The Cold War: An International History

The Cold War: An International History

The Cold War: An International History

The Cold War: An International History


Most scholarly studies devoted to examining the entire Cold War period focus almost exclusively on Soviet-American relations, thus neglecting other important aspects of the war. In addition to the global contest between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, the history of the Cold War involves a wide range of issues relating to geopolitics, political economy (both international and domestic), and political development in all parts of the world. This interdisciplinary study provides a fresh perspective on the Cold War through an exploration of many of these issues, including: changes in the global distribution of power; advances in warfare technology; shifts in the balance of social and political forces within and among nations; the evolution of the world economy; and the transformation of the Third World. David Painter offers a compact, sophisticated analysis of how all of these factors intersected to produce, prolong and eventually end the Cold War.



The Cold War dominated international relations for over forty-five years (1945-1991). Within a framework of political relations, economic linkages, and military alliances, the Cold War was characterized by a high degree of tension between the United States and the Soviet Union; a costly and dangerous arms race; the polarization of domestic and international politics; the division of the world into economic spheres; and competition and conflict in the Third World. Understanding the Cold War is central to understanding the history of the second half of the twentieth century.

The Cold War shaped the foreign policies of the United States and the Soviet Union and deeply affected their societies and their political, economic, and military institutions. By providing a justification for the projection of US power and influence all over the world, the Cold War facilitated the assumption and assertion of global leadership by the United States. By providing Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and his successors with an external enemy to justify their repressive internal regime, the Cold War helped legitimate an unrepresentative government and maintain the grip of the Communist Party on the Soviet Union.

In addition to its impact on the superpowers, the Cold War caused and perpetuated the division of Europe, and, within Europe, Germany. It also facilitated the reconstruction and reintegration of Germany, Italy, and Japan into the international system following their defeat in World War II. The Third World especially felt the effects of the Cold War, which overlapped with the era of decolonization and national liberation in the Third World. These two momentous processes had a profound and reciprocal effect on each other. The Cold War led to the division of Vietnam and Korea and to costly wars in both nations. Indeed, all but 200,000 of the more than 20 million people who died in wars between 1945 and 1990 were casualties in the more than one hundred wars that took place in the Third World in this period. In addition, most of the

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