The Soviet Union announces plans to cut the size of its standing army by 300,000 troops in the coming year. The reduction was part of a 1956 policy announced by Krushchev in anticipation of “peaceful coexistence” with the West, and an indication that Cold War relations between the United States and the Soviet Union were undergoing a slight thaw in the mid- to late-1950s.
The Soviet troop reduction was the latest in a series of reductions started in 1955. The new rollback of 300,000 troops brought the total troop reduction since 1955 to nearly 2 million. A Soviet official called the most recent action a “new, serious contribution to the cause of easing tensions and creating an atmosphere of confidence in the relations between states.” Nearly 60,000 of the 300,000 troops to be cut came from Soviet forces in Hungary and East Germany.
Total Soviet forces still numbered close to 3 million, but the reduction was still seen as evidence of Khrushchev’s interest in “peaceful coexistence” with the West. There was also an economic motivation to the troop cuts, though, since the funds used to keep 300,000 men in uniform could be redirected to the Soviet industrial infrastructure. In addition, the Soviet Union was facing a labor shortage, and 300,000 extra workers would help alleviate that problem.
The Soviet action had little effect on U.S. policy. Despite Khrushchev’s talk of peaceful coexistence, the preceding two years of the Cold War gave U.S. officials little confidence in his sincerity. The brutal Soviet repression of the Hungarian revolt in 1956, the Suez Crisis of that same year, and the launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957 convinced many U.S. statesmen that a tough, competitive stance toward the Russians was the best policy.