US tanks and Soviet tanks confront each other for 16 hours at the border between East and West Berlin, 1961. Wikipedia Commons

The dates May 22, 1947, and May 22, 1972, span exactly 25 years. On May 22, 1947, President Truman signed a congressional bill committing the United States to support Greece and Turkey against Soviet designs, and the United States thereby assumed overtly the direct leadership of the West in the containment of Soviet influence. Twenty-five years later to the day, another American President landed in Moscow, declaring to the Soviet leaders that "we meet at a moment when we can make peaceful coöperation a reality."

Viewing the past 25 years of the cold war as a political process, this study seeks to evaluate the conduct of the two competitors and to draw some implications from the experience of a quarter-century's rivalry for the future of U.S.-Soviet relations. Its purpose is thus neither to seek the causes of the cold war nor to assign moral or historical responsibility for it.

To accomplish the above, two preliminary steps must be taken. The first is to identify the principal phases of the cold war, viewing it as a process of conflict and competition. The purpose of the periodization is to delineate phases of time in which the competitive process was dominated by a discernible pattern of relations; in its simplest form, this involves identifying phases in which one or the other side seemed to hold the political initiative, either on the basis of a relatively crystallized strategy and/or through more assertive behavior.

Second, it is necessary to focus on several dynamic components at work in the competitive process, the interaction of which shaped the relative performance of the two powers. Reference will be made within the several phases of the competition to the relative international standing of the two rivals, to their relative economic power, to their relative military power, and to the relative clarity and purposefulness of national policy, including the degree of domestic support for that policy.

Finally, it must be acknowledged that this writer sees the cold war as more the product of lengthy and

Loading, please wait...

This article is a part of our premium archives.

To continue reading and get full access to our entire archive, please subscribe.

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.