Expanding the Frontiers: Superpower Intervention in the Cold War

By Karen A. Feste | Go to book overview

ONE
The Primacy of Intervention in the Cold War

The Cold War is largely a long and complicated intervention story. Policies pursued by the superpowers to elevate their status and leverage in the community of nations led to a struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union as they attempted to influence regimes around the world in order to gain their support. Frequently these efforts resulted in strategies and methods of interference, control, and dominance over the domestic politics of other states. From the American decision to intervene in the Greek Civil War in 1947 to the Soviet Union's intervention in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968; from the long-term experience of involvement by the United States in Vietnam to the Soviet Union's involvement in Afghanistan; and, perhaps most significantly, from the installation of communist regimes in East European countries just after World War II to the total collapse of this political order in 1989 -- made possible by the Soviet decision not to intervene to maintain the status quo -- it becomes quite clear that intervention is a key, concept for understanding how the Cold War developed and continued, and why it came to an end.

Intervention is an instrument of foreign policy used to promote the interests of individual nations. The interventionary tactics of the superpowers during the Cold War often involved threats, coercion, confrontation, and intimidation, which represented a way for the United States and the Soviet Union to play out their rivalry in international relations. The timing collided with the restructuring of world politics into an interrelated, interdependent system of domestic and international linkages ushered in by vast technological innovations and economic development of the last half of the twentieth century. In the Cold War era the United States and the Soviet Union could act with the greatest degree of independence and autonomy to pursue their policy

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