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The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991by Ronald E. Powaski
Synopses & Reviews
For half of the twentieth century, the Cold War gripped the world. International relations everywhere--and domestic policy in scores of nations--pivoted around this central point, the American-Soviet rivalry. Even today, much of the world's diplomacy grapples with chaos created by the Cold War's sudden disappearance. Here indeed is a subject that defies easy understanding. Now comes a definitive account, a startlingly fresh, clear eyed, comprehensive history of our century's longest struggle.
In The Cold War, Ronald E. Powaski offers a new perspective on the great rivalry, even as he provides a coherent, concise narrative. He wastes no time in challenging the reader to think of the Cold War in new ways, arguing that the roots of the conflict are centuries old, going back to Czarist Russia and to the very infancy of the American nation. He shows that both Russia and America were expansionist nations with messianic complexes, and the people of both nations believed they possessed a unique mission in history. Except for a brief interval in 1917, Americans perceived the Russian government (whether Czarist or Bolshevik) as despotic; Russians saw the United States as conspiring to prevent it from reaching its place in the sun. U.S. military intervention in Russia's civil war, with the aim of overthrowing Lenin's upstart regime, entrenched Moscow's fears. Soviet American relations, difficult before World War II--when both nations were relatively weak militarily and isolated from world affairs--escalated dramatically after both nations emerged as the world's major military powers. Powaski paints a portrait of the spiraling tensions with stark clarity, as each new development added to the rivalry: the Marshall Plan, the communist coup in Czechoslovakia, the Berlin blockade, the formation of NATO, the first Soviet nuclear test. In this atmosphere, Truman found it easy to believe that the Communist victory in China and the Korean War were products of Soviet expansionism. He and his successors extended their own web of mutual defense treaties, covert actions, and military interventions across the globe--from the Caribbean to the Middle East and, finally to Southeast Asia, where containment famously foundered in the bog of Vietnam.
Powaski skillfully highlights the domestic politics, diplomatic maneuvers, and even psychological factors as he untangles the knot that bound the two superpowers together in conflict. From the nuclear arms race, to the impact of U.S. recognition of China on detente, to Brezhnev's inflexible persistence in competing with America everywhere, he casts new light on familiar topics. Always judicious in his assessments, Powaski gives due credit to Reagan and especially Bush in facilitating the Soviet collapse, but also notes that internal economic failure, not outside pressure, proved decisive in the Communist failure. Perhaps most important, he offers a clear eyed assessment of the lasting distortions the struggle wrought upon American institutions, raising questions about whether anyone really won the Cold War. With clarity, fairness, and insight, he offers the definitive account of our century's longest international rivalry.
The Cold War focuses on the tumultuous relationship between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, offering a new perspective on the great rivalry between the two countries. The text examines the crystallization of the Cold War between the two superpowers following the radically divergent paths they took after 1917, highlighting the domestic politics, diplomatic maneuvers, and even the psychological factors that bound the two countries in conflict. Powaski paints a portrait of each new development and how it added to their rivalry. He looks at the Marshall Plan, the communist coup in Czechoslovakia, the Berlin blockade, the formation of NATO, and the first Soviet nuclear test. Throughout, Powaski stresses the events of special interest to America, including the Vietnam War, the Arms Race, and the domestic effects of the superpower competition. He challenges students to think of the Cold War in new ways, arguing that the roots of the conflict are centuries old, going back to Czarist Russia and the very infancy of the American nation. He explains that while both Russia and America were expansionist nations, each believed it possessed a unique mission in history. Because Americans perceived the Russian government (whether Czarist or Bolshevik) as despotic and Russians saw the United States as conspiring to prevent it from reaching its goals, Soviet American relations, difficult before World War II, escalated dramatically after both nations emerged as the world's major military powers. Powaski discusses the onset of the Cold War under Truman and Stalin, its globalization under Eisenhower and Khrushchev, and the latter-day episodes of confrontation and detente. Powaski gives credit to Reagan and especially to Bush in facilitating the Soviet collapse, but also notes that internal economic failure, not outside pressure, proved decisive in the Communist failure. He also offers a clear assessment of the lasting distortions the struggle wrought upon American institutions, raising the important question of whether anyone really won the war. With clarity, fairness, and insight, Powaski offers the most comprehensive survey to date of the Cold War, exploring its origin in the early 20th century to its resolution under Gorbachev and Bush. Ideal for courses in world history and U.S. and Soviet foreign policy, this text is the definitive account of our century's longest international struggle.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 321-331) and index.
About the Author
About the Author -
Ronald E. Powaski is the author of March to Armegeddon: The United States and the Nuclear Arms Race, 1939 to the Present. He is Adjunct Professor of Special Studies at Notre Dame College of Ohio.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The U.S. and Czarist Russia
1. The U.S. and the Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1933
2. F.D.R. and the Grand Alliance, 1933-1945
3. Truman and Containment, 1945-1953
4. Eisenhower and the Globalization of the Cold War, 1953-1961
5. Kennedy and Johnson: Confrontation and Cooperation, 1961-1969
6. Nixon, Ford, and Detente, 1969-1977
7. Carter and the Decline of Detente, 1977-1981
8. The Reagan Cold War, 1981-1989
9. George Bush and the End of the Cold War, 1989-1991
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