US United States, Cold War, 1945, 1980, foreign policy, Washington, American strategy, American foreign policy, foreign policy establishment, foreign policy instruments, discussions, conflicting strategies, Russia, China, regime change, communist China, bipolar world, multipolar world, Western Europe, USSR Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, SALT treaties, SALT Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, multilateralism, Cuba, 1962, red phone, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, George Bush, containment doctrine, negotiation, SU Soviet Union, Soviet policy, Europe, power projection, Soviet economy, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Kennan-Truman policy, George Kennan, Truman doctrine, American government, Harry Truman, Marshall Plan, Cuban Missile Crisis, Soviet leadership, regional balances, alliances, treaties, agreements, Germany, Franklin Roosevelt
The goal of this document is to stress the main thrust of American strategy in the Cold War in order to understand the legacy of the Cold War on American foreign policy today.
The main structures of US foreign policy and foreign policy establishment and instruments, still in place today, were shaped during the Cold War.
The Americans tried different strategies, and the discussions about these conflicting strategies are very relevant to current discussions taking place in Washington nowadays.
[...] Through ideological and economic and even military competition in the III World (that was the rationale for the Vietnam War). Thus, the SU would have to modernize its backward economy to maintain its power, it would have to liberalize (there was a deep-seated view in America that a centrally planned economy doesn't work). Then it would be possible to negotiate, basically over security in Europe and in the World, to assuage the fear of Moscow against the West, to calm the Soviet leadership. [...]
[...] The US was mired in the quagmire of the Vietnam War. Washington realized it had reached the limits of American power and did no longer hope to transform Eastern Europe and the USSR and thus dispose of Soviet communism. US policy was no longer so idealist (promoting of American values) but more realist: one strove now for a geopolitical balance with the USSR with no hope to change it in the middle term. American interests first came first, no longer the wish for "regime change". [...]
[...] It is not possible to understand them if one forgets the Cold War. The Cold War allowed the final victory of the "internationalists": the US could no longer afford not to be very active in the world. There was a major difference with today: they were convinced multilateralists (less Reagan after 1980, who introduced the current situation as we shall see). The US had to work in an international framework, with alliances, with treaties and agreements, even, if necessary, with the Soviets (SALT treaties, for instance). [...]
[...] Through Arms control negotiations, one could hope to "educate" the USSR towards stability, to persuade it to abandon a very dangerous expansionist policy, and thus also to transform it. That kind of policy is called today in Washington "constructive engagement". There is the same kind of discussion about North Korea or China today, as we shall see . Nixon and Kissinger (1969-1976): A Policy of Geostrategic Balance In the 70s the above (Containment and Arms control) remained largely valid, but not the ultimate aim of "Regime change", which was in practice discarded. Washington had to take into account the growth of Soviet military power. [...]
[...] Of course, critics lamented the rise of the "National Security State", reducing democracy and increasing the powers of the President ("Imperial Republic") for the foreign agenda. In 1945 the US was potentially a superpower (with the control of nuclear energy, with an economy which made up for 50% of world GP) but not yet in fact. But through the Cold War a net of alliances and strategic bases all over the world was built: the US became a real actual superpower with global reach. Its present hegemony is largely the result of the Cold War and the way they managed and won it. [...]
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