Courtesy Reuters


For nearly 45 difficult years the United States pursued a remarkably consistent policy toward the Soviet Union. On the level of grand strategy, that policy was defined as containment of both Soviet geopolitical and ideological ambitions. The practical implementation of the policy of containment involved American geostrategic concentration on the defense of both the western and eastern peripheries of Eurasia, manifested by permanent troop deployments and defined by binding treaty commitments. The doctrine of deterrence, designed to neutralize any Soviet nuclear blackmail, reinforced this defensive posture.

Though the Cold War never escalated into direct American-Soviet warfare, on several occasions it did generate indirect military collisions. In the western extremity of Eurasia, American and Soviet forces twice confronted each other in Berlin, and in the east, U.S. troops were engaged in repelling the Soviet-supported invasion of South Korea, while the Soviet Union later provided Vietnam with the military wherewithal needed to expel the American armies. The closest the two sides ever came to a head-on collision occurred in Cuba because of the Soviet effort to leapfrog its strategic containment. Nevertheless, containment, which in turn made possible the vitally important integration into the Western camp of both Germany and

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  • Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Adviser to the President, is Counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Professor of American Foreign Policy at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University.
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