This essay will argue that the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) reached an agreement over Laos but not in Berlin because Berlin was politically important for both the US and the USSR. If ever the USSR gains Berlin, the integration of the entire Eastern Europe into the Soviet bloc will finally be accomplished. Should the US acquire Berlin, the former will have a strategic stronghold from which it can attack the USSR.
In sharp contrast, the absence of an agreement over Laos will plunge both the US and the USSR into very costly wars. Nikita Khrushchev is famous for being a bold reformer who ended the brutal legacy of Stalinism and rejected the Soviet foreign policy of waging a world war with the West. His diplomacy likewise destroyed the Stalinist doctrine of isolationism that controlled the Soviet Union for decades.
But Khrushchev’s reckless brinkmanship and ultimatums interspersed these positive developments, resulting in the Berlin Crisis (1958-1962). Some political experts believe that the Berlin Crisis drove the world to the brink of a nuclear war. Prior to the Berlin Crisis, Khrushchev was a dictator whose major decisions were unchallenged, particularly those related to Soviet foreign policy. Under his regime, Soviet foreign policy focused on countries and issues that affected important Soviet interests and his political expediency.
“Priorities” included finalizing a German peace settlement, achieving a detente with the US, preserving and strengthening ties with the People’s Republic of China and supporting Communist movements throughout the world. Despite Khrushchev’s reformist stance, he was still determined to win the Cold War by spreading Communism across the globe. Shortly after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961, Khrushchev and US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) met at the Vienna Summit, which lasted from June 3 to June 4, 1961.
The summit turned out to be a very tense affair. Khrushchev initially resisted JFK’s attempts to discuss Laos, saying that he was fully aware of US military intervention in the said country. But Khrushchev was in a more conciliatory mood when JFK again brought up the subject of Laos the following day. The former “agreed to work in good faith for the Geneva goals. ” Khrushchev also claimed that “interested parties should be locked in a room and told to find a solution. ” The agreement on Laos apparently was the sole conclusive outcome of the Vienna Summit.
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