Cold war illusions america europe and soviet power 1969 1989
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COLD WAR ILLUSIONS AMERICA, EUROPE AND SOVIET POWER 1969-1989. BY DANA H. ALLIN. MAIN ARGUMENT. MOSCOWS GLOBAL POWER, LIKE ITS POWER AT HOME, WAS VASTLY OVERRATED (BY THE USA) DURING THE 2 ND HALF OF THE COLD WAR.

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COLD WAR ILLUSIONS AMERICA, EUROPE AND SOVIET POWER 1969-1989

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Cold war illusions america europe and soviet power 1969 1989

COLD WAR ILLUSIONSAMERICA, EUROPE AND SOVIET POWER1969-1989

BY DANA H. ALLIN


Main argument

MAIN ARGUMENT

  • MOSCOWS GLOBAL POWER, LIKE ITS POWER AT HOME, WAS VASTLY OVERRATED (BY THE USA) DURING THE 2ND HALF OF THE COLD WAR.

  • MAIN REASON FOR THIS WAS THE EXTREME PESSIMISM WITH WHICH AMERICANS VIEWED THE POLITICAL STABILITY AND RESOLUTENESS AGAINST SOVIET PRESSURE OF THE EUROPEANS. THEY FEARED THE “FINLANDISATION” OF WESTERN EUROPE.


3 main parts

3 MAIN PARTS

  • PART I- TRIES TO TRACE THE VARIOUS ARGUMENTS ABOUT THE POST WWII POLICIES EMPLOYED AGAINST THE SOVIETS AND THEIR VIABILITY PARTICULARLY AFTER 1970.

  • PART II- ANALYSES ARGUMENTS ABOUT EUROPE’S VULNERABILITY TO SOVIET PRESSURE AND CONCLUDES THAT EUROPE WAS FAR LESS VULNERABLE THAN WAS MADE OUT BY THE AMERICANS.

  • PART III- TALKS ABOUT THE FINAL COLLAPSE OF THE SOVIET UNION AND THEORIES LINKED TO ITS CAUSE BEING ROOTED IN AMERICAN POLICIES.


Part i containment in europe 1945 1969

PART-ICONTAINMENT IN EUROPE (1945-1969)

  • AMERICANS WERE KEENLY AWARE OF THE IMPERATIVE OF MARSHALL PLAN DUE TO THE TERRIBLE CONDITIONS IN EUROPE AND THE POSSIBILITY OF SOVIETS EXPLOITING THE SITUATION TO INCREASE THEIR INFLUENCE IN THE REGION.

  • AMERICANS THOUGHT ABOUT TWO CONTAINMENT STRATEGIES-KENNANS (TALKED ABOUT SUPERIOR WESTERN POLITICAL SYSTEM AND THE NEED TO EVENTUALLY DISENGAGE FROM EUROPE AS THEY RECOVER) AND ACHESONS( DISENGAGEMENT WOULD BE DISASTROUS EVEN AFTER ECONOMIC RECOVERY AS WESTERN DEMOCRACIES ARE INHERENTLY WEAK) AND EVENTUALLY OPTED FOR THE LATTER.

  • NUCLEAR WEAPONS NOW BECAME THE REASSURANCE THAT WEST EUROPE NEEDED TO RECOVER PHYSICALLY AND SOCIALLY AS THE US’S STRATEGIC SUPERIORITY ENABLED IT INITIALLY TO THREATEN MASSIVE NUCLEAR RETALIATION IF EUROPE WAS ATTACKED.

  • THE BERLIN CRISIS OF 1958-62 SEEMED TO EXPOSE AMERICAN ‘SOFTNESS’ WHICH WAS USED BY THE KENNEDY ADMINISTRATION AS REASON TO GO FOR A MORE DIVERSE APPROACH OF ‘FLEXIBLE RESPONSE’ (INCREASING THE THRESHOLD FOR NUCLEAR WAR) WHICH ALIENATED THE EUROPEANS.


Henry kissinger and the decline of the west

HENRY KISSINGER AND THE DECLINE OF THE WEST

  • THE DISASTROUS VIETNAM WAR FORCED THE AMERICANS TO REVALUATE THEIR STRATEGIES AS THE LIMITS OF THEIR STRENGTHS BECAME OBVIOUS AND DÉTENTE WITH SU BECAME A REALITY.

  • KISSINGER, FOREIGN POLICY ADVISOR TO NIXON BELIEVED DÉTENTE TO BE AN INHERENTLY DEFENSIVE STRATEGY AT A TIME OF AMERICAN DECLINE.

  • THE AMERICANS HAD COME INTO CONFRONTATION WITH GAULLIST FRANCE DURING THE 1ST 20 YRS OF THE COLD WAR AND EVEN AFTER HIS DEATH. DE GAULLE STRONGLY BELIEVED EXCESSIVE POWER WAS DANGEROUS IN THE HANDS OF ANYBODY, EVEN DEMOCRATIC AMERICA, AND VALUED THE IMPORTANCE OF AN INDEPENDENT FOREIGN POLICY. HE HAD WITHDRAWN FROM NATO’S MILITARY COMMAND IN 1966 AFTER TRYING OUT DÉTENTE WITH THE SOVIETS HIMSELF. HE ALSO BELIEVED SU WAS A WANING THREAT AND PEACE COULD BE MADE SOON, THUS GIVING HIS ‘NEUTRALIST’ CHARGE MORE CREDIBILITY.

  • 1970 ONWARDS ALSO MARKED A PERIOD OF CHANGE IN THE WAY THE GERMANS CONDUCTED THEMSELVES. BRANDT, A SOCIALIST, WANTED REUNIFICATION OF GERMANY TO BE TREATED MORE SERIOUSLY AND HIS BRAND OF DIPLOMACY PRODUCED TREATIES WITH SU, POLAND AND EAST GERMANY. KISSINGER FEARED THAT REUNIFICATION MIGHT DRAG WEST GERMANY OVER TO THE COMMUNIST SIDE.


Further decline in west unity

FURTHER DECLINE IN WEST UNITY

  • AS THE AMERICANS ECONOMIC PREEMINENCE BEGAN ERODING TO THE ADVANTAGE OF JAPAN AND GERMANY, NIXON CAME UP WITH A NO. OF UNPOPULAR (FOR ITS ALLIES) STEPS TO REDRESS THE BALANCE.

  • VIETNAM FURTHER EVOKED WIDESPREAD CONDEMNATION FROM EUROPEAN LEADERS.

  • THE ARAB-ISRAELI CONFLICT OF 1973 FURTHER INCREASED TENSIONS WITHIN THE WEST. THIS WAR WAS VIEWED VERY DIFFERENTLY BY THE EUROPEANS WHO REFUSED TO SUPPORT USA AS THEY BELIEVED THE ARABS WERE FIGHTING FOR A JUST CAUSE AND THAT ISRAEL SHOULD RETURN TO ITS 1967 BORDERS. OPEC OIL EMBARGOES FURTHER WORSENED THE EUROPEAN –USA TENSIONS AS PRICE OF OIL SOARED. IT HAD A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON EUROPEAN ECONOMIES. AMERICANS FELT EUROPEANS SHOULD HAVE STUCK WITH THEM AS ALLIES DURING THEIR WORST TIME( VIETNAM, WATERGATE).


The neo conservative alarm

THE NEO-CONSERVATIVE ALARM

  • THE 1960s SAW THE EMERGENCE OF A NEW IDEOLOGY-NEO CONSERVATISM. IT WAS CHARACTERISED BY A PRONOUNCED PESSIMISM ABOUT THE SOVIET THREAT, AND THUS ATTACKED THE POLICY OF DÉTENTE.

  • IN BOTH THE ECONOMIC AND THE MILITARY SPHERE, NIXON ADMIN WAS ATTACKED FOR BEING ‘SOFT’. THE CONSERVATIVES ALSO SET UP A ‘TEAM B’ TO LOOK INTO THE SOVIET THREAT. IT CONCLUDED THAT CIA HAD FALSELY UNDERSTATED THE SOVIET THREAT TO ENCOURAGE DÉTENTE.

  • SOME OF THESE DISAFFECTED FOREIGN POLICY FIGURES CAME TOGETHER TO FORM “COMMITTEE ON THE PRESENT DANGER” (CPD). IT BELIEVED SOVIETS HAD THE MILITARY MEANS TO DEFEAT USA IN A NUCLEAR WAR AND THEN DOMINATE WESTERN EUROPE. THEY QUESTIONED THE WHOLE CONCEPT OF “NUCLEAR SUFFICIENCY”(MC NAMARA) AND MAD (MUTUALLY ASSURED DESTRUCTION). THEY BELIEVED EVEN IF AN ACTUAL NUCLEAR WAR WAS UNLIKELY, NUCLEAR DOMINANCE WOULD RESULT IN A DEADLY “NUCLEAR BLACKMAIL” BY SU WHICH COULD INFLUENCE 3RD POWERS IN CHOOSING SIDES.


Reagan and the soviet threat

REAGAN AND THE SOVIET THREAT

  • REAGAN, UNLIKE CARTER, WHO REMAINED MORE OR LESS EMBEDDED IN THE MAD CONCEPT LOOKED SET FOR A RADICAL DEPARTURE. HE ESPOUSED THE CONCEPT OF A “NUCLEAR SHIELD” AND TALKED ABOUT “VICTORY” EVEN IN A NUCLEAR WAR.

  • HOWEVER, HIS ACTUAL POLICIES WERE MORE MEASURED AND HIS EMBRACING GORBACHEV AS A REFORMER LED TO CRIES OF BETRAYAL FROM THE NEO-CONSERVATIVES.


Carter and soviet expansion

CARTER AND SOVIET EXPANSION

  • CARTER WAS UNFORTUNATE AS HIS TIME(1977-80) WAS ASSOCIATED WITH MAJOR SOVIET EXPANSION IN THE 3RD WORLD(ANGOLA, ETHIOPIA, SOUTH YEMEN, AFGHANISTAN).

  • THE CPD, ON THE OTHER HAND, BELIEVED SU WAS TRYING TO FLANK WEST EUROPE BY CUTTING OFF ITS ESSENTIAL SUPPLIES FROM THE MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA APART FROM INTIMIDATING IT MILITARILY.

  • MEANWHILE, KISSINGERS VIEWS ON DÉTENTE HAD TAKEN A FULL CIRCLE AS HE NOW OPPORTUNISTICALLY STARTED SUPPORTING THE CPD’S VIEWS.


Part ii defining the threat nuclear blackmail

PART II- DEFINING THE THREAT:NUCLEAR BLACKMAIL

  • CPD AND THE REAGANITES BELIEVED IN THE POLICY OF CONVINCING ALLIES AND SU ABOUT ITS INTENTION OF 1ST USE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS. THIS WAS DUE TO (PARTIALLY WRONG ) ASSESSMENTS OF SOVIET CONVENTIONAL SUPERIORITY.

  • SS20-THESE WERE NEW MISSILES WHICH WERE PLACED BY SU ON THE CHINESE BORDER SUCH THAT IT COULD TARGET WESTERN EUROPE BUT NOT USA. THIS WAS DEEMED CRUCIAL BY REAGAN AND CPD AS A RUSSIAN ATTEMPT TO SEPARATE THEIR FATE AND INTIMIDATE WESTERN EUROPE. EUROPEANS ACTUALLY STARTED FEARING A REJECTION OF EUROPEAN INTERESTS BY USA.

  • NATO RESPONDED BY THE DECISION TO PLACE 572 MISSILES IN WEST EUROPE TO COUNTER THE SS-20. THE PLAN WAS TO SIMULTANEOUSLY GO FOR NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE SOVIETS ABOUT REMOVING SS-20. THIS STANCE, HOWEVER RESULTED IN MASS DEMONSTRATIONS IN WEST EUROPE AS THEY STARTED FEARING AN IMPENDING NUCLEAR WAR. NUCLEAR SUFFICIENCY ACTIVISTS LIKE MCNAMARA AGAIN CAME INTO THE SCENE. REAGAN ADMIN FEARED GIVING 2 MANY CONCESSIONS TO THE SOVIETS DUE TO WEST EUROPEAN(ESPECIALLY WEST GERMAN PRESSURE).

  • HOWEVER, WHEN THE WEST WAS EVENTUALLY CONVINCED ABOUT THE DEPLOYMENTS, REAGAN TOOK A U-TURN BY REACHING A COMPROMISE WITH GORBACHEV TO REMOVE THE SS-20 AND SHELVE THE EUROMISSILES OF NATO.


Illusion of nuclear blackmail

ILLUSION OF NUCLEAR BLACKMAIL

  • NUCLEAR BLACKMAIL WAS MAINLY BASED ON A LACK OF BELIEF IN THE RELIABILITY OF WEST EUROPEAN RESOLVE OR THE VIEW THAT WEST EUROPE WOULD AGREE TO SUPERIOR SOVIET NUCLEAR ABILITY JUST TO AVOID A CONFLICT. HOWEVER, THE EUROMISSILE CRISIS SHOWS THAT IN THE END, EUROPEAN GOVTS DID GO THROUGH WITH THE PLAN, DESPITE THEIR FEARS TO THE CONTRARY.

  • THE SS-20’S, MOREOVER, WERE NOT THE NEW DANGER THE NATO CLAIMED IT WAS. ITS ‘TARGETS’ WERE ALREADY COVERED BY THE SOVIET ICBM MISSILES BEFORE.

  • WHAT IS MORE, THE CPD BASED THEIR 1ST USE NUCLEAR POLICY ON TO COUNTERACT AGAINST THE SOVIETS BETTER CONVENTIONAL FORCES AND ALSO THE THREAT OF SU USING NUCLEAR WEAPONS 1ST AND DESTROYING AMERICAN MISSILES AND FORCING THE AMERICANS TO NEGOTIATE AFTER THE 1ST STRIKE. BUT THIS LOGIC IS INHERENTLY FALSE AS IT ASSUMES SU TO BE SOME SORT OF AN IRRATIONAL POWER TAKING POTENTIALLY FATAL RISKS EVEN IN TIMES OF RELATIVE PEACE.

  • THUS THE NEO-CON DISTRUST OF MAD WAS UNREASONABLE.


5 the political threat europe s slide to the left

5) THE POLITICAL THREAT-EUROPE’S SLIDE TO THE LEFT

  • THE LATE 1940s COMMUNIST HOLD OVER CZECHOSLOVAKIA WITHOUT OBVIOUS SOVIET INVOLVEMENT WAS TAKEN BY THE AMERICANS AS PROOF OF WEST EUROPEAN WEAK NERVES.

  • THEY FURTHER BELIEVED WEST EUROPE’S DOMESTIC TROUBLES WOULD BE A SOURCE OF STRENGTH FOR THE SOVIETS.

  • THE PORTUGUESE AND ITALIAN CASES IN THE 1970s SCARED THE AMERICANS OF THE POSSIBILITY OF COMMUNIST SUBVERSION. WHILE THE PORTUGUESE “THREAT” RESOLVED ITSELF RELATIVELY SOON, THE ITALIAN CASE LOOKED FAR MORE DANGEROUS. THE ITALIAN COMMUNISTS, EVEN AS THEY SEEMED TO DISAGREE WITH THE SOVIETS AND SOUGHT COLLABORATION WITH THE ITALIAN DEMOCRATS, LOOKED OMINOUS TO USA TILL THEY PETERED OUT IN THE LATE 1970s.

  • THE AMERICAN NEO-CONSERVATIVES REMAINED EXTREMELY SKEPTICAL OF EVEN SOCIALIST PARTIES THAT CAME TO POWER IN EUROPE ACCUSING THEM OF APPEASEMENT.


6 the economic threat energy and jobs

6) THE ECONOMIC THREAT: ENERGY AND JOBS

  • THE AMERICANS ALSO BELIEVED THE SOVIETS COULD COERCE WEST EUROPE ECONOMICALLY, GIVEN THEIR SUPERIOR POLITICAL DISCIPLINE

  • RELATIONS BETWEEN USA AND HER WEST EUROPEAN ALLIES WORSENED RAPIDLY OVER A JOINT SU-WEST EUROPE UNDERTAKING TO BUILD A GAS PIPE LINE FROM SIBERIA TO WEST EUROPE.

  • USA FEARED AN ECONOMIC FINLANDISATION AS RUSSIA WOULD USE WESTERN TECHNOLOGY AND FINANCE TO BOOST ITS MILITARY AND POLITICAL SYSTEM. IT WOULD ALSO EXPLOIT WESTERN EUROPE’S DEPENDENCE ON ENERGY SUPPLIES, IN THE CONTEXT OF THE TWO ENERGY CRISIS OF THE 1970S.

  • REAGAN ADMINISTRATION TRIED TO BLOCK THE PIPELINE PROJECT BY IMPOSING SANCTIONS SUCH AS SUSPENDING LICENSES FOR OIL AND GAS EQUIPMENT BUT THE EUROPEANS JUST STUCK TO THEIR GUNS, ADDING TO THE CRISIS.


Kissinger and neo conservative illusions

KISSINGER AND NEO-CONSERVATIVE ILLUSIONS

  • KISSINGER RARELY THOUGHT ABOUT DOMESTIC POLITICS AND THUS COULD NOT REALISE THAT THE COMPROMISE B/W COMMUNISTS AND DEMOCRATS WAS CRUCIAL IN SAVING ITALIAN SOCIO-POLITICAL STRUCTURE.

  • NEO-CONSERVATIVES WERE WORSE. THEY CHARGED SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC WELFARE PARTIES WITH BEING SOVIET DUPES WHILE IN REALITY, THEY WERE COMPLETELY ANTI-SOVIET AND COMMITTED TO IMPROVING THE LIVES OF THEIR PEOPLE WITH THE HELP OF CAPITALISM.

  • THE GERMANS, DERIDED BY THE NEO-CONSERVATIVES FOR BEING PACIFIST HAD A REASON TO DO SO ( TERRIBLE WARS AND COMPLETE DEPENDENCE ON USA) AND DID NOT SIGNIFICANTLY AFFECT WESTERN UNITY AGAINST THE SOVIETS.


The american illusion

THE AMERICAN ILLUSION

  • AMERICA’S CASE WAS FUNDAMENTALLY FLAWED. THEIR BELIEF THAT THE PIPELINE COULD MAKE WESTERN EUROPE CRITICALLY DEPENDENT ON RUSSIA WHICH WOULD LEAD TO THE SOVIETS INFLENCING THEM POLITICALLY HAD LITTLE LOGIC.

  • IT WAS BASED ON THE BELIEF THAT WEST EUROPEAN PEOPLE, DUE TO THEIR LOWER MORAL FIBRE, WOULD PERSUADE THEIR GOVTS TO LISTEN TO THE SOVIETS DUE TO THE ENERGY THREAT.

  • THEY ALSO WRONGLY ASSUMED THAT WEST EUROPEANS HAD CUT A BAD BARGAIN WITH THE SOVIETS. SOVIET ECONOMY WAS IN TATTERS AND A FEW MACHINES AND SOME FINANCE COULD NEVER HELP THEM COMPETE MORE ADVANCED CAPITALIST ECONOMIES.


Part iii the threat vanishes who won the cold war

PART III- THE THREAT VANISHES: WHO WON THE COLD WAR

  • THE NEO-CONSERVATIVES ALMOST BELIEVED IN THE “IRREVERSIBILITY” OF COMMUNISM. THE WESTERN CONCEPT OF “TOTALITARIANISM” WAS ITSELF MISLEADING. ITS ASSUMPTION THAT TOTALITARIANISM WOULD SURVIVE FOREVER EVEN IF HIGHLY UNPOPULAR DEFIES LOGIC.

  • POLAND’S UPRISING IN EARLY 1980s SHOULD HAVE PROVIDED A VALUABLE INSIGHT TO THINGS TO FOLLOW. EVEN AFTER MARTIAL LAW WAS IMPOSED TO SUPPRESS REVOLUTION, POLAND COULD NOT BE SUBJECTED TO SOVIET NORMS AGAIN.


The illusion of reagan s victory

THE ILLUSION OF REAGAN’S VICTORY

  • THE NEO-CONSERVATIVES DEFENDED THEIR PESSIMISTIC OBSERVATIONS LATER BY CLAIMING THAT USA WOKE UP TO THE SOVIET THREAT BECAUSE OF THEM AND HENCE EVENTUALLY WON THE COLD WAR.

  • EVEN AFTER AGREEING TO THE TERRIBLE CONDITION OF SOVIET SOCIETY IN THE 1970-85 PERIOD, THEY ASSERTED THAT IT IS BECAUSE THEY WERE DECLINING WHICH MADE THEM EVEN MORE DANGEROUS.

  • THESE ARGUMENTS ASSUME A CERTAIN BLIND RECKLESSNESS IN THE SOVIET LEADERS WHICH WAS NOT TRUE AT ALL. THEY FAILED TO OBSERVE THE SOVIET CAUTIOSNESS IN AVOIDING A DIRECT CONFRONTATION WITH USA.

  • THE SOVIETS COLLAPSED DUE TO UNBELIEVABLE COLLAPSE OF THEIR ECONOMY WHICH STARTED IN THE 1970s. REAGAN DESERVES SOME CREDIT ONLY FOR RECOGNISING THE GENUINENESS OF GORBACHEV’S COMMITMENT TO PEACE.


My assessment

MY ASSESSMENT

  • WELL THOUGHT OUT AND HIGHLY CONVINCING CENTRAL ARGUMENT. CRITICISM OF NEO-CONSERVATIVE VIEWS WELL DESERVED. GIVES A MORE OR LESS CHRONOLOGICAL REASON FOR SOVIET DECLINE AND WHY IT WAS NOT EXACTLY “SUDDEN”.

  • THE AUTHOR HOWEVER FAILS TO TAKE A CLEAR MORAL STAND ON THE ISSUE OF OVERZEALOUSLY ATTACKING COMMUNIST INFLUENCE EVEN WHEN IT IS NECESSARY FOR THE PEOPLE. EVEN AS HE AGREES THAT ITALY WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER OFF HAD USA NOT ENGINEERED A ONE PARTY SYSTEM , HE FAILS TO CRITICISE USA’s FOREIGN POLICY MAKERS FOR THIS DISASTER. EVEN IN CENTRAL AMERICA WHERE REAGAN SUPPORTED BRUTAL DICTATORIAL REGIMES FOR FEAR OF INCREASED SOVIET INFLUENCE IN THE REGION, THE AUTHOR, AFTER BRIEFLY MENTIONING THE CASE, CALLS IT A “DISTASTEFUL NECESSITY”. GIVEN HIS ARGUMENT ABOUT THE ILLUSION OF SOVIET POWER, THIS FAILURE TO TAKE A CRITICAL STAND SEEMS LIKE AN ANOMALY.


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