Updated: 06-Nov-2001 1961

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Efforts to find an answer to the German question are continued but a solution remains as elusive as ever. President Kennedy meets with Mr. Khrushchev in Vienna in early June 1961 but the positions of the two leaders, particularly on Berlin, prove irreconcilable. A few days later, Khrushchev announces that he will conclude a separate peace treaty with East Germany which would end the West's right of access to Berlin.

The following month, he abandons a projected reduction in Soviet armed forces, and announces a substantial increase in the defence budget. President Kennedy responds by calling for a build-up of NATO forces. The Soviet Union threatens to call up reserves.

The escalating crisis results in large numbers of East Germans fleeing to the West. In the first six months of 1961, the number rises to more than 103,000, mostly young and skilled workers. During the night of 13 August, the East Germans barricade the Soviet sector of Berlin and begin building the Berlin Wall. This wall will divide Germany until it is torn down in 1989.


12 Apr

Soviet Major Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man orbited in space.

21 Apr

Dirk U. Stikker (the Netherlands) succeeds Paul-Henri Spaak as Secretary General of NATO.

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13 Aug

Erection of the Berlin Wall.

13-15 Dec.

At a Ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Paris, the Alliance reaffirms its position on Berlin, strongly condemning the building of the Wall, and approves the renewal of diplomatic contacts with the Soviet Union to determine whether a basis for negotiation can be found. It also announces the establishment of a mobile task force.

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