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Britain in the Cold War

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Britain in the Cold War

The Cold War was a conflict between two superpowers: the United States and the Soviet Union (USSR), and their respective allies. Historians usually agree that the Cold War began between 1947 and 1948, with the introduction of the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan, and ended with the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991.

The Cold War is called like that because the conflict never escalated into a full-blown, open conflict between the US and the USSR. It wasn’t a war in the conventional sense, as the two states were mainly focused on spying on each other and restricting the power and influence of the other. They did this, particularly through proxy wars such as the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

The Cold War is, therefore, better defined as a long period of conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. The purpose of the conflict for either side was to spread their ideologies throughout the world. The goal of the US was to promote open-market capitalism, and the USSR aimed to spread one-party state communism.

Britain wasn't a main player in the Cold War, but as we will see through our timeline, its alliance with the United States made it a participant nonetheless.

Great Britain’s role in the Cold War

Britain was an ally to the United States in this conflict. However, the Cold War was not a priority for Britain. We can divide Britain’s role in the Cold War into two periods: its involvement in the earlier years and in the later years of the conflict.

In the early stages, Britain participated in the creation of the Truman Doctrine, it fought against the communists in Greece, Germany, and Korea during the Korean War, and it started to work on creating its own nuclear weapons.

In the later stages of the conflict, Britain continued to support the US’ Cold War efforts in the Vietnam War. Margaret Thatcher also played a significant role in bringing about the end of the Cold War during those years.

Britain’s role in the Cold War is also defined by its shortcomings and failures. Namely, its susceptibility to espionage, its failure in the Suez Crisis, and PM Harold Wilson’s failure to get rid of Britain’s nuclear deterrent strategy amongst public concerns for the dangers of nuclear weapons.

Britain in the Cold War: a timeline

Britain played a minimal, albeit significant role in the formation of the Truman Doctrine and, consequently, in the start of the Cold War.

Winston Churchill’s ‘Iron Curtain’ speech in 1946

On 5 March 1946, Winston Churchill gave his ‘The Sinews of Peace’ speech in Missouri, USA. In his speech he declared:

An iron curtain has descended across the continent.

The ‘Iron Curtain’ referred to the political, ideological, and military barrier between the Soviet, communist states, and the West. The ‘Iron Curtain’ divided the world into two blocs: the Eastern Bloc and the Western Bloc. This ideological and political barrier was a result of the USSR’s decision to isolate Eastern Europe from the rest of the world by ‘Sovietizing’ its countries.

Britain in the Cold War, Map depicting the Iron Curtain, StudySmarterThe Iron Curtain as described by Churchill. Red depicts the Eastern European states under communist Soviet influence. Blue depicts the capitalist Western European states, BigSteve, CC-BY-1.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Churchill’s speech stressed the importance of defending the West from Soviet influence, and his words made an impact on US President Harry S. Truman. We can argue that this speech influenced the implementation of the ‘Truman Doctrine’. In this way, Britain indirectly influenced the start of the Cold War.

The Greek Civil War in 1946

On 3 December 1946, British military forces were sent to Greece to defend the country against the Democratic Army of Greece, which was communist and secretly backed by the Soviets.

However, Britain could not afford the costs of defending the country, as its economy was struggling in the aftermath of the Second World War. Britain called on the help of the US to take over, and the US, eager to defend Western nations against Communism, picked up where Britain left off.

The creation of the Truman Doctrine in 1947

On 12 March 1947, US President Harry S. Truman announced the ‘Truman Doctrine’, which was all about containing Soviet expansionism. Its purpose was, therefore, to establish strategies to contain Soviet expansion by providing political, military, and economic assistance to countries under Soviet threat.

The Truman Doctrine set the tone for US foreign policy at the time and led to the implementation of the Marshall Plan in 1947, and the formation of NATO in 1949.

The Marshall Plan of 1947

The Marshall Plan was an American initiative that ran from 1948 to 1951. It provided $15 billion in foreign aid to 16 Western European nations with two main purposes:

  • Rebuilding the continent in the aftermath of the Second World War.
  • Containing the spread of Soviet influence.

Britain itself benefited greatly from the Marshall Plan. It began receiving $2.7 billion in Marshall aid in 1948 and used this grant on defence and debt repayment. Furthermore, the Marshall Plan also solidified the special relationship between the US and the UK, creating a united front against the Soviets.

The formation of NATO in 1949

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was created in 1949 with the purpose of serving as a defensive alliance of the US, Canada, and Western European nations such as the UK against the Soviet Union. The member states of NATO agreed to protect any other member should if they were under Soviet threat.

In the beginning, Britain was a leading member of NATO.

Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin

Bevin was the Foreign Secretary of Attlee’s Labour government (1945–51). His approach to foreign policy was focused on maintaining a close relationship with the US and supporting the US’ strong anti-Soviet stance.

Some historians have argued that Bevin played a key role in the early stages of the Cold War, as he was a behind-the-scenes driving force in the formation of NATO. According to the National Archives, Bevin submitted the final draft of the North Atlantic Treaty to Cabinet for approval on 8 March 1949 and the Treaty was subsequently signed by Bevin and the other Foreign Ministers of the 12 member states on 4, April 1949, bringing it into effect.

Remember Bevin’s name, we will return to him when we talk about Britain’s Nuclear Deterrent.

Britain’s involvement in the 1948 West Berlin Blockade

Germany was left without a state at the end of the Second World War. It had been divided and was run by the allied countries that had won the War. United against Soviet-occupied East Germany, the Americans and the British combined their two sectors of Germany into a single sector, ‘Bizonia’. In 1948, joined by the French, they created a new currency for all their new zones. This angered the Soviets, who were worried the rest of Germany was too unified.

The airlift

On 24 June 1948, Stalin blocked West Berlin, cutting-off road, rail, and canal links to the area. This was an attempt to put pressure on Britain, France, and the US, who had introduced a new currency in West Berlin: the Deutsche Mark.

Britain in the Cold War Map of Germany during the Cold War StudySmarterMap of Germany during the Cold War. Dark yellow depicts capitalist West Germany and Berlin. Light yellow depicts Soviet East Germany, Wikimedia Commons.

Britain joined forces with the US and they organised an airlift to drop supplies and food into the area. The airlift sustained the people of West Berlin for the eleven months of the blockade until it was lifted by the USSR on 12 May 1949.

The Korean War, 1950–53

The Korean War began on 25 June 1950 and ended on 27 July 1953. It was the result of the North Korean communist army invading non-communist South Korea. At this time, the Truman Doctrine was already well-established, which meant that the United States would not let another country fall to communist influence. This led them to intervene.

At the early onset of the war, Britain sent 87,000 British soldiers to support the South Korean side and the US. Over 1000 British men died in the conflict.

The Korean War was seen as a turning point for NATO, as it demonstrated the extent of the Soviet threat, thus strengthening military alliances with member states. Britain’s involvement in the War also helped to strengthen its ‘special relationship’ with the United States.

The threat of the Cold War in Britain

Although Britain was an important ally for the US during the Cold War, there were some events and decisions that damaged this relationship. Two of the most important ones were the fact that Britain was vulnerable to Soviet espionage and its failures in the Suez Canal Crisis.

Soviet espionage

During the years of the Cold War, there were four espionage scandals that came to light in Britain. This showed that Britain had holes in its intelligence system and could therefore not be fully trusted.

The Cambridge Five were a spy ring that leaked British intelligence secrets to the USSR during and after the Second World War. When Cambridge Five members Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean suddenly fled to the Soviet Union in 1951, the Burgess and Maclean Affair attracted media attention and the public correctly suspected that they had been spies.

The successful long-term espionage of the Cambridge Five made a significant impact on Britain’s role in the Cold War, undermining Britain’s foreign policy during the period and the development of the nuclear deterrent. The successful long-term espionage of the Cambridge Five brought Britain’s ‘Establishment’ into question.

The Vassall affair

John Vassall was a civil servant in the Admiralty who was caught spying for the Soviet Union in 1962. Unlike the Cambridge Five, John Vassal was not motivated by a belief in communism but blackmailed by the Soviets into espionage. The scandal caused further embarrassed the Macmillan government.

The Profumo Affair scandal

John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War, was discovered having an affair with Christine Keeler, who was also having an affair with a Soviet spy, Yevgeny Ivanov. Although this was not a direct form of espionage, it made Britain look corrupt and further damaged their relations with the US.

The Suez Canal Crisis, or simply the ‘Suez Crisis’, refers to the invasion of Egypt that took place in 1956. Britain wanted to invade Egypt because the Suez Canal had been nationalised by President Nasser. The Canal was Britain's main means of transport to and from the colonies, which made its loss a serious economic threat.

The US also had an interest in Egypt, as they wanted to form an alliance with the country against the Soviets. They were afraid an invasion by Western powers would only push them towards the Soviets. Therefore, the US warned Britain that it would not support its decision to invade Egypt. However, Britain went behind President Eisenhower’s back with a secret plan to invade alongside France and Israel.

After the US and the UN put some economic pressure, Britain was forced to withdraw from the area. This crisis further damaged the relationship between Britain and the US, and it served to show Britain’s diminished role in world affairs. The country couldn’t take matters into its own hands without also catering to the needs of the US, on whose alliance the struggling British economy relied.

Britain and the arms race during the Cold War

The Cold War arms race was the competition for nuclear supremacy between the US and the USSR and each side’s respective allies. This was done based on their belief in deterrence.

The nuclear deterrent was the belief that one country’s development and possession of nuclear weapons would discourage other states from attacking with their nuclear weapons, as they knew they would face retaliation.

Britain in the Cold War Underwater nuclear test explosion, StudySmarterThe 'Hardtack Umbrella' underwater nuclear test by the United States in 1958, Wikimedia Commons.

The Attlee government of 1945-51 was committed to Britain developing its own nuclear weapons. Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin insisted Britain caught up to the US, who had tested and used atomic bombs in 1945 against Japan. Bevin demanded,

We’ve got to have this thing over here whatever it costs. We’ve got to have the bloody Union Jack on top of it.

Thus, Britain joined the nuclear arms race early. It became the third superpower to have its own nuclear weapons in 1952 when it tested its atomic bomb. In 1957, it tested its hydrogen bomb.

Britain’s nuclear deterrent

When in 1951 it came to light that Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean had managed to infiltrate the British intelligence system, the US stopped sharing its nuclear secrets with Britain. This led the country to develop nuclear weapons independently. They were successful in this feat.

However, by 1958 the US agreed to share its nuclear secrets with Britain once again as part of the Mutual Defence Agreement of 1958. The implementation of this agreement was evidence of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s success in rebuilding the relationship with the US.

Britain thus participated in the US’ project for the sub-aquatic Polaris missiles.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND)

The CND is a powerful organisation founded in 1957. It advocates for unilateral nuclear disarmament. The organisation emerged in response to the threat of a nuclear war between the US and the USSR. Full-blown nuclear war was a terrifying idea, as these lethal weapons of mass destruction posed a threat to the entire human race.

The CND hosted marches in 1958 and 1959 at the Aldermaston weapons research base which attracted 8000 supporters.

Britain in the Cold War Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament protesters StudySmarter

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament protest led by philosopher Bertrand Russell in London, Tony French, CC-BY-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

The public’s concern over the danger of nuclear weapons led to the implementation of the 1963 Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Prime Minister Harold Macmillan played a key role in successfully negotiating this treaty between Britain, the USA, and the USSR. It banned all above-ground nuclear weapons testing, in the atmosphere, outer space, and underwater.

Britain's role in the later years of the Cold War

When Harold Wilson became Prime Minister in the second half of the 1960s, Britain took even more of a ‘backseat’ role in the Cold War conflict.

Harold Wilson’s government, 1964–70

The British public was increasingly opposed to Britain’s strategy of the nuclear deterrent, particularly if it was going to be dependent on the US. During Harold Wilson’s prime ministerial campaign, he was against having a nuclear deterrent strategy that was dependent on the US. He argued that Polaris

will not be independent and it will not be British and it will not deter.

However, to the disappointment of the Labour voters, the Wilson government continued to support the retention of nuclear weapons.

In his manifesto, Wilson claimed he would reassess the Neutral Defence Agreement with the US. However, he did nothing to put an end to Polaris, the US and UK’s submarine-based nuclear weapons program. In 1967, he committed to upgrading Britain’s Polaris missile system to support the US Nuclear Deterrent. Polaris became operational in 1968. This earnt him a lot of criticism from the Left of the Labour Party and from the public.

The Vietnam War (1955–75)

The Wilson Government refused to send British troops to aid the US front in the Vietnam War. However, PM Wilson expressed support for the US in the Vietnam War. This led to protests in Britain: on 17 March 1968, an estimated 10,000 people took to the streets of London to protest against the war and Britain’s support of the United States. Violence broke out outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, turning the protests into riots.

The Labour Party promised to scrap Polaris in the general election of 1970. However, it did not commit to the promise when it returned to the government in 1974 for Wilson’s second term as PM.

Margaret Thatcher's government, 1979–90

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher continued to support the nuclear deterrent and US President Ronald Reagan in the later Cold War years.

Thatcher was staunchly anti-communist, which strengthened her bond with US President Ronald Reagan (1981–89).

Reagan and Thatcher were on the same page about the Cold War and she continued to work with the US to secure Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent. Due to Thatcher’s pro-nuclear stance, Britain bought Trident missiles to replace the then-obsolete Polaris missiles. Thatcher also agreed to let the US install the cruise missiles at Greenham Common in England, which led to a major backlash from the CND movement.

Thatcher supported Reagan’s unyielding anti-communist stance, which fortified the special US-UK relationship. As a result, the two countries continued to put an immense amount of pressure on the Soviet Union, which struggled to keep up with the arms race.

Exhausting the Soviet Union’s resources by keeping up a unified front of Western resistance proved to be a successful strategy. In 1991, the Soviet Union ended, and with it the Cold War. Thatcher was so outspoken about her anti-communism that a Soviet journalist dubbed her the ‘Iron Lady’.

The Cold War and Britain

How significant was Britain’s role in the Cold War? Here are some considerations that could help you analyse Britain’s role in the Cold War.

A common thread across Britain’s involvement in the Cold War is its prioritisation of relations with the US. Was Britain’s involvement in the Cold War a way to gain favour with the US and to try to cling to its diminishing status as a world superpower?

One could argue that Britain became too subservient to the US in the period. Could Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin be to blame?

Bevin set the tone for Britain’s approach to foreign policy, as succeeding governments all worked to maintain a special relationship with the US. His approach to foreign relations may have put too much emphasis on the relationship with the US.

The US knew Britain was struggling economically in the post-war period, and it used Britain’s financial vulnerability to keep the country in check: during the Suez Crisis, President Eisenhower used his influence over the International Monetary Fund to block Britain’s loan until a ceasefire was called threatening economic sanctions if Britain didn’t withdraw from Egypt. This example serves to illustrate the issues with Britain relying too heavily on the US.

Some historians have argued that Britain played a more significant role in the Cold War than is usually assumed, citing Churchill’s speech, Bevin’s influence over NATO, Britain’s nuclear deterrent, and Thatcher’s influence on the end of the Cold War, for example. However, others maintain that the significance of Britain’s role is overplayed; Britain’s role in the Cold War was first and foremost as an ally to the US and its contributions to the Cold War efforts on the Western front were diminished by its disastrous handling of the Suez Crisis.

Britain in the Cold War - Key takeaways

  • The Cold War was a 45-year conflict between the US and the Soviet Union that began in 1946 and ended in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

  • Britain was an ally to the United States.

  • Britain influenced the start of the Cold War and benefited from the US containment strategies. Churchill’s ‘Sinews of Peace’ and Britain’s defence of Greece during the Greek Civil War influenced the creation of the Truman Doctrine.

  • Britain directly benefited from the Truman Doctrine’s Marshall Plan initiative, receiving $2.7 billion in Marshall aid.

  • Britain continued to support the US’s military efforts against the Soviets. It sent soldiers to work alongside US soldiers during the West Berlin Blockade and sent 87,000 British soldiers to fight in the Korean War.

  • Britain also played a role in the nuclear arms race. It developed its own nuclear weapons independently but became reliant on the US, as the alliance was deemed beneficial.

  • Britain’s role in the arms race earned them much criticism from the CND, which led to the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Britain tested its atomic bomb in 1952 and its hydrogen bomb in 1957 and continued to develop nuclear weapons with the US throughout the Cold War.

  • Margaret Thatcher played a part in ending the Cold War due to her close ties with US President Ronald Reagan.

Frequently Asked Questions about Britain in the Cold War

Britain got involved in the Cold War because the Soviet Union posed a threat to Western Europe and to the United States, who was one of Britain’s strongest allies.

Britain’s role in the Cold War was as an ally to the United States. Britain played a role in the start of the Cold War, by influencing the Truman Doctrine. During Cold War conflicts such as the West Berlin Blockade and the Korean War, Britain sent in troops. Britain also developed its own Nuclear Deterrent.

Some historians argue that Britain’s role in the Cold War has been overplayed. The Cold War was a background issue for Britain and the country’s involvement was determined by the United States. The importance of Britain during the Cold War was diminished by its subservience to the US.

Final Britain in the Cold War Quiz

Question

When did Britain test its nuclear weapons?


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Answer

Atomic bomb - 1952

Hydrogen bomb - 1957

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Question

Who were the five members of the Cambridge Five?

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Answer

  1. Guy Burgess
  2. Donald Maclean
  3. Harold 'Kim' Philby
  4. Anthony Blunt
  5. John Cairncross.

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Question

Why did the Soviets recruit spies in Cambridge?

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Answer

  • The Soviets realised that the Establishment was a weakness in the British government and intelligence system.
  • Cambridge is an elite institution with ties to the British Establishment.
  • The Five's ties with the Establishment meant that they could attain high positions within the British government and intelligence system with relative ease.
  • Their upper-class background meant that they were unlikely to be suspected as spies.

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Question

What is the Establishment?

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Answer

  • The term was coined by Henry Fairlie to refer to the elite of British society.
  • The Establishment refers to groups whose social connections have led them to occupy positions of power.

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What did Guy Burgess do?

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Answer

  • 1936: he provided the Soviets with information on the British government during his time as a correspondent for the BBC.
  • During WWII: worked for mI5 and MI6. He was not vetted by MI6 due to his social connections.
  • He delivered at least 557 top-secret documents to the KGB over the course of his career.
  • He took the chance to flee with Donald Maclean in 1951.

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What did Donald Maclean do?

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Answer

  • 1935: begins working at the British Foreign Office.
  • 1950: promoted to head of the American department of the Foreign Office.
  • Shared secrets regarding Anglo-American Korean War policy, Nato and US nuclear power secrets.
  • Upon being warned by Maclean, the pair fled to Moscow in 1951.

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What did Harold ‘Kim’ Philby do?

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Answer

  • 1940: began working with Special Operations Executive.
  • 1941: joined MI6.
  • 1944: became head of Section IX.
  • 1949: sanctioned in the Foreign Office.
  • Undermined all of Section IX's counterespionage efforts; shared CIA, FBI documents and Venona Project decoded cyphers with the Soviets
  • He initially deflected suspicion and was cleared of all charges by Harold Macmillan in 1955. He was finally unmasked in 1963 by the testimony of Soviet defectors. He avoided prosecution by defecting to Moscow.

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Question

How was Kim Philby involved with the Burgess and Maclean Affair?

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Answer

Philby helped Donald and Maclean defect. As Kim Philby was working as head of MI6 in 1951, when suspicious began to mount about a mole by the cryptonym of 'Homer', he was able to warn his fellow spies. Philby sent Burgess back to England to warn Maclean.

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What did Anthony Blunt do?

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Answer

  • At Cambridge: he helped recruit spies for the Soviets.
  • Before WWII: An art historian.
  • During WWII: worked as a high-ranking intelligence officer for MI5. He worked at Bletchley Park and passed British code-breaking intelligence against the Germans to the Soviets.
  • After WWII: returned to his career as art historian
  • Unmasked by an American whom he had tried to recruit at Cambridge. He was interrogated by MI5 in 1964 and confessed. He was granted immunity in exchange for sharing everything he knew.
  • He kept his knighthood status until he was publicly outed as a spy in 1979 by Margaret Thatcher.

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What did John Cairncross do?

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Answer

  • During WWII: he worked as translator of German at Bletchley Park and passed British code-breaking intelligence against the Germans to the Soviets. In 1944, he began working under Philby in Section V of MI6. He is said to have alerted the Soviets about Britain’s Nuclear Deterrent.
  • After WWII: he was dismissed from the civil service and began working as a literary critic.
  • He was discovered in 1964 and granted immunity.

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What was the impact of the Cambridge Five on Britain's Cold War role?

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  • Exposed the corruption of the British Establishment. They showed that social networks could be infiltrated and exploited.
  • The Five hampered Britain’s role in the Cold War, compromising British Cold War intelligence, hampering the development of the nuclear deterrent and damaging the special relationship.

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Why is the Cold War called like that?

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The Cold War is called a ‘cold’ war because the conflict never escalated into a full-blown, open conflict between the US and USSR.


The conflict was mainly in the form of limiting each other’s influence, espionage and proxy wars.

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What is the Iron Curtain?

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The Iron Curtain is the political, ideological and military barrier between the Soviet Eastern European states and the capitalist Western Bloc.

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What is NATO and when was it formed?

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Nato was formed in 1949 and it is the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

It is a defensive alliance of the US, Canada and Western European nations against the Soviet Union.

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Who is Ernest Bevin and what is his impact on the Cold War?

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Ernest Bevin was Foreign Secretary to Clement Attlee’s 1945-51 Labour Government.

He played a key role in the development of Britain’s Nuclear Deterrent.

He played a role in the formation of NATO, submitting the final draft of the North Atlantic Treaty.

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What role did Britain play in the Truman Doctrine?

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Answer

In 1946, Churchill gave his ‘Sinews of Peace’ speech, highlighting the Soviet threat, declaring that ‘an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.’

Britain sent military forces to fight in the Greek Civil War against the communist Democratic Army of Greece

The Truman Doctrine was established in 1947:

This led to the Marshall Plan, which provided foreign aid to Britain

This also led to the formation of NATO in 1949. Britain was a leading member of NATO.

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What role did Britain play in the West Berlin Blockade?

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Answer

In 1948, Britain and the US organised an airlift to drop supplies to West Berlin. The airlift was successful and sustained the population for eleven months.


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What are the main examples of Soviet espionage in Britain during the Cold War?

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Answer

Several spy scandals compromised Britain’s Cold War role:

  • The Cambridge Five and the Burgess and Maclean Affair
  • The Vassall Affair
  • The Profumo Affair

These scandals led the US to stop sharing nuclear secrets with Britain, undermined Anglo-American Cold-War intelligence and hindered the development of Britain’s nuclear deterrent.

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What role did the Suez Canal Crisis play in the Cold War?

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Answer

The US’ Cold War role was compromised by Britain’s invasion of Egypt, which damaged Britain’s special relationship with the US.

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What was Britain’s role in the arms race?

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Answer

  • Britain became the third superpower to have its own nuclear weapons in 1952.
  • Britain tested its first atomic bomb in 1952 and its first hydrogen bomb in 1957.
  • The development of Britain’s nuclear deterrent was hampered by the Burgess and Maclean Affair. The US stopped sharing nuclear secrets with Britain.
  • The US began sharing nuclear secrets with Britain once again in 1958. Britain adopted the US’ Polaris msisiles.

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What is the CND?

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Answer

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was founded in 1957.

It advocates for unilateral nuclear disarmament.

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What is the 1963 Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty?

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Answer

The Treaty banned all above-ground nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere, outer space and underwater.

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What was the role of PM Harold Macmillan (1957-63) in the Cold War?


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Answer

  • He pushed for the development of the hydrogen bomb.
  • He negotiated the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which banned all above-ground nuclear weapons testing.

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What role did PM Harold Wilson (1964–70) play in the Cold War?

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Answer

  • He continued to support the retention of nuclear weapons and the US’s involvement in the Vietnam War. However, Wilson refused to send British troops to fight with the US in Vietnam.
  • He committed to upgrading Britain’s Polaris missile system.

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What role did PM Margaret Thatcher (1979–90) play in the Cold War?

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Answer

  • Thatcher supported the nuclear deterrent: Britain bought Trident missiles, Britain let the US install the Cruise missiles at Greenham Common, England.
  • Thatcher’s close relationship with Ronald Reagan and her staunch anti-communism helped bring about the Cold War.

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In which year did the Soviet Union test their first atomic bomb?

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Answer

1949

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What could an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile do?

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Answer

An Intercontinental Ballistic Missile could travel thousands of miles to reach its intended target before delivering a nuclear explosion.

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In which year did the United States win the Space Race?

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Answer

In 1969, when they first landed on the moon.

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What was the attitude of President Kennedy towards communism?

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Answer

Roll it back! It's dangerous.

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Why did the Bay of Pigs invasion fail?

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Answer

Castro had intelligence about Cuban guerrilla fighters launching an attack. He was prepared for it.

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How far from Florida were the missiles that the Soviet Union were constructing in Cuba?

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Answer

90 miles

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What did Kennedy attempt to do before invading Cuba?

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Answer

Kennedy tried to cut United States imports of sugar cane but the Soviet Union agreed to buy Cuban sugar.

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What did the Limited Test Ban Treaty (1963) NOT ban?

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Answer

Underground nuclear testing

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Who first signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty (1963)?

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Answer

The United States, the UK and the Soviet Union

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Which nuclear power did NOT sign the Limited Test Ban Treaty (1963)?

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Answer

China

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Question

What does SALT stand for?

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Answer

Strategic Arms Limitation Talks

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Which country violated the Limited Test Ban Treaty to test their first nuclear weapon in 1964?

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Answer

China

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Question

What did the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (1996) do?

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Answer

The CTBT banned all types of nuclear tests, including underground tests which were not banned under the Limited Test Ban Treaty.

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What happened in the SALT talks of 1972?

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Answer

The United States and the Soviet Union agreed to limit anti-ballistic missiles to two per country and freeze production of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.

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On which continent did the UK primarily conduct its nuclear tests?

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Answer

Oceania

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How many nuclear tests have North Korea done?

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Answer

6

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Which three countries have ratified the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty?

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Answer

France, Russia, the UK

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Question

What was the Manhattan Project?

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Answer

A US research project that developed the first Nuclear weapons during WW2, supported by the UK and Canada

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Question

What year did the UK have its first successful test of an atomic bomb?

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Answer

1952

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What was the UK's first missile system called?

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Answer

Polaris

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The Polaris system transferred responsibility from which organisation to the Royal Navy?

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Answer

The Royal Air Force

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What was Chevaline?

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Answer

A program developed in the 1970s to address concerns that the Polaris missiles could not penetrate the Soviet Union's new anti-ballistic missile system 

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In what year was Polaris completely phased out?

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Answer

1996

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What alliance was the UK a founding member of?

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Answer

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

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What did the Limited Test Ban Treaty do in 1963?

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Answer

The treaty banned the testing of nuclear weapons underwater, in the atmosphere, and in outer space.

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