Origins of the Cold War: An International History

By Melvyn P. Leffler; David S. Painter | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

The International System and the Origins of the Cold War

David S. Painter and Melvyn P. Leffler

For forty-five years the Cold War was the central factor in world politics. It dominated the foreign policies of the United States and the Soviet Union and affected the diplomacy and domestic politics of most other nations around the globe. Few countries, in fact, escaped its influence. Because the distinctive characteristics of the Cold War era took form in the years immediately following the Second World War, examining its origins is central to understanding international history in the last half of the twentieth century.

Now that the Soviet Union has collapsed and the Cold War is over, an ideal opportunity exists to reassess its beginnings. Scholars and students alike can move beyond earlier controversies over responsibility for the Cold War and try to understand what happened and why without assigning blame. In this volume we focus on the international system and on events in all parts of the globe. We bring together essays that deal with geopolitics and threat perception, technology and strategy, ideology and social reconstruction, national economic reform and patterns of international trade, decolonization and revolutionary nationalism. The essays illuminate how the global distribution of power, the configuration of social forces, and the state of the international economy influenced American and Soviet perceptions of their respective national security interests. They also demonstrate how Soviet-American competition helped shape the political, economic, and social conditions of other nations. And lastly, they reveal how classes, factions, ethnic groups, and revolutionary nationalist movements in other

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