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"Outstanding . . . The most accessible distillation of that conflict yet written." —The Boston Globe

"Energetically written and lucid, it makes an ideal introduction to the subject." —The New York Times

The “dean of Cold War historians” ( The New York Times) now presents the definitive account of the global confrontation that dominated the last half of the twentieth century. Drawing on newly opened archives and the reminiscences of the major players, John Lewis Gaddis explains not just what happened but why—from the months in 1945 when the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. went from alliance to antagonism to the barely averted holocaust of the Cuban Missile Crisis to the maneuvers of Nixon and Mao, Reagan and Gorbachev. Brilliant, accessible, almost Shakespearean in its drama, The Cold War stands as a triumphant summation of the era that, more than any other, shaped our own.

Gaddis is also the author of On Grand Strategy. 

Review

"Outstanding . . . The most accessible distillation of that conflict yet written."  The Boston Globe

"Energetically written and lucid, it makes an ideal introduction to the subject."  The New York Times

"A fresh and admirably concise history . . . Gaddis’s mastery of the material, his fluent style and eye for the telling anecdote make his new work a pleasure."  The Economist


9780143038276

About the Author

John Lewis Gaddis is the Robert A. Lovett Professor of History of Yale University. He is the author of numerous books, including On Grand Strategy,  The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941-1947 (1972); Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security (1982); The Long Peace: Inquiries into the History of the Cold War (1987); We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History (1997); The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past (2002); and Surprise, Security, and the American Experience (2004).

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

PROLOGUE

THE VIEW FORWARD

IN 1946 a forty-three-year-old Englishman named Eric Blair rented a house at the edge of the world—a house in which he expected to die. It was on the northern tip of the Scottish island of Jura, at the end of a dirt track, inaccessible by automobile, with no telephone or electricity. The nearest shop, the only one on the island, was some twenty-five miles to the south. Blair had reasons to want remoteness. Dejected by the recent death of his wife, he was suffering from tuberculosis and would soon begin coughing up blood. His country was reeling from the costs of a military victory that had brought neither security, nor prosperity, nor even the assurance that freedom would survive. Europe was dividing into two hostile camps, and the world seemed set to follow. With atomic bombs likely to be used, any new war would be apocalyptic. And he needed to finish a novel.

Its title was 1984, an inversion of the year in which he completed it, and it appeared in Great Britain and the United States in 1949 under Blair’s pen name, George Orwell. The reviews, the New York Times noted, were “overwhelmingly admiring,” but “with cries of terror rising above the applause.”1 This was hardly surprising because 1984 evoked an age, only three and a half decades distant, in which totalitarianism has triumphed everywhere. Individuality is smothered, along with law, ethics, creativity, linguistic clarity, honesty about history, and even love—apart, of course, from the love everyone is forced to feel for the Stalin-like dictator “Big Brother” and his counterparts, who run a world permanently at war. “If you want a picture of the future,” Orwell’s hero Winston Smith is told, as he undergoes yet another session of relentless torture, “imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.”2

Orwell did die early in 1950—in a London hospital, not on his island—knowing only that his book had impressed and frightened its first readers. Subsequent readers responded similarly: 1984 became the single most compelling vision in the post–World War II era of what might follow it. As the real year 1984 approached, therefore, comparisons with Orwell’s imaginary year became inescapable. The world was not yet totalitarian, but dictators dominated large parts of it. The danger of war between the United States and the Soviet Union—two superpowers instead of the three Orwell had anticipated—seemed greater than it had for many years. And the apparently permanent conflict known as the “Cold War,” which began while Orwell was still alive, showed not the slightest signs of ending.

But then, on the evening of January 16, 1984, an actor Orwell would have recognized from his years as a film reviewer appeared on television in his more recent role as president of the United States. Ronald Reagan’s reputation until this moment had been that of an ardent Cold Warrior. Now, though, he envisaged a different future:

 

Just suppose with me for a moment that an Ivan and an Anya could find themselves, say, in a waiting room, or sharing a shelter from the rain or a storm with a Jim and Sally, and that there was no language barrier to keep them from getting acquainted. Would they then deliberate the differences between their respective governments? Or would they find themselves comparing notes about their children and what each other did for a living? . . . They might even have decided that they were all going to get together for dinner some evening soon. Above all, they would have proven that people don’t make wars.3

 

 

It was an unexpectedly gentle invitation for human faces to prevail over boots, dictators, and the mechanisms of war. It set in motion, in Orwell’s year 1984, the sequence of events by which they would do so. Just over a year after Reagan’s speech, an ardent enemy of totalitarianism took power in the Soviet Union. Within six years, that country’s control over half of Europe had collapsed. Within eight, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics—the country that had provoked Orwell’s great gloomy prophecy in the first place—had itself ceased to exist.

These things did not happen simply because Reagan gave a speech or because Orwell wrote a book: the remainder of this book complicates the causation. It is worth starting with visions, though, because they establish hopes and fears. History then determines which prevail.

CHAPTER ONE

THE RETURN OF FEAR

 

We waited for them to come ashore. We could see their faces. They looked like ordinary people. We had imagined something different. Well, they were Americans!

—LIUBOVA KOZINCHENKA,
Red Army, 58th Guards Division

 

 

 

 

I guess we didn’t know what to expect from the Russians, but when you looked at them and examined them, you couldn’t tell whether, you know? If you put an American uniform on them, they could have been American!

—AL ARONSON,
U.S. Army, 69th Infantry Division1

 

THIS WAS THE WAY the war was supposed to end: with cheers, handshakes, dancing, drinking, and hope. The date was April 25, 1945, the place the eastern German city of Torgau on the Elbe, the event the first meeting of the armies, converging from opposite ends of the earth, that had cut Nazi Germany in two. Five days later Adolf Hitler blew his brains out beneath the rubble that was all that was left of Berlin. Just over a week after that, the Germans surrendered unconditionally. The leaders of the victorious Grand Alliance, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin, had already exchanged their own handshakes, toasts, and hopes for a better world at two wartime summits—Teheran in November, 1943, and Yalta in February, 1945. These gestures would have meant little, though, had the troops they commanded not been able to stage their own more boisterous celebration where it really counted: on the front lines of a battlefield from which the enemy was now disappearing.

Why, then, did the armies at Torgau approach one another warily, as if they’d been expecting interplanetary visitors? Why did the resemblances they saw seem so surprising—and so reassuring? Why, despite these, did their commanders insist on separate surrender ceremonies, one for the western front at Reims, in France, on May 7th, another for the eastern front in Berlin on May 8th? Why did the Soviet authorities try to break up spontaneous pro-American demonstrations that erupted in Moscow following the official announcement of the German capitulation? Why did the American authorities, during the week that followed, abruptly suspend critical shipments of Lend-Lease aid to the U.S.S.R., and then resume them? Why did Roosevelt’s key aide Harry Hopkins, who had played a decisive role in crafting the Grand Alliance in 1941, have to rush to Moscow six weeks after his boss’s death to try to save it? Why for that matter, years later, would Churchill title his memoir of these events Triumph and Tragedy?

The answer to all of these questions is much the same: that the war had been won by a coalition whose principal members were already at war—ideologically and geopolitically if not militarily—with one another. Whatever the Grand Alliance’s triumphs in the spring of 1945, its success had always depended upon the pursuit of compatible objectives by incompatible systems. The tragedy was this: that victory would require the victors either to cease to be who they were, or to give up much of what they had hoped, by fighting the war, to attain.

I.

HAD THERE really been an alien visitor on the banks of the Elbe in April, 1945, he, she, or it might indeed have detected superficial resemblances in the Russian and American armies that met there, as well as in the societies from which they had come. Both the United States and the Soviet Union had been born in revolution. Both embraced ideologies with global aspirations: what worked at home, their leaders assumed, would also do so for the rest of the world. Both, as continental states, had advanced across vast frontiers: they were at the time the first and third largest countries in the world. And both had entered the war as the result of surprise attack: the German invasion of the Soviet Union, which began on June 22, 1941, and the Japanese strike against Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, which Hitler used as an excuse to declare war on the United States four days later. That would have been the extent of the similarities, though. The differences, as any terrestrial observer could have quickly pointed out, were much greater.

The American Revolution, which had happened over a century and a half earlier, reflected a deep distrust of concentrated authority. Liberty and justice, the Founding Fathers had insisted, could come only through constraining power. Thanks to an ingenious constitution, their geographical isolation from potential rivals, and a magnificent endowment of natural resources, the Americans managed to build an extraordinarily powerful state, a fact that became obvious during World War II. They accomplished this, however, by severely restricting their government’s capacity to control everyday life, whether through the dissemination of ideas, the organization of the economy, or the conduct of politics. Despite the legacy of slavery, the near extermination of native Americans, and persistent racial, sexual, and social discrimination, the citizens of the United States could plausibly claim, in 1945, to live in the freest society on the face of the earth.

The Bolshevik Revolution, which had happened only a quarter century earlier, had in contrast involved the embrace of concentrated authority as a means of overthrowing class enemies and consolidating a base from which a proletarian revolution would spread throughout the world. Karl Marx claimed, in the Communist Manifesto of 1848, that the industrialization capitalists had set in motion was simultaneously expanding and exploiting the working class, which would sooner or later liberate itself. Not content to wait for this to happen, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin sought to accelerate history in 1917 by seizing control of Russia and imposing Marxism on it, even though that state failed to fit Marx’s prediction that the revolution could only occur in an advanced industrial society. Stalin in turn fixed that problem by redesigning Russia to fit Marxist-Leninist ideology: he forced a largely agrarian nation with few traditions of liberty to become a heavily industrialized nation with no liberty at all. As a consequence, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was, at the end of World War II, the most authoritarian society anywhere on the face of the earth.

If the victorious nations could hardly have been more different, the same was true of the wars they had fought from 1941 to 1945. The United States waged separate wars simultaneously—against the Japanese in the Pacific and the Germans in Europe—but suffered remarkably few casualties: just under 300,000 Americans died in all combat theaters. Geographically distant from where the fighting was taking place, their country experienced no significant attacks apart from the initial one at Pearl Harbor. With its ally Great Britain (which suffered about 357,000 war deaths), the United States was able to choose where, when, and in what circumstances it would fight, a fact that greatly minimized the costs and risks of fighting. But unlike the British, the Americans emerged from the war with their economy thriving: wartime spending had caused their gross domestic product almost to double in less than four years. If there could ever be such a thing as a “good” war, then this one, for the United States, came close.

The Soviet Union enjoyed no such advantages. It waged only one war, but it was arguably the most terrible one in all of history. With its cities, towns, and countryside ravaged, its industries ruined or hurriedly relocated beyond the Urals, the only option apart from surrender was desperate resistance, on terrain and in circumstances chosen by its enemy. Estimates of casualties, civilian and military, are notoriously inexact, but it is likely that some 27 million Soviet citizens died as a direct result of the war—roughly 90 times the number of Americans who died. Victory could hardly have been purchased at greater cost: the U.S.S.R. in 1945 was a shattered state, fortunate to have survived. The war, a contemporary observer recalled, was “both the most fearful and the proudest memory of the Russian people.”2

When it came to shaping the postwar settlement, however, the victors were more evenly matched than these asymmetries might suggest. The United States had made no commitment to reverse its long-standing tradition of remaining aloof from European affairs—Roosevelt had even assured Stalin, at Teheran, that American troops would return home within two years after the end of the war.3 Nor, given the depressing record of the 1930s, could there be any assurance that the wartime economic boom would continue, or that democracy would again take root beyond the relatively few countries in which it still existed. The stark fact that the Americans and the British could not have defeated Hitler without Stalin’s help meant that World War II was a victory over fascism only—not over authoritarianism and its prospects for the future.

Meanwhile, the Soviet Union had significant assets, despite the immense losses it had suffered. Because it was part of Europe, its military forces would not be withdrawing from Europe. Its command economy had shown itself capable of sustaining full employment when the capitalist democracies had failed, during the prewar years, to do so. Its ideology enjoyed widespread respect in Europe because communists there had largely led the resistance against the Germans. Finally, the disproportionate burden the Red Army had borne in defeating Hitler gave the U.S.S.R. a moral claim to substantial, perhaps even preponderant, influence in shaping the postwar settlement. It was at least as easy to believe, in 1945, that authoritarian communism was the wave of the future as that democratic capitalism was.

The Soviet Union had one other advantage as well, which was that it alone among the victors emerged from the war with tested leadership. Roosevelt’s death on April 12, 1945, had catapulted his inexperienced and ill-informed vice president, Harry S. Truman, into the White House. Three months later, Churchill’s unexpected defeat in the British general election made the far less formidable Labour Party leader, Clement Attlee, prime minister. The Soviet Union, in contrast, had Stalin, its unchallenged ruler since 1929, the man who remade his country and then led it to victory in World War II. Crafty, formidable, and to all appearances calmly purposeful, the Kremlin dictator knew what he wanted in the postwar era. Truman, Attlee, and the nations they led seemed much less certain.

II.

SO WHAT did Stalin want? It makes sense to start with him, because only he of the three postwar leaders had had the time, while retaining the authority, to consider and rank his priorities. Sixty-five at the end of the war, the man who ran the Soviet Union was physically exhausted, surrounded by sycophants, personally lonely—but still firmly, even terrifyingly, in control. His scrawny mustache, discolored teeth, pock-marked face, and yellow eyes, an American diplomat recalled, “gave him the aspect of an old battle-scarred tiger. . . . An unforewarned visitor would never have guessed what depths of calculation, ambition, love of power, jealousy, cruelty, and sly vindictiveness lurked behind this unpretentious façade.”4 Through a series of purges during the 1930s, Stalin had long since eliminated all his rivals. The raising of an eyebrow or the flick of a finger, subordinates knew, could mean the difference between life and death. Strikingly short—only five feet four inches—this paunchy little old man was nonetheless a colossus, bestriding a colossal state.

Stalin’s postwar goals were security for himself, his regime, his country, and his ideology, in precisely that order. He sought to make sure that no internal challenges could ever again endanger his personal rule, and that no external threats would ever again place his country at risk. The interests of communists elsewhere in the world, admirable though those might be, would never outweigh the priorities of the Soviet state as he had determined them. Narcissism, paranoia, and absolute power came together in Stalin:5 he was, within the Soviet Union and the international communist movement, enormously feared—but also widely worshipped.

Wartime expenditures in blood and treasure, Stalin believed, should largely determine who got what after the war: the Soviet Union, therefore, would get a lot.6 Not only would it regain the territories it had lost to the Germans during World War II; it would also retain the territories it had taken as a result of the opportunistic but shortsighted “nonaggression” pact Stalin had concluded with Hitler in August, 1939—portions of Finland, Poland, and Romania, all of the Baltic States. It would require that states beyond these expanded borders remain within Moscow’s sphere of influence. It would seek territorial concessions at the expense of Iran and Turkey (including control of the Turkish Straits), as well as naval bases in the Mediterranean. Finally, it would punish a defeated and devastated Germany through military occupation, property expropriations, reparations payments, and ideological transformation.

Herein there lay, however, a painful dilemma for Stalin. Disproportionate losses during the war may well have entitled the Soviet Union to disproportionate postwar gains, but they had also robbed that country of the power required to secure those benefits unilaterally. The U.S.S.R. needed peace, economic assistance, and the diplomatic acquiescence of its former allies. There was no choice for the moment, then, but to continue to seek the cooperation of the Americans and the British: just as they had depended on Stalin to defeat Hitler, so Stalin now depended on continued Anglo-American goodwill if he was to obtain his postwar objectives at a reasonable cost. He therefore wanted neither a hot war nor a cold war.7 Whether he would be skillful enough to avoid these alternatives, however, was quite a different matter.

For Stalin’s understanding of his wartime allies and their postwar objectives was based more on wishful thinking than on an accurate assessment of priorities as seen from Washington and London. It was here that Marxist-Leninist ideology influenced Stalin, because his illusions arose from it. The most important one was the belief, which went back to Lenin, that capitalists would never be able to cooperate with one another for very long. Their inherent greediness—the irresistible urge to place profits above politics—would sooner or later prevail, leaving communists with the need only for patience as they awaited their adversaries’ self-destruction. “The alliance between ourselves and the democratic faction of the capitalists succeeds because the latter had an interest in preventing Hitler’s domination,” Stalin commented as the war was coming to a close. “[I]n the future we shall be against this faction of the capitalists as well.”8

This idea of a crisis within capitalism did have some plausibility. World War I, after all, had been a war among capitalists; it thereby provided the opportunity for the world’s first communist state to emerge. The Great Depression left the remaining capitalist states scrambling to save themselves rather than cooperating to rescue the global economy or to maintain the postwar settlement: Nazi Germany arose as a result. With the end of World War II, Stalin believed, the economic crisis was bound to return. Capitalists would then need the Soviet Union, rather than the other way around. That is why he fully expected the United States to lend the Soviet Union several billion dollars for re-construction: because the Americans would otherwise be unable to find markets for their products during the coming global crash.9

EUROPEAN
TERRITORIAL CHANGES
1939–1947

It followed as well that the other capitalist superpower, Great Britain—whose weakness Stalin consistently underestimated—would sooner or later break with its American ally over economic rivalries: “[T]he inevitability of wars between capitalist countries remains in force,” he insisted, as late as 1952.10 From Stalin’s perspective, then, the long-term forces of history would compensate for the catastrophe World War II had inflicted upon the Soviet Union. It would not be necessary to confront the Americans and British directly in order to achieve his objectives. He could simply wait for the capitalists to begin quarreling with one another, and for the disgusted Europeans to embrace communism as an alternative.

Stalin’s goal, therefore, was not to restore a balance of power in Europe, but rather to dominate that continent as thoroughly as Hitler had sought to do. He acknowledged, in a wistful but revealing comment in 1947, that “[h]ad Churchill delayed opening the second front in northern France by a year, the Red Army would have come to France. . . . [W]e toyed with the idea of reaching Paris.”11 Unlike Hitler, however, Stalin followed no fixed timetable. He had welcomed the D-Day landings, despite the fact that they would preclude the Red Army from reaching western Europe anytime soon: Germany’s defeat was the first priority. Nor would he write off diplomacy in securing his objective, not least because he expected—for a time at least—American cooperation in achieving it. Had not Roosevelt indicated that the United States would refrain from seeking its own sphere of influence in Europe? Stalin’s was, therefore, a grand vision: the peacefully accomplished but historically determined domination of Europe. It was also a flawed vision, for it failed to take into account the evolving postwar objectives of the United States.

III.

WHAT DID the Americans want after the war? Unquestionably also security, but in contrast to Stalin, they were much less certain of what they would have to do to obtain it. The reason had to do with the dilemma World War II had posed for them: that the United States could not continue to serve as a model for the rest of the world while remaining apart from the rest of the world.

Throughout most of their history Americans had tried to do just this. They had not had to worry much about security because oceans separated them from all other states that might conceivably do them harm. Their very independence from Great Britain resulted, as Thomas Paine had predicted it would in 1776, from the implausibility that “a Continent [could] be perpetually governed by an island.”12 Despite their naval superiority, the British were never able to project sufficient military power across some 3,000 miles of water to keep the Americans within the empire, or to prevent them from dominating the North American continent. The prospect that other Europeans might do so was even more remote, because successive governments in London came to agree with the Americans that there should be no further colonization in the western hemisphere. The United States enjoyed the luxury, therefore, of maintaining a vast sphere of influence without the risk that by doing so it would challenge the interests of any other great power.

The Americans did seek global influence in the realm of ideas: their Declaration of Independence had, after all, advanced the radical claim that all men are created equal. But they made no effort, during their first fourteen decades of independence, to make good on that assertion. The United States would serve as an example; the rest of the world would have to decide how and under what circumstances to embrace it. “She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all,” Secretary of State John Quincy Adams proclaimed in 1821, but “[s]he is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”13 Despite an international ideology, therefore, American practices were isolationist: the nation had not yet concluded that its security required transplanting its principles. Its foreign and military policy was much less ambitious than one might have expected from a nation of such size and strength.

Only with World War I did the United States break out of this pattern. Worried that Imperial Germany might defeat Great Britain and France, Woodrow Wilson persuaded his countrymen that American military might was needed to restore the European balance of power—but even he justified this geopolitical objective in ideological terms. The world, he insisted, had to be made “safe for democracy.”14 Wilson went on to propose, as the basis for a peace settlement, a League of Nations that would impose on states something like the rule of law that states—at least enlightened ones—imposed on individuals. The idea that might alone makes right would, he hoped, disappear.

Both the vision and the restored balance, however, proved premature. Victory in World War I did not make the United States a global power; instead it confirmed, for most Americans, the dangers of overcommitment. Wilson’s plans for a postwar collective security organization went well beyond where his countrymen were ready to go. Meanwhile, disillusionment with allies—together with Wilson’s ill-conceived and half-hearted military intervention against the Bolsheviks in Siberia and North Russia in 1918–20—turned the fruits of victory sour. Conditions abroad encouraged a return to isolationism: the perceived inequities of the Versailles peace treaty, the onset of a global depression, and then the rise of aggressor states in Europe and East Asia all had the effect of convincing Americans that they would be better off avoiding international involvements altogether. It was a rare withdrawal of a powerful state from responsibilities beyond its borders.

After entering the White House in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt worked persistently—if often circuitously—to bring the United States into a more active role in world politics. It was not easy: “I feel very much as if I were groping for a door in a blank wall.”15 Even after Japan had gone to war with China in 1937 and World War II had broken out in Europe in 1939, F.D.R. had made only minimal progress in persuading the nation that Wilson had been right: that its security could be threatened by what happened halfway around the world. It would take the shattering events of 1940–41—the fall of France, the battle of Britain, and ultimately the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor—to bring about an American recommitment to the task of restoring a balance of power beyond the western hemisphere. “We have profited by our past mistakes,” the president promised in 1942. “This time we shall know how to make full use of victory.”16

Roosevelt had four great wartime priorities. The first was to sustain allies—chiefly Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and (less successfully) Nationalist China—because there was no other way to achieve victory: the United States could not fight Germany and Japan alone. The second was to secure allied cooperation in shaping the postwar settlement, for without it there would be little prospect for lasting peace. The third had to do with the nature of that settlement. Roosevelt expected his allies to endorse one that would remove the most probable causes of future wars. That meant a new collective security organization with the power to deter and if necessary punish aggression, as well as a revived global economic system equipped to prevent a new global depression. Finally, the settlement would have to be “sellable” to the American people: F.D.R. was not about to repeat Wilson’s mistake of taking the nation beyond where it was prepared to go. There would be no reversion to isolationism, then, after World War II. But the United States would not be prepared either—any more than the Soviet Union would be—to accept a postwar world that resembled its prewar predecessor.

Finally, a word about British objectives. They were, as Churchill defined them, much simpler: to survive at all costs, even if this meant relinquishing leadership of the Anglo-American coalition to Washington, even if it meant weakening the British empire, even if it also meant collaborating with the Soviet Union, a regime the younger Churchill had hoped, in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution, to crush.17 The British would attempt to influence the Americans as much as possible—they aspired to the role of Greeks, tutoring the new Romans—but under no circumstances would they get at odds with the Americans. Stalin’s expectation of an independent Britain, capable of resisting the United States and even going to war with it, would have seemed strange indeed to those who actually shaped British wartime and postwar grand strategy.

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2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
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Reviewed in the United States on February 18, 2018
One would expect a better summary of the major events of the Cold War from John Lewis Gaddis. But most get short shrift. A glaring example is the Cuban Missile Crisis. This is not, as I’d anticipated, a good refresher, or introduction, or overview, of the Cold War. It feels... See more
One would expect a better summary of the major events of the Cold War from John Lewis Gaddis. But most get short shrift. A glaring example is the Cuban Missile Crisis. This is not, as I’d anticipated, a good refresher, or introduction, or overview, of the Cold War. It feels like the product of Gaddis cannibalizing his own prior (and excellent) historical work to produce a mediocre cliff notes version of the Cold War. The result is just that: mediocre. The best part of the book is not an incisive overview of the Cold War with attention to its major confrontations; it’s rather the Epilogue, in which Gaddis brings to bear his remarkable knowledge to offer thoughts on the Cold War’s legacy. If you’re looking for a good introduction to the Cold War, however, go elsewhere.
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4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
An excellent introduction into the Cold War, a conflict that shaped the contemporary world
Reviewed in the United States on February 18, 2018
The Cold War was unique in that it was a truly global conflict, even more so than WW2 and definitely WW1. It touched upon and radically transformed European nation-states, turning them from Imperial/colonial superpowers into welfare-states, aspiring for greater unity and... See more
The Cold War was unique in that it was a truly global conflict, even more so than WW2 and definitely WW1. It touched upon and radically transformed European nation-states, turning them from Imperial/colonial superpowers into welfare-states, aspiring for greater unity and transformation. It completely overturned South America by making it a battlefield of ideologies as has happened most notoriously in Nicaragua, Chile, and Cuba. The struggle over the dominance of the latter one almost led to another world war, this time with nuclear and hydrogen bombs. This conflict has given Africa facelift. At the beginning of the XX century, the continent was dominated by France, UK, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, and Germany while at the second half of it, new, independent states sprang up from the ruins of those colonial empires. These states faced incredible challenges and many of them descended into anarchy, others managed to play off the superpowers against each other and attempt to establish modern, prosperous states. Asia, for the first time since the medieval times, became once more the centerpiece of global history: China turned communist, India, Indochina, Gulf- states, all of them achieved liberty and the hegemony of the West and Japan was broken. During the Cold War the world became increasingly tri-polar: Beijing, Washington and Moscow called all the shots. Nevertheless, it was still a battlefield, a place for proxy wars and impressive yet terrifying attempts to mold people themselves, like the Cultural Revolution in China or the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

John Lewis Gaddis is a well known and a renowned Cold War historian yet this work is sometimes a bit lacking and at times hard to follow. If you are looking for an in-depth study of the conflict that lasted for five decades and encompassed the globe this is not it. This is simply an overview of the most important events and personalities that shaped the course of the War, which sometimes got hot as in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan. The main issue I take with this book is not that it is too long or too short or that it brushes over certain historical occurrences in just a couple of paragraphs but its choice of how to approach the topic. All of those aforementioned issues are not really issues because as a historian you have the prerogative to prioritize how much importance you want to put on things/events/personalities as your research has indicated that those events perhaps were not that important. However, some issues, like the Vietnam War or Cuban Missile Crisis are oddly absent and the roots of those conflicts are left for the reader to research. Nevertheless, the main drawback is how different themes of the conflict are approached. Even though they generally follow a chronological and a geographical pattern, it is still difficult to discern what is happening and get the whole picture. The Cold War was a global conflict and the fact, that very abstract themes like "Hope" are chosen makes the topics harder to grasp.

However, when it comes to positives, this book has many. Firstly, a very interesting and in fact, funny, style of writing make the book much more enjoyable to read. Sometimes it reads like a good novel with metaphors and good biographies of the leaders. Additionally, the author covers all the major themes even if sometimes there are things you would like to know more about. The chapter about the non-aligned countries is particularly interesting to read for the new and unheard material is brought up, which we largely do not associate with this conflict. Fors instance, how smaller countries like Nationalist China (Taiwan), South Korea and even South Vietnam all had at one point or another threatened the US, that their governments might collapse if the US does not send aid. A similar role for the USSR played China, especially in the Taiwan crises of 1954 and 1958. Another interesting example is between China and France. Both of these states were thorns in the sides of their respective greater allies. France unnerved the US with its going alone stance and China continuously attacked the USSR and claimed it was not a truly socialist country. Finally, the number of details, citations, and variety of argument presented in most chapters allowed for a great visualization of this epic struggle between nations, states, ideallogies and ultimatelly, people.
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Andre Kuznetsov
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
No page numbers in kindle edition
Reviewed in the United States on June 29, 2020
I purchased this book because it is required for a class I am taking at Harvard. All the other books that I bought for this class have page numbers in the kindle edition. This one doesn''t. How am I supposed to know what to read, the professor only provides page numbers?
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Cody Carlson
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Well Considered History of the Cold War
Reviewed in the United States on July 16, 2009
John Lewis Gaddis'' book "The Cold War, A New History" accomplishes what it sets out to do very nicely- provide a general overview of the events, personalities, and issues at stake in the US-USSR confrontation. Gaddis expertly traces the evolution of relations between the... See more
John Lewis Gaddis'' book "The Cold War, A New History" accomplishes what it sets out to do very nicely- provide a general overview of the events, personalities, and issues at stake in the US-USSR confrontation. Gaddis expertly traces the evolution of relations between the two powers, their allies, and neutral nations during the period in which nuclear annihilation was an ever present fact of life.

One of the final chapters, which Lewis dubbed ''Actors'' deals with those personalities who, whether intentionally or not, contributed to the Soviet Union''s demise. These figures obviously include Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, but Gaddis provides wonderful insights into the roles of Pope John Paul II, Lech Wa''''sa, Deng Xiaoping, and others whose actions helped to topple the "Dark and Evil Empire" of the USSR.

The virtue of this work, its brevity, is also its greatest weakness. Certain events are glossed over rather quickly leaving the reader not fully appreciating their effects upon the larger stage of the Cold War. Watergate, the Suez Crisis, the Bay of Pigs, and even the Cuban Missile Crisis to name a few, simply don''t get the time and consideration that they require for a truly thorough history. Gaddis uses just under 270 pages of text to tell an international history of over 45 years.

That said, if you are new to studying this era you will find a good overview here. Also, serious students will still be amazed at Gaddis'' analysis of key points in the conflict, and his take on the Cold War as whole. I enjoyed and learned a lot from this book, I only wish it had been longer.
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Erez Davidi
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A great introduction of the Cold War
Reviewed in the United States on August 20, 2011
As the author stated in the preface, this book is not meant to be a comprehensive overview of the Cold War. But rather an overview of the important events of the Cold War and the root cause of it. However, contrary to what the title suggests, this book doesn''t provide any... See more
As the author stated in the preface, this book is not meant to be a comprehensive overview of the Cold War. But rather an overview of the important events of the Cold War and the root cause of it. However, contrary to what the title suggests, this book doesn''t provide any new insights or information about the Cold War. (The author states that his research is based mostly on previous works and not on new sources.)

Gaddis follows a chronological order while analyzing the important issues of the Cold War. Due to the shortness of the book (only 270 pages not including the footnotes), important events such as: the Suez Crisis, Watergate, Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs receive a few mere pages. Having said that, Gaddis did a great job of providing the reader with a basic understanding of the events that shaped the Cold War and the mindset of the world leaders who were running the show.

All in all, this is a fine book for people who are looking for a quick and enjoyable read on the Cold War. Highly recommended.
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MinnesotaMind
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Clear and Well-Written
Reviewed in the United States on June 10, 2013
This book was simply phenomenal. I haven''t read Gaddis before but I''m aware of his reputation as THE academic par excellence regarding Cold War history. Well, his writing and analysis was a real treat, a testament to fresh, clear sentence writing and sober thought. I''d say... See more
This book was simply phenomenal. I haven''t read Gaddis before but I''m aware of his reputation as THE academic par excellence regarding Cold War history. Well, his writing and analysis was a real treat, a testament to fresh, clear sentence writing and sober thought. I''d say that books about history make up about 15% of my reading material, so while I''m not an expert on everything being written recently, I can confidently say that Gaddis''s book is an amazing contribution to our understanding of this incredibly complex and revolutionary time period. Additionally, the book is a real page turner...I know this sounds strange given its subject matter and the fact that we know the "ending," but believe me, Gaddis will have you flipping along, wondering how each country and leader got from point A to point Z.
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Shawn S. Sullivan
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The authoritative overview of the Cold War period.
Reviewed in the United States on January 18, 2007
The Cold War, by John Lewis Gaddis, is a terrifically researched, footnoted and marvelously written historical account of the Cold War. In the book''s preface, Professor Gaddis explains concisely what he set out to do with this project and one, if in doubt about reading... See more
The Cold War, by John Lewis Gaddis, is a terrifically researched, footnoted and marvelously written historical account of the Cold War. In the book''s preface, Professor Gaddis explains concisely what he set out to do with this project and one, if in doubt about reading this account, should simply read these three plus pages. Gaddis speaks of the need for a "short, comprehensive, and accessible book" on the period that passes the test of his late Yale colleague and historian''s litmus test of "So what?". The author answers both needs with aplomb.

Gaddis writes on the origins of the Cold War dating beyond the Soviet and United States'' respective war aims in the Second World War and into the competing ideologies, both political and economic. He writes on the inevitability of it, the terror, the geopolitics, the blunders. Gaddis misses nothing of consequence. Interestingly, he takes events, sometimes even "failures" in policy and shows the consequences to be quite different than originally interpreted by historians who, Gaddis maintains, might have been hindered by a lens of history too close to the event(s) itself. Certainly an interesting viewpoint.

A Cold War should be thought of as required reading for all students of 20th Century geopolitical history. Gaddis is perhaps a bit effacing in his comment that the book is "not a work of original scholarship" but rather a synthesizing narrative of much research already completed. While there is much truth to this, the reality is that Gaddis is the source of a mountain of research and America''s leading authority of the period. One might think, quite incorrectly, that he would be the wrong one to pull it all together in a fascinating and readable account. He does a splendid job on all accounts. One could only hope that future historical authors and editors one read this and learn his technique of focusing on "each chapter on a significant theme" rather than a straight chronological report. As a result "they overlap in time and move across space". Quite simply his writing works and produces a very readable and highly interesting account of The Cold War.
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Jason G
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
an excellent concise resource
Reviewed in the United States on June 30, 2007
Gaddis has done an excellent job of telling an extremely complicated history in a tight and well-written volume. The importance of his story is contrasted by his reminding the reader that his college students today have almost no living memory of the Cold War or just how... See more
Gaddis has done an excellent job of telling an extremely complicated history in a tight and well-written volume. The importance of his story is contrasted by his reminding the reader that his college students today have almost no living memory of the Cold War or just how serious a historical epic it was between two great powers.

As the world has changed dramatically over the past 16 years since the fall of the Soviet Union, this book will be an excellent resource to remember just what a huge struggle the Western bloc vs. the Soviet Union and its satellites was. This is not an ideaological book from the Yale professor Gaddis, but he gives credit to the end of the Cold War to three individuals and a people group: Ronald Reagan, Margeret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II and the people of eastern Europe who contiually stood up to the Soviet and local communist leaders.

A weak point of this book, which admittedly does not have time to explore the vast and complicated expressions of every part of the Cold War is Gaddis explanation for why the anti-war movements of the 1960''s and 70''s in the West erupted with as much fury as they did, and subsided almost as quickly. His explanation, that it was largely caused by baby boom young adults, coming of age, with lots of time on their hands seems like a short answer. Comparing and contrasting the reaction of the West to the Korean War vs. Vietnam might have made a better use of the text.

Gaddis presentation of how the Cold War started at the end of World War II is another excellent section, especially how the West, making practical concessions to the Soviets that they could never hope to bargain for at the end of the war, quickly turned European opinion against the Soviets by forcing the Soviets into the position of being the ones who built wall, established border police and shut themselves off because they had to keep people in.

The explanation of proxy conflicts, especially in the Middle East, is another highlight of the work. Seeing the Israeli and Palestinian conflict as rump to the Cold War, and the Soviets inability to deal with their Egyptian allies in Nasser further showed the weakness of the Soviet state.

While ultimatley Gaddis presents the end of the Cold War as being led by the four main actors mentioned earlier, his treatment of Gorbachev as a man who managed the end of the failure of the Soviet Empire and the inability of the Soviets to have a sustainable economic future - the very reason for its existence is told with great clarity.

Gaddis warns throughout the book that choosing an ends justifying the means approach got the West into more dificulty than anything else. The attempt by the West, especially between John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, to manage a stable world delayed the inevitable end of the Cold War and more than likely created greater human misery of the likes the world has rarely scene. Ronald Reagan, and Thatcher and John Paul, were in a sense revolutionaries, for they sought to win the Cold War by calling for total peace and not half measures of agreements and stability.
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Alex McGee
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Good but read with caution
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 24, 2020
I have very mixed feelings about this book. Gaddis makes a lot of good points and he does well to fit an overarching view of such an expansive historical era into what is quite a slim and easily readable book. He also gives some good insights into the politics and power...See more
I have very mixed feelings about this book. Gaddis makes a lot of good points and he does well to fit an overarching view of such an expansive historical era into what is quite a slim and easily readable book. He also gives some good insights into the politics and power plays going on. However, his unfettered praise of capitalism seems misguided and dated, leaving out the fact that Russia and other European countries have struggled to get to grips with it post-communism. His love of 80s leaders such as Thatcher denies the fact that she put millions out of work and focussed everything on a high charged version of capitalism that ultimately backfired in 2008. He makes no mention of countries such as Sweden or Denmark who have taken the best bits of capitalism and socialism to create societies that genuinely look after their citizens. I''m not sure America with all its homelessness, inequality and racial problems is the best model. He also glosses over the CIA-sponsored coup in Chile which overthrew a democratically elected Marxist and replaced him with an authoritarian tyrant. It''s an informative book but it''s also a very American, neoliberalism and somewhat outdated worldview.
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D. Clarke
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
An early and now dated assessment
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 12, 2017
A concise introductory survey of the Cold War, well written and decently organised. It''s excellent when authorities in the field take the time to compress their knowledge into short books suitable for the general public. There are some disappointing aspects however: - the...See more
A concise introductory survey of the Cold War, well written and decently organised. It''s excellent when authorities in the field take the time to compress their knowledge into short books suitable for the general public. There are some disappointing aspects however: - the book was published a decade ago and the conclusions already feel dated and premature. It looks like the Cold War has a sting or two in the tail (cf. Ukraine) - this is a book written from the perspective of the putative winners, from the heart of US foreign policy. It glosses over the moral failures on the US side, especially the CIA involvement in destabilising foreign governments. - the concept of Actor politicians is a bit of a glib one, I didn''t find it very convincing.
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David K. Warner
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
How the West Won: a partial and American survey of the Cold War
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 12, 2020
John Lewis Gaddis, ''The Cold War'' (2005) An entertaining, if slightly dated, survey of the Cold War, predominantly from the viewpoint of the two superpowers and with a very American-centric tone, that tries to answer the questions why the Cold War began and why it ended,...See more
John Lewis Gaddis, ''The Cold War'' (2005) An entertaining, if slightly dated, survey of the Cold War, predominantly from the viewpoint of the two superpowers and with a very American-centric tone, that tries to answer the questions why the Cold War began and why it ended, somewhat more successfully in the former than the latter case. There is much more emphasis upon the development of strategic policy in the United States than in the Soviet Union, and much less than either of these upon how the Cold War was regarded and experienced in the various global hotspots, particularly in Europe and Asia, except as these areas affected the development of superpower strategy. This is, therefore, primarily a bipolar and political tour d''horizon approach to a period of world history with many facets. Gaddis sets out from his clearly established and retrospective, democratic-capitalist perspective to show how Marxist ideas of historical inevitability, the crisis and contradictions of capitalism, and the certainty of the triumph of communism were shown to be false by Cold War events and the differing economic, social, and political efficiencies that were the outcome of the superior efficacy of market democracies as opposed to command economies, but at times he is prone to suggesting that the triumph of the first was predetermined, which for large parts of the period under review did not seem either to be the case or actually was. This was particularly so during the crisis of American democracy and of the so-called Imperial Presidency in the 1960s and 1970s where political crises, military defeat, domestic unrest, and economic stagnation led to uncertainty in not only whether the US was winning the Cold War but also, particularly from student protest, radicalism, and the New Left, whether it deserved so to do. The book takes a tripartite approach to the era, distinguishing between the periods of, one, its origins and the development of bipolar geopolitical systems formed under the threat of mutually destructive thermonuclear war, from 1945 to the mid-1960s, two, the era of Détente between then and 1980 when the emphasis was upon stability, threat de-escalation, and mutual recognition, and, three, the final period from 1980 to 1989-91 when the West, reinvigorated by leaders who questioned the status quo, challenged the legitimacy of a Soviet Union that was simultaneously under attack from its own internal dynamics, eventually resulting in the latter''s collapse and the end of the Cold War. These three periods, from the western, capitalist position of the author, may be categorized as phases, firstly, of fear, then of equivalence, and finally of victory, although not because they were so determined by policy makers in Washington, who were often in the dark as to the effects of their decisions, but because that is how events made them subsequently appear. At the beginning of the Cold War, the US and its allies acted primarily out of fear of a Soviet Union that had triumphed in the Second World War and occupied much of eastern Europe, then when the dangers of thermonuclear war and the limitations of American policy were revealed by the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War the emphasis was upon maintaining stability through a recognition of both Soviet and Chinese geopolitical and regional legitimacy and a mutual recognition of equivalent power systems, and then, finally, as the limitations of Détente became apparent and moral arguments were propounded as to the political, economic, and ethical inferiority of the Communist system compared to those of the democratic West, the USSR was faced by external and internal challenges that its system could not withstand, leading to the peaceful victory of the democratic and capitalist side in the Cold War. What was at the heart of these phases was a determination by the US, and the USSR, more noticeable after Stalin, to avoid a hot war between the superpowers that would escalate into a war of nuclear annihilation. This three-way division is a useful, if simplistic way, of characterizing the development of the Cold War, and, from the American perspective, is explored by examination of the three US Presidents whose policies most determined these phases: Truman, who responded to the threat from the USSR and delineated the unacceptable and illogical risk thermonuclear war posed to the US; Nixon, who extracted the US from Vietnam, opened to China, and de-escalated the dangers of the Cold War through recognition and negotiation with the Communist powers at a time when the US was relatively weakened economically and socially; and Reagan, who rejected Détente as a means without an end, and through aggressive but optimistic rhetoric presented both an ideological and moral challenge to the USSR, and, through the Strategic Defence Initiative, a strategic and material challenge to which the Soviets could not respond. Unfortunately, Gaddis fails to properly connect the policies of these three presidents within US strategic thinking or to show how the positions they took were much more the product of circumstance than ideology. Truman, Nixon, and Reagan were all Cold Warriors, but they fought the Wars in differing ways because the strategic battlefield and the nature of the opposition had changed over time. Gaddis is clearly an admirer of Truman, and also Eisenhower, who evolved his predecessor''s strategy to accommodate the new paradigm determined by mutually assured thermonuclear destruction, and has little time for Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter (and later Bush père), whose effectiveness is more at fault than their politics, but it is Reagan who is his political hero, just as George Kennan, whose famous 1946 ''Long Telegram'' first articulated the threat posed to the US by the USSR and who then helped to frame the American strategic and diplomatic response (and to whose memory this book is dedicated), is his ideological and academic mentor. However, I feel he underestimates the important role played by Richard Nixon in maintaining US influence and security during the time of the country''s greatest domestic turmoil and geopolitical weakness due to Vietnam, and is over simplistic in associating the moral weaknesses of Watergate with a moral weakness of US foreign and security policy, which, in terms of outcome at a time of great difficulty, was remarkably successful. Détante was the only policy possible and Nixon pursued it extremely effectively. Where Watergate did prove a factor was that by rebalancing the control of foreign policy in favour of Congress to the relative disadvantage of the Executive, it made it harder for succeeding presidents, Ford and Carter, to make Détante based upon bilateral negotiations work, when agreements made between Washington and Moscow were so susceptible to alteration by the Congress. Although Gaddis makes no mention of this, it is not a surprise that Reagan sought to bypass congressional oversight, and even the law, to pursue his anti-Communist policy in Nicaragua, as he intended to exert a similar executive control over Cold War policy that Nixon had lost, but he and his predecessors had exercised. Gaddis takes an ethical objection to Nixon''s conduct over Watergate, which may be justified in a book about domestic politics or the President himself, but it obscures proper analysis of how effective Nixon and Kissinger were from 1969 to 1974 in view of the unfavourable circumstances. Gaddis throughout tries to refract the Cold War through an ethical prism, and in terms of political thought that has value, but the efficacy of a strategic policy is still best measured by its outcome than its intent, and whatever Nixon''s means (and their possible criminality), their ends were ultimately noble - the defence and security of the US and its democratic allies in face of resurgent threats from hostile one-party states without a superpower war. Further, the ethical failings of Nixon should not cloud the fact that both he and the system he represented were ethically superior to Brezhnev, Mao, and their totalitarian and murderous systems. Détente was a necessary and tactical recognition by Washington of equivalence in geopolitical power between the superpowers. It was not an acceptance by the US of moral equivalence. Gaddis writes more about Watergate than Vietnam, but the former was very much a product of the latter, and it was the ''credibility gap'' and domestic crises of Johnson''s War, founded upon Kennedy and McNamara''s flawed post-Missile Crisis South East Asian policy, that did more to undermine US power and government, at home and abroad, than any other political failure during the Cold War. On the other hand, Gaddis is correct about the failings of NSC-68, and the limitations of the ''flexible response'' doctrine that developed in the 1960s in the thought of Paul Nitze, Henry Kissinger, and others, and so disastrously put into action by Johnson and McNamara in Vietnam. Perhaps, the biggest failure of this book is its inability to fit the Vietnam War into its narrative in such a way as to show how it was brought about by inept Cold War strategic thinking, and how both the military quagmire and subsequent US defeat significantly weakened the American geopolitical position, so as to give the USSR a relative and temporary advantage, only undermined through the break with China, which was more to do with ideological and political differences between the two Communist states than US action (Nixon in China was a response to this fissure, not its cause, and both Nixon and Mao took advantage of the opportunity of the opening to China to bolster their own country''s relative position regarding the Soviet Union). This is a story of the Cold War written from the victor''s perspective, and perhaps lacks nuance, while being overly sympathetic to both the superiority of American democratic capitalism and the achievements of Ronald Reagan (the Iran-Contra lacuna is a giveaway - Gaddis ignores it because Reagan''s unethical conduct undermines his criticism of Richard Nixon, whose unethical behaviour he regards as worse than that of other Presidents, but it might be argued that is only because he got caught and they did not, or, in Reagan''s case, avoided responsibility for their unlawful actions). The book is, thus, a partial, if engaging account, and one which would appeal to traditional, non-neoconservative or non-Trumpian Republicans. It is not, although, to be fair, it does not set out to be, a total history of the Cold War. Rather, it is a discourse that tries to explain the West''s victory and its justification from a western, specifically American, viewpoint, with all the faults that entails, although it does thereby reveal how the US strategic political and academic establishment came to see the Cold War at the time and in retrospect.
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Mr. M. Sanders
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The Cold War by John Lewis Gaddis
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 7, 2021
There is some interesting writing here but sadly some key points of the Cold war are left out such as : The retention of Ukrainians in German uniform by Churchill in 1945 contributed to the cold war, leading to numbers reported as over 20,000 British, American and European...See more
There is some interesting writing here but sadly some key points of the Cold war are left out such as : The retention of Ukrainians in German uniform by Churchill in 1945 contributed to the cold war, leading to numbers reported as over 20,000 British, American and European prisoners of war being held by Stalin as hostages after VE day and never returned to the West. That US Prisoners of war were never returned nor was investigation made after sightings and names were given to the US government by German and other nationals released from Gulag captivity. That thousands of US and Allied prisoners of war were ''written off'' and no efforts made to politically intervene and negotiate their release. That on average 1 US serviceman a year was kidnapped in Berlin and never released. That Korean war prisoners were not all released after that war ended, some were shipped to Russia as were many aviators who were shot down on surveillance missions from the 1950''s onwards. That nuclear weapons were deployed to Guam in the Korean war, but not used. No mention of BRIXMIS or the Soviet counterpart SOXMIS who monitored military equipment in the respective zones of Germany. No mention that Rudolf Hess was in Spandau prison, which gave the Soviets ''legitimacy'' to maintain troops in Berlin, as they mounted guard on Hess in rotation with the other powers. The Portland affair is not mentioned - where British submarine secrets were passed to Gordon Lonsdale a spy whose real name was Konan Molody. George Blake - the Dutch man who was with the British forces in WW2 and was taken prisoner in the Korean War spied for Russia until he was arrested in 1962. Blake''s treachery allowed hundreds of agents to be captured and killed and comprised the BRIXMIS work. His spying caused untold damage to the West. The Greenham Common airbase which caused controversy in 1983 is not mentioned. That the Soviets held back and restricted East German people so that the country became reliant on Soviet financial handouts and was not the socialist miracle that the GDR maintained. Or that the Soviets robbed the GDR of persons with useful skills and also machinery after WW2, having to return them as the GDR started to fail and become a country of old people and children which led to the Berlin wall construction as they came disillusioned by the Socialist utopia that never existed. for example. On the other side though, there is some interesting information, but his students have I feel been shortchanged by the lack of inclusion of the information I have mentioned here, all of which is in the public domain.
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DennisF
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A good read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 14, 2019
This is essentially a comparative account of overseas policies of the United States and the Soviet Union from 1920-1989. As such, it deals with the Cold War in an informative way. Also, it is equally critical of US and Soviet foreign policy (e.g. Allende’s Chile, and the...See more
This is essentially a comparative account of overseas policies of the United States and the Soviet Union from 1920-1989. As such, it deals with the Cold War in an informative way. Also, it is equally critical of US and Soviet foreign policy (e.g. Allende’s Chile, and the Berlin, Budapest and Prague uprisings). It didn’t have me on the edge of my seat and was not exactly what I was expecting. I thought there would be far more about espionage and counter espionage as each major player attempted to get the upper hand. Instead, this book is a comparative history of the two nations. An unsurprising conclusion is that the USA simply out-spent the Soviets on nuclear war-heads and with the threat of “ Star Wars”, there was no way that the Soviet Union could complete unless it was to spend all of its GNP on defence. In the end, the free market place and democracy, for all their faults, triumphed against controlled spending and centralised planning brought about by dictatorship. Again, this was nothing new to me. A good read although not a highly stimulating one.
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