The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991

By Ronald E. Powaski | Go to book overview

Preface

The Cold War was a struggle for global influence between the United States and the Soviet Union. To that end, the two countries employed a variety of methods, all short of a direct, all-out attack on each other's homelands. The methods they used included the creation of rival alliances, the extension of military and economic aid to client states and would-be client states, a massive and expensive arms race, propaganda campaigns, espionage, guerrilla warfare, counterinsurgency warfare, and political assassinations.

The Cold War was one of the longest conflicts in human history, over seventy years in duration, with periodic lulls in the level of hostility. It was also the widest in scope of all the world's wars; it was fought on every continent on the globe and, considering the space race, over every continent as well. The Cold War was also one of the costliest of the world's conflicts, not only in numbers of lives lost but also in resources expended. In the end, the Soviet Union collapsed, and communism, at least in the form that existed in the Soviet Union, expired. But, as Mikhail Gorbachev pointed out, both sides lost much in the Cold War. The United States lost many lives and consumed huge financial resources as well, and the democratic principles on which it was founded were endangered.

For decades, historians have argued about the origins of the Cold War. Who, or what, was primarily responsible? Was it inevitable?

One school of thought, the orthodox interpretation, places the major blame for the Cold War on the Soviet Union. Its proponents argue that the United States had no choice but to contain and, where possible,

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