Khrushchev: the Berlin Crisis and beyond

After watching a video on the Berlin Wall one of my students commented that the Americans didn’t need any more propaganda than the wall to show the difference between communism and democracy. In a recent post I remarked that August was the 50th anniversary of the erection of the Berlin Wall, but the wall was only part of the story.

In fact, Berlin remained a center of tension in the Cold war, and a number of historians on both sides of the wall saw it as allaying those tensions. With the Wall, all was fixed it would seem.

However, the greater crisis remained over control of Berlin. Khrushchev issued several ultimatums regarding the city but determined that it was not worth a potential nuclear war. Khrushchev was the king of empty threats, often claiming that he would use weapons the Soviets did not yet possess. Although he was often seen as a buffoon, on his watch nuclear confrontations were avoided, and the policy of no direct fighting continued. Not necessarily a failure ….

How then do we assess Khrushchev’s foreign policy? What were his successes? What were his failures? In the end, can we speak of Khrushchev’s legacy? How would we evaluate him- and which examples would we use?

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