from a newspaper article in the London Daily Telegraph 22 June 1999, reviewing The Cold War: a BBC documentary series of 24 television programmes covering the Cold War through films and photographs and first released in 1999.

'The Cold War' has received mainly favourable reviews in Britain, but has been criticised in America for suggesting a moral equivalence between the Soviet Union and the West. According to one critic, the programme insults those who paid with their lives for opposing Soviet tyranny and 'turns good into evil and evil into good' [...].
The ideological origins of the Cold War - which sprang from historical determinism and the Marxists' enthusiastic embrace of revolutionary violence as a means of giving history a helping hand - are dealt with in the programme by a single sentence [...].
Marshall is depicted as lacking experience and understanding. The Marshall Plan and aid package (in Churchill's phrase, "the least selfish act of statesmanship in history") helped lay the foundations of post-war European recovery and undoubtedly played a part in halting the spread of communism in Europe. But the programme narrator is more impressed by the fact that the Marshall Plan "created a consumer society and linked Europe to American trade and capital". As a consequence, the Soviet Union "was forced to build a rival bloc".

1 (a) What criticisms of 'The Cold War' television series can be found in Document E?
1 (b) What political message is intended by Document C?

2. Explain the different interpretations of the Marshall Plan to be found in Documents B, D and E.

3. With reference to their origin and purpose assess the value and limitations of Documents A and D, for historians studying the Cold War.

4. Using the documents and your own knowledge, explain why there was continuing tension between the US and the Soviet Union in the period 1945 to 1950.

 Timed student example response (click to enlarge)

November 2001
These documents relate to the Berlin Crisis of 1961.

An extract from The USA and the Cold War, by Oliver Edwards, London, 1997.

In June 1961 Kennedy and Khrushchev held a summit in Vienna. The Soviet leader was a difficult adversary [opponent] ... Kennedy suspected that Khrushchev would try to exploit his relative inexperience in foreign affairs ... One of the key issues at the summit was the future of Berlin. Since 1958 Khrushchev had been seeking a new Berlin settlement and he now reopened the issue. He told Kennedy that unless Western forces withdraw from the city, the Soviet Union would conclude a separate peace treaty with East Germany. Such a treaty would terminate the post war rights of the Western powers in Berlin and allow East Germany to close off the air, road and rail corridors to West Berlin ... Berlin represented a chink [gap] in the iron curtain. Many Germans were exploiting the freedom of movement between the eastern and western sectors of the city permitted by post war agreements ... In particular, the haemorrhage [great loss] of skilled labour was hurting the East German economy and Khrushchev wanted to halt the damaging exodus of refugees. Kennedy's response to Khrushchev's threat was unyielding. He stated that the presence of western troops in Berlin was non-negotiable.


Extract of Kennedy's report to the nation on Berlin, July 25, 1961. Speeches by John F. Kennedy: the Berlin Crisis.

Seven weeks ago tonight I returned from Europe to report on my meeting with premier Khrushchev and the others ... In Berlin, as you recall, he intends to bring to an end, through a stroke of the pen, first to our legal rights to be in West Berlin and secondly our ability to make good on our commitment to the two million free people in that city. That we cannot permit ... The immediate threat to free men is in West Berlin. But that isolated post is not an isolated problem. The threat is worldwide ... We face a challenge in Berlin, but there is also a challenge in Southeast Asia, where the borders are less guarded, the enemy harder to find, and the danger of communism less apparent to those who have so little. We face a challenge in our own hemisphere and indeed wherever else the freedom of human rights is at stake. Let me remind you that the fortunes of war and diplomacy left the free people of West Berlin in 1945 110 miles behind the Iron Curtain ... Thus our presence in West Berlin, and our access thereto, cannot be ended by any act of the Soviet government. The NATO shield was long ago extended to cover West Berlin, and we have given our word that an attack on that city will be regarded as an attack upon us all.

An American cartoon by Don Write Reprinted from the permission of: Tribune Media Services, New York 1991.

"See How Many are Staying on Our Side."
The main character in the cartoon is Khrushchev. Sign reads: BERLIN WALL ERECTED AUG 13, 1961


An extract from Khrushchev's memoirs in Khrushchev Remembers: The Last Testament, translated by Strobe Talbott, Boston, 1974.

The establishment of border control straightened things out at once. Discipline in East Germany increased. Plants began working better. So did collective farms. Comrade Ulbritch informed us that there were immediate improvements in the economy of the GDR. The population of West Berlin had been shopping for food in East Berlin, taking advantage of lower prices there. Thus, the West Berlinners had been devaluating the East German mark, placing a heavy burden on the shoulders of the GDR's peasants and workers, and therefore extracting political as well as economic gains from the situation. Once we established border control, we put an end to the business... I would say that we didn't achieve the same sort of moral victory that a peace treaty would have represented, but on the other hand we probably received more material gains without a peace treaty. If the west had agreed to sign a treaty, it would have meant concessions in our side particularly with regard to the movement of people across the borders.

An extract of Kennedy's comments quoted in The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev 1960-1961, by Michael Beschloss, Harper Collins Publishers, 1991.

For eight days after the border was closed and as the barbed wire fence was replaced by a concrete wall, Kennedy did not say a word in public about what was happening in Berlin. Nor did he allow any statement on the subject to be issued in his name ... Privately Kennedy told his aides "Why would Khrushchev put up a wall if he really intended to seize west Berlin? There wouldnít be any need of the wall if he occupied the whole city. This is his way out of his predicament. It is not a very nice solution, but a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war."

1. (a) According to Document A what can be inferred about the tone of the
(b) What political message is intended in Document C?

2. Compare and contrast the views expressed in Documents B and E.
3. With reference to their origin and purpose, assess the value and limitations of
Documents D and E, for historians studying the Cold War.
4. Using these documents and your own knowledge assess the effects of the Berlin Crisis of 1961 on the development of the Cold War.

November 2001 (timezone 2)

These documents relate to the Suez Crisis of 1956.


The USA and the Cold War. Oliver Edwards, Hodder & Stoughton: London, 1997.

Egypt was the scene of the greatest Cold War Crisis in the Middle East under Eisenhower. The Egyptian leader was President Nasser. He was a reformer, a moderniser and above all a nationalist. His ultimate ambition was a pan-Arab coalition of states under the leadership of Egypt. The construction of the Aswan Dam on the River Nile was part of his programme of economic modernisation. The project would generate hydroelectric power and reclaim cotton-growing land.


A Cartoon History of United States Foreign Policy. Nancy King et al. Pharos Books: New York, 1991. Thiele in the Los Angeles Mirror-News.

“Cross My Palms with Silver.”


Extract from Withdrawal of US Support for Aswan Dam Project, 19 July 1956. The Cold War: A history through documents. Edward H Judge and John W Landgon. Prentice Hall: New Jersey, 1999.

At the request of the government of Egypt, the United States joined in December 1955 with the United Kingdom and with the World Bank in an offer to assist Egypt in the construction of a high dam on the Nile at Aswan. This project is one of great magnitude. It would require an estimated 12 to 16 years to complete at a total cost estimated at some $1,300,000,000, of which over $900,000,000 represents local currency requirements. It involves not merely the rights and interests of Egypt but of other states whose waters are contributory, including Sudan, Ethiopia, and Uganda [...].

Developments within the succeeding 7 months have not been favourable to the success of the project, and the US Government has concluded that it is not feasible in the present circumstances to participate in the project. Agreement by the riparian [situated on the bank of the water] states has not been achieved, and the ability of Egypt to devote adequate resources to assure the project’s success has become more uncertain than at the time the offer was made.

This decision to withdraw American aid for the project in no way reflects or involves any alteration in the friendly relations of the government and people of the United States toward the government and people of Egypt [...].


Extract from a speech by President Nasser, 28 July 1956. The Arab-Israeli Conflict. Ian J Bickerton and M N Pearson. Longman, 1986.

The Suez Canal Company is an Egyptian Company, subject to Egyptian sovereignty. When we nationalised the Suez Canal Company, we only nationalised an Egyptian limited company and by doing so we exercised a right which stems from the very core of Egyptian sovereignty. What right has Britain to interfere in our internal affairs? [...]

Compatriots, we shall maintain our independence and sovereignty. The Suez Canal Company has become our property, and the Egyptian flag flies over it. We shall hold it with our blood and strength, and we shall meet aggression with aggression and evil with evil. We shall proceed towards achieving dignity and prestige for Egypt and building a sound national economy and true freedom. Peace be with you.

Eisenhower, Soldier and President. Stephen E Ambrose. Simon & Schuster, 1984.

On July 27 [1956] he [British Prime Minister Anthony Eden] sent a cable to Eisenhower, arguing that the West could not allow Nasser to seize Suez and get away with it. They must act at once, together, or American and British influence throughout the Middle East would be “irretrievably undermined.” He [Eden] said that the interests of all maritime nations were at stake, because the Egyptians did not have the technical competence to run the canal. Eden said was preparing military plans. He said the West must be ready, as a last resort, to “bring Nasser to his senses by force.

1. (a) According to Document A what can be inferred about the author’s perception of Nasser?

(b) What political message is intended in Document B?

2. Compare the views offered by Documents A, B, and E. How far do they support similar views?

3. For historians studying the Suez Crisis, how reliable are Documents C and D?

4. Using these documents and your own knowledge, discuss the causes of the

Suez Crisis.

May 2002

These documents relate to developments in the Cold War in the early 1950s. 
An extract from the memoirs of Dean Acheson, US Secretary of State 1949-1953, New York 1969.

Monday June 26th 1950
In response to the President's request for suggestions I recommended that:

- The Air Force and Navy should give all-out support to the Korean forces, for the time being confining their efforts to the south of the 38th parallel.
- The Seventh Fleet should be ordered to prevent an attack on Formosa (Taiwan) and the Nationalists told not to attack the mainland...

- Aid to Indo-China should be increased and we should propose to the French that we need a strong military mission.
- At the Security Council meeting called for the next day we should propose a new resolution calling on UN members to give Korea such help as might be needed to repel the armed attack and restore peace in the area. If Malik [USSR representative in the UN] returned to the Security Council and vetoed the resolution we should have to carry on under the existing one [calling for withdrawal to the 38th parallel]. If he did not return, it would pass without opposition. 

Cartoon by David Low in the Evening Standard, a London newspaper, July 1950. [The person holding the hand of the United Nations is President Truman.]

Into Action
In memory of the League of Nations. Died of lack of exercise facing wanton aggression.

An extract from History of the United States of America by Hugh Brogan, London and New York 1985.

It is difficult to recapture the atmosphere of the late 1940s, when it seemed self-evident to Washington that Stalin controlled a monolithic [massive] movement. ... The invasion of South Korea by North Korea on 25 June 1950 was automatically seen as a deliberate test of Western wills. It was assumed, whether correctly or not may never be known (since it is hard to foresee the day when the Soviet and North Korean archives will be opened), that the North Koreans would never have dared to act without the express authorization, indeed orders, of Stalin. The Chinese communists were discounted [disregarded]: they too were supposed to be mere tools of the Kremlin. This was the moment long awaited, long feared. If Stalin were allowed to succeed, the United States would be shamed for ever; worse, the security of Japan and the entire western Pacific would be threatened. Stalin might even be sufficiently encouraged by Western inaction to attempt some feat in Europe. So the line had to be drawn here, now.

An extract from Khrushchev Remembers by Nikita Khrushchev, Boston 1971. 
The North Koreans wanted to give a helping hand to their brethren who were under the heel of Syngman Rhee. Stalin persuaded Kim Il-sung (Kim Song-ju) to think it over. Kim returned to Moscow when he had worked everything out. [...] Stalin had his doubts. He was worried that the Americans would jump in, but we were inclined to think that if the war were fought swiftly and Kim Il-sung was sure it could be won swiftly then intervention by the USA could be avoided.
Nevertheless Stalin decided to ask Mao Zedong's (Mao Tse-tung's) opinion about Kim Il-sung's suggestion. I must stress it wasn't Stalin's idea, but Kim Il-sung's. Kim was the initiator. Stalin, of course, didn't try to dissuade him. [...] Mao Zedong also answered him affirmatively. He approved Kim Il-sung's suggestion and put forward the opinion that the USA would not intervene since the war would be an internal matter which the Korean people would decide for themselves.


An extract from Russia, America and the Cold War 1949-1991 by Martin McCauley, London and New York 1998.

In June 1950, there were further communist advances in Asia, as North Korea invaded South Korea, and in Vietnam the communists went on the offensive against the French and defeated them finally at Diem Bien Phu in 1954.
The death of Stalin in March 1953 and the election of President Eisenhower, committed to ending the Korean War, signalled a phase of negotiation between east and west and the ending of Cold War One. Moscow had already launched the doctrine of peaceful co-existence in 1952, following the successful explosion of its atomic bomb. War ceased to be inevitable because it was so destructive. The Russians toyed with the concept of a united, neutral Germany, but this was opposed by West Germany and France. An armistice was signed in Korea in July 1953, and a ceasefire in Indo-China in 1954. A new mood of optimism was abroad, and negotiations between east and west were held in 1954 and 1955, the first since 1947, covering Austria, Korea and Indo-China. ... The optimism soon lapsed, however.

1. (a) What does Document A reveal about the US naval response proposed by
Acheson immediately following North Korea's invasion of South Korea? 

(b) What message is portrayed by Document B?

2. Compare and contrast the accounts of the invasion of South Korea given in Documents C and D.

3. With reference to their origin and purpose, assess the value and limitations of Documents A and C for historians studying the outbreak of the Korean War.

4. Using these documents and your own knowledge, how far do you agree with the judgment, "The Korean War transformed the Cold War"?
In-class student example under test conditions (click to enlarge):


November 2002

These documents relate to the Cold War in the early 1960s.

An extract from President Kennedy's comments to a reporter after his meeting with Khrushchev in Vienna, June 1961. The comments are reported in The Glory and the Dream by William Manchester, London 1975.

I've got two problems. First, to figure out why Khrushchev acted in such a hostile way. And second, to figure out what we can do ab5out it. I think the first part is pretty easy to explain. I think he did it because of the Bay of Pigs. I think he thought that anyone who was so young and inexperienced as to get into a mess like that could be taken in [tricked], and anyone who got into it, and didn't see it through, had no guts [courage and determination]. So he just beat hell out of me. So I've got a terrible problem. If he thinks I'm inexperienced and have no guts, we won't get anywhere with him until we remove those ideas.

Estimates of US and Soviet Strategic weapons made by Western experts and reported in The Cuban Missile Crisis by Robert Beggs, London 1971. 
 Ballistic missiles are initially powered and guided but fall under gravity on their target.

An extract from Khrushchev Remembers, Nikita Khrushchev's memoirs, edited and translated by Strobe Talbot, Boston 1971.

I will explain what the Caribbean crisis of October 1962 was all about. After Castroís crushing victory over the counter-revolutionaries [the Bay of Pigs fiasco] we intensified our military aid to Cuba. [...] We had to establish an effective deterrent to American interference in the Caribbean. The logical answer was missiles. I had the idea of installing missiles with nuclear warheads in Cuba without letting the United States find out they were there until it was too late to do anything about them. [...] We had no desire to start a war.

An extract from Kennedy by Theodore C Sorenson, New York 1965. Sorenson was Special Counsel [advisor] to President Kennedy and a member of ExComm [the committee that helped make policy decisions during the Cuban Missile Crisis].

The bulk of ExComm time Tuesday through Friday [16-19 October 1962] was spent canvassing [debating] all the possible courses of action as the President had requested. Initially the possibilities seemed to divide into six categories, some of which could be combined:

- Do nothing.
- Bring diplomatic pressures and warnings to bear upon the Soviets. Possible forms
included an appeal to the UN or OAS [Organisation of American States] for an inspection
team, or a direct approach to Khrushchev, possibly at a summit conference [...]

- Undertake a secret approach to Castro, to use this means of splitting him off from the Soviets, to warn him that the alternative was his island's downfall and that the Soviets
were selling him out.

- Initiate indirect military action by means of a blockade, possibly accompanied by aerial
surveillance and warnings. Many types of blockades were considered.

- Conduct an air strike - pinpointed against the missiles only or against other military
targets, with or without advance warning.

- Launch an invasion - or, as one chief advocate of this course put it: "Go in there and take
ba away from Castro."


An extract from the proclamation by President Kennedy of a blockade of Cuba, 23 October 1962.

Whereas the peace of the world and the security of the United States and of all American states are endangered by reason of the establishment by the Sino-Soviet powers of an offensive military capability in Cuba, including bases for ballistic missiles with a potential range covering most of North and South America[...]

I, John F Kennedy, President of the United States of America do hereby proclaim that the forces under my command are ordered beginning at 2pm Greenwich Time 24th October 1962, to interdict [prohibit and stop] the delivery of offensive weapons and associated materials to Cuba.

To enforce the order, the Secretary of Defence shall take appropriate measures to prevent the delivery of prohibited material to Cuba, employing the land, sea and air strikes of the United States [...]

Any vessel or craft which may be proceeding toward Cuba may be intercepted and may be directed to identify itself, its cargo, equipment and stores and its ports of call, to stop, wait, submit to visit and search, or to proceed as directed. Any vessel or craft which fails or refuses to respond or to comply with directions shall be subjected to being taken into custody.

9 (a) Why according to Document A was Khrushchev so hostile to Kennedy when they met in Vienna in 1961?  [2 marks]

(b) What can be learnt from Document B regarding the comparative military strengths of the USA and USSR?  [2 marks]

10. Compare and contrast the views of Soviet missile policy given in Documents B, C and E. [5 marks]

11. With reference to their origin and purpose, assess the value and limitations of Documents D and E for historians studying the Cuban Missile Crisis. [5 marks]

12. Using the documents and your own knowledge, assess the extent to which Khrushchev successfully exploited President Kennedy's inexperience in the first two years of his presidency (1961-2). [6 marks]