Arms Race

Cold War Politics and Anxieties Surrounding D-Day Anniversary

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The 40th anniversary of D-Day in 1984 was not without its own share of concerns and dramas, as revealed through newly declassified documents. At the time, figures in Margaret Thatcher's Government were preoccupied with the possibility of Germany taking offense at the celebrations, as indicated in letters between Defense Secretary Michael Heseltine and Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe following an Anglo-German summit at Chequers on May 2, 1984. During this summit, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl reportedly raised the delicate issue of how Japan and Germany might react to the commemoration of the Normandy landings with Mrs. Thatcher.

The year 1984 was marked by significant tensions within the Western alliance amidst the Cold War, with the Soviet Union under the leadership of Konstantin Chernenko. Chernenko's deteriorating health led to policy decisions being influenced by hardliners like Defense Minister Dmitriy Ustinov and Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. The placement of SS-20 missiles in Eastern Europe by the USSR prompted the United States to respond by deploying Pershing II and cruise missiles in Western Europe, escalating the arms race and intensifying pressures domestically in countries like Britain and West Germany as peace movements gained traction in calling for a halt to the US-Soviet arms competition. Additionally, the presence of many veterans from both sides of World War II who were still alive added another layer of complexity to the political and diplomatic considerations surrounding the D-Day anniversary and its historical significance within the context of the ongoing Cold War tensions.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09