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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
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
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375
Hudson Street, New York, New
York 10014, U.S.A.• Penguin
Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue
East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario,
Canada M4P 2Y3
(a division of Pearson Penguin
Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd,
80 Strand, London
WC2R oRL, England • Penguin
Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green,
Dublin 2, Ireland (a division
of Penguin Books Ltd) • Penguin
Books Australia Ltd, 250
Camberwell Road, Camberwell,
Victoria 3124, Australia (a division
of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)
• Penguin Books India Pvt
Ltd, 11 Community Centre,
Panchsheel Park, New Delhi–110
017, India • Penguin Group (NZ),
Cnr Airborne and Rosedale Roads,
Albany, Auckland 1310, New
Zealand (a division of
Pearson New Zealand Ltd) • Penguin
Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24
Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg
2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered
80 Strand, London WC2R oRL,
First published in 2005 by The
Penguin Press,
a member of Penguin Group (USA)
Copyright © John Lewis Gaddis,
All rights reserved
Photograph credits appear on page
Map sources appear on page 316.
Library of Congress Cataloging-inPublication 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.
The scanning, uploading, and
distribution of this book via the
Internet or via any other means
without the permission of the
publisher is illegal and punishable by
law. Please purchase only authorized
electronic editions and do not
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piracy of copyrightable materials.
Your support of the author’s rights is
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
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
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 twentyfive 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—
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
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
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, you couldn’t tell whether, you
know? If you put an American
uniform on them, they could have
been American!
U.S. Army, 69th Infantry Division1
THIS WAS THE WAY the war was
supposed to end: with cheers,
handshakes, dancing, drinking, and
hope. The date was April 25, 1945,
the place the eastern German city of
Torgau on the Elbe, the event the
first meeting of the armies,
converging from opposite ends of the
earth, that had cut Nazi Germany in
two. Five days later Adolf Hitler
blew his brains out beneath the
rubble that was all that was left of
Berlin. Just over a week after that,
the Germans surrendered
unconditionally. The leaders of the
victorious Grand Alliance, Franklin
D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill,
and Josef Stalin, had already
exchanged their own handshakes,
toasts, and hopes for a better world at
two wartime summits—Teheran in
November, 1943, and Yalta in
February, 1945. These gestures
would have meant little, though, had
the troops they commanded not been
able to stage their own more
boisterous celebration where it really
counted: on the front lines of a
battlefield from which the enemy
was now disappearing.
Why, then, did the armies at
Torgau approach one another warily,
as if they’d been expecting
interplanetary visitors? Why did the
resemblances they saw seem so
surprising—and so reassuring? Why,
despite these, did their commanders
insist on separate surrender
ceremonies, one for the western front
at Reims, in France, on May 7th,
another for the eastern front in Berlin
on May 8th? Why did the Soviet
authorities try to break up
spontaneous pro-American
demonstrations that erupted in
Moscow following the official
announcement of the German
capitulation? Why did the American
authorities, during the week that
followed, abruptly suspend critical
shipments of Lend-Lease aid to the
U.S.S.R., and then resume them?
Why did Roosevelt’s key aide Harry
Hopkins, who had played a decisive
role in crafting the Grand Alliance in
1941, have to rush to Moscow six
weeks after his boss’s death to try to
save it? Why for that matter, years
later, would Churchill title his
memoir of these events Triumph and
The answer to all of these
questions is much the same: that the
war had been won by a coalition
whose principal members were
already at war—ideologically and
geopolitically if not militarily—with
one another. Whatever the Grand
Alliance’s triumphs in the spring of
1945, its success had always
depended upon the pursuit of
compatible objectives by
incompatible systems. The tragedy
was this: that victory would require
the victors either to cease to be who
they were, or to give up much of
what they had hoped, by fighting the
war, to attain.
HAD THERE really been an alien
visitor on the banks of the Elbe in
April, 1945, he, she, or it might
indeed have detected superficial
resemblances in the Russian and
American armies that met there, as
well as in the societies from which
they had come. Both the United
States and the Soviet Union had been
born in revolution. Both embraced
ideologies with global aspirations:
what worked at home, their leaders
assumed, would also do so for the
rest of the world. Both, as
continental states, had advanced
across vast frontiers: they were at the
time the first and third largest
countries in the world. And both had
entered the war as the result of
surprise attack: the German invasion
of the Soviet Union, which began on
June 22, 1941, and the Japanese
strike against Pearl Harbor on
December 7, 1941, which Hitler used
as an excuse to declare war on the
United States four days later. That
would have been the extent of the
similarities, though. The differences,
as any terrestrial observer could have
quickly pointed out, were much
The American Revolution, which
had happened over a century and a
half earlier, reflected a deep distrust
of concentrated authority. Liberty
and justice, the Founding Fathers had
insisted, could come only through
constraining power. Thanks to an
ingenious constitution, their
geographical isolation from potential
rivals, and a magnificent endowment
of natural resources, the Americans
managed to build an extraordinarily
powerful state, a fact that became
obvious during World War II. They
accomplished this, however, by
severely restricting their
government’s capacity to control
everyday life, whether through the
dissemination of ideas, the
organization of the economy, or the
conduct of politics. Despite the
legacy of slavery, the near
extermination of native Americans,
and persistent racial, sexual, and
social discrimination, the citizens of
the United States could plausibly
claim, in 1945, to live in the freest
society on the face of the earth.
The Bolshevik Revolution, which
had happened only a quarter century
earlier, had in contrast involved the
embrace of concentrated authority as
a means of overthrowing class
enemies and consolidating a base
fro …
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