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The Cold War - OverSimplified (Part 2)

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17:05   |   Jan 24, 2019

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The Cold War - OverSimplified (Part 2)
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  • For anyone who thinks recent US history has never been crazy as it is right now,
  • allow me to present to you
  • the 1960s.
  • Extreme cultural division,
  • major political assassinations,
  • and the closest the world has ever come
  • to nuclear apocalypse.
  • Shocked by the CIA's intrusive methods for putting down socialism in Latin America,
  • a certain Fidel Castro met with a certain Che Guevara in a bar in Mexico City,
  • and the two of them decided they should grow some awesome beards
  • and overthrow the Cuban government.
  • Which is exactly what they did.
  • Cuba had been America's summer playground,
  • and America didn't like seeing a communist regime being set up in its own backyard.
  • So the US immediately began training up Cuban exiles
  • to invade Cuba and overthrow Castro.
  • However, as the day of the operation came closer,
  • Kennedy wanted to conceal any US involvement in the plan.
  • So he massively scaled back American air support,
  • and as a result the Bay of Pigs Invasion was a humiliating defeat for America.
  • But Castro felt there was still an impending US threat to his regime.
  • Meanwhile in the Soviet Union,
  • Khrushchev had a lot of medium-range nuclear missiles that couldn't reach America.
  • But they could if they were positioned, say, on an exotic Caribbean island off the coast of Florida?
  • - "Hey, I'm a communist who hates America.
  • You're a communist who hates America.
  • You know what that means?"
  • - "We should fall in love!"
  • - "Uh, I was just going to suggest you set your missiles up in Cuba."
  • - "Oh, no - no, you're right, that's a better idea.
  • Be still, my beating heart..."
  • On October 14th 1962,
  • a US spy plane over Cuba noticed something strange.
  • - "Sir, you need to look at this photograph."
  • - "You're right! That's the cutest dog I've ever seen!"
  • - "Sir, I was referring more to the Soviet missiles."
  • America freaked out as they realized what was going on.
  • They were completely vulnerable, and they had to act fast.
  • They knew that airstrikes or an invasion of Cuba would likely mean nuclear war with the Soviet Union,
  • so Kennedy came up with another idea.
  • A blockade.
  • The US navy announced it would stop and search any Soviet ships heading to Cuba.
  • And would sink any that did not comply.
  • In response, the Soviet put its military into full combat readiness.
  • The US did the same, and began drawing up plans for an attack on Cuba.
  • Things were escalating fast,
  • and both superpowers were getting ready for World War 3.
  • Emergency communications between the two sides broke down
  • as Khrushchev rejected Kennedy's demands for the missiles to be removed.
  • And for the first time in history,
  • the US strategic air command moved to DEFCON 2.
  • DEFCON 1 means nuclear war.
  • The Soviets shot down a U2 spy plane over Cuba.
  • A Soviet nuclear submarine in the Caribbean mistakenly believed war had already broken out
  • and two of the senior officers gave the go-ahead to fire its nuclear torpedo.
  • Thankfully the third senior officer, this beautiful man,
  • refused to authorise the decision.
  • The US finalised its preparations,
  • and I kid you not, the day before the US were set to decide the day and time for the Cuban invasion,
  • Khrushchev was like,
  • - "Hey. You know if you just removed your missiles from Turkey, we'd remove ours from Cuba?"
  • - "Yeah. Yeah, that sounds good to me."
  • It was a bit more complicated than that, but at the last second,
  • the two sides finally came to an agreement.
  • Soviet missiles were shipped out of Cuba and the world breathed one gigantic sigh of relief.
  • Except for one guy, who was bloody livid.
  • - "Phew! Let's hope that's the biggest crisis of my presidency!"
  • Unfortunately for him, his presidency was to end with one.
  • Having nearly blown up the planet, a few changes were made.
  • First, the superpowers agreed to a limited Test Ban Treaty.
  • Secondly, the Soviets ousted Khrushchev, and replaced him with Leonid Brezhnev.
  • Who was a kisser.
  • He liked to kiss.
  • Both sides were deeply concerned at the prospect of nuclear war,
  • but still the arms race raged on throughout the 60s and 70s.
  • US intelligence worked out that the Soviets' nuclear arsenal was
  • not as powerful as they previously thought,
  • but in fact it was America that held the advantage.
  • ABMs and MIRVs were developed.
  • And the doctrine of MAD.
  • If both sides knew they would be completely destroyed by a nuclear war,
  • neither would risk starting one.
  • But even without war,
  • the world was already feeling the effects of nuclear weapons.
  • In 1966,
  • above the pleasant town of Palomares in Spain,
  • a US bomber collided with a tanker mid-air,
  • and four hydrogen bombs fell and landed near the town below.
  • - "It hasn't exploded so I'm sure everything's fine.
  • Wooah, boy!
  • Uhh, hey, I wouldn't eat that if I were you."
  • - "Okay."
  • - "What were you going to do today?"
  • - "Go for a swim?"
  • - "Yeah. I wouldn't.
  • Are you breathing right now?"
  • - "Yeah?"
  • - "Yeah...
  • I wouldn't."
  • It took the Americans two and a half months to find one of the bombs,
  • which had gone missing in the ocean.
  • This was the fourteenth time America had lost a nuclear bomb since 1950.
  • Nobody knows how many bombs the Soviet Union lost.
  • So sleep well tonight.
  • After Kennedy's assassination,
  • Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson took over.
  • And he inherited a developing crisis in the east.
  • Vietnam.
  • Back in the 50s, the Vietnamese had kicked their French colonisers out once and for all,
  • and the country was divided into two.
  • In the North, a communist regime.
  • And in the South, an anti-communist regime.
  • Both were led by very sweet-looking old men.
  • But don't let that deceive you.
  • They were both ruthless dictators,
  • and both dreamed of reuniting Vietnam under their own regime.
  • So the North established the National Liberation Front,
  • also known as the Vietcong,
  • to carry out a campaign of guerrilla warfare in the South
  • with Soviet support.
  • The US sent advisors to help train the South Vietnamese to deal with the threat,
  • but President Diem's brutal policies pushed more and more South Vietnamese
  • to support the Vietcong.
  • And over the next decade,
  • the situation escalated to a breaking point.
  • America feared the Domino Effect.
  • That is, if South Vietnam fell to communism, would Cambodia be next?
  • Then Laos? Thailand? Burma? India?
  • LBJ had to make a choice.
  • Between losing South Vietnam,
  • or sending in the troops.
  • And so in they went.
  • From 1965, America found itself in a war unlike anything it had ever fought before.
  • Let's Play: Spot the Vietcong Soldier!
  • (ticking)
  • (buzzer)
  • Did you see him?
  • Of course not.
  • That's because millions of young American men
  • were drafted and sent to fight a ruthless enemy
  • who used the thick jungle as its shield.
  • It was nearly impossible to tell where the enemy was,
  • Or worse, who it was.
  • And as a result,
  • the civilian population got caught up in the brutal crossfire.
  • The city of Saigon found itself under regular attack,
  • and America launched a bombing campaign in the North during Operation Rolling Thunder.
  • The Vietcong used the Ho Chi Minh Trail running through Laos and Cambodia
  • to supply the campaign.
  • It was a long and brutal war,
  • and I could never do it justice in this video.
  • But in terms of the Cold War,
  • Vietnam was probably the biggest of many, many global conflicts
  • that signalled a turning point.
  • Under the threat of nuclear war,
  • the two superpowers began working to make their relationship more constructive.
  • And as a result their ideological battle shifted away from the potential of direct conflict,
  • and more towards attempting to influence smaller proxy wars around the world.
  • In the Middle East, the Soviet Union provided aid against Israel during the Six-Day War,
  • and then again when the US backed Israel during the Yom Kippur War.
  • In Africa, the Angolan Civil War saw US-supported South Africans
  • fighting Soviet-supported Cubans.
  • In the conflict between Somalia and Ethiopia,
  • the superpowers interestingly switched sides as regimes changed.
  • And the US continued fighting the spread of communism in its own backyard,
  • funding the famous Contra groups to fight the socialist junta in Nicaragua.
  • These proxy wars were fierce enough to begin with,
  • but superpower intervention amplified the destruction,
  • and created alarming levels of human suffering throughout the Third World.
  • And in Vietnam, that human suffering was all being broadcast back home
  • via good old television.
  • Going into the late 60s,
  • America was a changing nation.
  • This became this.
  • This became this.
  • And this became this.
  • The new slogan that was taking route, "Make Love, Not War."
  • The majority of Americans did not approve of Johnson's handling of the Vietnam War.
  • And in 1968,
  • a silent majority elected Law and Order candidate Richard Nixon.
  • As the Vietnam War appeared to be increasingly unwinnable,
  • and public opinion turning increasingly sour,
  • Nixon made the decision to begin bringing the troops home,
  • and ended US involvement in Vietnam by 1973.
  • Two years later, the South fell.
  • The Cold War was now taking its toll on both superpowers.
  • In Russia, a huge percentage of the budget was still going to the military,
  • people were still hungry,
  • and they just didn't have access to the same lifestyle and goods
  • as the West.
  • And what did they have to show for it?
  • They weren't even winning the Space Race anymore.
  • Both sides needed to reduce spending in order to rescue their economies,
  • and so both welcomed with open arms an easing of hostilities.
  • Otherwise known as detente.
  • To improve relations,
  • Nixon became the first US President to visit Moscow in 1972.
  • And Brezhnev returned the favour a year later.
  • A number of treaties were signed,
  • including the 1972 SALT agreement,
  • that limited nuclear weapons.
  • Relations with China were even improving via Ping-Pong Diplomacy,
  • when the US table tennis team went on a tour
  • of the People's Republic.
  • However, internally, China was still pushing anti-capitalist propaganda,
  • which led to some mixed messages.
  • Nixon even visited China in 1972, and it was a barrel of laughs.
  • (jaunty theme music)
  • Everything was going great for Nixon.
  • Until it was uncovered that back home he was being a very naughty boy and violating Constitutional Protocol.
  • - "I'm announcing today my resignation as President.
  • And I'm passing the office to my Vice President, Gerald Ford."
  • - "Wow! You mean in America the people can actually remove their leader when he breaks the law?
  • Why not just rule by force? Where's the corruption?"
  • - "And my first act as President is to pardon Nixon!"
  • - "Ah, there it is."
  • After the whole fiasco, Americans decided what they really wanted
  • was just a nice, safe guy who wouldn't cheat on them.
  • So they elected Jimmy Carter.
  • And the two sides met in Vienna where they signed yet another Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty.
  • - "It's an honour, Premier Brezhnev." - "Likewise, President Carter."
  • (kiss)
  • - "Please don't do that."
  • But that's not to say there was no longer any tension between the two sides.
  • Because there was,
  • heaps of it.
  • Once again, the Soviet Union put down further attempts at reform and rebellion in the Eastern Bloc.
  • The Euromissile Crisis saw new and improved classes of intermediate-range missiles
  • being deployed in Europe.
  • In 1979,
  • the Soviets thought it would be a good idea if they had their own Vietnam
  • and invaded Afghanistan to prevent a US-sponsored Islamic insurgency.
  • And in response to these various crises,
  • Olympic Games were boycotted.
  • Conservatives were concerned that US policy had become too soft,
  • and in 1980, they decided they wanted a President who would be tough on communism.
  • So they elected Ronald Reagan.
  • And Reagan came in guns-blazing.
  • Concerned at the Soviet Union's human rights violations,
  • he made a speech calling them an "evil empire".
  • And he also wanted to renew the arms race using technological advances in computing and lasers.
  • He came up with the Space Defence Initiative, also known as Star Wars.
  • Which was basically a big, defensive anti-nuke shield around the country.
  • But a lot of people thought it was a pretty dumb idea.
  • The Soviet Union proceed the shift in rhetoric,
  • as the USA getting ready for war.
  • And they were feeling especially threatened as their relationship with their communist ally, China
  • had broken down.
  • Relations took a big hit in 1983,
  • when the Soviets shot down a Korean airliner that had strayed into their airspace.
  • And it looked like the world was going right back to mid-20th-century Cold War tension.
  • But then Brezhnev got really old and died,
  • and was replaced by this guy who was really old and died,
  • and was replaced by this guy who was really old and died,
  • and he was replaced by Mikhail Gorbachev.
  • Coming into office in 1985, he was the real game-changer.
  • His philosophy differed a lot from previous Soviet leaders.
  • He felt that the reason the Soviet system and economy was struggling
  • was that it didn't allow the Soviet people to find satisfaction in their work.
  • Because they weren't allowed to speak freely, and lived in fear.
  • Gorbachev wanted the Soviet people to be happy.
  • But unlike previous Soviet leaders,
  • he actually made the change happen.
  • Within the first couple of years he began the political movement for more openness and transparency.
  • And the restructure of the Soviet political and economic systems.
  • And change very quickly took effect.
  • People could criticise the government, they could enjoy Western pop culture,
  • the media interviewed Margaret Thatcher,
  • but most importantly the Soviet people could now enjoy Pizza Hut.
  • All hail to Gorbachev!
  • He also knew that the arms race needed to end in order to rescue the Soviet economy,
  • and a positive relationship with the West must be established.
  • Constructive dialogue reopened and resulted in the INF Treaty,
  • which saw all intermediate-range missiles eliminated.
  • Which was huge.
  • Reagan's tone towards the Soviet Union began to soften,
  • and things were looking up.
  • But what would these reforms mean for the Eastern Bloc?
  • For decades, the Soviets had been brutally repressing any attempt at change.
  • Now would they be allowed?
  • And that was the exact question on Hungary's lips,
  • when the Prime Minister visited Moscow.
  • Gorbachev's response,
  • he didn't necessarily agree with the reforms,
  • but he wouldn't stop them either.
  • He was prepared to let the Eastern Bloc
  • choose its own future.
  • This was massive.
  • And the Hungarian leaders began planning free, multi-party elections.
  • Poland followed suit, and also held elections in June.
  • The anti-Soviet party, Solidarity, won 99 out of 100 seats in the Senate.
  • But not just that. In Hungary the barbed-wire border between East and West was removed.
  • The Iron Curtain was unravelling.
  • But not all Eastern Bloc leaders were happy.
  • Notably, East Germany was still ruled by a hardline Stalinist,
  • Eric Honecker.
  • And many East Germans were still eager to get out.
  • They had been trapped by the Berlin Wall, but now they were doing the math.
  • If they could travel to Hungary, and Hungary's border with the West was loosening,
  • could they now make it to the West?
  • That summer, East Germans decided Hungary was the latest top holiday destination.
  • They travelled there in droves, and using various methods,
  • tens of thousands crossed the border into Austria and the West.
  • Honecker was furious, and blocked travel to Hungary.
  • But that civil liberties train had started rolling and it wasn't stopping.
  • Thousands more flocked to the West German embassy in Prague,
  • where they stormed the fence around the embassy gardens,
  • and a temporary refugee camp was set up.
  • In September, deals were struck to allow the refugees to travel West via train.
  • Back in East Germany, the people were running on a civil liberties high,
  • and they wanted their next hit.
  • Dissent was growing,
  • over time, demonstrations turned to mass protests,
  • with plain-clothed secret police officers doing their best to put down the dissent,
  • but it had grown well out of their control.
  • And worse, the biggest demonstration was yet to come.
  • - "We're gonna put all of this down by force.
  • Right guys?
  • Guys?"
  • Unfortunately, everyone had realised what he had not.
  • This was bigger than them.
  • And the entire East German Politburo
  • voted him out of power.
  • On November 4th, over half a million East Germans took to the streets of East Berlin,
  • for many, there was still one big target left in their sights.
  • That damn wall.
  • The pressure on the East German government was too great,
  • and on November 9th,
  • they made a bit of a chaotic announcement that the travel ban between East and West was being lifted.
  • The change wasn't meant to take effect until the next day.
  • And crossing guards still had orders to shoot on sight any who tried to cross.
  • But that night, huge crowds gathered at the crossing points,
  • and the guards were overwhelmed.
  • In an astronomically historic moment,
  • after decades of family separation and travel restriction,
  • the people were allowed to pass through.
  • East and West Berliners couldn't believe it,
  • and celebrated together throughout the night.
  • Some even climbed the wall,
  • and began to topple it.
  • The Iron Curtain had fallen.
  • And a year later, Germany would be reunited.
  • Elections in Bulgaria, a peaceful revolution in Czechoslovakia,
  • and a violent one in Romania,
  • brought to an end communist authority in the Eastern Bloc.
  • America decided it would be best if it just stayed away and let the change happen,
  • as the anti-communist movement continued all the way back to Moscow.
  • Gorbachev had given the people the freedom to demonstrate.
  • Now, they demonstrated for an end to the communist single-party rule.
  • And Gorbachev had to give in.
  • For the first time in history,
  • elections were held in which candidates not officially endorsed by the party were allowed to run.
  • Ambitious rival of Gorbachev,
  • Boris Yeltsin led a growing democratic movement.
  • Now things here get quite confusing.
  • The dissolution of the Soviet Union is a complicated topic.
  • So believe me, this is OverSimplified.
  • But it went a little bit like this.
  • The Soviet Union was made up of a number of smaller Soviet republics,
  • the largest of which was Russia.
  • Yeltsin got himself elected the President of Russia,
  • and began a struggle for sovereignty against Gorbachev and the Soviet Union.
  • Communist hardliners were horrified at what Gorbachev was allowing,
  • so they briefly kidnapped him,
  • and tried to set up their own emergency government.
  • But Yeltsin and his supporters all gathered around the White House in Moscow and were like,
  • - "No. We have a tank."
  • So the hardliners had to concede, and released Gorbachev.
  • - "Wow. Thanks Boris, that was a close one."
  • - "No problem. And thanks to you for all the great freedom you've given us."
  • - "Anytime, pal!"
  • - "And just to inform you.
  • I've used that freedom you've given us to go behind your back and make a deal with
  • Ukraine and Belarus to dissolve the Soviet Union
  • and set up the Russian Federation.
  • In other words,
  • You're no longer in charge, I am."
  • - "Dude.
  • So uncool."
  • And so decades of tension and the everlasting threat of nuclear war finally came to an end,
  • as democratic governments were established in many of the old Soviet republics.
  • And the world got along together,
  • forever after.
  • Right guys?
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