Echoes of A New Tomorrow: Life after Revolution in the Commonwealth of Britain

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99KingHigh

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It is going to have to be spectacular to undo his victory in Cuba though.

Then again he is making a good start. Dual-key nukes are such an obvious solution to the German demands (they get Skybolt and nuclear warheads, they just can't arm them without a US and German 'key' both being used) yet somehow no-one has thought of it. The bar is being set very low and Kennedy is still managing to trip over it.
Interesting idea, though I’ve honestly never heard of this being used bilaterally before (at least at this time).
 
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Interesting idea, though I’ve honestly never heard of this being used bilaterally before.
The Thor missiles in the UK were dual key control, both RAF and USAF officers needed to agree to the launch. So were the Bomarc nuclear SAMs in Canada.

Or the step down and do it NATO style. The nukes are "assigned" to the host nations aircraft so the host has control over if they launch or not, but the actual warhead is under USAF control so the US has to agree to release it and so keeps their required control.
 
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It is going to have to be spectacular to undo his victory in Cuba though.
I am inclined to agree, from my position of Soviet asset proxy. Mind you, Cuba is about to become a very inhospitable part of the globe for pretty much all comers. (Not that the American commentariat would bother themselves worrying about such a thing.)
 
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Wraith11B

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Oh oh oh! Does it include microwaves causing diplomats physical ailments?
 
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Oh oh oh! Does it include microwaves causing diplomats physical ailments?
I had forgotten all about this bizarre chapter of US-Cuban relations. Which is a perhaps not surpassing, seeing as the history of US-Cuban relations is just one bizarre chapter after another.
 
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Wraith11B

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I had forgotten all about this bizarre chapter of US-Cuban relations. Which is a perhaps not surpassing, seeing as the history of US-Cuban relations is just one bizarre chapter after another.
So, supposedly, it's not just in Cuba... instances have also come to light in Moscow and Beijing... draw what conclusions you will from that information.
 
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So, supposedly, it's not just in Cuba... instances have also come to light in Moscow and Beijing... draw what conclusions you will from that information.
Interesting. Just read the NYT article from 2018, which is thorough without necessarily being revealing. (I guess that’s a given with experimental psyops journalism…) Honestly, I’m most taken with the people in the comments who suggest it is a form of eavesdropping gone wrong. Highly strange whichever way you look.

I was amused also that the medical staff seem to have a sense of humour about it:

“Everybody was relatively skeptical at first,” he said, “and everyone now agrees there’s something there.” Dr. Smith remarked that the diplomats and doctors jokingly refer to the trauma as the immaculate concussion.

Always good to see laughter in the face of adversity.
DYAEiOu.gif
:D
 
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Whoa, that's hilarious. I'd not heard of the "Immaculate Concussion," but seems like some bad Catholic is responsible!
 
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The Thor missiles in the UK were dual key control, both RAF and USAF officers needed to agree to the launch. So were the Bomarc nuclear SAMs in Canada.

Or the step down and do it NATO style. The nukes are "assigned" to the host nations aircraft so the host has control over if they launch or not, but the actual warhead is under USAF control so the US has to agree to release it and so keeps their required control.
An interesting thought, I'll keep it in mind, but obviously the complications with German relations (as OTL at the time with US-West relations) expand beyond just the nuclear trigger and the technicality of launching it.
 
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Whoa, that's hilarious. I'd not heard of the "Immaculate Concussion," but seems like some bad Catholic is responsible!
That, or God is really pissed off with US foreign policy. :p
 
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The next update is gradually approaching completion, tying up loose ends in Europe and taking us into the Spring. With any luck, if I can get a bit of a shift on, it will be out tonight for your enjoyment.

Things will be a bit foreign affairs heavy for the next few weeks, but after that on the Commonwealth front it's pretty much cultural and political stuff all the way to the End of the First Volume (!). So do not despair if the international stuff is less your bag. We'll be back with Bevan's woes soon enough.
 
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The Baltic Tango: Europe after crisis, Spring 1965

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ECHOES%20HEADER.jpg



EYE OF THE STORM
A HISTORY OF THE COLD WAR IN THE BEVAN YEARS

DENIS HEALEY, 1976


Part One
The Baltic Tango: Europe after crisis, Spring 1965


Pope Paul VI, addressing the Catholic faithful from the Vatican City, marked the start of 1965 by calling for New Year’s Day to be celebrated as an international ‘Day of Peace’. Paul accompanied his call for peace with a series of more concrete recommendations to the political leaders of the Cold War powers. Repeating calls made by his predecessor Pope John XXIII two years previous, Paul spoke forcefully for the an immediate end to the global nuclear arms race, “in the name of justice, right, reason, and the very dignity of Man.” Going further, the Pope made an unambiguous declaration of the Catholic Church’s position on nuclear weapons, saying simply that they should be banned, and that “[a] general agreement must be reached on a suitable disarmament programme, with an effective system of mutual control.”

At the same time, in Moscow, an alternative message was being broadcast by those at the heart of the Soviet government. While the world breathed a sigh of relief at having seen off the prospect of nuclear annihilation, declarations of peace were premature. In Khrushchev’s initial proposal, mad publicly on December 25, ceasefire in Cuba would be the prelude to a more wide-reaching ‘top-level meeting’ that might stabilise Soviet–American relations, if not normalise them. Yet there would be no discussion. President Kennedy, reading Khrushchev’s willingness to compromise as a vindication of his hardball policy, saw no reason to back down where American interests were not threatened. On December 28, as Soviet troops arrived in Cuba to dismantle the missile installations under OAS supervision, the Kennedy administration quietly shelved plans to axe its own missiles in Germany. For Kennedy, Cuba had been the crisis, and it was this view that threatened to reawaken conflict between the Cold War powers: Khrushchev’s strategy had been to use Cuba as leverage for the resolution of what he viewed as the true crisis in Germany. In surrendering his advantage in the Caribbean, he had hoped to inspire support for a quid pro quo in Washington, but he had grossly miscalculated, failing to take into account Kennedy’s unwavering bullishness.



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Pope Paul VI, making the call for peace on New Year’s Day, 1965.
Compared with his brilliant and beloved predecessors, John XXIII and Pius XII, Paul was in many ways an unremarkable pope. Intellectually undistinguished, and lacking the loving warmth of others to have held the pontificate, Paul nevertheless came into his own charting a ‘via media’ between reformists and traditionalists making competing claims over the future of the Church. His greatest legacy in the temporal world is his sustained commitment to peace, particularly in Vietnam.


Reeling, Khrushchev reversed course. When it became fully apparent that no German agreement was forthcoming, he retreated into bluster of his own, decrying American aggression and defending the Soviet policy as promoting peace. In his New Year address, pointedly rebroadcast to the world via Radio Moscow, the Soviet leader denounced Kennedy as a “warmonger”, before describing the continued presence of American weapons in Germany as “our own Cuba”.

Whether the Pope’s calls for peace had any effect on Kennedy, the first Catholic to be elected to the presidency of the United States, is impossible to say. Certainly, if the President took any of the ‘Day of Peace’ address to heart, it did not prompt any visible change in his diplomatic policy. Kennedy took similarly little notice of Khrushchev’s renewed bellicosity, although commentators both in and outside of his administration questioned the sustainability of his preferred alternative: a foreign policy that favoured dictation over consultation.



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Nikita Khrushchev, 1965.


In Berlin, too, there were dissatisfied voices. Chancellor Ollenhauer, the fervency of whose Atlanticism belied its ‘marriage of convenience’ nature, did not take well the realisation that the German–American relationship was not one of mutual respect. Ollenhauer maintained, even throughout his warm dealings with President Kefauver since coming to power in 1962, that the surest route to German security was security in Europe more widely, and this was the guiding principle behind his efforts to create the European Common Defence Agreement (EUCODA) in 1964. Germany’s leading role in EUCODA gave a boost to the idea in Berlin, popular across the political spectrum, that the Reich was Europe’s natural anti-communist power. This idea was undermined by the extent to which all power seemed dependent upon American enthusiasm for the European front, and with Kennedy rapidly losing interest in the German–Soviet conflict in favour of a heightened preoccupation with the East Asian theatre, the illegitimacy of the Reich’s claims to global influence were exposed for all to see. Washington’s refusal to fit Luftwaffe planes with Skybolt missiles caused consternation in Berlin at the end of January, and with an election looming in May Ollenhauer found it increasingly difficult to counter the charge – levelled by dissenters within the SDP as well as by the opposition – that he had engineered a German ‘submission’ to the United States.

For German patriots and American Kennedy-sceptics alike, Washington’s alienation of Berlin gave serious cause for concern. For Khrushchev, the distance opening up between the two allies signalled an opportunity for action. The crisis in Cuba had proven that America was not willing to go to war for the sake of its European partners – something that Kennedy himself had admitted in private at the end of 1964: indifference here was the bedfellow of autonomy. While the American invasion of Cuba had dominated global coverage of the crisis towards the end of 1964, the Eastern European frontier was forced to take a second-tier position within the collective consciousness. The immediate cause of this relegation is no doubt the severity of the conflict in Cuba, where the doom-laden pronouncements of Fidel Castro, and the stern responses of Kennedy and Khrushchev, made for a far more enticing media spectacle than the steely battle of nerves developing on the Soviet–EUCODA border. Nevertheless, the spectacular nature of the Cuban conflict obscured the extent to which tension had built up in Eastern Europe, the long Polish border with the Soviet bloc, as well as shipping routes in the Baltic, being sites of particular militarisation. All of this took place with little outcry from the Americans, who once again saw Asian communism as the more immediate threat to their interests.



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GAM-87 Skybolt missiles, in position on an American B-52 bomber.


While Washington shifted its focus to the other side of the globe, the European conflict was left to resolve itself. The German–Soviet dispute was curious in character, particularly when contrasted with the frequently overblown relationship between the Americans and the Soviets. Khrushchev was prone to blow hot-cold, but whereas in Kennedy he had a willing foil, Chancellor Ollenhauer cut a far steelier figure in European affairs. Introspective and calculating, Ollenhauer had little love of grandstanding, preferring to operate in a cool, deliberate manner. Furthermore, although he had been the driving force behind the formation of the EUCODA, he was as committed to upholding the organisation’s defensive character as he was conscious of exploiting the new alliance for shows of strength. Therefore it was easy for the world to miss the steady, mutual build-up of troops along the long Soviet–EUCODA border in the late Winter, and the accompanying rise in the frequency of German, Polish and Soviet naval patrols charting a course around the Baltic Sea. To any casual observer who may have cared to look at the situation, Eastern Europe in February 1965 appeared two steps away from war.

In reality, both sides in the dispute seemed content to hold tensions on the level of diplomatic fiction only. Even if, hypothetically speaking, Ollenhauer had hope to act so as to answer the charge, definitively, that he had neutered Germany through his dealings with America, the Chancellor was a canny enough politician to recognise that it was a gross impracticality to think of war three months before an election. This suited Ollenhauer perfectly; he surmised that all he had to do to gain the upper hand was to sustain the pressure on the Soviets without escalating. Given time, the Germans calculated that, as in Cuba, sooner or later Khrushchev would crack.

An editorial from the foreign-policy desk at Die Zeit on February 10 captured the nature of the engagement in vivid terms. ‘In Cuba,’ the article began, ‘Mr. Khrushchev was made to dance the rumba, passionate and constantly shifting in tempo.’ By contrast, ‘in the Baltic, Chancellor Ollenhauer is leading his Soviet counterpart in a tango: a dramatic dance of stops and starts. Performed properly, it looks like the couple are well-matched. But the appearance of parity belies the fact that at not point there is ever any doubt who is in control.’



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Erich Ollenhauer and Willy Brandt, 1954.
When he became chancellor in 1962, Ollenhauer appointed Brandt as his successor at the Foreign Ministry, although continued to direct much of Germany’s foreign policy himself. Brandt’s own ideas of ‘Ostpolitik’, involving an accommodation with the Soviet Union, did not become popular until later in the decade.


Sure enough, it was Khrushchev who moved first to break the tension. On February 14, at 10:04 a.m., the Soviet Riga-class frigate SKR-26[1], deviating from its usual patrol route, drew to 10.3 nautical miles off the coast of Köslin, in German Pomerania. Köslin was a significant location in Baltic geopolitics, being the port closest to the American missile installations near Damen, 30 miles to the south, thus it is possible that the passage of the SKR-26 so close to the Pomeranian coast was a test run for more serious naval operations against what the Soviets saw as ‘our own Cuba’.

At 10:09, word reached Chancellor Ollenhauer that a Soviet ship had arrived unusually close to the German coast. Reports from the Luftwaffe indicated that the ship was unaccompanied, and that, while it did not appear to be hostile, its intentions were unclear. Ollenhauer directed the Luftwaffe to continue to monitor the ship’s activity, and gave further instruction to the Reichsmarine to escort the Soviet frigate back into ‘open’ waters. If necessary, the RM was authorised to direct the SKR-26 away from the coast by means of ‘bumping’: physically knocking into the ship to alter its course. The German government justified this measure by claiming that the ship’s appearance 10 miles from the coastline constituted a breach of German territorial waters, although at that point the concept of ‘territorial water’ was undefined in international law. Nevertheless, by 10:15 the SKR-26 had received radio communications from the German coastal authorities directing it to return to open waters, warning that it risked a confrontation with the Reichsmarine if it did not comply. Two Raeder-class guard ships, the SMS Lübeck and the SMS Kiel, were dispatched to meet the SKR-26, pulling up to her just before quarter to eleven. Each of the German ships was over three times the size of the Soviet frigate by displacement, and after a brief radio exchange the SKR-26 changed course and began to head back for ‘open’ waters. After a tense hour-long standoff, further incident was averted without recourse to any overt use of force: a very literal victory for German gunboat diplomacy, and a setback for the Soviets in their attempt to assert control of the contested Baltic waters.



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A Riga-class Soviet frigate, like the SKR-26.


Inevitably, the dispute did not disappear fully with the removal of the SKR-26 from German waters. By midday, a Soviet diplomatic protest had been received by the government in Berlin, complaining of the use of ‘inordinate force’ to confront the SKR-26, which the Kremlin claimed had been making an innocent passage. The German government lodged a counter-protest, claiming that the presence of the Soviet ship so close to German territory had been a ‘deliberate provocation’. The result was a renewed stalemate, and while Ollenhauer had found, and taken, his chance to confront the Soviets head-on, the ultimate question of naval conduct in the Baltic remained unresolved. Legally, there was little to separate the claims of the two governments; the Soviets had not broken international law, yet there is a strong argument to suggest that the Riga incident was a premeditated provocation. But in the absence of another breakthrough, the situation reverted to a state of passive aggression; the German coastal patrol became more proactive for the remainder of the month, while the Soviets maintained their own energetic deployment of patrols and escorts. It would take more than an averted bumping incident to upset the balance of power in the east.


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A political map of the Baltic Sea at the time of the Copenhagen Convention.
The location of the SKR-26 off the German coast, and the American PGM-17 Thor missiles at Damen are both shown in red.


It must be remembered, of course, that the Baltic Sea is not the exclusive domain of the Germans and the Soviets, thus any heightening of tensions that takes place there, even if its principal actors are the Reich and the Union, will necessarily involve other, neutral parties. In the Spring of 1965, it was this simple fact of geography that offered a route towards de-escalation. Leaving aside the coastal nations aligned to Germany (Poland) and the USSR (Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), at the western edge of the Sea, the Scandinavian countries, too, held an obvious interest in Baltic peace. The Swedes, the Danes and (to a lesser extent) the Norwegians were al keen to avoid conflict in waters which they shared with the bickering powers, lest the situation turn hot and threaten their own maritime operations. Sensing that nothing would be done unless he took action on his own initiative, Danish premier Hilmar Baunsgaard took up the task of attempting to carve an escape from the impasse.

Baunsgaard was as much a believer in Nordic co-operation as Ollenhauer was a believer in German pre-eminence within Central Europe. Like Ollenhauer, Baunsgaard favoured a regional approach to European affairs – although, unlike Ollenhauer, he had not found it convenient to sustain this approach with American guns and gold – and the two premiers shared a scepticism of American influence in Europe more broadly. Earlier on in the decade, as leader of the opposition, Baunsgaard had fought the market-liberal Venstre government over plans to peg the krone to the dollar, as the neutral Low Countries had done following the Amsterdam Conference in 1957. Assuming the premiership at the head of a centre-left coalition in 1964, he presided over a shift away from Atlanticist thinking in the aftermath of the Missile Crisis in Cuba, which worked to undermine the assumption that neutral, non-socialist European states were best served by aligning with America (or Germany), almost by default. In concert with his counterparts in Sweden and Norway, Baunsgaard promoted the idea of Nordic unity, which would emphasise peaceful co-operation and neutrality in the Cold War; an alternative to making common cause with militarised German anti-communism. Conscious of the opportunity to illustrate the Nordic position as being committed to peace, Baunsgaard invited representatives of all eight other Baltic-coastal states to Copenhagen at the beginning of March, expressing a hope that disputes over the use and governance of the Baltic Sea could be resolved peaceably.



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Hilmar Baunsgaard (b. 1920), Prime Minister of Denmark, 1964–71, pictured with Social Democratic leader Jens Otto Krag.
Leader of the social-liberal Radical Party, Baunsgaard cut an unlikely figure in a political landscape dominated (as in Germany) by social democrats and market liberals, achieving prominence through his far-sighted embracing of modern media to engage with the Danish public. In coalition with the Social Democrats between 1964–68, in spite of his foreign policy achievement, Baunsgaard struggled to control welfare spending and oversaw a rise in taxation. The Radical–Social Democrat coalition lost its majority at the 1968 election, forcing Baunsgaard to turn to the market-liberal Venstre party for support, alienating supporters on the Left. In spite of this, later in the year he was able to orchestrate the creation of Nordek, a non-aligned economic community comprising Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and also passed a number of progressive social reforms, such as the abolition of the censorship (1969) and the legalisation of abortion (1970). These reforms cost him his majority, and he was forced to resign as prime minster in 1971.
For his work in convening the Copenhagen Convention, Baunsgaard was awarded the 1965 Nobel Peace Prize.


When the proceedings of the Copenhagen Convention began on on March 1, representatives of only five of the Baltic-adjacent states were present. (Norwegian foreign minister Halvard Lange was also in attendance as an observer.) With some irony, the three Baltic States (and Finland) were absent, represented instead by Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko, who attended ‘on behalf of the Soviet Union and its fraternal socialist republics’. Representing Germany was foreign minster Willy Brandt. That Gromyko and Brandt discussed terms on behalf of Germany and the USSR, and not Khrushchev and Ollenhauer, is significant. Where Khrushchev was changeable and prone to wide swings in character, Gromyko was on the whole flexible, and a level-headed advocate of disarmament; similarly, Brandt’s approach differed from Ollenhauer’s in placing a greater emphasis on rapprochement over ‘security’. Meeting in person, behind closed doors, Brandt and Gromyko were able to dispense with the political theatrics that had partly motivated Ollenhauer and Khrushchev’s public dispute. The ability of the two counterparts to work constructively towards an agreement in the Baltic pointed towards the emerging power of the ‘peacemakers’ in the governments of both Germany and the USSR. In practical terms, it also meant that the Convention, whose aim had been to draft a settlement for peaceful common use of the Baltic Sea, was a broad success.

It would perhaps be worthwhile, bearing this fact in mind, to speak of a ‘spirit of Copenhagen’ when describing the cautious optimism that grew out of the testy, post-Cuban diplomacy of the late winter. In practical terms, the Convention was a landmark of the European Cold War for regulating the movement of maritime traffic in the Baltic, which represented not only a general victory for the principle of peaceful negotiation, but ultimately also showed that compromise between the German and Soviet positions was possible. While the ‘12-mile principle’ was agreed upon as a standard customary limit to territorial waters, the right of all ships to innocent passage was affirmed (including warships), and ‘innocent passage’ was codified as a legal concept for the first time. Effectively, this outcome split the difference between both parties in the Riga dispute, recognising Germany’s territorial claim but vindicating the Soviet counterclaim of no ill intent. In this way, although no major realignment of policy resulted from Copenhagen, the Convention played a key role in neutralising one of the most dangerous flashpoints in the European theatre of the Cold War, and gradually allowed for the easing of tensions in Eastern Europe as the spring progressed.



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Andrei Gromyko and Willy Brandt at the Copenhagen Convention, 1965.


Nevertheless, signals of a new accommodation between Germany and the Soviet Union were not sufficient to prevent two final casualties in the dispute between the two states. On April 8, a bulletin broadcast by Tass, the official news agency of the Soviet Union, announced to the world that a plenary meeting of the CPSU Central Committee had voted three days prior to affirm the principle of collective leadership. While oblique in its messaging, hidden within the subtext of this declaration was the announcement that Nikita Khrushchev had been removed from power. He was supplanted at the head of Soviet government by a ‘troika’ composed of Frol Koslov, Alexei Kosygin and Anastas Mikoyan (as head of the CPSU, head of government and head of state, respectively).

Although the Tass communique refrained from making a single mention of Khrushchev, the collective leadership was positioned in opposition to ‘harebrained scheming, immature conclusions and hasty decisions and actions divorced from reality, bragging and phrase‐mongering, [and] commandism’. The implication is that Khrushchev was undone by his fair-weather commitment to the role of ‘cold warrior’. Frequently unconvincing as a war leader, after the successes of January 1957 his attitude to the West had flipped frequently between peaceable and standoffish, often forced into a reactive policy after failing to dictate events, and overseeing the deterioration of Soviet–American relations to their lowest ebb in a generation.



1965 KHRUSHCHEV OUSTER NYT.jpg


In the end, it is perhaps fairest to attribute this regrettable list of achievements, as George Kennan in 1976, to an excess of humanity:

The Khrushchev era presented what was unquestionably the most favorable situation that had existed since the 1920s for an improvement of relations with the Soviet Union and for a tempering of what was by this time becoming a dangerous, expensive, and generally undesirable competition in the development of armed forces and weapons systems. Khrushchev had his feelings, among them his boasting, his crudeness, his occasional brutalities, his preoccupation with Soviet prestige, and his ebullient efforts to advance it, but most of these were the failings of a man who was outstandingly a peasant parvenu, not born to the habit or to the expectation of great power and with a tendency to overdo in the exercise of it.
But he was intensely human, even in relations with the ideological opponent. One could talk with him, talk, so far as he was concerned, to the very limits of physical stamina. The primitive nature of Khrushchev’s faith in Marxist-Leninist principles as he understood them was, strange as this may seem, an advantage; for it caused him to wish, even in confrontation with the capitalist visitor, to convert, and to this event, to communicate. From the standpoint of efforts to reach a better bilateral understanding, this was far better than the brilliant and cruel cynicism of Stalin.

If Khrushchev was the most human of the Soviet leaders, then, for the group who organised his ouster, this was precisely his greatest failing. The troika saw Khrushchev’s character not in terms of its humanity, but in terms of its volatility. This, they feared, was the single greatest threat to the Soviet Union’s position as a global power. What was required was a dispassionate, unsentimental view of the world, and the Union’s place within it; a tacit acceptance that the Revolution would not be exported by force of arms, and that the surest way to the victory of Communism was – in a strange re-emergence of the Stalinist position – the triumph of Communism at home. To this effect, the Koslov-Kosygin-Mikoyan troika ultimately emerged as a conservative influence upon global affairs, turning its gaze inwards and onto Marxism–Leninism itself.


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Alexei N. Kosygin (b. 1904), Soviet Premier after the fall of Nikita Khrushchev.
A lifelong administrator within the industrial apparatus of the Soviet Union, Alexei Kosygin was a peculiar figure within the shadowy world of the Kremlin: something of a loner, fiercely intelligent and totally committed to his work. It would be no exaggeration to say that Alexei Nikolayevich lived for the administration of the Soviet system, and, now in power, he saw his task as turning his considerable abilities onto the redressal of the many shortcomings at the heart of the democratic centralist organisation.
Nevertheless, as someone concerned principally with administration, Kosygin was an intuitive, if cautious, player of the political game. He knew when to assert his position, but more often he knew when to relent, cognisant of the fact that reform in the Soviet Union was neither a marathon, nor a sprint, but indeed a crawl. Broadly liberal in his view of Leninism without straying into heterodoxy, Kosygin was restrained in diplomacy. As he grew in stature during the final years of the 1960s, his profile in the West grew steadily, and he was viewed as a pragmatist with whom business might be done. At home, in spite of what Henry Kissinger once called his ‘glacial exterior’, he was well liked by the Soviet people. His accession to power can be seen as a pivotal moment in the history of the Soviet Union.


With Khrushchev out of power, Ollenhauer may have felt the stability of his position improve, able to return to the cultivation of his Mitteleuropa with the likelihood of erratic intervention from the Kremlin largely reduced. He had seen off his main rival for influence in Eastern Europe, and with the conclusion of events in Copenhagen he had secured a small victory for ‘German interests’ through the formalisation of territorial waters in the Baltic. But the priorities of the voting public are not always exactly aligned with the priorities of those in power, and the Christian Democrats had played up Ollenhauer’s own ‘erraticism’ on the international stage, criticising his balancing of Atlanticist and Eurocentric interests as a “stop-go” foreign policy. To a German people tired of volatility abroad, and with the economic boom of the Bonhoeffer years having puttered out after more than a decade of expansionary policy, five more years of social democracy was not an energising prospect. Thus five weeks after Khrushchev received the order to stand down, Erich Ollenhauer’s government was defeated by the will of the people. It was a shock ending to the career of a statesman whose short term in power belied the force of his impact upon the world stage. At 64, he took his failure to secure a renewed mandate as his cue to leave front-line politics, and never again held a ministerial position.

Erich Ollenhauer was replaced as chancellor by Christian Democrat Ludwig Erhard, an outsider in German politics without grand ideas, but with a sustained commitment to the easing of tensions in Europe, and belief that German interests were best served by the development of a strong economy. It was in economic affairs that he had made his name, and he rose to the leadership of the CDU in 1960 as a natural successor to Walter Eucken, architect of the ‘economic miracle’ that had accompanied the accession of Kaiser Louis Ferdinand and the creation of the ECZ. In foreign affairs, Erhard’s preference was for a the establishment of what he called a ‘modus vivendi’ between the German and Soviet blocs. He believed that the surest way to win the battle for influence in Eastern Europe was to demonstrate the superior quality of life available under the ‘social market system’ of the German Reich, and that, faced with strong capitalist growth, the decline of Marxism-Leninism was inevitable. To this end, he was sceptical of American attempts to escalate hostilities via Germany, but also of Ollenhauer’s ill-fated doctrine of self-reliance. Assisted by foreign minister Kurt Georg Kiesinger, who favoured co-existence without any real gestures of conciliation, the return of Christian Democratic government to the Reich signalled a cooling in German enthusiasm for active engagement in the European Cold War. As will be seen, the eventual result was an escalation of German involvement in the Cold War beyond Europe, particularly with regard to the Erhard ministry’s endorsement of America’s goal of military victory in Vietnam. This shift is illustrative of a wider pattern, by which European conflicts were supplanted by conflicts in Asia and South America moving into the second half of the 1960s.



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Ludwig Erhard (b. 1897), being sworn in as Chancellor of the German Reich in 1965.


In many ways, Erhard and Kosygin (who soon assumed a dominant position within the troika) were well matched. Both men had achieved high office in spite of an ‘outsider’ reputation, and both were on the whole pre-occupied by economic affairs over confrontational foreign policy. As much as this accidental commonality of purpose helped to inaugurate a period of calmer relations between the European powers in the second half of the 1960s, ultimately it would also lead to frustration and statement. At the very moment of Erhard’s commitment to his policy of modus vivendi, banking on the decline of the Soviet Union from within, Alexei Kosygin was applying himself to his ‘modernisation’ efforts – tentative bureaucratic and economic reforms, intended to return to a ‘purer’ form of Leninism – which by the end of the decade would spark a small increase in Soviet fortunes. Without the mild warming of German–Soviet relations overseen by Chancellor Erhard, it is debatable the extent to which Kosygin would have been able to enact his plans so fully.

The events of spring 1965 demonstrate that the transition from ‘entrenchment’ to ‘optimism’ was not a smooth, untroubled shift in European Cold War doctrine, and indicates at the same time that the relative peace that followed was never inevitable. Rather, what can be seen is the gradual dissipation of Cold War activity away from Europe, accelerated by a cohort of conservative statesmen each coming to power around the same time in first half of 1965. The result was not a resolution, but a reprieve: a pause in proceedings while conflict intensified in the post-colonial world and Europe caught its breath before the next crisis.



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1: OTL the SKR-26 was not a Riga-class frigate, but a Petya-class frigate. I point this out because I am acutely aware of the fact that I am operating in a territory (“the navy”) which, famously, is not familiar to me at all, so I am trying to cover my arse. The discrepancy is explained by two things. One is that the ship in the story was originally going to be a Petya-class vessel, on the recommendation of Pip some months back now, but I decided at the last minute that, for my purposes, the Riga fits better (the Riga being patrol and escort vs. the anti-submarine leaning of the Petya – or so was the sense I got from my reading). The second reason (ie, why I didn’t just change something that is incredibly easy to change) is that I’d already made the map showing the SKR-26, and decided that I did not want to go back and edit it when it could just as well be explained away as an entirely trivial butterfly. (The German stuff, meanwhile, is entirely made up, for the very simple reason that we are dealing with a Reichsmarine in 1965.)
 
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GangsterSynod

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A few years ago, for a college assignment, I interviewed a Czech guy who defected a few years after the end of the Prague Spring and he said, basically, that Dubcek was loved because he was the first leader of Soviet-era Czechoslovakia that people felt was a normal human being and not a strange Party robot or a ludicrously corrupt bureaucrat.
I must admit that I don't know much about the Soviet Union itself, but my understanding was that Khrushchev was sort of that way, and was about as decent and human as one could really get as a Soviet leader (though that is one incredibly low bar), as you say. An interesting guy, really. I need to read up on him and on the post-Stalin USSR more.
 
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DensleyBlair

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A few years ago, for a college assignment, I interviewed a Czech guy who defected a few years after the end of the Prague Spring and he said, basically, that Dubcek was loved because he was the first leader of Soviet-era Czechoslovakia that people felt was a normal human being and not a strange Party robot or a ludicrously corrupt bureaucrat.
I must admit that I don't know much about the Soviet Union itself, but my understanding was that Khrushchev was sort of that way, and was about as decent and human as one could really get as a Soviet leader (though that is one incredibly low bar), as you say. An interesting guy, really. I need to read up on him and on the post-Stalin USSR more.
That's an interesting perspective. I get the sense that Khrushchev was, perhaps, about as sympathetic as a Soviet leader could get (I guess Gorby is up there as well), but that part and parcel of this appeal is the fact that he was just totally unpredictable. Which is a very limited reading, because Soviet history isn't my area either, but that's more or less how I've tried to write him here.

What happens next for the USSR under the collective leadership will hopefully offer something a bit more interesting than just "Brezhnev but with different people", but at the same time we are more or less finished with fun Soviet characters. There are lots of grey-hatted party men on the horizon…
 
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El Pip

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Pleased to see the Papal tradition of making announcements that everyone ignores is continuing, some things must remain constant.

I have a small hope of seeing Kosygin crash and burn, he always had the excuse of blaming things on Brezhnev in OTL but here he does not. I am aware this is probably a false hope, but it would still be fun to see it happen.
 
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DensleyBlair

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Pleased to see the Papal tradition of making announcements that everyone ignores is continuing, some things must remain constant.
Of course, we must always have our totally irrelevant Papacy.

I have a small hope of seeing Kosygin crash and burn, he always had the excuse of blaming things on Brezhnev in OTL but here he does not. I am aware this is probably a false hope, but it would still be fun to see it happen.
I will say that Kosygin coming to power does not automatically mean we are going to see the successful reform of the Soviet economy (mostly because I am not that interested in being idealistic about the Soviet economy), but equally the USSR is entering a period of being ruled by old men in suits utterly traumatised by Stalin, and to a lesser degree Khrushchev's posturing. So dramatic crashes and burns are probably off the menu for a bit.