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The Cold War, 20 Years Later

How does the Cold War's legacy endure 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall?

Takeaways


  • "The world owes us a debt. You must not forget that Afghanistan was one of the major battlefields in the Cold War." (Ashraf Ghani, former Afghan finance minister)
  • "It is time to bury the Cold War legacy and establish structures that meet the imperatives of this era — particularly since Russia and the West are no longer adversaries." (Sergey Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister)
  • "The world has globalized. The nation-state has been flattened. More and more conflict in our world is based on identity." (Daniel Shapiro, professor at Harvard University)
  • "We didn't just owe a lot of money to the West — but we were being forced to dance to the West's tune." (Roman Pavlov, student in Russia)

How does one of the Cold War's central players view the end of communism?

"The end of the Cold War was not a victory for one side or one ideology. It was instead a common achievement and a common challenge, a call for major change."
(Mikhail Gorbachev, last leader of the Soviet Union, January 2009)

Has the world taken advantage of this window for change?

“The fall of the Berlin Wall was expected to open possibilities for building a world of peace, free from the stigmas of the Cold War. It is sad, though, to see other walls going up so fast.”
(President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, September 2008)

Who do some blame for the opportunities missed after the end of the Cold War?

"American policymakers could have approached the end of the Cold War the way they did at the end of previous great power confrontations. It was the right time to rethink international institutions and renegotiate the rules of the game. It was ripe for the taking. These opportunities do not come along very often."
(Stephen Stedman, former assistant secretary-general of the United Nations, November 2009)

How have international relations changed since the fall of the Berlin Wall?

"The world has globalized. The nation-state has been flattened. More and more conflict in our world is based on identity. It's not a cold war anymore — it's a hot war! A messy, emotional war!"
(Daniel Shapiro, professor at Harvard University, September 2008)

What else has changed?

"With the end of the Cold War, international politics moves out of its Western phase, and its centerpiece becomes the interaction between the West and non-Western civilizations and among non-Western civilizations."
(The late Samuel P. Huntington, professor at Harvard University, July 1993)

Today, is there a new Cold War between the United States and Russia?

“Let us rid ourselves of illusions. This is no new Cold War, not least because Russia offers no enticing new ideology. But it is a Cold Peace. That is a tragedy. It is also a reality. It is one the West must live with, probably for a long time to come.”
(Martin Wolf, Financial Times columnist, February 2008)

Is Russia keen on moving beyond the Cold War?

“It is time to bury the Cold War legacy and establish structures that meet the imperatives of this era — particularly since Russia and the West are no longer adversaries and do not wish to create the impression that war is still a possibility in Europe.”
(Sergey Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, July 2007)

How does Russia view its defeat in the war?

"We don’t believe we were defeated in the Cold War. We believe we defeated our own totalitarian system. Moscow democratized this giant space which is now revitalizing itself, no one else. If more people in the West looked at things in a similar way, they might respect us a bit more.”
(Vladislav Surkov, deputy chief of staff at the Kremlin, July 2006)

How is Russia still coming to terms with the Cold War?

“There was the sharp feeling we were the losers in the Cold War. We didn’t just owe a lot of money to the West — but we were being forced to dance to the West’s tune.”
(Roman Pavlov, student in Russia, December 2007)

What conflict was at the root of the war?

“The Cold War may have caused us to forget that the more enduring ideological conflict since the Enlightenment has not been between capitalism and communism — but between liberalism and autocracy.”
(Robert Kagan, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, August 2007)

What was remarkable about the Cold War?

“The Cold War became total, a competition for the loyalty and trust of all peoples fought out in all arenas of social achievement, in which science textbooks and racial harmony were as much tools of foreign policy as missiles and spies.”
(Walter McDougall, historian at the University of Pennsylvania, September 2007)

How does Afghanistan view the Cold War?

"The world owes us a debt. You must not forget that Afghanistan was one of the major battlefields in the Cold War. The Soviet Union collapsed because of our resistance, but we paid the price for it."
(Ashraf Ghani, former Afghan finance minister, July 2009)

Are some envisioning a new Cold War with a country other than Russia?

“The next American president will inherit many foreign policy challenges, but surely one of the biggest will be the Cold War. Yes, the next U.S. president is going to be a Cold War president — but this Cold War is with Iran.”
(Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist, May 2008)

How grave is the threat posed by Iran?

“How dangerous is Iran? The answer is not as dangerous as many in the West believe. The Cold War logic of containment and deterrence still applies to Iran’s ayatollahs, who are survivors, not suicidal.”
(Stanley A. Weiss, founder and chairman of Business Executives for National Security, March 2006)

How should the United States approach this new Cold War?

“The idea that it’s a Cold War means that the United States can’t and won’t win anytime soon. It involves a long-term policy of containing or undermining enemies — the model that held between the United States and the Soviet Union for 40 years.”
(Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Beirut office, July 2007)

Do some view China through the lens of the Cold War?

“How mutually embedded and symbiotic the American and Chinese economies have become over the past decade. A balance of financial terror exists between them today, paralleling the Cold War’s mutual assured destruction theory of nuclear deterrence. Serious economic retaliation by one or the other would do incalculable damage to both.”
(Jim Hoagland, Washington Post columnist, July 2007)

Why do some look back fondly at the Cold War?

“The 20th century, largely defined by the bipolar struggle of the Cold War, ultimately was one of American economic, political and military domination.”
(Michael V. Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, April 2008)

What global issue do some see as the Cold War of the 21st century?

"The Cold War shaped world politics for half a century. But global warming may shape the patterns of global conflict for much longer than that — and help spark clashes that will be, in every sense of the word, hot wars."
(James R. Lee, professor at American University, January 2009)

And finally, who is an optimist?

“We have ended the era of the Cold War, of national liberalism movements, of the fight against colonialism. We are in a new era that we hope will be without cold or hot wars.”
(Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi, leader of Libya, December 2007)

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