Focus of the topic

This document discusses the thaw, or the period of improved relations, between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1950s. It explores the evidence that supports the idea of a thaw, as well as evidence that contradicts it.

Background Info

  • After the breakdown of the Grand Alliance, tensions between the US and the Soviet Union increased.


  • Evidence for the thaw:

    • 1953 Korean War Armistice:
      • North and South Korea agreed to a complete cessation of hostilities, although a peace treaty had not yet been achieved.
    • 1955 Austrian State Treaty:
      • Austria, which had been under the rule of the Allies and divided like Germany, became a neutral and independent state.
    • 1953 De-Stalinization Speech:
      • Soviet leader Khrushchev announced a shift in policy towards peaceful coexistence and denounced Stalin’s cult of personality and secrecy.
    • Khrushchev’s visit to the US.
    • 1955 Geneva Summit:
      • Discussions were held on German unification, trade agreements, and the arms race.
      • The US proposed the Open Skies plan, while the Soviet Union called for the removal of NATO and the Warsaw Pact.
      • Although no agreement was reached, progress was made.
  • Evidence that denies the thaw:

    • U2 incident in 1960:

      • An American spy plane was shot down in the USSR, revealing the truth behind the American claim that it was a weather plane. This incident led to the cancellation of Eisenhower’s visit to the USSR.
    • The New Look policy/Brinkmanship in 1953.

    • Guatemalan Coup in 1954:

      • The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) orchestrated the overthrow of the democratically elected Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz.
      • The US attempted to overthrow left-wing governments, including this one and the government of Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran.
    • Hungarian Uprising in 1956:

      • Hungary attempted to break free from Soviet control, but Khrushchev used force to suppress the uprising, contradicting his policy of de-Stalinization.
    • The Space Race:

      • The Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik in 1957, the first man-made object to orbit the Earth, caused fear and shock in the US and damaged their confidence in their own technology.
      • The US response to the Sputnik crisis included the creation of NASA, improvements in science education, and increased funding for scientific research.
      • The US achieved a significant victory in the space race by landing the first man on the moon in 1969, while the Soviet Union had failed in their attempts.
    • Suez Crisis in 1956-1957:

      • Egypt closed the Suez Canal, a vital trade route for the UK, France, and Israel.
      • The Soviet Union supported Egypt, while the US intervened to prevent war between the two sides.

Possible Essay Questions