In April, 1949, countries which included France, the United Kingdom and the United States formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). But the Soviet Union was not in the organization. Already a divide between East and West was forming. So at the Potsdam Conference in the fall of that 1945, the Big Three of Europe met to discuss what to do with Germany. So East Germany and West Germany were formed. But what about Berlin? After countless threats and negotiations, Stalin would not give in to the allies plea for a divided Berlin.
So on December 28th, members of NATO met in Paris, France and tried to come to an understanding of how to deal with the Soviet Union. Out of all the ideas, three came down to the end: An invasion of the Soviet Union from Germany, Alaska and the Middle East, a series of air raids on Soviet military bases or the most feared, a series of nuclear attacks on the Soviet Union. Harry S. Truman stood up and said to the other members, "Using the (atom) bomb on Hiroshima was tough. Using it again (on Nagasaki), was even harder. But having a series of bombs and killing millions upon millions, will not happen!" It was agreed that no nuclear war would come about. And many members felt Europe and the world for that matter, was not ready for another Great War and so an invasion was out. It came down to the bombings of Soviet military bases and was quickly agreed. Air raids were set to begin on January 2, 1950 and if the bombings did not persuade Stalin by January 30th then NATO would begin the invasion plan. The meeting is now known as the "Paris Debate."
In a live television address to the United States, President Truman made this chilling remark, "Tonight we stand on the brink of another World War. If the enemy ever breaks the lines of the Iron Curtain, we will be forced to use nuclear weapons as a response." The message was obviously to the Soviet Union and to Joseph Stalin.
The Divided German Bombings2 January, 1950, NATO stationed 10,000 troops, 250 tanks, 1,000 fighter plans and 750 bombers on the Iron Curtain borders, mainly the two German borders. At first, a mere 100 bombers fly off over the Iron Curtain, each with a set of instructions, take down a Soviet military base. In a matter of a day, 77 Soviet military personnel were killed and 356 were injured. Now NATO waits, seeing what the Soviets would do next. Eight hours after the NATO bombings, the Soviets order a series of relalitory bombings.
Stalin, who was ready to order invading the Western European countries, could not do it. Although being a stubborn and somewhat stupid leader, he knew he could not win the invasion. The Soviet Union was still rebuilding from the German invasion of the Soviet Union and could not muster up the confidence and willingness of his nation. No Soviet wanted another World War, and one they knew they could not win.
Stalin did not predict that the West would be this tough in their goals of a divided Berlin. He could not make a decision. The Red Army, who could be called at anytime for an invasion of the West, could not invade out of fear of nuclear strikes on Soviet cities. The Soviet Union was not as technologically advanced as the United States yet. The United States could easily strike the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons but the Soviet Union, who only had a few nuclear weapons, could not strike the United States. In a week long meeting with his advisors, who were pressuring him to invade saying that, "the Soviet Army is in a better position to invade", Stalin could not invade the West. They decided to proceed with counter bombings and wait to see what the West would do next.
The bombings proved not to work. Both sides lived in fear. The West thought Stalin would have given in by now. Stalin did not predict the West to be so tough in their demands. Stalin, in an address to the Supreme Soviet, mocked the West's attempt to persuade him calling it, "Useless and plain funny." The Soviet's bombings killed 19 people and injured 243. This bombings would mainly be put on a hiatus because of many wars, like in Korea and Vietnam, and because of a death with many mysteries. In total the bombings of 1950 lasted about two and a half weeks before the NATO invasion of Korea. Toward the end of the bombings, it slowly died down. No side was going to back down. Truman and NATO then decided to simply suppress the spread of Communism.
1953: The Death of Stalin
With the bombings raging on and words being exchanged, it shocked the world that no order of a nuclear strike or an invasion was made. The reason behind this as written in a 1965 biography of the newly elected U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower, it was revealed, "No man, including myself, was that insane to make such an order. An invasion would cripple the economies of both superpowers and would the world even heal from this world war?" It appeared the bombings were just threats with an extra punch - just a series of fear games of who would blink first.The bombings paused as the General Secretary of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin died. With the war in Korea, the United States and NATO put their effort into the small country, trying to reunite it under democracy. Vyacheslav Molotov, who was the First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers at the time, had fallen out of Stalin's and the rest of the Soviet Politburo's favour. So two candidates for the next General Secretary were Lavrentiy Beria and Nikita Khrushchev. But to NATO, it made no difference. The bombings continued, not at the level as before Stalin's death. even before a decision was made. In order to win the General Secretary, Khrushchev had his opportunity in June. Khrushchev gained the upper hand and Beria was arrested.
Accounts of Beria's demise were contradictory. He was reportedly taken first to the Lefortovo prison and then to the headquarters of General Kirill Moskalenko, commander of Moscow District Air defense and a friend from war of Khrushchev's. Pravda announced Beria's arrest on July 10, crediting it to Malenkov and referring to Beria's "criminal activities against the Party and the State." In December it was announced that Beria and six accomplices, "in the pay of foreign intelligence agencies," had been "conspiring for many years to seize power in the Soviet Union and restore capitalism." Beria was tried by a "special tribunal" with no defense counsel and no right of appeal. He and his subordinates were immediately executed on December 23, 1953. His location is still unknown to this day.
The German Riots
Rioting has been going on and off in East Germany since its inception but once the bombings started in 1950 it went to a whole new level. On June 19th, Soviet military beat and arrested a man for peacefully protesting in front of the Soviet Embassy in East Germany. Many historians point to this as the inciting incident that raised the violence of the riots. Thousands of protesters stormed the streets begging and pleading for reunification with West Germany under a democratic government. In an address to East Germans on June 25th, 1954, United States President Dwight Eisenhower at a conference with Theodor Heuss, the West German President, tells the protesters to "...make your way across the border. Our men and NATO's will accompany you to safety."A day after the address by Eisenhower, hundreds of East Germans crossed the border. At Checkpoint Bravo, unauthorized shootings between Soviet and American soldiers start sometime in the early hours of November of 1954. The two leaders Eisenhower and Khrushchev had no idea of the shootings. Eisenhower, over a phone call on June 26, says he did not authorize any order to shoot and blames Khrushchev. Khrushchev, however, denies the president of his claim. As the two leaders try to sort out the conflict and avoid starting a Great War by accident, they order all of the bombings to pause until further notice. Soon the shootings stopped with three people killed and 32 people injured. No one to this day understands why the shootings started and who started them.
With many of the East German protests moving to Soviet military bases and hundreds of civilians at American-West German military bases, the bombings were halted for another year until things can get settled and for NATO and the Soviet Union to turn their attention toward Vietnam.
The Warsaw Pact
On 14 May, 1955, the Soviet Union and its satellites agreed to sign the Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, or for short the Warsaw Pact. The Soviet Union proposed the treaty as a Soviet opposite of NATO. It was made up all the Communist countries on the east side of the Iron Curtain, except for Yugoslavia.
The Second Paris Debate
On May 23, 1955, in a response to the signing of the Warsaw Pact the members of NATO meet again in Paris, France to discuss on a military reaction to the new alliance. The thought of a nuclear strike or strikes was "out of the question" as said by West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer. He continued with the following statement, "A nuclear strike by NATO will mean a response by the Soviets. Western European cities are easy targets." He made mention of the new capitol of West Germany, Hamburg and many other large cities in that area. "If they can't hit the United States, West Germany will be an easy target."
US President Eisenhower during the meeting told the leaders there, "that the United States will be preparing for a full-on invasion of the USSR. I will address my nation tomorrow about the situation at hand." A third World War was in the making. The following night Dwight Eisenhower in a television address to his nation informed the people that a war was beginning." Eisenhower with a poker face never said the location as a civil war in Vietnam was just beginning. Nikita Khrushchev's response to the invasion was told to the members of the Supreme Soviet only two hours after Eisenhower's address: "Any invasion of the Soviet Union will result in an easy victory for Communism." Only hours later the NATO invasion of the USSR was changed to the NATO invasion of North Vietnam.