The Role of President Kennedy and His Diplomatic Doctrine

free essayHistorians more closely study the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 than its predecessor Berlin Crisis of 1961. With all the attention that was given to Cuba, what happened in Berlin was even more decisive in the formation of the era between the end of the Second World War in 1945 and the unification of Germany and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 and 1991 respectively. The assembling of the Berlin Wall in 1961 cemented the Cold War and it became a symbol of mutual hostility. The role of President Kennedy and his diplomatic doctrine should not be underestimated in this process.

Berlin Crisis

The Soviet leader of that period Nikita Khrushchev for months led discussions with the US President John F. Kennedy to achieve for the West Berlin the status of a “free city” with long-term views of integrating it into the GDR in the Soviet zone of occupation. The Allies did not agree to this and as a result the Soviet Union abandoned the idea, limiting the appeal to the leadership of the GDR to strengthen control over the border between East and West Berlin. One should remember that the standard of living in the socialist part of the city was significantly lower than in the zone controlled by the Americans, French and English, and emigration from East Berlin intensified. Until 13 August 1961 the GDR authorities have not started to build the Berlin Wall (Schick, 1971). In fact, both the military and diplomats of all four powers governing the city (USSR, USA, Great Britain, and France) guaranteed the freedom of movement from one part of the city to another as part of the status of Berlin. Nevertheless, Nikita Khrushchev, and after him the GDR authorities, stated that the Western representatives are not allowed to enter the Eastern part of the city without appropriate checks.

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On July 25, 1961, President Kennedy listed a number of measures to improve the combat capability of the US armed forces in his speech, and on July 28 issued a statement confirming the US commitment to defend West Berlin. On August 3, 1961, the US Congress approved the allocation of additional funds for the purchase of arms and assembled 250 thousand of reservists. On August 14, the US Navy announced the delay up to one year to reserve 26 thousand officers and sailors (Schick, 1971). On August 16, 113 units of the National Guard and Reserve US were put on high alert. President Kennedy ordered to send a military contingent of 1.5 thousand people to West Berlin (Ausland, 1996). If necessary, he was ready to send additional US division there. Thus, the two sides have shown their strong positions in terms of Berlin allocation and power distribution in the city.

Kennedy Diplomatic Doctrine

Khrushchev had to take into account changes in American leadership. The old and sick, but experienced courageous figure, who knew the material and human price of war, was replaced by a young and ambitious opponent, who firmly accepted the challenge and was confident of victory (Gallagher & Duncan, 2014). This helped to identify hidden contradictions of the dynamic Soviet leader. The United States found in the person of Kennedy strength that could make the transition from the old to the new system of international relations (Blom, 2014). Now the Soviet Union was not more than the enemy that could manifest itself in any part of the world. To counter the enemy in the new environment, it took a full mobilization of all US forces and resources. Despite blunders and periods of oscillation and uncertainty, from 1961 to 1963 Kennedy achieved his goal. If on the first phase of the coexistence-race advantage was on the side of the Soviet Union, its possibilities were later limited by its internal system and have reflected the limits beyond which the USSR could not get out for the first time.

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The political decisions of Kennedy were presented in his speech on July 25, 1961, which was a response to the threat of Khrushchev (Schick, 1971). The US President said that his government has developed a number of measures to increase both conventional and nuclear weapons. He made it clear that the United States abandon peaceful political style of Eisenhower and now, even formally, will not consider itself as state that is in decline, almost resigned to the Soviet advantage. The country would not inflict the first nuclear strike (that they firmly adhered to), but the USSR should know that nuclear dominance of the United States allowed it to confront the Soviet threat. Thus, Kennedy initiated the formation of a dynamic image of the country and thus, by the end of 1962, turned Americans confidence in themselves, which undermined the panic that engulfed them after 1957.

Influence of Kennedy Doctrine on the World

Kennedy has become a stronger leader than his predecessor, less interested in compromise and negotiations. His aim was to return strength and confidence to the US citizens, and this politician has managed to do it. At the same time, the costs were high: relations with the Soviet Union became even more strained, which has also increased the gap between Eastern and Western Europe, strengthening the “iron curtain”. As a result of Berlin Crisis, the city as well as the whole country remained separated even more than two decades ago.