The Cold War in Retrospect: The Formative Years

By Roger S. Whitcomb | Go to book overview

Introduction: America Meets Russia, 1941-1961: A Case Study

The widespread and destructive confrontation between America and Soviet Russia after 1944 would come to represent the centerpiece of interstate relations for the last half of the twentieth century. Perhaps only the Anglo-French competition of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries rivals it in modern history. Historic conflicts of this sort, 1 profoundly destabilizing as this one surely was, tend to divide those who perceive such struggles as elemental, even inevitable, from those, such as this writer, who prefer to address their shorter- term causations and the possibilities that may have been missed for their avoidance.

Some fifty years have passed since scholars began to examine seriously the dimensions of this imbroglio. Despite an immense volume of literature, the debate over the causes of the conflict between the two giants remains one of the most contentious of modern times. If anything, scholars disagree in their assessments of causation and culpability today even more than when the examination began. Over four decades of scholarship have certainly generated no consensus. 2 The actual day-to-day record of the history of the interactions between the two states is fairly clear; but beyond an increasingly more accurate accounting of those events, the quest for meaning has often led observers into a twilight zone of confusion where the real motivations behind the policies are reduced to conjecture or simply assumed. Then, too, the absence of certainty has sometimes served to spur on those with axes to grind to hold fast to established intellectual preferences. As Ernest May reminds us, it is not unusual for debates of this sort to be framed in terms of preferred visions or frames of reference. "Within limits, interpretations that seem directly contradictory can all be true." 3

In America two views of the Cold war once dominated the discussion. The traditional or orthodox approach blamed the Russians for the outbreak of the Cold War, Soviet Russia being portrayed as relentlessly expanionist and

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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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