The cold war was a period of intense antagonism between the two superpowers—the United States and the Soviet Union—lasting from 1945 to 1991. Because there was no direct armed conflict between the two continental giants the description ‘cold war’ remains an accurate one. Now that it is over, and we know the outcome, it is tempting to re-define this period of recent history as the ‘long peace’.
The cold war began in Europe with the division of Germany and the establishment of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe in 1945. It ended with the break-up of that empire in 1989, the re-unification of Germany in 1990 and, finally, the collapse of the Soviet Union itself in 1991. In the middle of this 45-year period the cold war spread around the world to Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. This book focuses less on the global dimension of the cold war than on the particulars of the Soviet—American relationship since 1945.
Two points gave the Soviet—American relationship its particular flavour: ideology and nuclear weapons. Among other things the cold war was a propaganda war: each side proclaimed its ideology in an uncompromising, absolutist way. The Soviet Union believed for a long time that communism could only triumph after a war had destroyed capitalism. The United States believed that communism in the Soviet Union would have to collapse before there could be lasting peace in the world. By