The USA in the Cold War (1953-1991)

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The USA in the Cold War (1953-1991)




> timelines and maps, p. I-III

From the 1950s to the 1970s, US foreign policy-makers observed with concern as the Soviets tightened their hold on Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and even Latin America (Cuba, Chile). How did the USA finally win the Cold War?

1 1950s-1960s: entrenchment* in the Cold War

A Eisenhower’s presidency (1953-1961)

 In order to counterbalance the communist threat, President Eisenhower supported a doctrine of massive retaliation against the USSR and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) created in 1949.

 US officials recognized that nuclear war was a last resort, mainly used as a deterrent*. So they supported conventional limited wars. In 1958, the US Navy resupplied garrisons on Jinmen and Mazu, two islands in the Taiwan strait claimed by the PRC.

B The peak of the Cold War: the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962)

 President John F. Kennedy came into office on January 20th, 1961. In July 1962, Cuban Premier Fidel Castro placed Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba. But US intelligence discovered evidences of it. On October 22nd, President Kennedy ordered a naval “quarantine” of Cuba and plans accelerated for a strike on Cuba.

 On October 28th, Khrushchev, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, declared that Soviet missiles would be dismantled and removed from Cuba. On November 20th, 1962, the USA ended its quarantine.

2 1970s: a shift in American foreign policy

A An important defeat: the Vietnam War (1964-1975)

 From 1964 to 1969, President Lyndon B. Johnson increased the US military presence in Indochina, ordering the secret B–52 bombings of communist North Vietnamese base camps.

 But the massive attack of Vietnamese civilians reduced public support and the US peace movement demanded the withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam.

B Good relationship with communist nations

Richard M. Nixon became President on January 20th, 1969. He was a realist, convinced that dealing with communist nations would be more successful for his country rather than fighting them.

 Nixon’s major policy initiatives came to fruition* with the “opening to China” in February 1972, and with the dawn of détente and the end of American involvement in the Vietnam War in January 1973.

3 1981-1989: Reagan’s presidency

A Apology of the United States

 In 1980, Ronald Reagan, a Republican, was elected 40th President of the USA. His campaign slogan was “Let’s make America great again(>card11).

quotation “The West won’t contain communism, it will transcend communism.” R. Reagan, 1981

 In 1983, he famously characterized the Soviet Union as an “evil Empire”. The USA was back to idealism insisting on the superiority of representative government and free-market capitalism.

B Back to the nuclear arms race

 The Reagan administration promoted a wide array* of technological weapons that the Soviet Union could not match. For instance, it built intermediate-range nuclear missiles (Pershing II) difficult to detect and shoot down. It developed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), also known as the Star Wars program, which prevented nuclear missile warheads from reaching their targets.

 After the end of his two terms, Reagan saw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the downfall of the USSR in 1991, signaling the end of the Cold War. He had played a key role in this event.

  • entrenchment
    = l’enracinement
  • fruition = la concrétisation
  • a deterrent = une force de dissuasion
  • an array = un éventail