Soviet Expansionism Essay Contest

by Carson Stones

The Global Cold War by Odd Arne Westad is a fascinating account of superpower interventions in the Third World during the latter half of the twentieth century.Covering a wide sweep of history, Westad argues that the United States and the Soviet Union were driven to intervene in the Third World by the ideologies inherent in their politics.

Westad opens his book with an examination of the ideologies of the United States, the Soviet Union, and the post-colonial leaders before the Second World War. Emerging victorious from the war, Westad argues that the two countries believed it was their destiny to combat the competing ideas of modernity in the post-war era of decolonization. With the world divided between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, any country declaring independence outside the blocs was a potential battleground for the competing ideologies. In a conflict that lasted over forty years and affected billions of people worldwide, Westad highlights the events chronologically from the Korean Peninsula to Latin America, Southeast Asia, Africa, and finally the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Seamlessly tying together seemingly unrelated incidents, The Global Cold War manages to take a bird’s eye view of history while still providing incredible details of the specific events, which turned the tide of the Cold War. Westad explains that each pivotal turn represented a new ideological shift for Moscow and Washington in the continuing struggle to win the hearts and minds of newly emerging countries.  A few notable incidents from the book include the CIA operations in Guatemala, containment in Vietnam, and détente in Ethiopia. As this book proves, these superpower interventions only exacerbated the conflicts of diverse nationalities who were struggling to emerge from under the heels of Imperialism. The unfortunate result of these interventions was incredible bloodshed, environmental devastation, and millions displaced as refugees.  The turning point of the book is the 1979 Iranian Revolution, preaching a new ideology, Islamism, which rejected both liberal capitalism and Marxist-Leninist socialism. The best chapters in the book follow the emergence of Islamism and the repercussions of its rapid spread in a two-bloc world.

This book provided a refreshing perspective on the Cold War as it related to the political and social developments in the Third World. Echoing Clausewitz, Westad calls the Cold War “a continuation of colonialism through slightly different means.” Anyone who reads this book will appreciate Westad’s tragically ironic statement that while both Moscow and Washington were formally opposed to colonialism, the “methods they used in imposing their vision of modernity on Third World countries were very similar to those of the European Empires who had gone before them.” This book will force readers to question the motives of American foreign policies which authorized assassinations, toppled democratically elected regimes, and supported dictatorships all in the name of protecting freedom and democracy from the evils of socialism around the globe.The conclusion of The Global Cold War is especially poignant when considering the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and the return of American troops this Christmas. Twenty years have passed since the collapse of the Soviet Union but the specter of the Cold War still haunts American foreign policy today. With the breakdown of the bipolar world, this book should encourage citizens around the world to question the motives of any country, which imposes an ideology upon their neighbors as humankind progresses into the twenty-first century.

Photo credits

Unknown photographer, Soldiers ride aboard a Soviet BMD airborne combat vehicle, Kabul, 25 March, 1986

DOD Media via Wikipedia

Check out the other winning and honorable mentions submissions for our First Annual Undergraduate Writing Contest:

William Wilson’s review of George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia

Lynn Romero’s review of Open Veins of Latin America

Katherine Maddox’s review of Beirut City Center Recovery

More Books, Cold War, Empire, Periods, Regions, Topics, Transnational, War

The Traditionalists


Until the 1960s, most historians followed the official government line – that the Cold War was the direct result of Stalin's aggressive Soviet expansionism.

Allocation of blame was simple – the Soviets were to blame!   This view of the Cold War has never really gone away, and there have always been people who have seen the as the cause of the confrontation.   It is, by far, the most common opinion of people who post on the web.   In the following collection, note that all the contributors seem to come either from or :

The Cold War was caused by the military expansionism of Stalin and his successors. The American response… was basically a defensive reaction.   As long as Soviet leaders clung to their dream of imposing Communism on the world, the West had no way (other than surrender) of ending the conflict.   When a Soviet leader appeared who was willing to abandon that goal, the seemingly interminable Cold War soon melted away.

Summary of Michael Hart’s argument justifying placing Mikhail Gorbachev in his top 100 most influential persons in history.

Michael H Hart worked for NASA and is currently a professor of astronomy and physics at a college. He holds degrees in physics, astronomy, and law and is author of: The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History (1986)

International conflicts are often caused by the character of national regimes, not by any kind of international misunderstanding. The cold war was caused by the evil regime in the , not by a failure of diplomacy. In a similar way, Slobodan Milosevic and his evil cronies were responsible for the tragedies and suffering in the Balkans... The American Jewish Committee worked for years against Milosevic, speaking out forcefully on behalf of his victims, especially the Bosnian Muslims.

An address by Paul Wolfowitz, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, at the Ninety-fifth Annual Meeting of the American Jewish Committee, 2001

The truth of the matter, Andrew insisted, responding to the statement of Dr James Leutze that US intellectual thought places blame for the Cold War equally between the US and the Soviet Union, is that the whole cost and length of the Cold War rests almost completely with the men who led the Soviet Union to its ultimate implosion.   “The Cold War was caused by the , was sustained by the , and was ended by the when it collapsed,” he said emphatically. “It was—and is—as simple as that.”

Report of a Q&A session with Christopher Andrew (a don and expert on Cold War espionage) at the first Raleigh International Spy Conference, August 2003

The cold war was caused by the 's 'imperial appetite'.

US Naval War College Review of Eugene V Rostow, Violent peace and the management of power: dilemmas and choices in policy (1988)

Stalin's bad behavior was the primary cause of the Cold War

J.R. Nyquist styles himself ‘a WorldNetDaily contributing editor and a renowned expert in geopolitics and international relations'.   He is the author of "Origins of the Fourth World War."

The cause of the Cold War was the totalitarian nature of the Communist system itself.  

Posted by ‘Dangus’ on a webforum called @forumz, 11-06-2002

The Cold War happened because Stalin decided that he could not allow the Russians to be behind the US.   He chose confrontation because he could not accept the cosquences of being behind …   The US is already supreme,why be provocative and upset it further?  

Posted by ‘PainRack’ on a webforum called, Jun 21st 2001,

The Cold War was caused by the attempt of one state to impose its ideology on the rest of the world. That state was not the , which demilitarized immediately after the war. That ideology was not democracy.

Posted by Brian Grassie, United States of America on

The United Nations OnLine is a virtual model United Nations sponsored by a Non-Profit Organization from . The UNOL Lobbying Area is for students from around the world to discuss topics concerning the work of the United Nations.

The puppet governments [of Eastern Europe] were a huge source of anxiety for the West and were the main cause of the Cold War, the forty-five year long period of tension between the Soviets and the capitalists. - an international website-building competition, sponsored by the Oracle Education Foundation.

The Cold War was caused by 's attempt to cooperate with as a country that had common enemies rather than taking a firm stance against from the beginning.

posted by someone who calls himself ishalltriumph, 2004-03-16, on a web-forum called 'livejournal'

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