Chapter 4 – U.S. “Containment” Strategy from Truman to Johnson - 1950 to 1968

The North Koreans failed to return all U.S. and Allied prisoners of war, while all North Koreans were returned, excepting about 22,000 who chose to remain in the South. Following the 1953 armistice, the United States provided massive amounts of reconstruction assistance to South Korea, a residual U.S. force remained, and on January 26, 1956, the U.S. Senate ratified a Mutual Security Treaty obligating the United States to support South Korea in defense against an attack. Some 70 years later, no peace treaty has been signed between the two Koreas, and some 30,000 U.S. military personnel were still stationed in South Korea. The U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) command, largely financed by South Korea, remains to deter an attack by North Korea, which, unlike South Korea and neighboring Japan, is not a democratic, prosperous, and peaceful nation, but a nuclear-armed totalitarian Communist regime.

5. Truman and Eisenhower: Western and Soviet Block Alliances and Turbulence—1950 to 1957

Under the impact of the Korean War and other acts of Communist aggression in the early 1950s, Presidents Truman and Eisenhower, and America’s democratic allies across the globe, faced a range of Soviet threats and continuing turbulence in Soviet leadership and policies. In accord with the U.S. NSC–68 strategy approved by Truman in 1950, a range of “containment” alliances and programs (political, military, and economic) were further developed by Eisenhower after he took office in January 1953. An experienced builder of coalitions, he saw such efforts as key Western assets in the broadening Cold War conflict between the democratic West and the totalitarian East. A brief overview follows on the major Cold War developments during the period 1950 to 1955.

Council of Europe and NATO Expansion—1951 to 1952. In May 1951, democratic West Germany led by Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, a figure in the German resistance movement against Hitler, became a full-fledged member of the Council of Europe established in May 1949. On May 1952, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), originally founded on April 4, 1949, expanded to include Greece and Turkey.

Stalin’s Totalitarian Rule and Legacy. At this time Joseph Stalin was still the Soviet leader after three decades of tyrannical rule. He had become the head of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party and government after Vladimir Lenin’s death in 1923, and continued Lenin’s commitment to militant Communist ideology and rule. His own brutal record included genocide of five million peasants in the forced famine of the Ukrainian collectivization campaigns; terror transports and other acts against ethnic minorities including the Tartars and Balts; and purges and show trials throughout the Soviet Union. His record included the Hitler-Stalin Pact that launched the Second World War; the violent creation of Eastern European captive nations; a key role in the Korean War; continuance of the gulag system of Soviet slave labor camps; and faltering Soviet national economic plans. He executed his rivals, suppressed “bourgeois” scientists and artists (such as Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and Khachaturian), and persecuted minorities, including many Jews. His widespread treaty violations, subversion, and front group activities undercutting peace and freedom, and the god-like worship he commanded from his subjects, were all marks of a murderous tyrant on a level with few others in history.

Post-Stalin Turbulence: Who’s in Charge—1953. In April 1951, the Soviet Union completed its fourth national five-year plan showing post-War gains, and in October 1952, the Communist Party’s Nineteenth Party Congress predicted a coming transition “from Socialism to Communism.” Stalin’s death on March 5, 1953 ended his twenty-nine years of terror and betrayal and awoke hopes in the people of the Soviet Union, the captive nations of Eastern Europe, and the Free World. Meanwhile, Stalin’s body was placed inside Lenin’s tomb on Red Square, the Communists’ holy of holies, and it remained there in proximity to Lenin’s mummified body until it was moved in 1961 to a more modest site along the Kremlin wall.

Soviet leadership uncertainties remained. Upon Stalin’s death, his close associate Georgi Malenkov became head of the Soviet Government’s Council of Ministers and First Secretary of the Communist Party’s Central Committee. Others named to high posts were Marshall Nikolai Bulganin as Defense Minister, Vyacheslav Molotov as Foreign Minister, and Laurenti Beria (Stalin’s chief of the secret police and intelligence services) as Minister of Interior. But on March 20, 1953 Nikita Khrushchev succeeded Malenkov as First Secretary of the Communist Party, while Beria, a Khrushchev rival, was expelled from his post and the Party on July 10. On December 23, Beria and ten associates were executed for “anti-Party” activities and treason.

[Book pg. 79]