Fundamentally the cold war was a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union, fuelled on both sides by the belief that the ideology of the other side had to be destroyed. In this sense it was a zero-sum game in which co-existence was not possible—one side could win only at the expense of the other. The Soviet Union held to Lenin’s belief that conflict between communism and capitalism was ‘inevitable’. The United States believed that peace and stability in the world would only emerge when the evil of communism had been exorcised. Each side imputed unlimited objectives to the other. At the ideological level Moscow’s Manichean communist world-view, which saw capitalism as an absolute evil, fed off Washington’s Manichean world-view, which saw communism as an absolute evil, and in this way each helped to sustain the other’s prophecy.
We have seen that the basis of United States foreign policy since 1945 was the doctrine of containment sketched out by George Kennan in the Long Telegram of 1946. Kennan argued that the methods and goals of the United States and Soviet Union were irreconcilable and therefore that the United States should prepare for a long struggle. At some point in the future the ‘illegitimate’ government of the Soviet Union would collapse from within and the struggle would be over. This is precisely what happened to the Soviet Union under Gorbachev. What is important to note here, however, is not that the United States