Garthoff_Looking Back

Garthoff_Looking Back - Looking Back: The Cold War in...

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Looking Back: The Cold War in Retrospect by Brookings Review Discuss The Soviet Union and the United States waged the Cold War in the belief that confrontation was unavoidable, that it was imposed by history. Soviet leaders were convinced that communism would ultimately triumph in the world and that the Soviet Union was the vanguard socialist-communist state. They were also convinced that the Western "imperialist" powers were historically bound to pursue a hostile course against them. For their part, American and other Western leaders assumed that the Soviet Union was determined to enhance its power and to pursue expansionist policies by all expedient means to achieve a Soviet-led communist world. Each side thought that it was compelled by the very existence of the other to engage in zero-sum competition, and each saw the unfolding history of the Cold War as confirming its views. The prevailing Western view was wrong in attributing a master plan to the Kremlin, in believing that communist ideology impelled Soviet leaders to expand their power, in exaggerating communist abilities to subvert a Free World, and in thinking that Soviet officials viewed military, power as an ultimate recourse. But the West was not wrong in believing that Soviet leaders were committed to a historically driven struggle between two worlds until, in the end, theirs would triumph. To be sure, other motivations and interests, including national aims, institutional interests, and even personal psychological considerations, played a part. These influences, however, tended to enhance the ideological framework rather than weaken it. Moreover, the actions of each side were sufficiently consistent with the ideological expectations of the other side to sustain their respective worldviews for many years. Ideology and Geopolitics Within that ideological framework, the Americans and the Soviets carried on the Cold War as a geopolitical struggle, based more realistically on traditional balance-of-power politics than on world class struggle or global containment and deterrence theory. If ideology alone had driven the superpowers, the Cold War would be seen as arising from the October Revolution of 1917 rather than from the ashes of World War II. But in 1917 and during the next 25 years the Soviet Union was relatively weak and only one of several great powers in a multipolar world. By the end of World War II, however, Germany and Japan had been crushed, Britain, France, and China were weakened, and the Soviet Union, even though much weaker than the United States, seemed to pose an unprecedented threat by virtue of its massive armies and their presence deep in Central Europe. Under these circumstances, Josef Stalin's reassertion in 1946 and 1947 of the division of the world into two contending camps seemed more valid and more threatening than ever before. Thus charged by geopolitical circumstances, a Manichean communist worldview spawned a
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Garthoff_Looking Back - Looking Back: The Cold War in...

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