1956 – Khrushchev delivers his secret speech (Jamie Shea’s History Class)

Well, good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I’m very pleased and relieved to see you back
here this week. Every time I have to give a lecture on history,
I feel like the seventh husband of the Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida, who once said on
their wedding night: “I know what I have to do, but I don’t know if I could make it
interesting.” So I’ll try to make it interesting. This whole series, as you know, is really
about how NATO became NATO. But this week, when we talk about the 1950s,
really does focus on that particular issue: How did we go from being an alliance to an
organisation? How did we go from being a treaty to a bureaucracy? How did we put the ‘N’ if you like or
at least the ‘O’ word rather ‘organisation’, into the word NATO? The Duke of Wellington, after the Battle of
Waterloo in 1815, said that it had been “a damn close run thing.” And what I tried to tell you last week in
the first lecture on the birth of NATO was that there was nothing automatic or natural
about the Alliance. The Americans, just to recall, hesitated right
up until the last minute. Some were worried that NATO would represent
a return to balance-of-power diplomacy and would bury once for all the dream of Franklin
Roosevelt of a security organisation after World War Two based on the UN Charter, based
on what he called the four policemen. And that included not only Nationalist China
but also the Soviet Union. Indeed, if you look at the NATO Treaty (i.e.
the Washington Treaty), there are no fewer than nine references to the United Nations
in just 14 articles of the Treaty. So conscious were the drafters of the Treaty
to try to please the Senate by putting as many references as they could to link NATO
as closely as possible to the UN, to show it as part of the system, rather than as an
alternative to the system. We saw also that there were many people in
the American military who also didn’t like the idea at a time when Harry Truman was compressing
the US defence budgets after World War Two. They didn’t like the idea that a lot of their
military toys or tools would be shipped off to the Europeans who were not making what
they considered to be an adequate effort to look after themselves. Indeed, the Washington Treaty sailed through
Congress quite smoothly – 83 to 13 – at the end of the day. But the thing that really proved difficult
and took well over a year was the passage of the Mutual Defence Assistance Programme. Immediately, the NATO Treaty was signed. The Europeans, predictably, came in with a
massive request for American armaments to the tune of $1.45 billion of US expenditure. Now today $1.45 billion seems to be used up
every minute in the global financial crisis. But back in 1949, it was a good deal of money. And Congress was much more reluctant to pass
that money than to approve the Washington Treaty. There was a sense in Congress, well wait a
minute we thought this Treaty by giving a guarantee to the Europeans would actually
give them the motivation to help themselves. But what we see instead is that the Europeans
were just waiting for the Treaty to be signed as an excuse to come forward with what they
really want, which is American material aid. In fact, Dean Acheson, the Secretary of State,
when he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Treaty was asked:
“Mister Secretary, if we sign this Washington Treaty, does it mean that our boys go back
to Europe?” But Acheson gave, I quote, an absolute and
categorical “no”. Of course, a couple of years later, as we’re
about to see, the US had tens of thousands of troops in Europe. And I’m not saying that Acheson lied. Of course not. That was the assumption at the time. But had he said yes, it was far less likely
that the Washington Treaty would have passed. But we also saw, ladies and gentlemen, the
French also had hesitations. The French were not really looking for a guarantee
against the Soviet Union. They were looking for a guarantee against
Germany. Indeed, supporters of the Treaty in France
spoke of double containment: containment of Russia, Soviet Union but also containment
of Germany too. Indeed, the first Secretary General of NATO,
Lord Hastings Ismay of the United Kingdom, was once asked by a journalist what the role
of NATO was. And he said, “Oh, it’s very easy. It’s to keep the Americans in, the Russians
out and the Germans down.” The French in 1950 at least, maybe not today,
would have approved of that statement. We also saw there were hesitations in many
countries invited to join. Sweden was invited, but ultimately refused
having tried unsuccessfully to put together its own Scandinavian alliance. So there was nothing automatic about NATO. But we also saw that Stalin helped things
along so much so that the second Secretary General of NATO, Paul-Henri Spaak the Belgian,
said in the early 50s that every European village would erect a statue to Stalin in
gratitude because had he not had such a paranoid view of security after World War Two, then
nobody would ever had the courage to put together an Atlantic alliance. Indeed, the great disillusionment was that
the Soviets after the Second World War decided that their security lay in territorial acquisition
and expansion and in a strong balance of power. By 1949, they had already acquired their own
nuclear device. In fact, Stalin once told the Yugoslav later
dissident Miloslav Diaz that he who holds territory will impose his social system upon
it. It cannot be otherwise. Although to give him credit, Stalin at least
later confessed that trying to impose communism on Poland was like trying to put a saddle
on a cow. Indeed, the Soviet nuclear tests in 1949 were
the single most important thing in finally persuading the reluctant Congress to pass
this military defence assistance programme which gave the Europeans their $1.5 billion. So we saw last time that the Treaty was a
kind of combination of principle but also compromise. I don’t often quote Karl Marx. But he nonetheless does it from time to time
has some good insights. He once wrote and I quote, “Men make history
but…” Let me start again. “Men make their own history, but they do
not make it just as they please. They do not make it under circumstances chosen
by themselves, but under circumstances directly found, given and transmitted from the past.” As I mentioned last week, I think the Treaty
was a fine exercise in how a very skilful group of diplomats who came up against the
initial opposition to a NATO Treaty used events like the Berlin blockade, the Czech coup d’état
in February 1948, the Soviet testing of its first atomic device in 1949 to get round the
obstacles and gradually get a majority. But there was once an Italian Prime Minister,
the first Prime Minister of Italy in 1861 d’Azeglio, who once famously said, “We have
made Italy, but now it is our task to make the Italians.” And I was reminded of this phrase when I was
thinking of NATO in the early 50s. That the Treaty had … in fact it’s the other
way around. The Treaty had made the Allies. But the Treaty had not made NATO. NATO at the very beginning was a rather puny
affair. We had a watered-down Article 5 at the insistence
of the Americans. There were simply two US low-readiness occupation
divisions on sentry duty in Germany. There was no organisation, no SACEUR, no SHAPE,
no headquarters, no Secretary General. The only thing was a North Atlantic Council,
which met pretty infrequently and believe or not, in London. The first home of NATO was in London, not
Paris. That came later. And there were some planning boards. At one stage five regional planning boards
to coordinate defence requirements. But the US military, again very reluctant
about NATO, only participated in three of them, even at the best of the times. Indeed, most of the NATO scope was not Article
5 the collective defence agreement, but Article 3 – the part of the Treaty which said that
we all had to give assistance to each other in terms of our defence. And that was basically a wrangle between how
much money could be squeezed out of the reluctant Pentagon and how reluctant the Europeans would
be, in return for that money, to give the United States bases and facilities in Europe. But if we sort of just wind the clock forward
ladies and gentlemen, just five years later, what do we see? Six US divisions in Europe, over 100,000 men,
a Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe under the prestigious war hero General Eisenhower
at SHAPE, a NATO plan at the Lisbon Conference in 1952 to have –wait for it – 96 divisions
in Europe to guard against what was perceived at the time to be between 175 and 300 Soviet
divisions, hundreds of American nuclear weapons in Europe, beginning with the dispatch of
B-29 bombers, nuclear-capable bombers, to the United Kingdom in 1949. NATO had expanded from 12 to 15 members. Greece and Turkey joined in 1952. And West Germany became part of the Alliance
finally in 1955. Indeed, the Western Union, we spoke about
that last time, the embryonic European self-help defence organisation, had transferred most
of its functions to NATO. NATO had moved from London to Paris with a
Secretary General, bureaucrats like me, my ancestors, on the International Staff and
the whole paraphernalia of a modern international organisation. Plus, we had gained an adversary – at least
if you like a more numerous, better organised one – because in 1955, largely in reaction
to West Germany coming into NATO, the Soviet Union had set up its kind of alternative structure
called the Warsaw Treaty Association or the Warsaw Pact. So question for today is how do we explain
this sort of massive transformation in such a short space of time from an organisation
which the Americans were reluctant about to an organisation where the United States was,
by far, the dominant partner with a massive presence, both nuclear and conventional, on
the territory of Europe, and a NATO which originally was designed to last for 10 years,
then 20, having become a permanent feature of modern European history? How do we explain this? Well there is a very, very simple two-word
answer. It’s called Korean War. It’s the ultimate paradox that we owe this
organisation in Europe to a war thousands of miles away in Asia. It was the Korean War which broke out in June
1950 that changed everything. Later on, the Counsellor to the US State Department,
Charles Bohlen, who was not a particular friend of NATO at the beginning, said that it was
the Korean War, not World War Two that made the United States into a global military political
power. Historians doubt today, ladies and gentlemen,
to what degree Stalin was really behind the decision of Kim Il-sung, the leader of North
Korea, to invade the South in 1950. Although it does seem clear from all of the
archives that I have accessed that Stalin knew about it and at least didn’t say no,
if he didn’t explicitly say yes. But still, Stalin was rather hesitant in the
late 1940s to confront the United States. He told the Yugoslavs not to make trouble
over Trieste, the disputed border town with Italy, because Russia, the Soviet Union, as
he said, was still recovering from World War Two and I quote “We are not yet ready for
World War Three.” Stalin also had been if not a gentleman at
least kept his word when in 1944 he did a deal with Churchill whereby they split up
the Balkans into zones of influence. Greece was given to the UK. And Stalin, despite the pressures from the
very strong Greek Communist Party, kept his word on that as well. But nonetheless, no matter how much the Soviet
Union was responsible for the Korean War, there’s no doubt in the impact it had. Truman said that if this invasion of South
Korea by North Korea, if this invasion goes unchallenged, it would mean World War Three. In the United States, it set off a storm. A very famous document came out of the Policy
Planning staff of the State Department. This time not headed by George Cannon but
by Paul Nitze called NSC-68, which is one of the most fundamental of all Cold War documents. A nightmare scenario of a rampant Soviet Union
which would be pushing for more expansion, testing all of the weak spots against the
United States and which could only be opposed by a massive build-up in US defence spending
and forces. And indeed after the Korean War, Paul Nitze
got his way. Truman increased the US defence budget from
a puny $13 billion all the way up to $60 billion and created what Eisenhower later on at the
end of his presidency condemned as the military industrial complex. It also gave rise to the domino theory in
the United States, which of course was popularised under Secretary of State John Foster Dulles
in the 50s. The idea that if the United States did not
resist as far as forward, then rather a rotten apple in a barrel of healthy apples, the rotten
apple would finally contaminate all of the healthy ones in due course. Part of this fear of the Korean War was also
the fact that China had gone to communism in 1949. There was hysteria in Washington. Joe McCarthy, the famous Senator, who set
off the McCarthyist witch hunt, accused the Truman administration of literally losing
China. And if you know the position of Acheson and
Truman in terms of standing up to the Soviet Union, you can image how extreme McCarthy
must have been if he accused them of laxism or being soft. So Truman was under tremendous domestic pressure
to resist. Now, why is this important for NATO? I know what you are going to say. Well, because at the time, so convinced were
the Americans that the Soviet Union was behind the Korean War that they immediately decided
that if the Soviets were testing a divided state in Asia, divided between a Communist
part and sort of, you can’t really call it democratic, especially not under Syngman
Rhee who was in many respects if not just as dictatorial as Kim Il-sung at least was
hardly a democrat, but at least a kind of western entity. That if that was the case in Korea, look at
Germany, exactly the same – a state divided between two different social systems. And the pressure would be on. So, the Americans did something which made
the French have sleepless nights. 1950, just following the outbreak of the Korean
War, Dean Acheson got together with the French Foreign Minister and the British Foreign Minister
in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. This was an episode that became known as the
‘bomb at the Waldorf.’ The bomb was not a real bomb. Too many of those unfortunately go off today. This was more of a diplomatic bomb. Acheson said, “We have got to have German
troops. The American taxpayer will simply not accept
that the Americans have to defend Germany without the participation of West German troops.” The West German leader, Konrad Adenauer, saw
in this both a risk and an opportunity. Adenauer, der Alter as he was called, was
the mayor of Cologne who had been a resistant to Hitler. He didn’t like Berlin. He felt that Berlin stood for social democracy
as much as the Prussian military tradition. It was later said about Adenauer that he was
quite happy to accept the division of Germany because it meant that the social democrats
could never really govern the place as their support was mainly in the industrial East. And the Christian Democrats, the Rhine landers,
the Catholic Rhine landers would have an automatic majority. To some degree it was true. The Socialists, the Social Democrats could
not capture power in Germany before 1968, almost 20 years after the creation of the
Bundesrepublik in 1949. And so Adenauer saw in the plan of the American
for German forces immediately a chance for Germany to regain respectability after World
War Two and to integrate into the Western democratic system not as a pariah, not as
a defeated country but as a fully-fledged partner which in exchange for providing troops
to the Alliance would regain its sovereignty. The Allies would lift all of the controls
that they’ve had after World War Two on Germany. And if the postponement of reunification was
the price that had to be paid, so well be it. Adenauer had what became known as the magnet
policy, a sense that when we reunite, it will be the East joining the West, and not some
kind of merger of two different systems in a neutral Germany. Of course, Adenauer did not live to see the
fall of the Berlin Wall on the night of November 1989. But its prediction proved true. On the other hand though, Adenauer was a bit
worried because as somebody who was profoundly suspicious of the German – or rather the
Prussian, let’s be more accurate, military’s tradition – he didn’t really want to see
a massive German Army, which would put massive strain on the at the time weak German economy. In fact, he just wanted a sort of glorified
Volkspolizei, a police force. Now, this is important, ladies and gentlemen,
because the French, of course, had this terrible problem. They went into NATO because of the double
containment. And here, just a few years later, the thing
that they went into NATO to prevent is happening: the resurrection of a German Army. The Americans told the French, we’ll come
up with something. They then came up with one of the most imaginative
ideas in the history of European integration, which the European Union has never quite managed
to resurrect. It was called the Pleven Plan named after
the French Prime Minister, René Pleven, which essentially said let us have a European Defence
Community. In other words, let us have a European army
where the Germans will be integrated. The good news, of course, for the French in
this plan was that the Germans would be integrated only at the level of companies, so no German
generals, no German general staff. It would be, if you like, German man power
but not German leadership. Of course, this is why Adenauer didn’t particularly
like the idea. He said, “You want us for cannon-fodder;
but for little else.” The Americans, though, did not want to upset
the French. The Korean War had also shown that there was
a danger of communist penetration into French Indochina. And so instead of trying to get the French
out of Indochina as part of the post-war decolonisation policy, the Truman Administration was now
giving arms and weapons to the French to help them hang on, which they unfortunately were
not able to do for very long because they were beaten by Ho Chi Minh at Dien Bien Phu
in 1954. But at least not to upset the French, not
to get the French out of NATO was the reason why the Americans went along with the EDC. EDC, why is it revolutionary? Ladies and gentlemen, it was not just the
European army. There would have been a European minister
of defence and there would have been a European high authority to give the direction. In other words, we would have had European
political union in the early 1950s without waiting for the Lisbon Treaty, or even the
Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty. It would have been game, set and match right
from the very beginning, which of course is a reason why the British refused to join the
EDC. And of course, it didn’t help the French that
they were left alone with the Germans in the European Defence Community without the British,
let alone the Americans joining in. It all came to grief. Sometimes, grandiose projects do. In August 1954, a combination of Communists
and Gaullists sharing one thing in common – nationalism – threw the Treaty out of
the Assemblée Nationale. And it was dead. Dulles who by now, Adenauer had become president,
Dulles the Secretary of State, Dulles threatened the Europeans with an agonising reappraisal,
lovely words, an agonising reappraisal, if the French voted down the EDC. Because all America’s plans for Germans in
the broader collective security of the West depended on it. But it wasn’t such a disaster as it seemed
at the time. Anthony Eden, the British Prime Minister,
came up with the bright idea why do we not just bring the Germans into NATO instead? That’s what happened. But of course, it meant the division of Europe
being accepted on a long-term basis. And I’ll come back to this in just few moments. Once the West Germans were in NATO, protected
by the Americans and their economy took off in the ‘Wirtschaftswunder’, leaving the
East German economy far behind. The great desire of the Germans for reunification,
which had been so dominant after the war, gradually disappeared. And indeed, even Socialists who were the main
driving force behind unification, for the opposite reasons to those of Adenauer, their
conference in Bad Godesberg in 1958 accepted NATO and therefore, along with it, at least
for the time being, division of Europe. But the end of the EDC also coincided, ladies
and gentlemen, with a period of détente in Europe. In 1953, Stalin died. And believe it or not, he was succeeded by
a person called Lavrentiy Beria, who those of you who know Soviet history will know that
he was one of the most blood-thirsty leaders of the NKVD, the forerunner to the KGB that
we’ve ever seen. But sometimes people as we know who could
be a rather dictatorial at home, could be amazingly liberal abroad. Beria, in fact, came up with a plan to reunite
Germany as a capitalist state. And that frightened Khrushchev, Malenkov and
the other Soviet leaders so much, particularly when they saw uprisings in East Berlin in
1953, that they assassinated Beria and decided there and then, particularly once you had
the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and the Polish uprising in 1956 that for the Soviet Union
reform meant loss of control. Reform meant loss of control. If you started to reform, you’re immediately
faced with a situation that would go far beyond your capacity to control it in terms of the
rejection by the grassroots of the Communist system. And of course, that was the problem of the
Soviet Union, at least in Europe that went right the way up to Gorbachev who ultimately
realised in 1989 that because there was no such thing as reform and keeping control,
the best thing was to have reform and lose control. And then the Soviet imperium came to an end. But it was a period of détente on both sides. Eisenhower, when he came into power was, despite
– well not despite – sometimes because he was a former general, a fiscal conservative. He wanted to cut American soldiers in Europe,
which were very expensive, and replace them by nuclear weapons, which were considered
to be cheap. And so NATO had a policy of massive retaliation
or the ‘trip wire’ theory, which meant basically we were much weaker than the Soviet
Union, so if they attacked us, we would have no choice but to use nuclear weapons against
them. But that would mean a holocaust, so the Soviet
Union wouldn’t attack us. It was a rather risky strategy. But the reason it worked was because in the
1950s, Ladies and Gentlemen, after the death of Stalin, the threat of a Soviet attack was
rather, rather low, so you could get away with a risky strategy precisely because there
was very little chance that you would be called upon to use it. The 50s were a period of détente. The Austrian State Treaty in 1955 saw the
Soviet Union, contrary to everything that Stalin had preached, actually leaving the
territory of Austria, which in return accepted a status of neutrality. Soviet forces also withdrew in that year from
parts of Finland. So détente was in the air. So the question, of course, that we need to
ask ourselves is why at the time did it not ultimately work? Could we have ended the Cold War already in
the 50s? Could NATO have sort of gone out of business
almost as rapidly as it had been created? Because of course NATO at the end of the day
was an alliance about the fate of Germany, clearly, at least during the Cold War. It may be different today. So NATO only made sense to the extent that
neither side could accept a united Germany. The West could not accept a united Germany
because they’re worried it would be neutral under Soviet domination. The Soviet Union could not accept a united
Germany if it were capitalist because it would come under the West. And whoever therefore controlled Germany would
achieve the balance of power in Europe. Neither side were prepared to take the risk
on a united Germany. And therefore both sides stuck to their alliance
system. In fact, it became comfortable. When I was at university – I won’t give
you a date, but it is somewhere between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance – I had
an American diplomat as a professor called Anton DePorte and he wrote the classical book
called Europe Between the Superpowers, which said at the end of the day it’s not such a
bad solution, the division of Europe. On the one hand, you know, you have two equal
blocs. So there’s a comfortable balance of power. The Soviet Union has put a lid on lots of
nationalist movements in Eastern Europe that have always been disruptive in European history. He quoted François Mauriac, a famous French
writer, who once said “I love Germany so much I’m glad there are two of them.” It was a little bit of Realpolitik theory. The great Bismarck himself was once asked
“What are you going to do, Chancellor Bismarck, for the Bulgarian Christians who have been
persecuted by the Ottomans in the 1870s?” And Bismarck said “I pray for them in my
dreams, but they do not form the substance of my policy.” And there were echoes of that in 1956 when
the Soviet Union moved its tanks into Hungary to crush the Hungarian uprising. Thirty thousand Hungarians fled. Now, the date wasn’t particularly convenient. The British and the French at the time were
sending a force to Suez to seize back the Suez Canal from Nasser much to the disgust
of the Americans who realised that this action was going to cost them the Arab world. There were hopes that the Americans, at the
beginning, would try to keep the Arab world not just for oil, but also out of the Soviet
sphere of influence. And this was the last thing the Americans
wanted to do for the British and the French to move against the popular Arab leader like
Nasser. But it did take our eye off the ball when
the Soviets went into Hungary. Now this was the end of the Rollback theory. John Foster Dulles, the American Secretary
of State, had been very much associated with this idea of a Rollback theory that we would
sort of actively try to push the Soviets back. It became quite clear though that after 1956
détente in Europe essentially meant that both sides were content to live and let live. On the Western side we had our NATO. We had very soon afterwards the Treaty of
Rome and the EEC. We had our OECD. We had our Council of Europe. We had our Western financial institutions. And on the Soviet side, they had the Warsaw
Pact. They had the Comecon, the Council for Mutual
Economic Assistance. They had the Cominform, the successor to the
Comintern whereby they hoped to spread their influence around. Both sides, in fact, became increasingly comfortable
with this kind of arrangement. Indeed, the competition then spread away from
the military area where NATO was of course very much in the frontline, more towards the
economic area. In July 1957, Vice-President Nixon – he
was vice-president before he became president – went on a trip to the Soviet Union where
he met Khrushchev to open the famous American exhibition at the Sokolniki Park in Moscow. Of course, Khrushchev loved to talk to Nixon. He said “Whether you like it or not” – this
is Khrushchev – “history is on our side. We will bury you.” Nixon opening this exhibition proceeded to
demonstrate the highlight for the Soviet visitors which was the old mods convenience kitchen,
complete with dishwasher, electric cooker and the American domestic goddess’ dream:
a huge refrigerator. And Nixon declared expansively that the huge
refrigerator was because in California they have huge houses. In other words, America was superior because
of the consumer society. Khrushchev shot back “Your capitalistic
attitude towards women does not occur under Communism.” And then they had a wonderful exchange which
I like to quote for you. Khrushchev to Nixon: “How long has America
existed? Three hundred years?” Nixon: “One hundred and fifty years.” Khrushchev: “One hundred and fifty years? Well then, we will say: America has been in
existence for 150 years and this is the level that she has reached. We, the Soviet Union, have existed not quite
42 years. And in another seven years we will be on the
same level as America. When we catch you up in passing you by, we
will wave to you.” Of course, it was all bluff. And it was all bluster. But in the 50s, believe it or not, the Soviet
economy did grow faster than the American economy: 3.5 % to 2.5 %. In the early days,
before the great debt crisis of the 1970s, the Soviet command economy proved quite a
useful way of resurrecting Eastern economies after World War Two. The key point I’m trying to make is that as
you had the military stalemate in Europe because of the détente system but also the interlocking
system of deterrence, the balance of power, so the competition increasingly went off to
the Third World to what Churchill once called the soft underbelly of the Western system
to Vietnam of course in the 1960s, to Africa very much in 1970s. The one place where Americans and Russians
would actually fight each other and not through proxies was in Europe. The one place where they looked at each other,
eyeball to eyeball, was in Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, where they had a very famous tank
confrontation that went on for several hours in 1961, just before the construction of the
Berlin Wall. That’s probably the closest, despite the Cuban
Missile Crisis, that they ever came to war throughout the whole period. While, on the other hand, they could fight
each other through clients and proxies, particularly in Asia and Africa, the conflict went on. And therefore, the competition became very
much which system at the end of the day would deliver the goods and outperform the other. It became an essentially economic rather than
a military contest. So to wrap up, did we therefore miss an opportunity,
somewhere between 1953 and 1958, when Khrushchev began the first great Berlin Crisis? Did we miss an opportunity to sort of end
the Cold War there and then? No, I think that ultimately there wasn’t such
an opportunity after all. Germany was not ready to end a confrontation
which ultimately, as I said, had brought it benefits. Europe, under American protection, lost interest
in Eastern Europe for quite a long time. It became the unknown continent. Australia or the United States were much more
familiar than Czechoslovakia or Poland or the Baltic States. And under American protection we then had
the ‘Wirtschaftswunder’ in Germany, “Les Trente Glorieuses” as the French called
the wonderful period of economic growth of the 50s and 60s as well. The Soviet Union having tried reform initially
when Khrushchev made his famous secret speech in February 1956 to the Twentieth Party Congress
denouncing the crimes of Stalin, the Soviet Union decided very quickly, particularly in
the wake of Hungary and East Berlin, that this was far too risky a strategy. The Soviet Union was maybe no longer prepared
to expand communism and probably began to give up the Leninist view that communism had
to either expand or go out of existence or that there was a duty of communism to expand
the benefits of the revolution as broadly as possible to something resembling a modern
equivalent of Stalin’s socialism in one country, communism in one block. But they still believed that over a period
of time that system would win through the battle of ideas and living standards if not
through force of arms. So I do not believe that the opportunity was
there in the 1950s. But there was nonetheless a consequence from
all of this. As NATO sort of ended up in sort of a comfortable
sort of status quo affair where Monday resembled Tuesday, Tuesday resembled Wednesday. You couldn’t get rid of NATO because it would
invite the Soviets to attack. But you couldn’t do anything militarily with
NATO because it would be too dangerous. We spent our time waiting to be attacked. Our job was to exist. Doing anything would have been extremely risky
and dangerous. But there were two consequences of this. The first consequence was France became restless. As the Soviet threat went down, in French
eyes, American leadership became intolerable. The fact that the European dimension, so evident
at the beginning, had completely disappeared, killed by the French but nonetheless became
intolerable. General de Gaulle came back in 1958 and immediately
started to wiggle and manoeuvre to try to push both France and the European dimension
against the Americans. It’s time to share power. Number two, as the military situation froze
into a kind of permanent but comfortable division, the question for NATO was would NATO simply
sit this out or would it try to bring about a more permanent type of détente through
arms control arrangements with the Soviet Union? That was like two prisoners in a cell, but
who know they have no choice but to sort of get on. They don’t like each other. But they’re in a cell. There’s no going away. Would both sides try to reach some kind of
an accommodation which would not take away the division of Europe, but would sort of
lessen the impact, make it more liveable, make it less hostile, particularly for the
peoples of Europe in terms of coming into contact? In other words, would the French accept NATO
when there was no longer a Soviet threat or at least a perceived one? And would NATO develop a political dimension
which meant that if NATO was not capable of fighting its way out of the division of Europe,
would NATO at least try to negotiate its way politically out of the division of Europe? That takes us to the crisis of the French
withdrawal of NATO from the NATO’s integrated command in 1966. That takes us to the great confrontations
over Berlin in the early 60s. That takes us to NATO’s desperate search for
a strategy away from nuclear deterrence that would both deter but at the same time be more
realistic and more affordable. And on that, I will stop for today. But hopefully I’ve wetted your appetite for
lecture number three. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] Questions and answers Q: Hmm, you mentioned NSC-68 which talked
a little bit about the missile gap and things like that. How much do you think that overall NSC-68
played in the creation? How much of that military industrial complex,
the economic side of that, and what it was doing for the American economy, all that investment? How much did that drives NATO’s kind of existence
at that point in time? Dr. Jamie Shea: Thank you for that. Throughout this history what we’re finding
is that people are coming up with policies which are too controversial to be implemented. And then a great historical event happens
which seems to confirm their prediction. And so they’re immediately implemented and
become the conventional wisdom. NSC-68 was written by Paul Nitze in the early
part of 1950. The Korean War did not break out until June. When Nitze presented it to Truman, Truman
ordered that it be almost all copies destroyed. It was too hot to handle because it was a
very bleak prognosis. It called for a big boost in the budget. Truman was under a lot of pressure from McCarthy
for winding down the American military, for not standing up sufficiently to the Communists. Indeed, when the Korean War broke out, the
Americans first militarily were in a hopeless position because they had only a couple of
badly equipped divisions in Japan. They had even taken their troops out of Korea
after UN-sponsored elections in 1949, before the Korean War began. So Truman saw that, if this thing leaks out,
this is going to be more juice to McCarthy to attack me with for having neglected America’s
defences. And Truman, as I also said, was a fiscal conservative. Like any Democrat he wanted to spend the money
on social programs, not on the military. Once North Korea attacked South Korea in 1950,
read by the Administration particularly as part of a Soviet-Chinese global conspiracy,
particularly as early in 1950, in February 1950, Mao Tse-tung of China had signed with
Stalin in Moscow a Soviet-Sino pact. To use a communist term, the Americans really
believed that the correlation of forces was sort of moving against us. And that they had to make a stand in Korea
to show that they were really serious, that they were really capable of standing up to
communism. So NSC-68 suddenly seemed to sort of almost
be prophetic in everything that went on. And indeed, as I say, the battle went up massively,
caution was thrown to the wind. Even the Europeans got four billion. At one stage they were begging for 1.75, or
1.5 sorry, and not getting it. The next minute, the Americans said take it
… take it … take it … to buttress forces against Germany. And indeed this was the beginning of the massive
American defence build-up. The only problem of course for the Americans
was that the cost was incredible. For example, I didn’t give these statistics
in my lectures. So thank you for asking me this question. But the cost of a P-38 Second World War aircraft
was $135,000. The cost of an F-18 in 1950 was five times
that amount. And the cost of an F-105, which is an American
airplane of about 54 – 55, was $2.2 million. So not only did you get the military industrial
complex in spending, but you’ve got this vast inflation of military prices which meant that
the American ultimately were spending more and more to get less and less. When Eisenhower came in in 1952m, he actually
also was a fiscal conservative. He introduced a programme called the “New
Look” which was designed, particularly when the Korean War came to an end, and Stalin
had died, the Korean Armistice in 1953, things started to calm down again, and of course
Eisenhower immediately – paradoxically as he was a general – but immediately he made
cuts. He introduced a programme called the “New
Look”, which as I said was very much based on the cheap option of putting lots of nuclear
weapons around the place as substitute for American forces. So, yes, it did lead to this military industrial
complex. Eisenhower felt sufficiently strongly about
this that he warned against it in his farewell address in 1960. But it also has been the case as you know
throughout American history, in the Cold War, that the thing has gone up and down like a
soufflé. Rise during the Korean War, then back down,
back up again as a result of the Berlin Crisis and the Cuban Missile Crisis, right way up
to the Vietnam War, a big dip after the Vietnam War, etc., etc. But that was the first, at least, big lift-off. Q: I’d like to ask you a huge counterfactual
question which I imagine will be totally impossible to answer. Dr. Jamie Shea: No, it won’t. Just the answer won’t be correct. Q: You know that the formation of NATO as
a large military power was pretty incidental. What do you think would have happened if it
hadn’t formed in the way that it did if the Korean War hadn’t turned out like that and
if the military structure of NATO had been fairly minimal, what Europe would look like
if that hadn’t happen? Dr. Jamie Shea: That’s a good point. What we said last week was that the Americans
became convinced that the Europeans would not be able to get back on their feet either
economically or militarily without some kind of massive American commitment and infusion
of funds. This was the Marshall Plan. This was NATO. The economic side and the military side and
afterwards one of the American negotiators, Ted Achilles, said they were two halves of
the same walnut. They went together. Because the Americans were discovering that
despite what you may think the Marshall Plan wasn’t working initially. The US was putting in the money, but the Europeans
were still having trouble cooperating on economic planning, getting their borders down, presenting
the American with a joint plan which would release the Marshall aid money. And secondly, the Americans became convinced
that if they didn’t put some kind of European security blanket in place, the Europeans would
spend money on armaments which they really should be spending on their economic recovery. Although as I said, there are always contradictions
in this because certainly the American Pentagon wanted to see the Europeans spend money on
the armaments rather than take away their armaments. But that said, the US, I think, view in the
forties was that the Soviet challenge was basically an internal one that is to say that
the Europeans lacked confidence. France, Italy had very strong Communist parties
which in fact participated in the post-war governments. In France, there was a communist-inspired
general strike in 1946. We know now that the CIA spent masses of money
in Italy helping the Christian Democrats get into power behind Alcide De Gasperi in the
1950s. There was pressure on Greece and Turkey. So, I don’t really think that the Americans,
at least before the Korean War, every really believed that Stalin was going to roll on
all the way to Calais. General Bernard Montgomery, the British Commander,
once famously said “Give the Soviet Army a good pair of boots and they’ll march all
the way to Calais.” Certainly, the Europeans tried to wind the
Americans up in order to get assistance with the view that the Soviets really meant business. This is strange because one always gets the
impression that it’s the Americans who are in the driving seat on these issues. Even Adenauer, when the Korean War broke out,
saw an opportunity politically, to convince the Americans hey, I can see that the Soviet
Union is building up an East German military force so they’re preparing to invade. I mean, whether Adenauer believed that or
not, I don’t know, but it was a good way of winding the Americans up and then helping
to get Germany into NATO. So my eight cents is that – and your question
counterfactually is a good one, it’s the right one to be asked – is that the Americans
initially did see NATO as mainly a psychological reassurance policy to give the Europeans confidence,
give them a kind of umbrella under which they can integrate, don’t overcommit militarily
because it’s not really necessary. Anyway, we’ll just discourage the Europeans
doing what they want. But as the Cold War went on, the conservative
view in the United States, the Nitze view of really seeing that the Soviet Union would
continue to exploit opportunities, that the Soviet Union after China became communist,
really believed that history was on its side, that they were on a roll, that they really
would challenge. The conservative view took over. And therefore the American acceptance of the
sort of militarization of NATO also came to prevail from about 1950 on, so there was a
slight opportunity to move in a direction you indicate, but it was snuffed out by the
Korean War. As I say, next time around we will take a
look at the 60s. We’re gradually sort of coming up to the kind
of events that your parents, if not you, yourselves, will no doubt remember. So I look forward to seeing you next time. Thank you.


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