Archivos de la categoría ‘The Cold War’

State of Israel proclaimed

On May 14, 1948, in Tel Aviv, Jewish Agency Chairman David Ben-Gurion proclaims the State of Israel, establishing the first Jewish state in 2,000 years. In an afternoon ceremony at the Tel Aviv Art Museum, Ben-Gurion pronounced the words “We hereby proclaim the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine, to be called Israel,” prompting applause and tears from the crowd gathered at the museum. Ben-Gurion became Israel’s first premier.

In the distance, the rumble of guns could be heard from fighting that broke out between Jews and Arabs immediately following the British army withdrawal earlier that day. Egypt launched an air assault against Israel that evening. Despite a blackout in Tel Aviv–and the expected Arab invasion–Jews joyously celebrated the birth of their new nation, especially after word was received that the United States had recognized the Jewish state. At midnight, the State of Israel officially came into being upon termination of the British mandate in Palestine.

Modern Israel has its origins in the Zionism movement, established in the late 19th century by Jews in the Russian Empire who called for the establishment of a territorial Jewish state after enduring persecution. In 1896, Jewish-Austrian journalist Theodor Herzl published an influential political pamphlet called The Jewish State, which argued that the establishment of a Jewish state was the only way of protecting Jews from anti-Semitism. Herzl became the leader of Zionism, convening the first Zionist Congress in Switzerland in 1897. Ottoman-controlled Palestine, the original home of the Jews, was chosen as the most desirable location for a Jewish state, and Herzl unsuccessfully petitioned the Ottoman government for a charter.

After the failed Russian Revolution of 1905, growing numbers of Eastern European and Russian Jews began to immigrate to Palestine, joining the few thousand Jews who had arrived earlier. The Jewish settlers insisted on the use of Hebrew as their spoken language. With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, Britain took over Palestine. In 1917, Britain issued the “Balfour Declaration,” which declared its intent to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Although protested by the Arab states, the Balfour Declaration was included in the British mandate over Palestine, which was authorized by the League of Nations in 1922. Because of Arab opposition to the establishment of any Jewish state in Palestine, British rule continued throughout the 1920s and ’30s.

Beginning in 1929, Arabs and Jews openly fought in Palestine, and Britain attempted to limit Jewish immigration as a means of appeasing the Arabs. As a result of the Holocaust in Europe, many Jews illegally entered Palestine during World War II. Radical Jewish groups employed terrorism against British forces in Palestine, which they thought had betrayed the Zionist cause. At the end of World War II, in 1945, the United States took up the Zionist cause. Britain, unable to find a practical solution, referred the problem to the United Nations, which in November 1947 voted to partition Palestine.

The Jews were to possess more than half of Palestine, although they made up less than half of Palestine’s population. The Palestinian Arabs, aided by volunteers from other countries, fought the Zionist forces, but by May 14, 1948, the Jews had secured full control of their U.N.-allocated share of Palestine and also some Arab territory. On May 14, Britain withdrew with the expiration of its mandate, and the State of Israel was proclaimed. The next day, forces from Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq invaded.

The Israelis, though less well equipped, managed to fight off the Arabs and then seize key territory, such as Galilee, the Palestinian coast, and a strip of territory connecting the coastal region to the western section of Jerusalem. In 1949, U.N.-brokered cease-fires left the State of Israel in permanent control of this conquered territory. The departure of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs from Israel during the war left the country with a substantial Jewish majority.

During the third Arab-Israeli conflict–the Six-Day War of 1967–Israel again greatly increased its borders, capturing from Jordan, Egypt, and Syria the Old City of Jerusalem, the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights. In 1979, Israel and Egypt signed an historic peace agreement in which Israel returned the Sinai in exchange for Egyptian recognition and peace. Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed a major peace accord in 1993, which envisioned the gradual implementation of Palestinian self-government in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Israeli-Palestinian peace process moved slowly, however, and in 2000 major fighting between Israelis and Palestinians resumed in Israel and the occupied territories.

From http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/state-of-israel-proclaimed

West Germany joins NATO

Ten years after the Nazis were defeated in World War II, West Germany formally joins the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a mutual defense group aimed at containing Soviet expansion in Europe. This action marked the final step of West Germany’s integration into the Western European defense system.

Germany had been a divided nation since 1945. The Americans, British, and French held zones of occupation in Western Germany and West Berlin; the Soviets controlled Eastern Germany and East Berlin. Although publicly both the Americans and the Soviets proclaimed their desire for a reunited and independent Germany, it quickly became apparent that each of these Cold War opponents would only accept a reunified Germany that served their own nation’s specific interests. In 1949, the Americans, British, and French combined their zones of occupation in West Germany to establish a new nation, the Federal Republic of Germany. The Soviets responded by setting up the German Democratic Republic in East Germany. On May 5, 1955, the American, French, and British forces formally ended their military occupation of West Germany, which became an independent country. Four days later, West Germany was made a member of NATO. For U.S. policymakers, this was an essential step in the defense of Western Europe. Despite the reluctance of some European nations, such as France, to see a rearmed Germany—even as an ally—the United States believed that remilitarizing West Germany was absolutely vital in terms of setting up a defensive perimeter to contain any possible Soviet attempts at expansion. The Soviet response was immediate. On May 14, 1955, the Soviet Union established the Warsaw Pact, a military alliance between Russia and its Eastern European satellites—including East Germany.

The entrance of West Germany into NATO was the final step in integrating that nation into the defense system of Western Europe. It was also the final nail in the coffin as far as any possibility of a reunited Germany in the near future. For the next 35 years, East and West Germany came to symbolize the animosities of the Cold War. In 1990, Germany was finally reunified; the new German state remained a member of NATO.

From http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/west-germany-joins-nato

Soviets to boycott L.A. Olympics

Citing fears for the safety of its athletes in what it considered a hostile and anti-communist environment, the Soviet government announces a boycott of the 1984 Summer Olympic Games to be held in Los Angeles, California.

Although the Soviets had cited security concerns, the boycott was more likely the result of strained Cold War relations due to America’s generous aid to Muslim rebels fighting in Afghanistan–and payback for the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. A number of other Soviet Bloc countries and Cuba followed suit in boycotting the Los Angeles Games, which carried on without the presence of many of the communist world’s best athletes. China, however, participated in the Los Angeles Summer Games in its first Olympic appearance since 1952.

Brezhnev becomes president of the USSR

Leonid Brezhnev, one of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s most trusted proteges, is selected as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet—the Soviet equivalent to the presidency. This was another important step in Brezhnev’s rise to power in Russia, a rise that he later capped by taking control of the Soviet Union in 1964.

Brezhnev had been a trusted associate of Khrushchev since the 1940s. As Khrushchev rose through the ranks, so did his protege. After Stalin’s death in 1953, Khrushchev rapidly consolidated his power and succeeded in becoming First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. This position had always been the real seat of power in the Soviet Union—the first secretary was able to control the vast Communist Party apparatus throughout the Soviet Union. The position of president (or, more formally, the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet) was largely symbolic. The president often greeted foreign visitors and handled more mundane government matters, but policymaking always rested with the first secretary. In May 1960, Khrushchev named Brezhnev to the position of president. While the post meant little in the way of real power, it did allow Brezhnev to come into contact with numerous foreign dignitaries and visitors and to travel the world as a representative of the Soviet government. He made the most of these opportunities and was soon viewed as an efficient and effective official in his own right, not simply a puppet of Khrushchev.

In 1964, Khrushchev was removed from power and Brezhnev was named new first secretary. Brezhnev held that post for 18 years until his death in 1982. His era was marked by a certain blandness of rule, a much-needed stability in Soviet ruling circles, a sometimes harsh repression of the Soviet people, and a hard-line attitude toward relations with the United States.

From http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/brezhnev-becomes-president-of-the-ussr

The Bandung Conference concludes

The Afro-Asian Conference–popularly known as the Bandung Conference because it was held in Bandung, Indonesia–comes to a close on this day. During the conference, representatives from 29 “non-aligned” nations in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East met to condemn colonialism, decry racism, and express their reservations about the growing Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The Bandung Conference grew out of an increasing sense of frustration and alienation among the so-called “non-aligned” nations of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. These were nations that preferred to remain neutral during the Cold War, believing that their interests would not be served by allying with either the United States or the Soviet Union. In April 1955, representatives from 29 of these nations, including Egypt, Indonesia, India, Iraq, and the People’s Republic of China, met to consider the issues they considered most pressing. Various speeches and resolutions condemned colonialism and imperialism and called for the freedom of all subjugated peoples. Racism in all forms was likewise criticized, with the apartheid system of South Africa coming in for particularly harsh denunciations. The assembled nations also called for an end to the nuclear arms race and the elimination of atomic weapons. The fundamental message of many of the sessions was the same: the Cold War struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union had little meaning to nations battling for economic development, improved health, and better crop yields, and fighting against the forces of colonialism and racism.

The United States government was generally appalled by the Bandung Conference. Although invited to do so, it refused to send an unofficial observer to the meetings. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was already on record as equating neutralism in the fight against communism as close to a mortal sin. For the United States, the issue was black and white: join America in the fight against communism or risk being considered a potential enemy. This unfortunate policy brought the United States into numerous conflicts with nations of the underdeveloped world who were struggling to find a middle road in the Cold War conflict.

From http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-bandung-conference-concludes

Joseph Stalin dies

On this day, Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union since 1924, dies in Moscow.

Like his right-wing counterpart, Hitler, who was born in Austria, Joseph Stalin was not a native of the country he ruled with an iron fist. Isoeb Dzhugashvili was born in 1889 in Georgia, then part of the old Russian empire. The son of a drunk who beat him mercilessly and a pious washerwoman mother, Stalin learned Russian, which he spoke with a heavy accent all his life, in an Orthodox Church-run school. While studying to be a priest at Tiflis Theological Seminary, he began secretly reading Karl Marx and other left-wing revolutionary thinkers. The “official” communist story is that he was expelled from the seminary for this intellectual rebellion; in reality, it may have been because of poor health.

From bbc.co.uk

In 1900, Stalin became active in revolutionary political activism, taking part in labor demonstrations and strikes. Stalin joined the more militant wing of the Marxist Social Democratic movement, the Bolsheviks, and became a student of its leader,  Vladimir Ilich Lenin. Stalin was arrested seven times between 1902 and 1913, and subjected to prison and exile.

Stalin’s first big break came in 1912, when Lenin, in exile in Switzerland, named him to serve on the first Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party—now a separate entity from the Social Democrats. The following year, Stalin (finally dropping Dzugashvili and taking the new name Stalin, from the Russian word for “steel”) published a signal article on the role of Marxism in the destiny of Russia. In 1917, escaping from an exile in Siberia, he linked up with Lenin and his coup against the middle-class democratic government that had supplanted the czar’s rule. Stalin continued to move up the party ladder, from commissar for nationalities to secretary general of the Central Committee—a role that would provide the center of his dictatorial takeover and control of the party and the new USSR.

In fact, upon Lenin’s death in 1924, Stalin began the consolidation of his power base, conducting show trials to purge enemies and rivals, even having Leon Trotskyassassinated during his exile in Mexico. Stalin also abandoned Lenin’s New Economic Policy, which would have meant some decentralization of industry. Stalin demanded—and got—absolute state control of the economy, as well as greater swaths of Soviet life, until his totalitarian grip on the new Russian empire was absolute.

The outbreak of  World War II saw Stalin attempt an alliance with Adolf Hitler for purely self-interested reasons, and despite the political fallout of a communist signing an alliance with a fascist, they signed a nonaggression pact that allowed each dictator free reign in their respective spheres of influence. Stalin then proceeded to annex parts of Poland, Romania, and Finland, and occupy Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. In May 1941, he made himself chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars; he was now the official head of the government and no longer merely head of the party. One month later, Germany invaded the USSR, making significant early inroads. As German troops approached, Stalin remained in the capital, directing a scorched-earth defensive policy and exercising personal control over the strategies of the Red Army.

As the war progressed, Stalin sat in on the major Allied conferences, including those in Tehran (1943) and Yalta (1945). His iron will and deft political skills enabled him to play the loyal ally while never abandoning his vision of an expanded postwar Soviet Empire. In fact, after Germany’s surrender in April 1945, Stalin oversaw the continued occupation and domination of much of Eastern Europe, despite “promises” of free elections in those countries.

Stalin did not mellow with age; he prosecuted a reign of terror, purges, executions, exiles to the Gulag Archipelago (a system of forced-labor camps in the frozen north), and persecution in the postwar USSR, suppressing all dissent and anything that smacked of foreign, especially Western European, influence. To the great relief of many, he died of a massive heart attack on March 5, 1953. He is remembered to this day as the man who helped save his nation from Nazi domination—and as the mass murderer of the century, having overseen the deaths of between 8 million and 10 million of his own people.

From: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/joseph-stalin-dies

President Roosevelt dies

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the longest serving president in American history,  the longest serving president in American history, dies of a cerebral hemorrhage three months into his fourth term.

In 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, Governor Roosevelt of  New York was elected the 32nd president of the United States . In his inaugural address in March 1933, President Roosevelt promised Americans that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” and outlined his “New Deal”–an expansion of the federal government as an instrument of employment opportunity and welfare. Although criticized by the business community, Roosevelt’s progressive legislation improved America’s economic climate, and in 1936 he swept to re-election.

During his second term, he became increasingly concerned with German and Japanese aggression and so began a long campaign to awaken America from its isolationist slumber. In 1940, with World War II raging in Europe and the Pacific, Roosevelt agreed to run for an unprecedented third term. Re-elected by Americans who valued his strong leadership, he proved a highly effective commander in chief during World War II. Under Roosevelt’s guidance, America became, in his own words, the “great arsenal of democracy” and succeeded in shifting the balance of power in World War II firmly in the Allies’ favor. In 1944, with the war not yet won, he was re-elected to a fourth term.

Three months after his inauguration, while resting at his retreat in Warm Springs, Georgia, Roosevelt died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 63. Following a solemn parade of his coffin through the streets of the nation’s capital, his body was buried in a family plot in Hyde Park, New York. Millions of Americans mourned the death of the man who led the United States through two of the greatest crises of the 20th century: the Great Depression and World War II. Roosevelt’s unparalleled 13 years as president led to the passing of the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which limited future presidents to a maximum of two consecutive elected terms in office.

From http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/president-roosevelt-dies

Communists take power in Czechoslovakia

Under pressure from the Czechoslovakian Communist Party, President Eduard Benes allows a communist-dominated government to be organized. Although the Soviet Union did not physically intervene (as it would in 1968), Western observers decried the virtually bloodless communist coup as an example of Soviet expansion into Eastern Europe.

The political scene in Czechoslovakia following  World War II was complex, to say the least. Eduard Benes was head of the London-based Czech government-in-exile during the war, and returned to his native land in 1945 to take control of a new national government following the Soviet withdrawal in July of that year. National elections in 1946 resulted in significant representation for leftist and communist parties in the new constituent assembly. Benes formed a coalition with these parties in his administration.

Although Czechoslovakia was not formally within the Soviet orbit, American officials were concerned with the Soviet communist influence in the nation. They were particularly upset when Benes’ government strongly opposed any plans for the political rehabilitation and possible rearmament of Germany (the U.S. was beginning to view a rearmed Germany as a good line of defense against Soviet incursions into western Europe). In response, the United States terminated a large loan to Czechoslovakia. Moderate and conservative parties in Czechoslovakia were outraged, and declared that the U.S. action was driving their nation into the clutches of the communists. Indeed, the communists made huge electoral gains in the nation, particularly as the national economy spiraled out of control.

When moderate elements in the Czech government raised the possibility of the nation’s participation in the U.S. Marshall Plan (a massive economic recovery program designed to help war torn European countries rebuild), the communists organized strikes and protests, and began clamping down on opposition parties. Benes tried desperately to hold his nation together, but by February 1948 the communists had forced the other coalition parties out of the government. On February 25, Benes gave in to communist demands and handed his cabinet over to the party. Rigged elections were held in May to validate the communist victory. Benes then resigned and his former foreign minister Jan Masaryk died under very suspicious circumstances. Czechoslovakia became a single-party state.

The response from the West was quick but hardly decisive. Both the United and Great Britain denounced the communist seizure of power in Czechoslovakia, but neither took any direct action. Perhaps having put too much faith in Czechoslovakia’s democratic traditions, or possibly fearful of a Soviet reaction, neither nation offered anything beyond verbal support to the Benes government. The Communist Party, with support and aid from the Soviet Union, dominated Czechoslovakian politics until the so-called “Velvet Revolution” of 1989 brought a non-communist government to power.

From http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/communists-take-power-in-czechoslovakia

SEATO disbands

After operating for 22 years, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization concludes its final military exercise and quietly shuts down. SEATO had been one of the bulwarks of America’s Cold War policies in Asia, but the VietnamWar did much to destroy its cohesiveness and question its effectiveness.

SEATO was formed in 1954 during a meeting in Manila called by U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Eight nations—the UnitedStates, France, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, and Pakistan—joined together in the regional defense organization to “stem the tide of communism in Asia.” At the time, that “tide” was most threatening in Southeast Asia, particularly in the former-French colony of Vietnam. There, a revolution led by the communist Ho Chi Minh resulted, in 1954, in an agreement for the withdrawal of French forces, the temporary division of Vietnam (with Ho’s forces in control in the north), and nationwide elections two years hence to reunify the nation and select a president. The United States, believing that Ho was merely a pawn for international communism, reacted by establishing SEATO and including “South Vietnam” (which was not technically an independent nation) under its umbrella of protection.

When the United States became fully committed to the Vietnam War in 1965, it called upon its SEATO allies for assistance. Only Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Thailand responded with a few thousand troops and other aid. This made clear that the driving force behind SEATO was the United States. Despite their anticommunist rhetoric, Great Britain and France wanted no part of another Asian war and Pakistan simply wanted the military assistance that membership in SEATO granted. As the war in Vietnam became increasingly frustrating and unpopular, SEATO began to crack. By the time the conflict in Vietnam ended in 1975—with South Vietnam’s fall to the communist North Vietnamese—only five nations were left to carry out the final SEATO military exercise in February 1976. A mere 188 troops from the United States, Great Britain, the Philippines, Thailand, and New Zealand showed up in the Philippines to conduct what was basically a civic action operation. Roads, schools, and a dam were built by the troops in the Philippine countryside. Afterwards, while “Auld Lang Syne” was played, closing ceremonies marked the end of SEATO.

From: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/seato-disbands

Yalta Conference ends

On February 11, 1945, a week of intensive bargaining by the leaders of the three major Allied powers ends in Yalta, a Soviet resort town on the Black Sea. It was the second conference of the “Big Three” Allied leaders–U.S. President  Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin–and the war had progressed mightily since their last meeting, which had taken place in Tehran in late 1943.

What was then called the Crimea conference was held at the old summer palace of Czar Nicholas II on the outskirts of Yalta, now a city in the independent Ukraine. With victory over Germany three months away, Churchill and Stalin were more intent on dividing Europe into zones of political influence than in addressing military considerations. Germany would be divided into four zones of occupation administered by the three major powers and France and was to be thoroughly demilitarized and its war criminals brought to trial. The Soviets were to administer those European countries they liberated but promised to hold free elections. The British and Americans would oversee the transition to democracy in countries such as Italy, Austria, and Greece.

Final plans were made for the establishment of the United Nations, and a charter conference was scheduled to begin in San Francisco in April.

A frail President Roosevelt, two months from his death, concentrated his efforts on gaining Soviet support for the U.S. war effort against Japan. The secret U.S. atomic bomb project had not yet tested a weapon, and it was estimated that an amphibious attack against Japan could cost hundreds of thousands of American lives. After being assured of an occupation zone in Korea, and possession of Sakhalin Island and other territories historically disputed between Russia and Japan, Stalin agreed to enter the Pacific War within two to three months of Germany’s surrender.

Most of the Yalta accords remained secret until after World War II, and the items that were revealed, such as Allied plans for Germany and the United Nations, were generally applauded. Roosevelt returned to the United States exhausted, and when he went to address the U.S. Congress on Yalta he was no longer strong enough to stand with the support of braces. In that speech, he called the conference “a turning point, I hope, in our history, and therefore in the history of the world.” He would not live long enough, however, to see the iron curtain drop along the lines of division laid out at Yalta. In April, he traveled to his cottage in Warm Springs, Georgia, to rest and on April 12 died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

On July 16, the United States successfully tested an atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert. On August 6, it dropped one of these deadly weapons on Hiroshima, Japan. Two days later, true to its pledge at Yalta, the Soviet Union declared war against Japan. The next day, the United States dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki, and the Soviets launched a massive offensive against the Japanese in Manchuria. On August 15, the combination of the U.S. atomic attacks and the Soviet offensive forced a Japanese surrender. At the end of the month, U.S. troops landed in Japan unopposed.

When the full text of the Yalta agreements were released in the years following World War II, many criticized Roosevelt and Churchill for delivering Eastern Europe and North Korea into communist domination by conceding too much to Stalin at Yalta. The Soviets never allowed free elections in postwar Eastern Europe, and communist North Korea was sharply divided from its southern neighbor.

Eastern Europe, liberated and occupied by the Red Army, would have become Soviet satellites regardless of what had happened at Yalta. Because of the atomic bomb, however, Soviet assistance was not needed to defeat the Japanese. Without the Soviet invasion of the Japanese Empire in the last days of World War II, North Korea and various other Japanese-held territories that fell under Soviet control undoubtedly would have come under the sway of the United States. At Yalta, however, Roosevelt had no guarantee that the atomic bomb would work, and so he sought Soviet assistance in what was predicted to be the costly task of subduing Japan. Stalin, more willing than Roosevelt to sacrifice troops in the hope of territorial gains, happily accommodated his American ally, and by the end of the war had considerably increased Soviet influence in East Asia.

From http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/yalta-conference-ends