Cold War

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World map with alliances in 1980, during the Cold War
World Map of Socialist & Communist countries in 1985
Let us not be deceived — we are today in the midst of a cold war. Our enemies are to be found abroad and at home. Let us never forget this: Our unrest is the heart of their success. The peace of the world is the hope and the goal of our political system; it is the despair and defeat of those who stand against us. We can depend only on ourselves. ~ Bernard Baruch

The Cold War (1947-1991) was a period of geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union and the United States and their respective allies, the Eastern Bloc and the Western Bloc, after World War II. Historians do not fully agree on the dates, but the period is generally considered to span the 1947 Truman Doctrine to the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union. The term "cold" is used because there was no large-scale fighting directly between the two superpowers, but they each supported major regional conflicts known as proxy wars. The conflict was based around the ideological and geopolitical struggle for global influence by the two powers, following their temporary alliance and victory against Nazi Germany in 1945. The doctrine of mutually assured destruction (MAD) discouraged a pre-emptive attack by either side. Aside from the nuclear arsenal development and conventional military deployment, the struggle for dominance was expressed via indirect means such as psychological warfare, propaganda campaigns, espionage, far-reaching embargoes, rivalry at sports events and technological competitions such as the Space Race.

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  • As it is, we are living in too brittle a world. That is why responsible statesmen must evaluate the developments and adopt a rational decision. It is human reason alone that can and must save mankind from the grave danger. We call on those who are pushing the world along the road of the ever more dangerous arms race to give up their unrealizable hopes of thus achieving military superiority in order to dictate their will to other peoples and states. The Soviet Union is convinced that peace can be strengthened and the security of peoples guaranteed not by way of building up and inventing ever new types of armaments but, on the contrary, by way of reducing the existing armaments to immeasurably lower levels.


  • Let us not be deceived — we are today in the midst of a cold war. Our enemies are to be found abroad and at home. Let us never forget this: Our unrest is the heart of their success. The peace of the world is the hope and the goal of our political system; it is the despair and defeat of those who stand against us. We can depend only on ourselves.
    • Bernard Baruch, Speech to the South Carolina Legislature, Columbia, SC (April 16, 1947); reported in Journal of the House of Representatives of the First Session of the 87th General Assembly of the State of South Carolina, p. 1085. Baruch said that the phrase "cold war" was suggested to him by H. B. Swope, editor of the New York World; the term had earlier been used by George Orwell (1945). Also quoted in: (April 14, 2020): This Day in History: April 16, 1947. Bernard Baruch coins the term “Cold War". Publisher: A&E Television Networks. Archived from the original on August 12, 2021.
  • Although the shooting war is over, we are in the midst of a cold war which is getting warmer.
    • Bernard Baruch, Speech before the Senate’s Special Committee Investigating the National Defense Program (October 24, 1947).
  • From the outset in 1917, the Communists believed in a utopian ideology, extreme, organised violence, atheism, a redefined place of the individual that served to reject Enlightenment precepts, and the rejection of preceding Russian history. During the Civil War and the 1920s, the Orthodox Church was crushed, with the slaughter of tens of thousands of priests and monks, and the desecration and destruction of churches, monasteries and the tombs of saints. The real and spiritual landscapes of Russia and the psychological life of the people were transformed as a consequence. Communism in its own way therefore constituted a major civilisational challenge to the notion in Europe and North America of a 'Western Civilisation', whether or not articulated explicitly in this fashion. This civilisation owed much to Christianity and placed considerable weight on liberalism and toleration. From this perspective, Communism, drawing both on a reconceptualisation of Russian authoritarianism and on a new, totalitarian ideology and practice, posed a counter-civilisational challenge with its own precepts, aims, methods and anticipated outcomes.
  • Israel has fought one battle after another, clinging to survival in the decades after its people were systematically murdered during the Holocaust. But the story of self-determination and Arab-Israeli conflicts spills out far beyond the borders of the Middle East. Israel wasn’t just the site of regional disputes—it was a Cold War satellite, wrapped up in the interests of the Soviets and the Americans.
    The U.S.S.R. started exerting regional influence in a meaningful way in 1955, when it began supplying Egypt with military equipment. The next year, Britain and the U.S. withdrew financing for Egypt’s Aswan High Dam project over the country’s ties with the U.S.S.R. That move triggered the Suez Crisis of 1956, in which Egypt, with the support of the USSR, nationalized the Suez Canal, which had previously been controlled by French and British interests.
  • Some people in the West now express anxiety over the fact that the Soviet Union has still further outstripped the United States in the “space race.” Some people say that the United States is two years behind, others mention five years. Of course, it is pleasure for us that our country is ahead in the exploration of outer space. But we Soviet people do not regard our space research as an end in itself, as some kind of “race.” In the great and serious cause of the exploration and development of outer space, the spirit of frantic gamblers is alien to us. We see in this cause part and parcel of the tremendous constructive work the Soviet people are doing in conformity with the general line of our party in all spheres of the economy, science and culture, in the name of man, for the sake of man.


  • The last war simplified the balance of political forces in the world by reducing them to two . For the first time, it made the power of the Communist sector of mankind (embodied in the Soviet Union) roughly equal to the power of the free sector of mankind (embodied in the United States). It made the collision of these powers all but inevitable. For the world wars did not end the crisis. They raised its tensions to a new pitch. They raised the crisis to a new stage. All the politics of our time, including the politics of war, will be the politics of this crisis.
  • A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory.... From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.
  • In the Soviet Union the fear that the West was about to unleash a 'hot' war was growing. The installation of the Reagan regime and its inflammatory rhetoric had so concerned the Soviets that at a session of the KGB high command and senior staff, General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and KGB chief Yuri Andropov stated that the United States was actively preparing for a nuclear attack on the USSR. It was announced internally that the KGB and Soviet military intelligence would mount a new intelligence collection operation aimed at monitoring nuclear preparedness and to warn of U.S. nuclear war preparations. The intelligence alert sought information on key U.S./NATO political and strategic decisions about the USSR and the Warsaw Treaty Organization; early warning of U.S./ NATO preparations for launching a surprise nuclear attack; and new U.S./NATO weapons systems intended for use in a surprise nuclear attack. Code named Operation RYaN for raketno-yadernoye napadenie, or nuclear-rocket attack, agents spread across Europe and the rest of the world in search of the signs of an impending U.S. attack on the Soviet Union.
  • At the end of the year people finally got a glimpse of what the United States and NATO had planned for the Pershing and cruise missiles. NATO selectively released parts of a target planning document which said that NATO had "more than 2,500 high-priority targets, about two-thirds are located in the non Soviet-Warsaw Pact and the remaining one-third in the Soviet Union." It also noted that the twenty-five-hundred-kilometre-range ground-launched cruise missile based in the United Kingdom could strike "approximately 87% of the high-priority targets, including Moscow itself."
  • I'm fighting for a Cold War medal for everyone who served our country during the Cold War, because you were on the front lines of battling communism. Well, now we're on the front lines of battling terrorism, extremism, and we have to win. Our commitment to freedom, to tolerance, to economic opportunity has inspired people around the world... American values are not just about America, but they speak to the human dignity, the God-given spark that resides in each and every person across the world... We are a good and great nation.


  • The globalization of the Cold War took place in the course of the 1950s. In its geopolitical aspect, this was the natural outcome of a confrontation that pitted one power which dominated the land mass of Eurasia against another which could project land, sea, and air forces to all parts of the world. In its political, economic, and ideological aspects it reflected the rivalry of one bloc with pretensions to the worldwide patronage of communist-led revolution and another wedded to democracy, capitalism, and free trade.
F.W. de Klerk: The main motivation was the expansionist policies of the U.S.S.R. in southern Africa. They were supporting all the [African] liberation movements—they were supplying weapons and training—and it was part of their vision to gain direct or indirect control over most of the countries in southern Africa. They financed the deployment of many thousands of Cuban troops, especially to Angola, and this was interpreted as a threat first by Prime Minister John Vorster, and following upon him P.W. Botha. [The nuclear arsenal] was never intended, I think, to be used. It was a deterrent. Because of apartheid South Africa was becoming more and more isolated in the eyes of the rest of the world. There wouldn’t be, in the case of Russian aggression or invasion, assistance from the international community. It was felt that, if we have nuclear weapons, and if we then would disclose in a crisis that we have [them], it would change the political scenario and the U.S.A. and other [Western] countries might step in and assist South Africa.
  • The world of Mutual Assured Destruction did in its mad way maintain the peace between the superpowers, although it came desperately close to failing in a series of errors, false alarms and miscalculations, most spectacularly in 1962 and in 1983. The world was lucky to have survived. Very lucky.


  • The most powerful western asset during the last cold war was not bigger nukes or higher living standards, but self-criticism. However bad western governments may be, they risk trouble eventually—from the media, the courts or the voters. That is not something that one can say with much confidence about Russia now.
  • You have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the falling domino principle. You have a row of dominoes set up. You knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have the beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences... Asia, after all, has already lost some 450 million of its peoples to the Communist dictatorship, and we simply can't afford greater losses.


  • After almost a quarter of a century of distant rivalry followed by a successful, if prickly, four-year partnership during World War II, the West and the Soviet Union came face to face in 1945 and over the next seven years developed into resolute enemies. This antagonism was accentuated by the presence of nuclear weapons, ideological antagonism, and an unparalleled mobilization of civilians imbued with the fear of an imminent World War III. By 1949, the Big Three’s wartime practices of direct consultation and compromise had ceased, and for the next three years the United States and the USSR became locked in a Cold War.
    • Carole C. Fink, The Cold War: An International History (2017)
  • We may be likened to two scorpions in a bottle, each capable of killing the other, but only at the risk of his own life.


  • The Cold War could have produced a hot war that might have ended human life on the planet. But because the fear of such a war turned out to be greater than all of the differences that separated the United States, the Soviet Union, and their respective allies, there was now reason for hope that it would never take place.
  • Victory in World War II brought no sense of security, therefore, to the victors. Neither the United States, nor Great Britain, nor the Soviet Union at the end of 1950 could regard the lives and treasure they had expended in defeating Germany and Japan as having made them safer: the members of the Grand Alliance were now Cold War adversaries. Interests had turned out not to be compatible; ideologies remained at least as polarizing as they had been before the war; fears of surprise attack continued to haunt military establishments in Washington, London, and Moscow. A contest that began over the fate of postwar Europe had now spread to Asia. Stalin’s dictatorship remained as harsh—and as reliant on purges—as it had always been; but with the onset of McCarthyism in the United States and with irrefutable evidence that espionage had taken place on both sides of the Atlantic, it was not at all clear that the western democracies themselves could retain the tolerance for dissent and the respect for civil liberties that distinguished them from the dictators, whether of the fascist or communist variety.  
  • Decay and desolation scar the landscape of a remote corner of the Kazakh Steppe. Unnatural lakes formed by nuclear bomb explosions pockmark the once flat terrain, broken up only by empty shells of buildings. It appears uninhabitable. And yet, ghosts – living and dead – haunt the land, still burdened by the effects a nuclear testing program that stopped nearly 30 years ago.
    The site, known as the Polygon, was home to nearly a quarter of the world’s nuclear tests during the Cold War. The zone was chosen for being unoccupied, but several small agricultural villages dot its perimeter. Though some residents were bussed out during the test period, most remained. The damage that continues today is visceral.
  • Never before has so terrible a threat loomed so large and dark over mankind as these days. The only reasonable way out of the existing situation is agreement of the confronting forces on an immediate termination of the race in arms, above all, nuclear arms, on Earth and its prevention in space. An agreement on an honest and equitable basis without attempts at outplaying the other side and dictating terms to it. An agreement which would help all to advance toward the cherished goal: the complete elimination and prohibition of nuclear weapons for good, toward the complete removal of the threat of nuclear war. This is our firm conviction.
  • It is time to consign to oblivion the cold war postulates when Europe was viewed as an arena of confrontation divided into "spheres of influence" and someone else's "forward-based defences", as an object of military confrontation — namely a theatre of war.
  • We created perestroika to lead the country out of a dead end. In order for the state and economy to flourish, we needed good relations not just with our neighbors, but with the entire world. We didn't need the Iron Curtain. We wanted to get rid of the wall of mistrust between East and West — and all other walls, for that matter, between states, groups of people and individuals.
  • Without perestroika, the cold war simply would not have ended. But the world could not continue developing as it had, with the stark menace of nuclear war ever present.


  • UNDER THE four oceans and the seven seas, American and Soviet submarines fight a near-war every day of the year. Relentlessly, they search for one another, trailing an adversary when they can and trying to evade one when detected. They make every move of a real war, except shoot.
    The submarines operate in what Adm. James D. Watkins, the former Chief of Naval Operations, has called an era of violent peace. It is an era marked by sharpening debate among naval officers and strategists about the relative importance to the Navy of submarines, surface vessels and air power in a war at sea. Consensus is slowly building among the experts that, against the Soviet Union, the submarine would be the vanguard. At the same time, fueled by political and budgetary concerns, the debate is gaining a wider audience and promises to be a key issue when hearings over the military budget resume in Congress in February.
    Should a shooting war erupt, many experts argue, submarines would be the capital ships of the American and Soviet fleets. The battleship dominated naval operations in World War I, and the aircraft carrier brought victory at sea in World War II, but the nuclear-powered submarine would provide the edge in a future conflict.
  • For years after World War II, both the United States and the Soviet Union had been trying to perfect a long-range missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Building on the successes of Nazi Germany in developing the V-1 and V-2 rockets that pummeled Great Britain during the last months of World War II, both American and Russian scientists raced to improve the range and accuracy of such missiles. (Both nations relied heavily on captured German scientists in their efforts.) In July 1957, the United States seemed to win the race when the Atlas, an ICBM with a speed of up to 20,000 miles an hour and an effective range of 5,000 miles, was ready for testing. The test, however, was a disaster. The missile rose only about 5,000 feet into the air, tumbled, and plunged to earth. Just a month later, the Soviets claimed success by announcing that their own ICBM had been tested, had “covered a huge distance in a brief time,” and “landed in the target area.” No details were given in the Russian announcement and some commentators in the United States doubted that the ICBM test had been as successful as claimed. Nevertheless, the Soviet possession of this “ultimate weapon,” coupled with recent successful test by the Russians of atomic and hydrogen bombs, raised concerns in America. If the Soviets did indeed perfect their ICBM, no part of the United States would be completely safe from possible atomic attack.




  • I said that wherever these people, meaning the Soviet leadership, confronted us with dangerous hostility anywhere in the world, we should do everything possible to contain it and not let them expand any further. I should have explained that I didn't suspect them of any desire to launch an attack on us. This was right after the war, and it was absurd to suppose that they were going to turn around and attack the United States. I didn't think I needed to explain that, but I obviously should have done it.
  • When they met in Vienna in the spring of 1961 Khrushchev bullied the young president: “It is up to the U.S. to decide whether there will be war or peace.” “If that’s true,” Kennedy responded, “it’s going to be a cold winter.” Then on August 3, 1961, the Berlin Wall suddenly went up — much to Kennedy’s relief. “Why would Khrushchev put up a wall if he really intended to seize West Berlin?” Kennedy wondered. “There wouldn’t be any need of a wall if he planned to occupy the whole city. This is his way out of his predicament. It’s not a very nice solution, but a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.”
  • Let us reexamine our attitude toward the cold war, remembering that we are not engaged in a debate, seeking to pile up debating points. We are not here distributing blame or pointing the finger of judgment. We must deal with the world as it is, and not as it might have been had the history of the last 18 years been different. We must, therefore, persevere in the search for peace in the hope that constructive changes within the Communist bloc might bring within reach solutions which now seem beyond us. We must conduct our affairs in such a way that it becomes in the Communists' interest to agree on a genuine peace. Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy — or of a collective death-wish for the world.
  • Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will dig you in. (We will bury you.)
    • Нравится вам или нет, но история на нашей стороне. Мы вас закопаем!
    • Nikita Khrushchev, remark to Western ambassadors during a diplomatic reception in Moscow (18 November 1956) as quoted in Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev: Statesman, 1953-1964, Penn State Press, 2007, (2007) by Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev, p. 893.
  • The superpowers often behave like two heavily armed blind men feeling their way around a room, each believing himself in mortal peril from the other, whom he assumes to have perfect vision. Each side should know that frequently uncertainty, compromise, and incoherence are the essence of policymaking. Yet each tends to ascribe to the other a consistency, foresight, and coherence that its own experience belies. Of course, over time, even two armed blind men can do enormous damage to each other, not to speak of the room.
  • The Nixon Administration had systematically sought to change the context of the Cold War. This was not because we had become blind to Soviet ideology; rather we had concluded that the Soviets' ideological reach was collapsing. In two generations of Communist history, no Communist Party had ever won a free election. The only allies of the Soviet Union were in Eastern Europe, and they were being held in line by what amounted to Soviet military occupation. Once our opening to China was completed, the Soviet Union faced a coalition of all the industrial nations in the world in tacit alliance with the most populous nation. Sooner or later this equation would work in favor of the democracies, provided they could contain Soviet adventures by deterrence and give the Soviets a chance to reduce confrontation by opportunities for cooperation.


  • The testing of cruise missiles in Canada proved very contentious. The government explained its decision in both political and technical terms. Politically, testing demonstrated alliance solidarity over the modernization of NATO's nuclear deterrent. Technically, testing the missile over terrain similar to that of the northern Soviet Union would improve its effectiveness, and allow the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) to develop an anti-cruise capability. The tests would take place in a 2,200-kilometre test corridor that included parts of the Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Tests could involve either releasing the missile in a "free flight" to its target, or allowing its guidance system to direct both the missile and the launch aircraft to the target in a "captive carry" test. The tests take several hours, and involve a number of aircraft in both Canada and the United States, from tankers to fighters to Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) planes. After the first few years of tests, attention shifted from monitoring the missile itself to attempting to track and intercept it. In order to simulate the climate of the northern Soviet Union, most cruise missile tests in Canada have taken place in the winter months.


Many members of the Washington press, including editors and publishers, had served in the government during the Second World War—in the Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner of the C.I.A.), in the Office of War Information, and in other capacities in Washington and London. They had been part of the war effort, and their sense of duty persisted after the war ended. Defending democracy was not just the government’s job. It was the press’s job, too.
When reporters were in possession of information that the American government wanted to keep secret, they therefore asked themselves whether publishing it would damage the Cold War mission. “Fighting for peace remained central to the diplomatic press corps’ conception of its responsibilities,” McGarr says. “Quality reporting meant being an advocate not for the government but for ‘the Peace.’ ”
There was another reason for caution: fear of nuclear war. After the Soviets developed an atomic weapon, in 1949, and until the Test Ban Treaty of 1963, end-of-the-world nuclear anxiety was widespread, and newsmen shared it. The Cold War was a balance-of-power war. That’s what the unofficial doctrine of the American government, “containment,” meant: keep things as they are. Whatever tipped the scale in the wrong direction might unleash the bomb, and so newspapers were careful about what they published. ~ Louis Menand
  • “Men make their own history,” said Karl Marx, “but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” During the Cold War, though, history appeared to have lost much of its old power. The world that came into being after 1945 was divided up between two great alliance systems and two competing ideologies, both of which claimed to represent the future of humanity. American liberal capitalism and Soviet-style Communism were about, so they said, building new societies, perhaps even new human beings. The old conflicts, between Serbs and Croats, Germans and French, or Christians and Muslims, were just that and were consigned, in Trotsky’s memorable phrase, to the dustbin of history. The threat of massive nuclear war, of course, was always present, and from time to time, during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, it looked as if the last moment of the planet had come. But it did not, and in the end most of us simply forgot about the danger. Nuclear weapons took on a benign aspect: After all, the balance of terror meant that neither superpower dared attack the other without risking its own destruction. We assumed that the United States and the Soviet Union would remain locked in their conflict, between war and peace, perhaps forever. In the meantime, the developed world enjoyed unparalleled prosperity, and new economic powers, many in Asia, appeared on the scene.
  • When the Cold War abruptly ended in 1989 with the collapse of the Soviet Empire in Europe, the world enjoyed a brief, much too brief, period of optimism. We failed to recognize that the certainties of the post-1945 years had been replaced by a more complicated international order. Instead we assumed that, as the remaining superpower, the United States would surely become a benevolent hegemon. Societies would benefit from a “peace dividend” because there would be no more need to spend huge amounts on the military. Liberal democracy had triumphed and Marxism itself had gone into the dustbin. History, as Francis Fukuyama put it, had come to an end, and a contented, prosperous, and peaceful world was moving into the next millennium. In fact, many of the old conflicts and tensions remained, frozen into place just under the surface of the Cold War. The end of that great struggle brought a thaw, and long-suppressed dreams and hatreds bubbled to the surface again. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait, basing its claims on dubious history. We discovered that it mattered that Serbs and Croats had many historical reasons to fear and hate each other, and that there were peoples within the Soviet Union who had their own proud histories and who wanted their independence. Many of us had to learn who the Serbs and Croats were and where Armenia or Georgia lay on the map. In the words of the title of Misha Glenny’s book on Central Europe, we witnessed the rebirth of history.
  • Suspicions and fears of others, from rival gangs to countries, can create perceptions of threats even where they might not exist, just as they do for our cousins the chimpanzees. During the Cold War the mutual mistrust of the West and the Soviet bloc meant that each tended to interpret words and actions by the other, even accidents, in the most unfavourable light. A bear trying to climb a fence around an American missile was mistaken for enemy intruders, flocks of birds appeared on American and Canadian radar to be planes or missiles, or the sun glinting off clouds looked like an incoming attack to Soviet technicians, and the Third World War, briefly, came much closer. Once an American technician put a training tape into a computer at the North American Air Defense Command by mistake and suddenly command centres got warnings that Soviet missiles were heading in. Bomber crews went to their planes and American missiles were put on heightened alert. Fortunately the mistake was discovered in time. In 1983, after it had accidentally shot down the Korean airliner KAL007, the Soviet Union wove together unrelated coincidences – NATO training exercises, for example, and an increase in encrypted communications between Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan – to construct a scenario of an imminent nuclear attack.
  • It was October 1966 and the new development of the new satellite system, Hexagon, was underway. The project was a follow-on to very successful Corona satellite program and a complement to the higher-resolution Gambit satellite.
    All these programs required 315,000 feet of film to be dropped in re-entry vehicles from orbit and retrieved in mid-air by U.S. forces. Gambit and Hexagon were declassified late this year, and its engineers were profiled this week by the Associated Press.
  • Some historians, at least, believe that spy satellites helped keep the Cold War cool. By providing planners with some information about what was going on behind the iron curtain, they kept the fever dreams of our decisionmakers in check. "At the height of the Cold War, our ability to receive this kind of technical intelligence was incredible," space historian Dwayne Day told the AP. "We needed to know what they were doing and where they were doing it, and in particular if they were preparing to invade Western Europe. Hexagon created a tremendous amount of stability because it meant American decision makers were not operating in the dark."
  • Through my travels in Russia during the height of the Cold War with a peace delegation, we were shocked by the poverty of the country, and questioned how we ever were led to believe that Russia was a force to be afraid of. We talked to the Russian students who were dismayed by their absolute poverty and showed anger against NATO for leading their country into an arms race that they could not win. Many years later, when speaking to young Americans in the US, I was in disbelief about the fear the students had of Russia and their talk of invasion. This is a good example of how the unknown can cause a deep rooted paranoia when manipulated by the right powers.
  • You know, I thought that when we ended the Cold War, one of the most profound, I would say, principles was one that President Gorbachev, then the president of the Soviet Union, expounded. He said, you know, security must be security for all. And that was precisely how he justified reduction in the Soviet military. And even before the Soviet Union broke up, we were living in peace, and we had a united Europe. Many people seem to feel that the breakup of the Soviet Union was the end of the Cold War. That’s wrong. It had ended two years before that. And the breakup of the Soviet Union did not occur because of Western pressure; it occurred because of internal pressures within the Soviet Union. And it was something that President Bush did not wish. As a matter of fact, one of his last speeches, when there was a Soviet Union, was in Kyiv, when he advised Ukrainians to join Gorbachev’s voluntary federation, that he was proposing, and actually warned against suicidal nationalism. Those words, you know, are not remembered much now. People seem to think that Ukraine is free because of the end of the Cold War and the pressure of the West as one of the fruits of victory in the Cold War. This is simply incorrect. It turns history upside down.
  • The problems with Russia are not just NATO expansion. There were also a process that began with the second Bush administration of withdrawing from all of the arms control — almost all of the arms control agreements that we had concluded with the Soviet Union, the very agreements that had brought the first Cold War to an end.... In effect, what the United States did after the end of the Cold War was they reversed the diplomacy that we had used to end the Cold War, and started sort of doing anything, everything the opposite way. We started, in effect, trying to control other countries, to bring them into what we called the “new world order,” but it was not very orderly. And we also sort of asserted the right to use military whenever we wished. We bombed Serbia in the ’90s without the approval of the U.N. Later, we invaded Iraq, citing false evidence and without any U.N. approval and against the advice not only of Russia but of Germany and France, our allies. So, the United States — I could name a number of others — itself was not careful in abiding by the international laws that we had supported.
  • I want to say, and this is very important: at the end we lucked out. It was luck that prevented nuclear war. We came that close to nuclear war at the end. Rational individuals: Kennedy was rational; Khrushchev was rational; Castro was rational. Rational individuals came that close to total destruction of their societies. And that danger exists today.
  • Gladio had been founded in almost all the Countries that belonged to the Nato, and for Nato's wish, aware that its European partners would not have been able to withstand the attack of a much power armed as the Soviet union: they would have to wait for the rescue, the America's intervention. It's demonstrated by the fact that when this plan was revealed, no other country found nothing to say. Only we Italians – the usual idiots and fools novelists – made it the subject of scandal and pretext of «Crime fictions» that still find credit, as this letter shows. I also feel shocked, and bit offended. But just beacuse no one has called me for adherence to Gladio: I would have given it with enthusiasm.
  • On October 23, 1947, American observers noted the existence of forty-eight Tu-4 "Bull" aircraft in service with the Soviet Union. The Tu-4 was a reverse-engineered copy of the Boeing B-29, a few of which had landed in the Far East during World War II. These bombers gave the Soviets the range to bomb targets in the United States.
    On April 1, 1948, the Soviet Union closed off all land approaches to the Allied sectors of Berlin, Germany. The Berlin Blockade would last until September 30, 1949. More importantly, all friendly US-USSR interrelations effectively ended.
    On September 23, 1949, President Harry Truman announced the detection of a Soviet nuclear weapon detonation which had occurred between the dates of August 26 and 29. The United States' monopoly on nuclear weapons had ended. The "Cold War" had begun.
  • The deteriorating international situation in Europe and Asia during the years 1948-49 prompted new concern over the state of continental defense. Obviously, the existing antiaircraft defenses needed to be upgraded. The Nike missile was still in the classified development stage; gun units would have to be used until the missiles could be deployed.
    The ourbreak of the Korean War on June 25, 1950, finally brought about the wholesale reorganization and rebuilding of the air defense infrastructure. On July 1, 1950, the Army Reorganization Act combined all of the Army's artillery units into a single Combat Arm (and incidentally, marked the formal demise of the Coast Artillery). It also established the Antiaircraft Command (ARAACOM) as the single command responsible for manning, training and equipping the Army's AA units. Operational control, however, would still rest with the Air Force, much to the Army's consternation.


  • Isn't it better to talk about the relative merits of washing machines than the relative strength of rockets? Isn't this the kind of competition you want?


  • Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus, three states of the former Soviet Union that have nuclear arms on their territory, formally agreed with the United States and Russia today to give up those weapons by the end of the decade and not to seek nuclear arms again.
    In a wordless, austere ceremony in the barroom of a Lisbon hotel, Secretary of State James A. Baker III and officials of Russia and the three other nuclear-armed former Soviet republics signed a protocol, or legal supplement, to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), pledging to carry out its terms.
    They thus laid the groundwork for ratification of the landmark START treaty and for permitting negotiations to go ahead between the United States and Russia for deeper cutbacks in nuclear arms.
    The full significance of the occasion, which took months of difficult negotiation to arrange, went far beyond the pale legalism of the six-page documents the diplomats signed. Today's ceremony was a hard-won milestone in a mostly invisible, yet intense diplomatic struggle to maintain control over the world's largest and most awesome array of long-range nuclear weapons, as the Soviet Union, the nation that created and held them during the decades of the Cold War, splintered into more than a dozen parts.


  • The Cold War deepened and expanded during the administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower. While the superpower stalemate was maintained in Europe, the rearmament of West Germany, the Hungarian Revolution, and the status of Berlin were among the issues that aggravated Cold War tensions on that continent during the Eisenhower years. Although Eisenhower kept his promise to end the Korean War, Sino-American relations remained frigid, and, in fact, were aggravated during two crises in the Taiwan Strait. During the Eisenhower years, the United States also became more deeply involved in Indochina and took the first steps down the slippery slope to the Vietnam quagmire. The Cold War also intensified in the Middle East, as a result of Egypt's increasing dependence on the Soviet Union, and in Latin America, culminating in the establishment of the first Soviet client state in the Western Hemisphere, Cuba. During Eisenhower's presidency, the Cold War spread even to sub-Saharan Africa, when the superpowers intervened in the internal affairs of the Congo (now Zaire). The Cold War truly became global during the Eisenhower years.
    • Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 97.
  • Nikita Krushchev's eagerness to challenge U.S. interests around the world contributed to the spread of the Cold War in the Middle East, East Asia, Latin America, and even Africa. Krushchev's aggressiveness was motivated not only by a desire to take advantage of an opportunity to expand Soviet influence but also by the perceived Soviet need to fend off a growing challenge by China for leadership of the communist movement. Krushchev's willingness to engage the United States in a nuclear arms race was motivated primarily by his realization that the Soviet Union, despite the continuing development of its nuclear arsenal, was still vulnerable to an American nuclear strike. He undoubtedly believed that the best defense is a good offense and that a forward policy would conceal Soviet nuclear weakness while serving to pressure the West to resolve issues, such as Berlin, to the satisfaction of the Soviet Union. Krushchev's aggressiveness also made Soviet-American reconciliation impossible during the 1950s.
    • Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 133-134
  • Ironically, the enhanced short-term prestige that Kennedy experienced in the wake of the Cuban missile crisis only produced greater long-term insecurity for his country. The humiliation Krushchev suffered at the hands of Kennedy during the missile crisis contributed to his removal from power in October 1964. The new Soviet leadership, headed by Leonid Brezhnev, was determined to avoid a repetition of the humiliation Krushchev had experienced. Beginning in early 1965, the Kremlin embarked on a massive expansion of the Soviet nuclear arsenal that would enable the Soviet Union to achieve nuclear parity with the United States by the end of the decade.
    • Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 144
  • The fact that, for all practical purposes, the Cold War ended during Ronald Reagan's presidency has led some to conclude that he was primarily responsible for the U.S. "victory" over the Soviet Union. The so-called Reagan victory school holds that his administration's military and ideological assertiveness during the 1980s was primarily responsible for the end of the Cold War, the demise of Communism in Europe, and ultimately the collapse of the Soviet Union itself. As the president put it on December 16, 1988, the changes taking place in the Soviet Union were in part the result of U.S. firmness, a strong defense, healthy alliances, and a willingness to use force when necessary. Moreover, as he boasted, he had been more than willing to point out the differences in the American and Soviet political systems at every opportunity. In addition, his supporters have asserted that the "full-court press" launched by the administration during Reagan's first term, which included a military buildup capped by SDI, the denial of technology to the Soviet Union, and the administration's counteroffensive in the Third World, delivered the "knock-out punch" to a system that was internally bankrupt "and on the ropes."
    • Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 260
  • Others attribute the end of the Cold War to Reagan's desire to prevent a nuclear conflagration. This view asserts that the president never liked nuclear weapons as offensive instruments and that with his SDI program he demonstrated his disdain for deterrence, at least deterrence based on the mutual assured destruction doctrine (MAD). Reagan's goal to eliminate all offensive nuclear weapons, his supporters argue, made possible the INF treaty. Reagan failed to conclude a START treaty before he left office only because the Soviets refused to accept a defensive deterrent strategy, the basis of SDI, as a better alternative to MAD. However, not everyone, including this author, accepts the argument that the Reagan administration was primarily responsible for the end of the Cold War. In fact, probably no one, especially the president, expected that the administration's policies ultimately would cause the disintegration of the Soviet empire, at east not as quickly as it occurred. Said Reagan: "We meant to change a nation [the United States], and instead, we changed a world... All in all, not bad, not bad at all." More important as the cause of the Cold War's demise was the internal weakness of the Soviet Union, which, to be sure, the policies pursued by the Reagan administration exacerbated. By the time Reagan entered the White House, the Soviet economy had sunk into such a state of stagnation that it was obvious that communism had failed and a radically new approach was required.
    • Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 260-261
  • While Reagan was willing to improve relations with the Soviet Union, George Shultz must be given credit for the hard work and skill that was required to bring it off, in the face of much opposition from hard-liners within the administration. Yet it was neither Shultz nor Reagan, but rather Gorbachev, who made the major concessions that were needed to achieve success. The INF negotiations, for example, were concluded successfully primarily because of the concessions Gorbachev made, in the face of considerable opposition from hard-liners within his own government and military.
    • Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 261
  • [T]he price the United States paid during the Reagan years to "win" the Cold War was high. His decision to cut taxes while initiating the largest and most expensive peacetime military buildup in U.S. history, combined with Congress' refusal to cut domestic spending, contributed to an enormous increase in the national debt. Moreover, pressing domestic problems- the decline of the nation's infrastructure, the increase in crime, educational inequity, and others too numerous to list here- were ignored. Future generations will have to pay the bill for Reagan's "victory" in the Cold War.
    • Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 262


  • Now, for decades, we and the Soviets have lived under the threat of mutual assured destruction - if either resorted to the use of nuclear weapons, the other could retaliate and destroy the one who had started it. Is there either logic or morality in believing that if one side threatens to kill tens of millions of our people our only recourse is to threaten killing tens of millions of theirs? I have approved a research program to find, if we can, a security shield that will destroy nuclear missiles before they reach their target. It wouldn't kill people; it would destroy weapons. It wouldn't militarize space; it would help demilitarize the arsenals of Earth. It would render nuclear weapons obsolete. We will meet with the Soviets, hoping that we can agree on a way to rid the world of the threat of nuclear destruction.
  • There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
  • Beginning 10 years ago, the Soviets challenged the Western alliance with a grave new threat, hundreds of new and more deadly SS-20 nuclear missiles, capable of striking every capital in Europe. The Western alliance responded by committing itself to a counter-deployment unless the Soviets agreed to negotiate a better solution; namely, the elimination of such weapons on both sides. For many months, the Soviets refused to bargain in earnestness. As the alliance, in turn, prepared to go forward with its counter-deployment, there were difficult days — days of protests like those during my 1982 visit to this city — and the Soviets later walked away from the table. But through it all, the alliance held firm. And I invite those who protested then — I invite those who protest today — to mark this fact: Because we remained strong, the Soviets came back to the table. And because we remain strong today, we have within reach the possibility, not merely of limiting the growth of arms, but of eliminating, for the first time, an entire class of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth.


  • In the 1960 presidential election, Kennedy had cynically attacked Richard Nixon from the right, claiming that the Ike Eisenhower-Nixon administration had allowed a dangerous “missile gap” to grow in the U.S.S.R.’s favor. But in fact, just as Eisenhower and Nixon had suggested—and just as the classified briefings that Kennedy received as a presidential candidate indicated—the missile gap, and the nuclear balance generally, was overwhelmingly to America’s advantage. At the time of the missile crisis, the Soviets had 36 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), 138 long-range bombers with 392 nuclear warheads, and 72 submarine-launched ballistic-missile warheads (SLBMs). These forces were arrayed against a vastly more powerful U.S. nuclear arsenal of 203 ICBMs, 1,306 long-range bombers with 3,104 nuclear warheads, and 144 SLBMs—all told, about nine times as many nuclear weapons as the U.S.S.R. Nikita Khrushchev was acutely aware of America’s huge advantage not just in the number of weapons but in their quality and deployment as well.
  • America's first nuclear war plan, adopted in 1948 and codenamed Halfmoon, called for 50 atomic bombs to be dropped on the Soviet Union. The number was subsequently increased to 133, aimed at 70 cities. Leningrad was to be hit by seven bombs, Moscow by eight. There seemed no alternative to the threat of mass slaughter. This US strategy was called "the nation-killing concept".
  • By the mid-1950s, the American war plan had shifted from hitting "countervalue" targets (cities) to destroying "counterforce" targets (military facilities). The invention of the hydrogen bomb had created nuclear weapons hundreds of times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. The Soviet Union now had its own nuclear weapons, and destroying them became the air force's principal goal.
  • In 1958, Bomber Command's emergency war plan called for the destruction of 44 Soviet cities. Such an attack would kill about 38 million people. One hydrogen bomb would be dropped on the centre of each city, but Moscow would be hit by four and Leningrad by two. Had Britain gone to war alongside the US in the early 1960s, Bomber Command would have been asked to destroy an additional 25 Soviet cities. As air defences improved in the Soviet Union, the number of urban areas that Britain planned to destroy unilaterally was reduced. By the late 1960s, the missiles carried by Polaris submarines served as the British strategic deterrent, and they were aimed at fewer than a dozen Soviet cities. Until the end of the cold war, the complete destruction of the Soviet Union's capital – known as the "Moscow criterion" – was the UK's main objective.
  • The safety issues with American nuclear weapons had implications far beyond US borders. Nato forces relied on many of them. For years, the number of American nuclear weapons deployed in Britain exceeded the number of British ones. According to the historian John Simpson, in 1959 the RAF had 71 British atomic bombs and 168 American ones. In the years that followed, the nuclear weapons manufactured in Britain became remarkably similar to those made in the US, thanks to the US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement. The design of "Red Snow", the nuclear component at the heart of Britain's first widely deployed hydrogen bomb, was based on that of the American Mark 28 bomb. In 1961, Harold Macmillan was told British weapon development was "confined almost entirely to copying US designs".
  • In 1989 this communist order was removed from the face of Europe. In 1991 the same thing happened in the Soviet Union. Although China still claimed to be communist, its fundamental economic reforms meant that this was no longer accurate as a comprehensive description. Communist parties clung on to office in a few countries such as North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba; their geopolitical importance was a long way short of the power and prestige of the ‘world communist movement’ in its years of pomp. Communism was fast becoming a historical relic. Such a transformation brought an end to the struggle known as the Cold War. This was predominantly a conflict between coalitions led by the USSR and the USA, and the Soviet disintegration in December 1991 signalled a definitive victory for the Americans. For years the Cold War had involved the nightmarish possibility of a nuclear strike by one side against the other. Unable to match American advances in the development and dissemination of technology, the Soviet Union had lost the military parity it had possessed. This was not the sole index of defeat. Throughout the contest between the superpowers the Americans had claimed to stand for the market economy, liberal democracy and civil society. Although the USA had often honoured these principles only in the breach, they were the principles widely thought to have triumphed when communism expired in eastern Europe and in the USSR. The West’s political leaders and commentators were proud and excited. Communism had been exposed as an overwhelmingly inferior kind of state order. Many believed that history had come to a close. Liberalism in its political, economic and social manifestations had consigned the ideology and practice of Leninism to the dustbin of the ages. The suggestion was that communism had been a puffball which too many people had walked around as if it was a great oak tree.
  • What held the two sides back from a 'hot' war ... was the certain knowledge that the enemy had the weapons to mount a devastating counteroffensive. Only a fool in the Kremlin or the White House could expect to emerge unscathed from any conflict involving nuclear ballistic missiles. Yet no serious attempt was made to end the Cold War. At best, the leaders strove to lessen the dangers. Their policies were conditioned by influential lobbies that promoted the interests of national defence. For decades the Soviet 'military-industrial complex' had imposed its priorities on state economic policy, and the Western economic recession that arose from the rise in the price of oil in 1973 encouraged American administrations to issue contracts for improved military technology to stimulate recovery. The Cold War therefore seemed a permanent feature of global politics, and pacifists and anti-nuclear campaigners seemed entirely lacking in realism. Things changed sharply in March 1985 when Mikhail Gorbachëv became Soviet General Secretary and formed a partnership for peace with Ronald Reagan.
  • On the morning of Sept. 14, 1954, in the Ural Mountains about 600 miles southeast of Moscow, the Soviet military exploded an atomic bomb in the air near 45,000 Red Army troops and thousands of civilians as part of a military exercise.
    How many people were killed or maimed or became ill as a result of the exercise may never be known. But a film of the test recently obtained from secret Soviet military archives sheds new light on the often reckless nuclear testing during the cold war and the use of people as guinea pigs, nuclear specialists say.
  • In Europe and America, there's a growing feeling of hysteria
Conditioned to respond to all the threats
In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets
Mr. Krushchev said we will bury you
I don't subscribe to this point of view
It would be such an ignorant thing to do
If the Russians love their children too


  • We are carrying into the next decade many unresolved problems raised by Vietnam. How can a democracy such as ours defend its interests at acceptable cost and continue to enjoy the freedom of speech and behavior to which we are accustomed in time of peace? To a Communist enemy the Cold War is a total, unending conflict with the United States and its allies- without formal military hostilities, to be sure- but conducted with the same discipline and determination as a formal war. Unless we can learn to exercise some degree of self-discipline, to accept and enforce some reasonable standard of responsible civic conduct, and to remove the many self-created obstacles to the use of our power, we will be unable to meet the hard competition waiting for us in the decade of the 1970s.
  • Today we are coming to realise that an epoch in history is over... For more than forty years that Iron Curtain remained in place. Few of us expected to see it lifted in our life-time. Yet with great suddenness the impossible has happened. Communism is broken, utterly broken... We do not see this new Soviet Union as an enemy, but as a country groping its way towards freedom. We no longer have to view the world through a prism of East-West relations. The Cold War is over.
  • I suppose that history will remember my term in office as the years when the 'Cold War' began to overshadow our lives. I have had hardly a day in office that has not been dominated by this all embracing struggle―this conflict between those who love freedom and those who would lead the world back into thuggery and darkness. And always in the background there is the atomic bomb. But when history says that my term of office saw the beginning of the Cold War, it will also say that in those eight years we have set the course that can win it. We have succeeded in carving out a new set of policies to attain peace―positive policies, policies of world leadership, policies that express faith in other free people. We have averted World War III up to now, and we may already have succeeded in establishing conditions which can keep that war from happening as far ahead as man can see.


  • With the end of the Second World War, the Soviet Union was now high on the list of tyrannical enemies of democracy, and American nuclear weapons development and strategic theory were fashioned with that enemy foremost in mind. Oppenheimer’s sympathy for Communism, his enthusiasm for world government as the ultimate arbiter of nuclear technology, and his qualms about the proposed second generation of nuclear weapons, played a critical role in the history of the Cold War and in the precipitous course of his subsequent career.


  • An awful symbiosis emerged between the main actors of the Cold War, a rhythm of escalation between the Pentagon and the Soviet strategic rocket forces, and along secret war between the KGB and the CIA which helped make the spy thriller into the distinctive cultural genre of the period. The two sides became locked into the roles of hero and villain in one another's morality play, as two distinct theories of social and political organisation believed they were grappling for nothing less than the inheritance of the planet.
  • The very fact that the Cold War confrontation between the Superpowers ended peacefully was of course of supreme importance: With enough nuclear weapons in existence to destroy the world several times over, we all depended on moderation and wisdom to avoid an atomic Armageddon. The Cold War may not have been the long peace that some historians have seen it as being. But at the upper levels of the international system - between the United States and the Soviet Union - war was avoided long enough for change to take place.
  • Only as the Cold War was coming to a close did US hegemony begin to sit comfortably on a global scale. The Cold War was therefore about the rise and the solidification of US power. But it was also about more than that. It was about the defeat of Soviet-style Communism and the victory, in Europe, of a form of democratic consensus that had become institutionalized through the European Union. In China it meant a political and social revolution carried out by the Chinese Communist Party. In Latin America it meant the increasing polarization of societies along Cold War ideological lines of division.


  • Korolev needed to go full speed ahead with the satellites development, so he stressed the potential military importance of the satellite.
    "With the help of the satellite… [it] will be possible to receive important data necessary for future development of science and military technology… it will be possible to conduct photo-reconnaissance of the (Earth's) surface…" he wrote in the Aug. 5, 1955, letter to the new Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

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