Twilight Struggle Card Analysis Episode 3–“U-2 Incident”

Actual Cold War Impact8 (out of 10):

The U-2 incident was a major event in the Cold War as it definitively exacerbated tensions between the US and Soviet Union. The backstory to the crash is as follows. The US was concerned with the USSR’s improvements in military technology and so in order to learn more about the Soviet’s nuclear capabilities, the US conducted spy missions (with U-2 planes) in Soviet territory. In 1960, one of these planes was shot down by the Soviets right on the eve of an important international conference (the Four Powers Summit). The US lied about the nature of the plane’s mission and Eisenhower was caught red-handed by the USSR, who had captured the plane’s pilot. The Soviets publicly revealed the dishonesty of the US, a move which hurt Eisenhower domestically and fractured the relationship between Eisenhower and Khrushchev. There had been hope that the summit would lead to a warmer relationship between the US and USSR, but the U-2 incident precluded that possibility. Instead, the summit was not completed and Khrushchev cancelled Eisenhower’s visit to the USSR. Would this summit have “ended” the Cold War? Probably not, but instead the U-2 incident ruined the summit and any chance of real peace. Escalation occurred instead as during the period of 1961 to 1964, JFK massively increased military spending, arming the US with 50% more nuclear weapons. The Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest the world came to nuclear war, came on the heels of the U-2 incident as well. Now, it is certainly disingenuous to claim that the U-2 incident led directly to the Cuban Missile Crisis as there is too much what-if and too many other factors. However, the U-2 incident certainly was a pivotal moment in the Cold War as it precluded a potentially earlier ending to the Cold War and instead led to a much more hostile relationship between the US and the USSR.


The aftermath of the U-2 incident

Twilight Struggle Impact2 (out of 10):

This card’s event is pretty much useless. In my 50-60 times of playing Twilight Struggle, I have never seen this card’s event played. It is only played for its ops points. The logic behind the cards (as it ties to history) is as follows. The USSR gains 1 VP for the U-2 incident as it was a “victory” over the Americans and their attempted cover-up. Plus, they receive an additional VP when the UN Intervention card–which serves as a stand-in for the Four Powers Summit–is played. This demonstrates that the USSR also tilted the war to their side by publicly exposing the US’s misdeeds right around the time of the conference. In my opinion, the card’s logic concerning the event does make sense in terms of the history, but it falls short of capturing the full effects. The U-2 incident was a monumental gaffe by the Americans and yet playing this card as the US side barely hurts you at all. Surrendering 1 VP in exchange for the three op points is a good price to pay for playing an opponent’s card. To better capture the impact of the U-2 incident in the card, I would raise the VP loss to 3 VPs. This makes choosing the card for the events a much more feasible option if you are the Soviet player. And if you are the US player, this makes the card a lot more difficult to deal with–similar to the actual real-life situation the Americans were in.

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