The Cold War and its Aftermath

U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Vice President George H.W. Bush, and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in New York, December 1988. National Archives and Records Administration

Karl von Clausewitz defined war as the continuation of policy by other means. By extension the Cold War can be defined as warfare by other (non-lethal) means. Nonetheless, warfare it was. And the stakes were monumental. Geopolitically the struggle, in the first instance, was for control over the Eurasian landmass and, eventually, even for global preponderance. Each side understood that either the successful ejection of the one from the western and eastern fringes of Eurasia or the effective containment of the other would ultimately determine the geostrategic outcome of the contest.

Also fueling the conflict were sharply conflicting, ideologically motivated conceptions of social organization and even of the human being itself. Not only geopolitics but philosophy—in the deepest sense of the self-definition of mankind—were very much at issue.

After some forty-five years of political combat, including some secondary military skirmishes, the Cold War did indeed come to a

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