Taking the Democratic Way; Cold War Europe

By Kaldor, Mary | The Nation, April 22, 1991 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Taking the Democratic Way; Cold War Europe

Kaldor, Mary, The Nation

During the 1980s I had three wishes. I wished for the end of the cold war, for democracy in Eastern Europe and for a disarmament process to begin. I wished for them every time I stirred a Christmas pudding, caught an autumn leaf or shared a chicken wishbone. And all my wishes came true. But just as in the fairy stories, what I got was quite different from what I expected.

Instead of entering an era of peace, harmony and cooperation, we seem to be sliding into an era of chaos, violence and division. The Western military machine thundered away in the Persian Gulf. The economies and environments of Eastern Europe are devastated, and a new "golden curtain" is dropping to protect the rich West from Eastern economic refugees. New nationalist, religious and ethnic fundamentalisms-what Jacques Delors, president of the European Commission, calls " ideologies of exclusion" -are growing everywhere. Bloody civil wars in the Soviet Union seem increasingly likely. Meanwhile, the West is still doing business as usual. Arms cuts have been minor. NATO not only still exists but has expanded to include a united Germany, even though the Warsaw Pact has disintegrated. There is no commitment to solving any of the deep-rooted global problems we face. For the most part, the West has not shed its cold war conditioning. Only in Eastern Europe has the cold war ended.

There were two main Western reactions to last year's events in Eastern Europe. Both stem from long-held assumptions about the nature of the cold war, and both have very dangerous consequences. One is the mood of triumphalism and self-congratulation. This was alleged to be a victory for the West, for American as opposed to European values. The West, said Margaret Thatcher, held out a "beacon of freedom" to the peoples of the East. This is the "end of history," said Francis Fukuyama, the victory for the "universal homogeneous state " which combines political freedom and consumerism. Western triumphalism is an expression of the orthodox view of the cold war as an epic struggle between freedom and totalitarianism. The West was identified with freedom and the East with totalitarianism. It was Western military strength that was supposed to have kept totalitarianism at bay. For some thinkers, freedom is inextricably linked to free markets and a neoliberal ideology.

The problem is that the West cannot be equated with freedom. Certainly, Western countries are democratic countries and Eastern Europeans lusted after Western democracy. But the West did little to support struggles for freedom either in the Third World or in Eastern Europe. On the contrary, Western governments supported brutal military dictatorships in the Third World. And the creation in the late 1940s of a West German state and a Western military alliance entailed the abandonment of the peoples of Eastern Europe.

Far from countering a Soviet military threat to Western Europe, NATO legitimized the Soviet presence in Eastern Europe. In the 1970s, during the detente period, there seemed to be a possibility of some evolution toward more open societies in Eastern Europe. Then came the emergence of Solidarity in 1980. The crackdown on Solidarity occurred at the height of the new cold war, in 1981, and was rationalized in terms of aggressive Western postures. The renunciation of the Brezhnev Doctrine triggered the wave of revolutions in Central Europe in 1989. That would have been impossible without the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (I.N.F.) treaty and the new detente mood engendered after 1985 by the arms control process.

The Western triumphalists see little necessity for big reductions in military spending or for increased economic cooperation with Eastern Europe or the Third World. Conservatives argue that if Western military strength brought Communism to its knees, then the same approach can be applied in other parts of the world-to tin-pot dictators actually created by the West. Hence, the gung-ho attitude in the gulf.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Taking the Democratic Way; Cold War Europe


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?