The Cold War in Retrospect: The Formative Years

By Roger S. Whitcomb | Go to book overview

Foreword

The Soviet-American Cold War confrontation was not inevitable. As we move away from the long struggle that marked the relationship between our two countries during the last half of the twentieth century, historians are continuing to reassess the causes, nature, and conduct of that conflict. A crucial factor in this ongoing reassessment is the opening up of the archives of the former Soviet Union, as well as new materials becoming available in the West. Political scientists and historians on both sides have become more nuanced in their interpretations of the policies pursued by the decision-makers in Moscow and Washington. As a result, we are beginning to develop a more sophisticated view of the conflict.

Among other things, these developments are putting into question the long- standing dominant view in the West that the Soviet Union was primarily responsible for the Cold War and that the United States was simply responding to intransigence, if not conspiratorial thinking, in Moscow. It is in this sense that Professor Whitcomb, in The Cold War in Retrospect: The Formative Years, makes a valuable contribution to a clearer understanding of the conduct of both Russia's and America's decision-makers during the Second World War and the years immediately thereafter.

Whitcomb is one of a new group of analysts who have begun to synthesize the wealth of material now available on the Cold War, and to generate broadbased generalizations. His analysis of America's historic cultural tradition as an important conditioning factor in its approach to the outside world is especially useful. In particular, he rightly points out that it was that tradition which heavily influenced the development of his country's so-called containment rationale toward the Soviet Union--an approach which he characterizes as misguided, based on a misreading of both Russian intentions and capabilities.

The central thesis of his book is a valid one, namely, that the impasse was a product of mutual antagonisms, originating in misperceptions, misunderstandings and mistrust of one another's motives, In this sense, America was no

-ix-

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The Cold War in Retrospect: The Formative Years
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction: America Meets Russia, 1941-1961 1
  • Notes 4
  • 1 - The Troubled Partnership: The Bear and Eagle in World War II 7
  • Notes 48
  • 2 - The Postwar Scene (1945-1953): Cold War Triumphant 65
  • Notes 123
  • 3 - The Eisenhower Years: Nothing Fundamental Has Changed 143
  • Notes 184
  • 4 - Babylon Revisited 199
  • Notes 222
  • Selected Bibliography 227
  • Index 253
  • About the Author 261
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