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Enriching Knowledge Lecture Series:
Senior Secondary History Curriculum – Compulsory Part (Theme B)
Major conflicts and the quest for peace (Lecture 2)
Military History of the Cold War (1949 -1989) (New)
Professor MAK King-sang
Head and Professor, Department of History
Hong Kong Baptist University
Elements of War
Resources (manpower and material supply)
Coordination of forces
Alliance and how to keep allies together
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Strategy and Tactics
- Technology
- Tactics: the art of organizing an army, and using weapons or
military units in combination against the enemy in military
- Strategy: the art of organizing an army, using weapons or
military units in combination, employing resources, mobilizing
the people, etc. to deliver a or a part of a war plan
- Art of operation
- Theater strategy: a war can be, and is usually divided into several
theaters. Theater strategy is an integrative concept that
coordinates and operates strategies in different war theaters to
achieve a war plan
- Grand strategy
Grand Strategy
[T]he role of grand strategy – higher strategy – is to co-ordinate and
direct all the resources of a nation, or band of nations, towards the
attainment of the political object of the war – the goal defined by
fundamental policy.
Grand strategy should both calculate and develop the economic resources
and man-power of nations in order to sustain the fighting services. Also
the moral resources – for to foster the people's willing spirit is often as
important as to possess the more concrete forms of power. Grand
strategy, too, should regulate the distribution of power between the
several services, and between the services and industry. Moreover,
fighting power is but one of the instruments of grand strategy – which
should take account of and apply the power of financial pressure, and,
not least of ethical pressure, to weaken the opponent's will. ...
Furthermore, while the horizons of strategy is bounded by the war, grand
strategy looks beyond the war to the subsequent peace. It should not
only combine the various instruments, but so regulate their use as to
avoid damage to the future state of peace – for its security and prosperity.
General Observations of the Cold War
• “During this time the purpose of the military was not
to fight wars, but to prevent them by making the cost
of any aggression so high that a rational state would
only launch an attack if it believed its very existence
was in danger.”
• “Divided into two rival military alliances (the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Warsaw pact)
the outcome was the creation of a military stalemate
that endured till the unification of Germany in 1990”
• Nuclear strategy that relates military means to the
above political ends
Grand Strategy with Several Theatres: Western
Europe During the Cold War
- Basic Principles: containment and rolling back of communism, (in Asia)
encirclement of China, (in the Third World) struggle for new partners
through political maneuver and economic and military assistance, and
(in Europe) minimal direct involvement
- Objectives before 1950: (short-term)“adequate military strength
accompanied by economy of effort, resources and manpower,” “insure
the ability to carry out strategic bombing promptly by all means possible
with all types of weapons, without exception;” (long term) European
recovery through the Marshall Plan, European Army, etc.
- After the Korean War: Centralized command structure, massive
retaliation: “The major deterrent to aggression against Western Europe
is the manifest determination of the United States to use its atomic
capability and massive retaliatory power if the area is attacked.”
- 1955-1957: The quarrel over defense expenditure; Soviet tanks roll over
Hungary: the Sputnik shock
- The quest for flexibility: to “defeat the aggression on the level at which
the enemy chooses to fight.”
Stalin: Aggressor or Defender?
• USSR’s War Plan after the emergence of the Iron Curtain
• “Stalin had become obsessive about defence, and he sought to
construct a series of buffer states around the Soviet Union,
particularly in the West.”
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NATO’s Basic Strategic Framework 1949
• “The Strategic Concept for the Defense of the North Atlantic Area,”
10 October 1949
• The main objective was “adequate military strength accompanied
by economy of effort, resources and manpower.”
• The USA: strategic bombing, nuclear weapons
• Division of labor: the member nations should “arrest and counter as
soon as practicable the enemy offensives against North Atlantic
Treaty powers by all means available, including air, naval, land and
psychological operations”
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A new Understanding of the Marshall Plan
• The allies “should bear in mind that economic recovery and the
attainment of economic stability constitute important elements
of their security”
• In addition to 2,324 warships of varying sizes from battleships
down to minesweepers and 3,264 naval aircraft, DC 13 called for
90 divisions in NATO’s land forces and 8,004 combat aircraft in
NATO’s air forces.
• “to convince the USSR that war does not pay, and should war
occur, to ensure a successful defence”
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A Chain of Events
• In October 1949, the founding of the People’s
Republic of China.
• In the end of 1949 the Soviet Union created its first
atomic bomb
• In June 1950 the Korean War broke out
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The German Question Reconsidered
• For George Kennan, “without a revival of German production,
there can be no revival of Europe’s economy.”
• The Division of Germany and its military implications
• West Germany as the frontline
• The redeployment of conventional forces
• Keeping “Germany down, America in and the USSR out.”
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The Snowball Rolled
NATO planned to equip 125 Divisions
• The Red Army grew from 2.8 million to five million in
• The Comecon (Council for Mutual Economic
Assistance), which turned into the Warsaw Pact in
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The Emergence of the Concept of “Massive
Retaliation” (John Foster Dulles)1953-54
• The Expansion of NATO
• Eisenhower and SACEUR
• The Growing Strength of the East Bloc’s Conventional
• NATO’s integration of Nuclear and Conventional Forces
because “NATO would be unable to prevent the rapid
overrunning of Europe unless NATO immediately
employed these weapons both strategically and
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The Evolution of Strategy 1955-57
• $$$
• Destalinization and the Relaxation of East-West tension
• The Review at the end of 1956
• “to determine how, within the resources likely to be available, the
defence effort of the Alliance and of each individual member can
best achieve the most effective pattern of forces.”
• “Shield and Sword”
• reduction of conventional army to about 500,000 but the
recruitment of additional 30,000 men for the air force
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Close to the Edge
• The “Sputnik” shock
• The East Berlin Crisis
• The U-2 Spy Crisis in may 1960
• The Pig Bay Incident April 1961
• The Building of the Berlin Wall in August 1961
• The Cuban Missile Crisis
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From Massive Retaliation to Flexible Response
• After losing the edge
• Direct Response, Escalation and General Nuclear
• Strategic Triads: ICBMs, SLBMs, and Strategic
• The Role of the European Allies
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Internal Strain: France and NATO
• The Abortion of the EDC
• The Nightmare of WWII
• Another Nightmare in Indochina 1955
• The Third Nightmare at Suez
• The Return of De Gaulle 1958
• The Showdown in 1966
• The Vulnerability of West Germany
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Internal Strain: Hungary, Czechoslovakia and
Warsaw Pact
• Hungarian Crisis 1955
• The Prague Spring
• The Reaction of the NATO
• War Unlikely
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Reconsidering the Ostpolitik
• Conventional Explanation
• Why did the USA let go of West Germany?
• Willy Brandt and the Reconciliation
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The Timeline
• Treaty of Moscow, August 12, 1970
• Treaty of Warsaw, December 7, 1970
• The Quadruple Agreement, September 3, 1971
• Transit Agreement, December 17, 1971
• Basic Treaty, December 21, 1972
• Treaty of Prague from December 11, 1973
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A New Military Balance
• The SS-20 Missiles
• The NATO lost its edge
• From SS-4 to SS-5
• The power of SS-20
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Arms Reduction before War Began
• Nixon and Brezhnev
• Agreement on May 27, 1972
• Two agreements: (1) the number of antiballistic missile
(ABM) sites each country could have was confined to two.
(ABMs were missiles designed to destroy incoming
missiles.) ; (2) the number of intercontinental ballistic
missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles was
frozen at existing levels.
Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions 19731979
• The three major attempts
• The Formation of CSCE
• 1974, the 25th Anniversary of the NATO
• The Anti-climax in 1979
• Poland in 1981
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The Beginning of the Reagan
Administration in Jan., 1981
•Combating “the Evil Empire”
•Giving up negotiation
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• To limit the growth of government spending
• To reduce personal income taxes to increase
incentives to work and invest
• To undertake a review of economic regulations and
change them to encourage economic growth
• To establish a stable and sound monetary policy
• To restore confidence by following a consistent longrange national economic policy
Behind Reaganomics
• Rolling back Communism
• Supporting Afghanistan against the Soviet Union
• Rebuilding military dictatorship in El Salvador
• Supporting the “Contras” against the Sandinista in Nicaragua
• The Grenada (Operation Urgent Fury) Incident in October 1983
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The Growth of the USA
Fighting Capacity
• MX Missiles
• B-1 Bomber
• Advanced Technology Bomber
• Strategic Defense Initiative (The Star War System)
War and Peace
• Reagan’s hidden plan
• The SALT II in November 1981
• The START in May 1982
• The USSR-USA quarrel over Korea in August 1983
• The Installation of Pershing II in Britain, Holland,
Belgium, Italy and West Germany from 1983 to
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A New Era
• The death of Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev (1906-1982)
• Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko
• Mikhail Gorbachev’s rise to power in March 1985
Gorbachev’s Reform
• Glasnost
• Perestroika
• Meeting Margaret Thatcher in December 1984
• Meeting Ronald Reagan in Geneva in November 1985
• The US-Soviet announcement in Reykjavik in Oct 1986
• Further Disarmament

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