restricted access Eastern Europe between the USSR and the West: Reflections on the Origins and Dynamics of the Cold War
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Thomas W. Simons, Jr. Eastern Europe between the USSR and the West: Reflections on the Origins and Dynamics of the Cold War Where I Came In I was actually born in 1938 during the Munich crisis, so I could almost say, with the 17th-century English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes , that fear and I are twins, even if the Cold War and I are not. But I did come of age during the mean early years of the Cold War, from the Berlin Blockade to the Cuban Missile Crisis. I am of the generation that learned in school to get under door jams to survive a Soviet nuclear attack. So when I entered the U.S. Foreign Service in 1963 I hoped to work in and on the Cold War. I also brought with me into the Service an interest in Eastern Europe that was unusual at the time. I had studied in Paris and Vienna, and in Vienna the East is near: there is an old saying that Asia begins at the Landstrasse, and I lived two blocks away. But even before that, as a 7-year-old in Calcutta with my diplomat parents in 1945, I had been gripped by a film about the destruction of Warsaw six years before : Chopin mixed on the soundtrack with the whine of Stukas. When I was a student in Paris in 1956 crowds of French youths vented their outrage at the Soviet reconquest of Budapest by storming the Communist Party headquarters at the Carrefour de Châteaudun. The next spring a friend and I drove around Austria’s Burgenland looking for James Michener’s bridge at Andau where the Hungarian refugees had come across the previous fall, and I was warned off my first minefield by Hungarian border guards. So when I entered the Service I wanted to work not just on the Cold War, but on the Cold War in precisely this part of the world. i3 Stalin book.indb 131 10/15/09 9:47:25 AM 132 Stalinism Revisited Although we did not know it then, 1963 was actually a kind of turning point. Perhaps, as someone once said, 1963 was the last year when the sun didn’t give you cancer. But it was certainly the year the Cold War turned a corner into something different from what it had been when I was growing up. I took my oath on July 15. Five weeks before , on June 10, President Kennedy had given the speech at American University that signaled the turn as far as U.S. policy was concerned. Three weeks later, on August 5, the U.S., the USSR, and Britain would sign the Limited Test Ban Treaty, the first major step toward strategic arms control. So while East–West hostility was still the order of the day, it was a somewhat hopeful time; change was in the air. Yet when I started to work on the Cold War as a diplomat a few years later, the men at whose knees I learned the trade had already lived through two rounds of a characteristic Cold War cycle that began with hope and ended with Soviet actions which then crushed that hope. Here I would like to suggest a framework for our discussion about the Cold War’s first decade that encompasses all five of its decades , from World War II through to the end in 1990. I will argue that each Cold War decade witnessed an attempt to get beyond the foundations of hostility that were laid in the 1940s; that only the last effort, in the 1980s, succeeded, and then only in very paradoxical fashion; and that when the previous attempts failed, they failed because the foundations of hostility were very strong among elites in the U.S. and the Soviet Union. I will also argue that the core foundations of the Cold War were ideological, on both sides, and that they proved indispensable to both sides until near the very end. What I Inherited My mentors in the Service, then, were already the survivors of two cycles that began with efforts to extend the basics of East–West competition beyond its foundational ideologies, but ended by locking them back in. And Eastern Europe had been central to both cycles. During World War II, when these men had been the age I was then, the states of the Grand Alliance were in systemic competition with each other, but they had found a common interest...