John Lewis Gaddis The Cold War

ISBN 13: 9780141029993

The Cold War

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9780141029993: The Cold War

From "the dean of Cold War historians" (New York Times): an important new reckoning with the hostile relationship that defined our age.

It began during the Second World War, when American and Soviet troops converged from east and west. Their meeting point—a small German city—became part of a front line that solidified shortly thereafter into an Iron Curtain. It ended in a climactic square-off between Ronald Reagan’s America and Gorbachev’s Soviet Union. In between were decades of global confrontation, uncertainty, and fear.

Drawing on new and often startling information from newly opened Soviet, Eastern European, and Chinese archives, this thrilling account explores the strategic dynamics that drove the Cold War, provides illuminating portraits of its major personalities, and offers much fresh insight into its most crucial events. Riveting, revelatory, and wise, it tells a story whose lessons it is vitally necessary to understand as America once more faces an implacable ideological enemy.

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About the Author:

JOHN LEWIS GADDIS is an internationally renowned historian of the cold war. He has written extensively on the subject, including We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History and The United States and the Origins of the World War, 1941-1947. Gaddis is on the advisory board of the Cold War International History Project. A senior fellow of the Hoover Institution from 2000 to 2002, he served as a consultant on the CNN television documentary Cold War. Gaddis resides in Connecticut.

JAY GREGORY is a veteran New York actor of stage, film, and television. He can be heard in a number of informational narrations on the Discovery Channel, TLC, NOVA, and PBS, and he has a wide range of audiobooks to his credit.

ALAN SKLAR has narrated over 75 audiobooks and earned numerous awards for his work. He has also provided the voice for thousands of corporate and medical videos, as well as many radio and TV commercials. He lives with his wife in New York.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page



















The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941–1947


Russia, the Soviet Union, and the United States: An Interpretive History


Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of
American National Security Policy During the Cold War


The Long Peace: Inquiries into the History of the Cold War


The United States and the End of the Cold War: Implications,
Reconsiderations, Provocations


We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History


The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past


Surprise, Security, and the American Experience

Published by the Penguin Group
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First published in 2005 by The Penguin Press,
a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


Copyright © John Lewis Gaddis, 2005

All rights reserved


Photograph credits appear on page 315.


Map sources appear on page 316.


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data


Gaddis, John Lewis.
The Cold War : a new history / John Lewis Gaddis.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.

eISBN : 978-1-440-68450-0

1. Cold War. 2. World politics—1945–1989. I. Title.
D843.G22 2005






Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication maybe reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.


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EVERY MONDAY AND WEDNESDAY afternoon each fall semester I lecture to several hundred Yale undergraduates on the subject of Cold War history. As I do this, I have to keep reminding myself that hardly any of them remember any of the events I’m describing. When I talk about Stalin and Truman, even Reagan and Gorbachev, it could as easily be Napoleon, Caesar, or Alexander the Great. Most members of the Class of 2005, for example, were only five years old when the Berlin Wall came down. They know that the Cold War in various ways shaped their lives, because they’ve been told how it affected their families. Some of them—by no means all—understand that if a few decisions had been made differently at a few critical moments during that conflict, they might not even have had a life. But my students sign up for this course with very little sense of how the Cold War started, what it was about, or why it ended in the way that it did. For them it’s history: not all that different from the Peloponnesian War.

And yet, as they learn more about the great rivalry that dominated the last half of the last century, most of my students are fascinated, many are appalled, and a few—usually after the lecture on the Cuban missile crisis—leave class trembling. “Yikes!” they exclaim (I sanitize somewhat). “We had no idea that we came that close!” And then they invariably add: “Awesome!” For this first post–Cold War generation, then, the Cold War is at once distant and dangerous. What could anyone ever have had to fear, they wonder, from a state that turned out to be as weak, as bumbling, and as temporary as the Soviet Union? But they also ask themselves and me: how did we ever make it out of the Cold War alive?

I’ve written this book to try to answer these questions, but also to respond—at a much less cosmic level—to another my students regularly pose. It has not escaped their attention that I’ve written several earlier books on Cold War history; indeed, I regularly assign them one that takes almost 300 pages just to get up to 1962. “Can’t you cover more years with fewer words?” some of them have politely asked. It’s a reasonable question, and it came to seem even more so when my formidably persuasive agent, Andrew Wylie, set out to convince me of the need for a short, comprehensive, and accessible book on the Cold War—a tactful way of suggesting that my previous ones had not been. Since I regard listening to my students and my agent as only slightly less important than listening to my wife (who also liked the idea), the project seemed worth taking on.

The Cold War: A New History is meant chiefly, therefore, for a new generation of readers for whom the Cold War was never “current events.” I hope readers who lived through the Cold War will also find the volume useful, because as Marx once said (Groucho, not Karl), “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside a dog, it’s too dark to read.” While the Cold War was going on it was hard to know what was happening. Now that it’s over—and now that Soviet, East European, and Chinese archives have begun to open—we know much more: so much, in fact, that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. That’s yet another reason for writing a short book. It’s forced me to apply, to all this new information, the simple test of significance made famous by my late Yale colleague Robin Winks: “So what?”

A word as well about what this book is not meant to be. It’s not a work of original scholarship. Cold War historians will find much of what I say familiar, partly because I’ve drawn a lot of it from their work, partly because I’ve repeated some things I’ve said in my own. Nor does the book attempt to locate roots, within the Cold War, of such post–Cold War phenomena as globalization, ethnic cleansing, religious extremism, terrorism, or the information revolution. Nor does it make any contribution whatever to international relations theory, a field that has troubles enough of its own without my adding to them.

I will be pleased, though, if this view of the Cold War as a whole produces some new ways of looking at its parts. One that has especially struck me is optimism, a quality not generally associated with the Cold War. The world, I am quite sure, is a better place for that conflict having been fought in the way that it was and won by the side that won it. No one today worries about a new global war, or a total triumph of dictators, or the prospect that civilization itself might end. That was not the case when the Cold War began. For all its dangers, atrocities, costs, distractions, and moral compromises, the Cold War—like the American Civil War—was a necessary contest that settled fundamental issues once and for all. We have no reason to miss it. But given the alternatives, we have little reason either to regret its having occurred.

The Cold War was fought at different levels in dissimilar ways in multiple places over a very long time. Any attempt to reduce its history exclusively to the role of great forces, great powers, or great leaders would fail to do it justice. Any effort to capture it within a simple chronological narrative could only produce mush. I’ve chosen instead to focus each chapter on a significant theme: as a result, they overlap in time and move across space. I’ve felt free to zoom in from the general to the particular, and then back out again. And I’ve not hesitated to write from a perspective that takes fully into account how the Cold War came out: I know no other way.

Finally, I want to express my appreciation to the people who inspired, facilitated, and patiently waited for this book. They certainly include my students, whose continuing interest in the Cold War sustains my own. I’m grateful also to Andrew Wylie, as I know future students will be, for having suggested this method of covering more years with fewer words—and for having since helped several of my former students publish their own books. Scott Moilers, Stuart Proffitt, Janie Fleming, Victoria Klose, Maureen Clark, Bruce Giffords, Samantha Johnson, and their colleagues at Penguin showed admirable equanimity in the face of missed deadlines, and exemplary efficiency in producing this overdue book once it was done. It could hardly have been written at all without Christian Ostermann and his colleagues at the Cold War International History Project, whose energy and thoroughness in collecting documents from all over the world (on the day I write this the latest stash from the Albanian archives has arrived) have placed all Cold War historians in their debt. Last, but hardly least, I thank Toni Dorfman, who is the world’s best copy editor/proofreader and the world’s most loving wife.

The dedication commemorates one of the greatest figures in Cold War history—and a long-time friend—whose biography it will now be my responsibility to write.

New Haven



IN 1946 a forty-three-year-old Englishman named Eric Blair rented a house at the edge of the world—a house in which he expected to die. It was on the northern tip of the Scottish island of Jura, at the end of a dirt track, inaccessible by automobile, with no telephone or electricity. The nearest shop, the only one on the island, was some twenty-five miles to the south. Blair had reasons to want remoteness. Dejected by the recent death of his wife, he was suffering from tuberculosis and would soon begin coughing up blood. His country was reeling from the costs of a military victory that had brought neither security, nor prosperity, nor even the assurance that freedom would survive. Europe was dividing into two hostile camps, and the world seemed set to follow. With atomic bombs likely to be used, any new war would be apocalyptic. And he needed to finish a novel.

Its title was 1984, an inversion of the year in which he completed it, and it appeared in Great Britain and the United States in 1949 under Blair’s pen name, George Orwell. The reviews, the New York Times noted, were “overwhelmingly admiring,” but “with cries of terror rising above the applause.”1 This was hardly surprising because 1984 evoked an age, only three and a half decades distant, in which totalitarianism has triumphed everywhere. Individuality is smothered, along with law, ethics, creativity, linguistic clarity, honesty about history, and even love—apart, of course, from the love everyone is forced to feel for the Stalin-like dictator “Big Brother” and his counterparts, who run a world permanently at war. “If you want a picture of the future,” Orwell’s hero Winston Smith is told, as he undergoes yet another session of relentless torture, “imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.”2

Orwell did die early in 1950—in a London hospital, not on his island—knowing only that his book had impressed and frightened its first readers. Subsequent readers responded similarly: 1984 became the single most compelling vision in the post–World War II era of what might follow it. As the real year 1984 approached, therefore, comparisons with Orwell’s imaginary year became inescapable. The world was not yet totalitarian, but dictators dominated large parts of it. The danger of war between the United States and the Soviet Union—two superpowers instead of the three Orwell had anticipated—seemed greater than it had for many years. And the apparently permanent conflict known as the “Cold War,” which began while Orwell was still alive, showed not the slightest signs of ending.

But then, on the evening of January 16, 1984, an actor Orwell would have recognized from his years as a film reviewer appeared on television in his more recent role as president of the United States. Ronald Reagan’s reputation until this moment had been that of an ardent Cold Warrior. Now, though, he envisaged a different future:

Just suppose with me for a moment that an Ivan and an Anya could find themselves, say, in a waiting room, or sharing a shelter from the rain or a storm with a Jim and Sally, and that there was no language barrier to keep them from getting acquainted. Would they then deliberate the differences between their respective governments? Or would they find themselves comparing notes about their children and what each other did for a living? . . . They might even have decided that they were all going to get together for dinner some evening soon. Above all, they would have proven that people don’t make wars.3

It was an unexpectedly gentle invitation for human faces to prevail over boots, dictators, and the mechanisms of war. It set in motion, in Orwell’s year 1984, the sequence of events by which they would do so. Just over a year after Reagan’s speech, an ardent enemy of totalitarianism took power in the Soviet Union. Within six years, that country’s control over half of Europe had collapsed. Within eight, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics—the country that had provoked Orwell’s great gloomy prophecy in the first place—had itself ceased to exist.

These things did not happen simply because Reagan gave a speech or because Orwell wrote a book: the remainder of this book complicates the causation. It is worth starting with visions, though, because they establish hopes and fears. History then determines which prevail.



We waited for them to come ashore. We could see their faces. They looked like ordinary people. We had imagined something different. Well, they were Americans!

Red Army, 58th Guards Division



I guess we didn’t know what to expect from the Russians, but when you looked at them and examined them,...

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Gaddis, John Lewis
Published by Penguin Books Ltd (2007)
ISBN 10: 0141029994 ISBN 13: 9780141029993
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