The Great Transition: American-Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War

By Raymond L. Garthoff | Go to book overview

16 Retrospect and Prospect

THIS VOLUME DEALS with the final phase of the Cold War and the last stage of the existence of the Soviet Union. It brings to the end both the story of the Cold War and the final period of American-Soviet relations, from 1981 through 1991. It offers an occasion to look back not only at that final decade but also at the Cold War as a whole. At the same time, notwithstanding a new situation and new conditions, this period in continuing history represents the foundation for the American-Russian relationship in the future.


Looking Back: The Cold War in Retrospect

The fundamental underlying cause of the Cold War was the belief in both the Soviet Union and the United States that confrontation was unavoidable, imposed by history. Soviet leaders believed that Communism would ultimately triumph in the world and that the Soviet Union was the vanguard socialist-communist state. They also believed that the Western "imperialist" powers were historically bound to pursue a hostile course against them. For their part, American and other Western leaders assumed that the Soviet Union was determined to enhance its power and to pursue expansionist policies by all expedient means to achieve a Soviet-led communist world. Each side thought that it was compelled by the very existence of the other to engage in zero-sum competition, and each saw the unfolding history of the Cold War as confirming its views.1

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1
An earlier version of the discussion in this section of the chapter appeared in Raymond L. Garthoff , "Why Did the Cold War Arise, and Why Did It End?" Diplomatic History, vol. 16 (Spring 1992), pp. 287-93, and as a chapter in Michael J. Hogan, ed., The End of the Cold War Its Meaning and Implications ( Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 127-36.

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