In the years 195562, Khrushchev was genuinely committed to peaceful coexistence.
Peaceful coexistence is the idea that the two superpowers in the world, the USSR and the USA can accept each other’s ideologies and consequentially their satellite states in the interests of peace, whether Khrushchev was entirely committed to this notion is debatable due to his ‘behind the scenes’ actions between 1955 and 1962. The Austrian state treaty of 1955 seemed to show Khrushchev’s commitment to peaceful coexistence, but his aggression after the U2 spy plane incident of 1960 and the gamble with peace over the Berlin wall in 1961 and Cuba in 1962 suggest his commitment to peaceful coexistence was not genuine, but a delay tactic until opportunities to show the USSR system was superior to capitalism arose. Khrushchev was committed to something more along the lines of ‘peaceful competition’ whereby the soviet union could gain an economic and without the need for a hot war, rather than peaceful coexistence where both global superpowers really engaged in tolerance for either ones ideologies.
When Khrushchev attained power in 1953 he advocated the deStalinization of the Soviet Union during a speech at the 20th congress of the soviet party. This political message of denouncing Stalinism seemed to advocate a new era of Soviet foreign politics based on toleration to the western bloc of capitalist countries. A political example of Khrushchev’s genuine attempts at peaceful coexistence is attending international peace conferences such as The Geneva summit in 1955 which conveys the initial attempts of bridging the gap between the fundamental ideological divisions of Soviet Russia and the United States. This may be an attempt by the Soviet Union to reduce the hostility of the Capitalist world as they were apprehensive of the foundations of MarxistLeninist Russia which they perceived plotted a Global Revolution.
However this interpretation would have been incorrect as the fundamentals of Marxism was to encourage internal bureaucratic revolutions through the working class in order to liberate themselves from oppression rather than direct military action. This may be in the military and social interest of preventing or at least reducing the possibility of Mutually assured destruction by means of Nuclear warfare which was a very strong possibility. This can be seen with the signing of the Austrian State treaty of 1955 that allowed Austria to become a neutral zone which expresses a serious attempt at diplomatic and peaceful methods by the SU. Furthermore it was these arguments that Khrushchev would use in the Geneva summit to convey the genuineness of his attempt to move away from intronational warfare from one external Socialist state into a Capitalist one, and therefore rejected this Stalinist approach that occurred with the Satellite states of Eastern Europe by invasion of the Red Army.
However on the contrary, Khrushchev maintained the satellite states as a cohesive political and economic unit that further added to the bipolar international system. This was evident with the establishment of the Warsaw Pact on 14th of May 1955 was a collective defense treaty of Communist nations within the Soviet sphere of influence. This portrays the lack of commitment to true peaceful coexistence as it meant that Khrushchev created an adversary to NATO, whilst also being militarily aggressive in order to dominate in central and eastern Europe and this can be seen with the quelling of the Hungarian Uprising in 1956 as soviet soldiers lead to the death of 2500 Hungarians and an overthrow of the government.
This shows the imperialistic nature of the Soviet Union and not of truly peaceful cohabitation by clearly dividing the world on the wider Cold War basis by intrusive political and military intervention. It seems contradictory to the previous peaceful concessions made by the Soviet Union at the Geneva Summit and this shows how the Soviet Union were still trying to maintain an advantage over the Capitalist world rather than accepting a diplomatic change. This can be deduced as an attempt to build on Soviet power whilst also trying to repress American power through far less than peaceful methods.
Furthermore tension was at it’s highest following the military actions of the Soviet Union prior to the Cuban Missile in 1962. For example Khrushchev created a physical and metaphorical barrier that divided Eastern and West germany yet also divided the Capitalist and Communist worlds. This was evident with the erection of the Berlin Wall on 13th August 1961. This was done in order to prevent the massive emigration of East German population that reached up to 3.5million before the wall was built. This socially would leave the Soviet Union short in man power of the working class that was an industrial city that provided much revenue and weaponry for the Red Army. Furthermore many educated members of the population left that left on the basis of political reasons rather than the materialistic reasons, such as poverty and poor living conditions.
This shows Khrushchev’s attempts at creating a politically divided Europe and represents the Soviets were determined in not allowing one inch of land to be won by their adversaries and may have prompted them, the US, to respond aggressively through military action. Also the deployment of missiles in Cuba also created an atmosphere of hostility and potential for mutually assured destruction through an aggressive geostrategic maneuver to gain an advantage over the USA whilst also trying to arm and strengthen a communist ally that was only miles away from the United States’ coastline. Many Historians have said this is the closest the world has come to nuclear warfare.
Courtney from Study Moose
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