The Cold War (1945-91)

Figure 1.--Berlin was the epi-center of the Cold War. Berlin was conquered by the Red Army in savage fighting (April 1945). As decided at the Yalta Conference, the three principal Western Allies (Britain, France, and the United States) were given occupation zones in the conquered NAZI capital. It was at Berlin that the first major confrontation of the Cold War occurred. After major differences developed between the Western Allies and Soviets over the occupation of Germany, Stalin decided in 1948 that he could blockade Berlin and force the Western allies out and the people of West Berlin into submission. Ironically the people of West Berlin were saved by American and British pilots, in most cases the same men that only 3 years earlier had been bombed German cities into rubble. Notice that the children here are standing on ruble created by the Allied bombing. It is difficukt to see, but the pilotv of this C47 as he lands his dropping little parachutes with candy for the children. The Berlin Air Lift was the major step in changing the German view of the Allies from foreign occupiers to their protectors.

The United States and its allies following World War II fought a 45-year struggle war with the Soviet Union and China. The War pitted the ideals of Western democracy and free enterprise against totalitarian states with command economies. At stake was the future social order of mankind. Germany's defeat left Stalin in control of the countries of Eastern Europe. President Harry Truman when he became president in April 1945 began taking a stronger approach to the Soviets, disturbed by Soviet actions in Poland. Stalin proceeded to install People's Republics in these states which meant Stalinist police states subservient to the Soviet Union. American and European democracies sharply criticised the Soviet actions. Winston Churchill warned in 1946 that an "iron curtain" was descending through the middle of Europe. Joseph Stalin who had virtually allied himself with Hitler in 1939 to launch World War II, blamed the War on "capitalist imperialism" and threatened Western Europe. President Truman decided to support Western Europe economically (the Marshall Plan) and militarily (NATO). The Cold War was a period of intense East-West competition, tension, and conflict, but always short of full-scale war. The first major episode was the soviet blockade of Berlin in 1948. Berlin was during much of the Cold War a focal point of the conflict. The Soviets brutally suppressed attempts by Eastern Europeans to overthrow Soviet imposed governments: East Germany (1953), Poland (1956), Hungary (1956), and Czechoslovakia (1978). There were proxy wars and competition for influence in developing countries, many of which introduced Soviet command economics. There was also an arms race between the two super powers. After Stalin died in 1953, the Cold War became more unbalanced. There were periods of relaxation followed by resumed confrontation. The most dangerous point of the Cold War was the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962). There were efforts to pursue detente during the 1970s. Unlike the other major conflicts in world history, in the end the Cold War was not settled by force of arms. It was the example of the West, especially the success of free market economics and political democracy that defeated Communism. Not all historians agree that the Cold War was necessary and that the foundation of Western democracy was at stake.

World War II

World War II Germany's defeat left Stalin in control of the countries of Eastern Europe. Right-wing politicians in America charged that President Roosevelt at Yalta had given Eastern Europe to the Communists. The actual fact is that the Soviet Red Army had been the major factor in the defeat of the German Wehrmacht. The Soviet Union had been a major part of the Allied coalition that had defeated the Axis. It was Soviet victories in the desperate fighting on the Eastern Front that had left Stalin in control of Eastern Europe. The Red Army before Moscow (1941) and at Stalingrad (1942), and Kursk (1943) defeated German armies far more massive than were encountered by the Allies in 1942-44. Revisionist historians have tried to blame America in the aftermath of World war II for the Cold War. Stalin's behaviour in 1939-40 when he brutally imposed a Communist dictatorship on the people of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Eastern Poland make it clear that the creation of satellite People's Republics in Eastern Europe was not a response to American policies, but in fact the essential nature of Stalin's regime.

Marshall Stalin

Joseph Stalin is undeniably one of the most important figures of the 20th century. His impact on the development of the Soviet state and society and the international Communist movement was immense. He is also one of the most evil figures in world history and was directly and indirectly responsible for the deaths of millions in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, a death toll even exceeding that of Adolf Hitler. Even so, the Russian people are deeply conflicted about his legacy. Stalin unlike the United states began the Cold war well before the end of World war II. The most obvious steps were Soviet actions in Poland. While the Allies were focused on Poland, however, similar actions were taking plasce theroughout the broad swath of territory in Eastern Europe occupied by the Red Army.

President Truman

Historians debate President Fraklin Roosevelt's attitude toward Stalin and the Soviet Union. Often those most critical leavce out of the equation the central role of the Red Army in destroying the Wehrmacht. Few historians criticise President Harry Truman for holding any illusions about Marshall Stalin. But of course by the time he became president (April 1945), the NAZIs were defeated and surrenderd within weeks. President Truman had virtually no experience in foreign relations. He had, however, been closely following the War and Soviet actions in Poland. He immediately began taking a stronger approach to the Soviets, especially disturbed by Soviet actions in Poland. Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov was the first to be on the receiving end of his famous temper. Molotov was a tough nut. He was virtually the only Bolshevick to survive Stalin's purges. Stalin had sent his wife to the Gulag to send him a message. He met with the President in the White House (April 1945). In the middle of a statdard Soviet statement statement on Poland, the President cut him short and told him he wasn't interested in propaganda and that he wanted Molotov to clearly express his concerns to Stalin. Molotov was next to Stalin the most powerful man in the Soviet Union. No one but Stalin interupted him. One observer reported that Molotovs face turned 'ashy'. He told the Presuident that 'I have never been talked to like that in my life.' That is saying a great deal given the fact that Molotov dealt with both Hitler and Stalin. The Presidebnt shot back "Carry out your agreeements and you won't get talked to like that." [McCullough, p. 461.] The change was apparent at Potsdam. Truman stopped Lend Lease shipments (August 1945). The decisions taken by President Truman were to set the foundation for an epic 45-year struggle with Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin and the powerful empire that he created. Neither the President or the American people influenced by favorable news coverage of Stalin and the Soviets were prepared for this struggle in the flush of victory over the Axis.

The Beginning (April 1944)

The Cold War is usually seen as beginning after the end of World War II. It is clear now that Stalin had launched the Cold War in Eastern Europe about a year before VE Day. Most wars are easy to date. World War I began when the Germans smashed into neutral Belgium (August 1914). World War II began when the Panzers smashed ioto Poland. The Cold War is a little difficult to date, in part because Stalin launched it before most Americans and Brits really understood it was underway. Different authors date it differently. We believe it began when Stalin broke relations with the Polish Government in Exile (April 1944). Once the Red Army had entered the boundaries of pre-War Poland and set up a puppet government in Poland--the Lublin Government. This was a major shift in Stalin's thinking. When working wiyh Hitler his policy after invading Poland (September 1939) was to destroy Poland as a nation. And like Hitler he set out to destroy the Polish intelegencia as ast step in wipeing out the Polish nation. The Katyn Massacre discovered by the Germans (1943) is only the best known of the terrible attrocities committed by Stalin and the NKVD in Poland. After the German invasion (June 1941), Stalin gradually shifted his policy and would tolerate a Polish natuion, albeit one shifted west and under his control. One historian writes, "In lettrs to FDR and Churchill in late April, Stalin denied involvement in the 'monstrous crimes' against the Polish officers and claimed that the 'London Poles' were allowing themselves to be used as 'tools'for anti-Spviet purposes. On Apriol 25 the USSR broke off relations with the London-based Polish Government. A weekk later Stalin decided it might be useful to dissolve the Cominterm .... The big story suceeded in pushing the news of the murdered Poles into the background." [Gelltely] Poland would proved to be the most contentious issue at both the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences, in essence the beginning of the Cold War. The Western llies were unable to prevent the subgegation of Poland, but as brutal as it was, Allied pressure meant that it was not the same as what Stlin began to do in 1939.


Responsibility for ending the World War II alliance against Fascism and launching the Cold War was at first ascribed by most American historians and opundits to Stalin and The Soviet Union. Itwould be costly, decades-long struggle between totalirarian Communism on one side and democracy and free market capitalism on the other side. Some historians with kliberal orientations began shifting in the 1960s to the Soviet line that the West was responsible for the Cold War, basically repriing the view of Vice President Wallace. Not only Ameican Communists and those ideologically sympathetic pursued this line, but liberals began to ascribe to this view. President Truman and Eisenhower began to be criticised for their Cold War policies. Here the Vietnam War was a factor in changing attitudes. And there were many at the time World War II ended who still believed that the Soviet Union was a worker's paradise and happy peasant farmers. They ignored increasing evidence of Stalin's crimes like the Great Terror, Katyn, and the Gulag. Today onlyleft-wing idealogues continue to deny that Stlin and the Soviet Union were responsible for the Cold War. Stalin when he met with Churchill and Roosevelt at Yalta and presented himsels as a great statesman. In fact he had not changed his goal made clear when he agreed to the NAZI-Soviet Non-Agression Pact that he wanted a fully Communist Europe under Soviet control. Since the dsolution of the Soviet Unin, we now know uchbnmore about Stalin and his Cold war policies. It is now clear except to the ideologically committed where guilt for launching the Cold War lies. Historians assessing oened Siovuiet archives have now definitivekt=y swered the question. It was was Stalin and his miniions and their actions in Eastern Europe made possible by Red Army victories that set the Cold War in motion. One hitorian whohas beenable to dealv into Soviet archives writes, Moscow made all the first moves and that if anything the West was woefully complcent until 1947 or 1948, when the die was already cast." [Gellately] The United States was prepared to offer Marshall Plan aid to both Easern Europe abnd the Soviet Union. Stalin rejected the offer because political control was more important to him thaneconomic recovery. He was untent on building an Eastern European empire of puppet sattelite staes and even adding some if Western Europe to that empire..


Berlin would prove to be ground zero in the Cold War. The Red Army had stormed Berlin in one of the most costly battles in history (April 1945). The city had already been leveled by the Allied strategic bombing campaign. And the battle for the city destroyed much of the rest that was still standing. General Eisenhower directed advancing Allied armies away from Berlin knowing that it would be in the Soviet zone. The Allied occupation zones had already been determined at Yalta. The Yalta Agreement provided, however, for a four power administration of Berlin, despite the fact that it was deep in the Soviet occupation zone of Germany. Such an arrangement would only work among Allies. And it soon became clear that the United States and the Soviet Union were not Allies. The Soviet Behavior in the Komandatura made it impossible to administer the city as whole. The Americans, British, and French coordinated their efforts and the Soviets began running their section separely. Berlin was the one place in the wortld that American and Soviet tanks were muzzel to muzzel. There was, however, no way that the small Allied garrison in Berlin could withstand a Soviet attack. Only the American commitment to Berlin protected the city. That committed was finally tested by the Stalin (1948). The result was the Berlin Air Lift. Although that was only the begging of the Cold war, it essentially determined the outcome of the struggle. Not only Berlines, but Germans as a whole stopped thinking of the Americans as a conquering enemy who had blasted their cities to nbits , but as a steadfast ally in the fight against totalitarian Communism. Another major step in the Cold War was the Berlin Wall. This was the admission by the East Germans and Soviets that Communism could not compete with free market capitalism. Just as the Cold War began in Berlin, the fall of the Berlin Wall was the symbolic conclusion.

Early Phase

Stalin was left after World War II in control of Eastern Europe, Stalin proceeded to install repressive puppet satellite governments in Poland and other countries. Stalin proceeded to install People's Republics in these states which meant Stalinist police states subservient to the Soviet Union. Stalin proceeded to use Communist parties in Greece, France, and Italy to broaden the Soviet Empire. American and European democracies sharply criticised the Soviet actions. Winston Churchill warned in 1946 that an "iron curtain" was descending through the middle of Europe. Joseph Stalin who had virtually allied himself with Hitler in 1939 to launch World War II, blamed the War on "capitalist imperialism" and threatened Western Europe. President Truman decided to support Western Europe. The Cold War was a period of intense East-West competition, tension, and conflict, but always short of full-scale war. The American policy throughout the nearly 50 years of the Cold War was once of "Containment". It was first enunciated by George Kennan writing as "X" in a celebrated article on Foreign Affairs. In the Nuclear Age, war between super powers was unthinkable. America sought to contain the expansion of the Soviet Empire while internal forces would weaken Soviet imposed Communist regimes from within. World War II had left Europe devastated. A staggering 40 million people were killed in World War II. In an effort to promote economic recovery, the United States implemented the Marshall Plan. (It was not called the Truman Plan because that would have doomed it in the Republican controlled American Congress.) The Plan was proposed by American Secretary of State George C. Marshall in 1947. Eventually over $12 billion (in 1948 dollars) was provided. Berlin was at the center if the Cold War. Stalin decided in 1948 that he could blockade Berlin and force the Western allies out and the people of West Berlin into submission. Ironically the people of West Berlin were saved by American and British pilots, in most cases the same men that only 3 years earlier had been bombing German cities and had reduced Berlin to ruble. President Truman was determined that the United States would not leave Berlin and a massive airlift was organized and even during the winter, more supploes were reaching Berlin than before tht Soviets had instituted the blockade. America did not withdraw from Europe after World War II as it had done after World War I. Stalin helped bring about that commitment. Stalin seized total control of Czechoslovakia in 1948, ending all pretence of democracy. But it was the Soviet blockade of West Berlin that made it clear that a strong Western military capability was necessary to counter Soviet power. The United States helped organize the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)--a mutual assistance military treaty. Even befoire the Soviet blockade was lifited, the United States and 11 other countries on April 4, 1949 signed the treaty. [Hudson, p. 62.] After the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II, the Civil War between the Nationalists and Communists resumed in earnest. The Communists had by 1948 defeated the Nationalists on the Mainland and Chian Kai-shek and his remaining forces fled to Taiwan which had been liberated from the Japanese. The success of the Communist Revolution led by Mao-Tse-Tung in 1949 brought a massive change in Chinese society. As the Cold war intensified, a wave of anti-Communist hysteria developed in America. The North Koreans Army crossed the 38th paralle on June 25, 1950 to forcibly unify Korea. President Truman immediately ordered war material be provided the South Koreans and then cmmitted U.S. forces to the defense of South Korea. Stalin and his sucessors encountered much more difficulty subjecting the people of Eastern Europe to totalitarian rule than the Russian people. The Soviets brutally suppressed attempts by Eastern Europeans to overthrow Soviet imposed governments: East Germany (1953), Poland (1956), Hungary (1956), Czechoslovakia (1978), and other outbreaks--especially in Poland. The Cold War was to be won or lost in Germany. The country was even with deminished borders the powerhouse of Europe. The Red Army and Stalin's ruthlessness early owned settled the matter in the minds of most Germans. The question became more one of whether America had the determination to support the Germans in the face of the Soviet threat. The Western Allied in 1949 began to allow the Federal Republic of German to administer the Western occupation zones and formally ended ocupation in 1955. The Cold War is often seen as a bi-polar struggle between East and West. The reality was much more complicated. France had been humbled by the Germans in World War II. After the War, France attempted to resurrect its colonial empire. This led to two failed colonial wars (Vietnam and Algeria). In search of an independent defence capability, France under General De Gaulle built an atomic bomb and pulled out of the NATO combined command.There were proxy wars and competition for influence in the newly independent countries of the developing world, many of which introduced Soviet command economics. India adopted a command economy with a democratic political system. Many other countries discarded all but the trappings of democratic government. There was also an arms race between the two super powers. America and the Soviet Union adopted client states in the Third World to support their respectivde sides. After Stalin died in 1953, the Cold War became more unbalanced. There were periods of relaxation followed by resumed confrontation. Nikita Khrushchev shocked the Communist world when he denounced Stalin at the 1956 20th Party Congress. A power struggle followed Stalin's death in 1953. Ukranian Party boss Nikita Khrushchev emerged victorious in that struggle. Perhaps his single most important achievement was launching the De-Stalinization process in 1956. While Stlalin was a mass murder, Khrushchev was even more dangerous. His behacior was often crude such as when he took his shoe off and banged his desk at the United Nations when a speaker displeased him.

Later Phase

The most visible aspect of the Cold War was the Berlin Wall - the Wall the Communists built between East and West Germany. The Wall changed this. It did stop the flow of people West, although heart rending sights of small numbers of people braving the increasingly lethal dangers of the Wall moved West Germans. President Kennedy visited Berlin in 1962 to demonstrate American resolve in this vulnerable outpost of freedom. The most dangerous point of the Cold War was the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Soviert Union secretly began installing balistic missles in Cuba capable of hitting Atlantic coast American cities. A major development in the Cold War was the split between the Soviets and Chinese in 1964. There were efforts to pursue detente during the 1970s. Vietnam is the most controversial war in American history. Even after several decades the debate over the war continues. American Presidents Kennedy and Johnson committed American combat troops primarily as part of a Cold War commitment to fighting Communism. The reality in Vietnam was much more complex. American officials failed to perceive the nationalist dimensions of the War. The developing fissures in the Communist world were also not appreciated. Perhaps the most serious miscalculation was the military assessment of the ability of North Vietnam to resist American military power. The Indonesian military in 1965 overthrew the Sukarno regime claiming that the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) was planning an uprising. The actual plans of the PKI are still murky, but over 1 million Indonesians were killed by the military for expected PKI sympathies. It was one of major attrocities of rhe 20th century. Another major even more radical change occurred during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), one of the most violent and tragic episodes in modern Chinese history. It was inspired by China's leader Mao Tse Tung and known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Mao thought that the Chinese people were losing their revolutionary zeal. He thus conceived of a cultural revolution to destroy once and for all the culture of pre-Communist China. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, after years of struggle, defeated the Cambodian military and seized the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975. What followed was one of the most sinister and senseless acts of genocide ever committed by a government on its own people. The Soviets invaded and occupied Afghanistan in 1979. Unlike the other major conflicts in world history, in the end the Cold War was not settled by force of arms. It was the example of the West, especially the success of free market economics and political democracy that defeated Communism. [Mandelbaum] The Soviets in Western Europe used the growing pasifist movement in Western Europe to promote disarmament--disarmaament of the West. Stalin once asked mockingly how many divisions the Pope had. In fact the entire edifice of Stalinist in Eastern Europe began to unravel in Poland. The two principal forces were the Polish Catholic Church and an illegal free trade union movement--Solidarity. Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev played a central role in ending the Cold War. The Soviet economy was clearly failing. With a faltering economy, the Soviets could not successfully compete with America and the West. Gorbachev sought to rationalize the Soviet system through Glasnost and Perestroika. The relaxation of the police state role and the openness that he sought in effect destroyed the Soviet Union and its Eastern European Empire. Gorbachev was unwilling to use the instruments of state security to suppress the people of Eastern Europe and the nationalities within the Soviet Union. In the end the Soviet Union itself collapsed in 1991. This was not Gorbachev's intention, but he inadvertently launched a new undivided and much freer Europe. [Hitchcock] President Ronald Reagan envisioned a smaller Government, a greater America. At the end of his two terms in office, the President Reagan viewed with satisfaction the achievements of his innovative program known as the Reagan Revolution, which aimed to reinvigorate the American people and reduce their reliance upon Government. He felt he had fulfilled his campaign pledge of 1980 to restore "the great, confident roar of American progress and growth and optimism." It is difficult to assess to what extent this stress or the internal weakness of the Soviet system resulted in its demise. Probably a combination of the two. Some view Reagan as genial, but poorly informed and unengaged. Others credit him with the destruction of Soviet Communism.

Country Trends

Our discussion of the Cold War is primarily based on a chronological flow of events. This of necesity condenses the Cold War into its essence--a struggle between the Soviet Union and America. America's European allies played critical roles in the Cold War. but withoit America, Wesrern Europe could not have resisted the Red Army and Soviet domination after World War II. In Easter Europe, East Germany was the key for the Soviets because of the potential power of a united Germany, And because of its geographic lovation, Poland became the epicenter for the Cold War. For without a compliant Communist Poland, a the Communist East German regime was untenable. Unfortunately for the Siviets, Poland proved the most difficult Eastern European satellite country to control. Thus developments in individual countries, especially the European countries most affected by the struggle are not adequately presented. Here we will collect information on development in specific countries during the Cold War. Here we are just beginning this assessment.

Military Trends

The Cold war was notable in that it was a rare conflict between two major world powers in which there was no direct military confrontations. between the two principal powers--the United States and the Soviet Union. There were several military engagements. The United States fought the Korean War which became a direct conflict between the United States and China and subsequently the Vietnam War. The Soviet Union had to use its military forces to maintain order in its Eastern European empire. And it fought a war in Afghanistan. hus while a Cold war, military power was important and in many ways set the parameters wihin which the Cold War evolved. Thus to understand the Cold War it is necessary to assess the military balance, a balance which shifted over time. The military balance at the beginning of the Cold War was largely determined by two developments. First was the success of D-Day which meant that the NAZIs were defeated by both the Soviets and Western Allies, creating a military balance. Second was the American development of an atomic bomb. The Soviet Union had at the end of the War a massive army. The exclusive American possession of the atomic bomb mean that the Sovierts were not able their massive superority in land forces to chllenge the West, even over Berlin deep in the Soviet occupation zone.


Pacifism, isolationism. and neutrality suffered as a result of World War II. These different but related policies had all played into Hitler's hands. France sucummed because of pacifist anti-War sentiment and and a terribly mismanaged military effort. The same was true of Britain except the Channel stopped the Panzers at Calais. And America entered the War unprepared for military action. Pearl Harbor had fundamentally changed the American outlook. America after World War II was not prepard to disarm as it had done after World War I, although milirary spending was cut substantially. Attitudes in Europe also shifted. The Belgians and Dutch having endured German occupation were no longer interested in neutrality as a guarantee of security. The British and French were also not prepared to disarm as they had after World War I. And Soviet conduct, using the Red Army and NKVD to carve out a Eastrern European empire only confirmed the concerns of Americans and many Western Europeans. The result was the North Atlantic Treaty Organizatin (NATO) (1949). Not all Europeans believed in a strong defense. Socialists and Communists still held pacifist beliefs. This was a major strain of thought among Socialists since the foundation of the world socialist movement (late-19th century). And Soviet foreign policy trumpeted this theme. The Soviets claimed to be commited to world peace and charged that it was the Americans who were pursuing agressive miitarist policies threatening peace. Some European sococialists were so devoted to Marxist thought that they simply ignored reality. Others dutifully followed orders from Moscow. They just ignored the fact that the Stalin they now thrumpeted as a force for peace was the same evil dictator who had signed the NAZI-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact (August 1939) and with the NAZI dictator as a close ally had launched Word War II to carve up Europe between them. While nonsensical, the Soviets used pacifist sentiment in Western Europe to weaken European resistance to Soviet military expansion. They tried the same in America, albeit with less suceess. The Communists infiltrated left-wing and peace groups. The pacifist movement proved highly selective about what they protested. These groups not uncommonly simply repeated Sovuiet propagabnda. They criticised Anmerican and allied defense spending, but never Sovie defense spending. They criticised the American nuclear arsenal, but never the Soviet arsenal. There were also protests behind te Iron Curtain, but like the protests in the West, only criticized American and Western military spending. The Soviets helped fund many of these movements and conducted an active propaganda effort in an effort to both reduce westerndefense speding ad to destabalization Western governments. It was only with the Vuietnam War that pacifism in the United States grew beyond left-wing groups into a much more widely supported peace movenment. This could have had a major impact on the Cold War had it not been for three consrvative politicans (Presuident Reagan, Primeminister Thstcher, and Chancellor Kohl) and the inherent inefficenies of Communism began to undermine the Soviet economy.


We have begun to build bigoraphies of the major figures of the Cold war in the various countries involved. Some of the individuals involved were also ikportant World War II figures. The srtruggle was essentially a continuation of Stalin's attempt begun with Hitler to seize control of Europe. Many of the individuals involved with Europeans, but as the Cold War progressed it spread around the world and included figures from many different countries, to a greater extent than World War II. The central figure in the Cold War was Josef Stalin. It was a struggle tht did not need to have been fought. Stalin set it in motion and it was continued by subsequent Soviet leaders as well as Communists in many other countries, both in Europe and the Third World.


The Cold War unlike World War I and World War II which proceeded it was primarily fought on the intelligence front. The intelligence struggle was a fascinating one. Although the American Central Inteligence Agency is a much agency, in fact thanks to the CIA and other Western intelligence, the Soviets never succeed in launching a weapon system which upset the strategic ballance or surprisng the United Sates with an unansweravle feint. The one weapon system which the CIA did not fully appreciate was the Soviet biological weapns program, but it never became a factor in the Cold war. The CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) achieved many innovative technical successes. The KGB on the other hand while relying less on technology proved extrodinarily adroit in recruiting agents at high levels in the Western camp, especally in Germany. Although these successes gained them little and may have backfired. More useful was the penetration of American, and British intelligence services through ideological penetration or simple (often paltry) payoffs. The full story of the intelligence struggle has not yet been written.


A not often discussed aspect of the Cold War is culture. From the very beginning in the Soviet Union, culture was seen as a matter of importance. And just as the individuals were to serve the state, culture was seen as important not for itself, but to serve the state, The term Soviet realism appeared. Socialist realism is a style of realistic art which was developed in the Soviet Union and became a dominant style in communist regimes established by the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe after World War II. Socialist realism had two primary elements. One was a realistic depiction in the sence of visual accuracy, in part because the abstract art popular befire tge Revolutiin ws seen as decadent. Soviet realism emerged early in rehe Revolution, but did nir become official state policy until 1932. .Thecsecondcaspect was that it further thec Revolution by adhering to guidelines set by the Communist Party. Artists, authors, and eventually film makers role was to glorify the new Soviet state and Soviet culture. They became state employees and could only practice their craft if their work adhered to the guidelines established by the Party. This meant depicting an idealized society and ignoring or hiding aspects of the new country that reflected poorly on the the Soviet Union. Music and dance were less overtly political, but technical competence reflected well on the Soviet Union. In much thge sane way, sports were also politicized. The Soviet Union was surprisingly adept at managing its image in the West durung the 1930s abd 40s. Thus while starving millions of Ukranians and conducting the Great Terror condeming other millions to death or the Gulag, many in the West like the Rosenbergs or a substantial part of the Western inteligentsia were convinced that the Sovietrs were building an ideal society. As aesult the Soviets and their new Eastern European satellites werec well mprepared to mobilized a culture offensive as the Cold war developed. The West was much lest prepared in this regard. Westernb artists like Hollwood today were often social critics who often depicted the failings and weaknesses of capitalist society and often as not were lionized for doing so. Similar work behind the Irin Curtail would mean expulsuion from the professional organizations (arysusts, composers, dancers, writwrs, ect) which would mean the end of careers. During the stalist era it could mean arrests and bullet in the head or a long sentence in the Gulag. An aspect of the cultural competition were wll publicized cultural exchanges of various sorts.


One notable aspect of the Cold war was that the Iron Curtain errectef by the Soviets proved impervious to fashion. Although fashion and consumer ecomomics in geneal was not promoted by the Soviet planners, Western fashion slowly spread east. It often took some time, but fashions devekoped in the West were eventually adopted in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. In contrast there was no fashion flow west. This observation is less frivolous than it may seem at face value. A characteristic of people over time and over cultures is an interest in fashion. The specific fassions have varied, but an interest in fashion began in the stone age even before civilization. The Soviet economic planning also reflect the desire of Kremlin planners to use the economy to butress state power rather than to meet thev needs and desires of the popuilstion. The resulting Soviet resistance to fashion and consumer goods in general underlie a majpr weakness in the Soviet system. It was also a major reason for the eventual collapse of Communidsmm in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.


Not all historians agree that the Cold War was necessary and that the foundation of Western democracy was at stake. Gore Vidal has described the Cold War as "40 years of mindless wars which created a debt of $5 trillion". A British journalist described the Cold War as "the most unnecessary conflict of all time". This view is the Cold War was just one more exercise in great power politics. It is difficult to understand Vidal's view when in the Soviet Empire any independent thinker, certainly anyone like Vidal, was silenced permanently or ended up in the Gulag. This is not to say that America and its allies always acted in the best tradition of its values. The McCarthyite excesses of the 1950s were a serious stain on the Cold War effort. Accommodations were made with dictators, people like Franco, Suharto, Mobutu, and many others. Nor was the Cold War always well fought. As with any human undertaking of the dimensions involved here, there were undoubtedly mistakes, serious mistakes. The Cold war was not, however, just another in the endless historical confrontations between nation states. The Cold War was fought not because the Soviet Union was powerful and threatening. It was fought because the totalitarian system created by Stalin was inhumane, even as President Regan charged evil. The Soviet threatened the basic human rights that had evolved so painfully in the Western democracies which led by America contained it and allowed it to destroy itself.


Deutscher, Issac. Deutscher is Trotsky's biographer.

Gellately, Robeet. Stalin's Curse: Battling for Communism in War and Cold War (2013), 496p.

Gray, William Glenn. Germany's Cold War: The Global Campaign to Isolate East Germany, 1949-69 (University of North Carolina), 251p.

Harrison, Hope. George Washington University. Library of Congress Panel, March 5, 2003.

Hitchcock, William I. The Struggle for Europe: The Turbulent History of a Divided Continent (Doubleday), 513p. This is a thought provoking, well researched book. The author has gained access to never before used Soviet archives. We do not agree with all of his conclusions. The author in many instances, for example, tends to explain Soviet actions as response to American policies rather than the inherent nature of a brutal, expantionist regime.

Hudson, G.F. The Hard and Bitter Peace: World Politics Since 1945 (Praeger: New York, 1967), 319p.

Kennan, George. Foreign Affairs.

McCullough, David. Truman.

Mandelbaum, Michael. The Ideas that Conquered the World: Peace, Democracy, and Free Markets in the 21st Century. Prados, John. Lost Crusader: The Secret Wars of CIA Director William Colby (Oxford Unicersity, 2003), 380p.

Stafford, David. Spies beneath Berlin (Overlook), 211p.

Taubman, William. Khrushchev: The Man and His Era (Norton), 876p.

Vidal, Gore.


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Created: February 25, 2003
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Last updated: 7:34 AM 7/5/2013