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Samuel Wolf

on 27 February 2014

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Transcript of Brinkmanship

John F Kennedy
Nikita Khrushchev
What did brinkmanship look like?
The USSR and US spent most of the Cold War era on the brink of nuclear war.
In practice, it involved both parties escalating threats to the point that one party backed down. Sometimes both backed down, since the only way to avoid destruction would be to compromise.
Yielding would mean that the country was the weaker of the two, and therefore incapable of protecting their populations and hegemony.
During this time, the CIA worked hard to depose leftist regimes in the developing world. Examples include the 1950s Guatemalan government.
What is brinkmanship?
Brinksmanship is the policy of pushing an already dangerous situation to the brink of disaster.
This policy holds the promise of securing political advantage by appearing to be willing to follow through with dangerous policy rather than to give it up.
John Foster Dulles, who coined the policy, defined it as “the ability to get to the verge [the brink] without getting into the war...”
It is, in essence, hostile bargaining. It is not limited to hostility, however, and can take the form of a genuine crisis.

What did it entail?
The policy revolved around fear tactics and intimidation. This was made possible through the threat of nuclear war.
Thus, nuclear weapons were a prerequisite.
By pushing a situation to the brink of disaster, it would force the opposition to back down and make concessions favorable to the party that did not.
In other words, it is a challenge that comes in the form of a credible threat that is designed to compel an adversary to back down or discourage it from pursuing something undesirable to the challenging party.
When was brinkmanship used?
-The policy was used predominantly during the cold war period by Eisenhower and Kennedy.
-it was used during the height of Cold war tensions, representing the high threats the Cold war was beginning to impose. Each party pushed dangerous situations
- Both parties (USSR and US) were confronted with devastating consequences since the threats of nuclear war were unmanageable
-This resulted in the escalation of of threats for nuclear war and massive retaliation;both parties were forced to respond with more force.
-Yielding would result in being labeled as the weaker of the two-- had to uphold reputation with their populations and their neighboring countries or allies
Important events during time period

The Cuban missile crisis:
-Russia placed nuclear weapons in cuba
- President JFK protested.Kruschev argued he shouldn't have to remove his missiles, unless JFK's removed the US's nuclear missiles in Turkey; which could strike most of the USSR.
-USA and the USSR, each armed with nuclear weapons, both practiced brinkmanship during this conflict; M.A.D
-USA responded to the presence of the weapons by blockading Cuba
-The Cuban blockade was also an act of brinkmanship since the USA, instead of succumbing to the pressure from the USSR, decided to see how the soviets would react to the USA stopping their vessels from entering Cuba.

By: Sam Wolf, Michelle Mulau, Tess Dzurny, Nicola Caprirolo, Katarina Miranda, and Carlos Chediek.
Who was involved?
Dwight D. Eisenhower
John Foster Dulles
In 1955 Eisenhower ordered the development and construction of ICBM's. 1960 marked the first year they were deployed.
The US now had land, air, and sea based nuclear capability.
1950-1955 the USSR tried to expand its armed forces, but was forced to cut back due to budget cuts. Regardless, the USSR beat NATO and the US in numbers.
A 1959 U-2 flight over the USSR revealed that the US was vastly superior to the USSR in "strategic arms".
John F. Kennedy
Nikita Khrushchev
Dwight D Eisenhower
US Secretary of State
John Foster Dulles
First president to use CIA for covert ops
Wanted nuclear disarmament
Not necessarily willing to go through with another war (especially a nuclear war)
New Look Policy
Nuclear weapons soley for deterring nuclear and conventional threats
Ex Missiles in Turkey
Primarily defensive measure
Had plans for offensive use of nuclear weapons in case of emergency
How was he part of the policy?
First president to understand the power of nuclear weapons
The threat of nuclear warfare was strong motivation to avoid confrontation
Constant disagreements with USSR may have also led to believing in aggressive methods
Aggressive anti-communist
Played a huge role in CIA decisions and generally supported Eisenhower's covert ops
His brother (Allen Dulles) was CIA Director
Covert ops such as the Guatemala coup
Pacts and Massive Retaliation
Spent a great deal of time forming pacts and alliances as part of another containment strategy
Ex building up NATO
Believed in Massive Retaliation
Putting all the force of a state against the aggressor
Force = nuclear weapons
How was he part of the policy?
Definitely would have supported brinkmanship due to how willing he was to start a war and crush communism
-During this time cold war conflict revolved around
the Korean War, Cuba, and the Berlin crisis.

-New Look Policy: Isolate communism by isolating soviet russia (Dwight Eisenhower’s Term)
Kennedy’s Flexible Response:

-Address kennedy’s administration’s skepticism on the Eisenhower’s New Look and policy
on massive retaliation (State commits itself to retaliate massively if attacked)

-Korean War -
First armed conflict of the Cold War
•Truman believed that the atomic threat of North Korea was the contingency

-Cuban Missile Crisis-
Example of slippery slope
Crisis between the U.S and USSR through Cuba - No physical conflict involved

A bit too late to be as actively involved in brinkmanship as Eisenhower and Dulles
Didn't even want to consider getting involved in a nuclear war
Flexible Response
Ability to respond to various types of threats
Threats no longer confined to nuclear warfare during his time period
How was he part of the policy?
Not particularly interested in brinkmanship
Technology had reached stalemate
Threatening nuclear warfare no advantageous
Premier during both the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations
Passionately believed in his country's economic/governmental system
Understood the power of the atomic bomb (unlike his predecessor, Stalin)
Wanted to portray USSR as very strong with many weapons
Wanted to modernize Soviet weaponry from conventional means to missiles (ICBMs)
Advanced weaponry > large army
How was he part of the policy?
-Economic conditions better in West Berlin than in East Berlin-Walter Ulbricht, president of East Germany, pressured the Soviet Union to help with the matter of Berlin and immigration.
-On November 10, 1958, Nikita Khrushchev delivered a speech demanded that the Western Powers pulled out of Western Berlin within six months and West Berlin would only be accessible by the permission of East Germany.
-US, France, and Britain declined
-Resulted in Berlin wall
-The US responded by placing troops on the West German side. Their actions were followed by Soviet Union, when they placed their troops and tanks on the East German side
Definitely would have wanted US to believe USSR was capable of nuclear warfare
Would have wanted to use new technology to his advantage
Berlin Crisis
Korean War
-Military conflict between the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
-US supporting the Republic of Korea, and the Soviet Union supporting the DPRK
-First armed conflict of the Cold War
-US used UN to get support
- MacArthur believed that US should take opportunity to wipe out communism permanently before it grew stronger, using all of its weapons, hence turning the war into nuclear war--tried to push back NK too far

- US wanted to ensure that the UN wouldn't fail, as it had done with the League of Nations, and wanted to show off power to the world.
-Wanted to exhibit it could tame communist threat
- USSR wanted to demonstrate its newly built military strength to the US
Slippery Slope
Brinkmanship was suicidal. If neither party backed down, then the inevitable result is destruction for one or both parties involved.
It was dubbed “slippery slope” due to the potential that increased threats would mean that a nation would be more willing to follow through with threats, thus spiraling out of control.
Examples include situations like the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. This was an instance of brinkmanship because the crisis never broke out into a full-scale conflict. Regardless, it was a very close call.
Neither the USSR nor the US would respond to military threats. The thought of war, however, brought the two nations closer together, allowing for peace talks.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The US found out, much to its dismay, that nuclear weapons held very little practical value, even with numerical superiority. (of 5,300)
During the Eisenhower administration, when thermonuclear bombs had been developed, massive retaliation was rendered obsolete.
Thus, nuclear superiority did not mean military nor diplomatic advantages. It acted merely as a deterrent.
Regardless of its inferiority, the USSR remained aggressive.
Full transcript