Cold War Diplomacy: American Foreign Policy, 1945-1960

By Norman A. Graebner | Go to book overview

the U.S.S.R. was still sufficiently limited to rule out the rearming of Germany or Japan. Nor had he any desire to break off negotiations with the Soviets. If the postwar experience had been hard on the nerves of diplomats, he wrote, war would be harder on the lives of millions. Diplomacy offered no panaceas. To build a lasting peace required far more diligence and imagination than suggested by the optimism which still anticipated unilateral Russian concessions and the pessimism which anticipated the ultimate triumph of justice only at the end of another war. But the one essential national decision--that of defining American interests in the context of both a divided world and a new balance of power--still awaited a more propitious time.


-- 3 --
THE STRUCTURE OF CONTAINMENT

What characterized American foreign policy in the late forties was its gradual retreat from an offensive to a defensive posture. Until 1947 Soviet ambitions appeared limited to regions already under the dominance of the Red Army. The notion that Russia's forward position was only the initial step in a general assault on the free world was scarcely in evidence. It was Western policy, with its avowed purpose of deflating the Soviet hegemony, that maintained a spirit of aggressiveness. Soviet power was finite; its existence was disturbing only to the extent that it underwrote the new Communist regimes of Eastern Europe. The assumption that Stalinist behavior posed a moral rather than a physical challenge created the illusion that a sufficient response lay somewhere in the realm of verbal disapprobation. This permitted American leadership to sustain its expectation of eventual Soviet capitulation at the same time that it continued to reduce the size

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