In the years 1953-1960 was president Eisenhower’s cold war diplomacy based on confrontation rather than coexistence. How far do you agree?
Stalin’s death on the 5th March 1953 was met with great relief to the West where he was seen as a dominant factor in the development of the cold war, the dynamics of the war had great potential to change. Many revisionist historians argue however that Stalin lost his power in his final years; with the failure of the Soviet blockade in Berlin and defection of Cominform in Yugoslavia and his death brought great opportunity for the USSR to change its policy on the West. When Dwight Eisenhower entered office in 1953, he was committed to two contradictory goals of maintaining national commitment to counter the spread of communism and satisfying demands to balance the budget, lower taxes, and curb . He did not want to jeopardise economic prosperity with excessive military spending. His Secretary of State John Foster Dulles announced his goal of "massive retaliation" in 1954. This is reflected in his ‘New look’ policy in which he showed greater conciliation towards the USSR. The earlier fluidity in cold war positioning had been largely settled and each superpower’s sphere of influence had been established, with a change of leaders in both states it looked promising that there would be co existence. The new leader of the USSR, Khrushchev brought an immediate foreign policy with an agreement over Austria in 1955. There were other meetings such as the Geneva Summit in July 1955 where Khrushchev adopted a ‘peaceful coexistence’ foreign policy, which urged Eisenhower to do the same.
Eisenhower had won the presidential election of 1952 on a platform that was highly critical of Truman’s foreign policy for failing to stand firm against communism. He had inherited a large military budget from Truman, of roughly $42 billion, as well as a NSC-141 drafted by Acheson, Harriman, and Lovett which called for an additional $7–9 billion in military spending and the go ahead to confront communism. Dulles, talked of ‘rolling back’ communism and the liberation of Eastern Europe from the evils of communism. This persuaded Eisenhower to adopt a hard line approach to foreign policy known as ‘New Look’, which meant the USA would use military means to contain communism, and would have a policy of ‘massive retaliation’ against communist aggression. This shows how Eisenhower was prepated to confront the communists from the beginning of his rule. Instead of military rollback the U.S. began a program of long-term psychological warfare to delegitimize Communist and pro-Communist regimes and help insurgents. These attempts began as early as 1945 in Eastern Europe, including efforts to provide weapons to independence fighters in the and . Another early effort was against in 1949, following the defeat of Communist forces in the that year. In the , the United States and the officially endorsed a policy of rollback - the of the North Korean government - and sent UN forces across the to take over . The rollback strategy, however, caused the Chinese to intervene, and they pushed the UN forces back to the 38th parallel. The failure of the rollback policy, despite its advocacy by Gen. , moved the to a commitment to the policy, without rollback.