In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • Debating the Origins of the Cold War: American and Russian Perspectives, and: Natural Enemies: The United States and the Soviet Union in the Cold War, 1917–1991
  • Abbott Gleason
Ralph B. Levering, Vladimir O. Pechatnov, Verena Botzenhart-Viehe, and C. Earl Edmondson , Debating the Origins of the Cold War: American and Russian Perspectives. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002, 200 pp. $17.95.
Robert C. Grogin , Natural Enemies: The United States and the Soviet Union in the Cold War, 1917–1991. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2001, 351 pp. $33.50.

Students of the Cold War continue to produce brief syntheses, aided since the early 1990s by the appearance of fresh primary and secondary material and the debates about that material. These two volumes are examples of this genre. Although they are rather different in strategy and tactics, both books are aimed at general audiences. The collective volume makes the more significant contribution. It provides two essays, each of some sixty pages, contrasting the American and Russian (not Soviet!) views of the Cold War. It does so in a nuanced and reflective way. One rarely sees the Russian/Soviet view expressed in such cautious, non-ideological language. (Not that the American point of view has invariably been presented in a fair-minded way either.) A cluster of well-chosen documents follows each essay. Despite the brevity of the essays, this volume should serve as a most useful teaching tool. Somewhat to my surprise, it turned out to be less a debate than a studied and fruitful contrast of the two views.

Ralph Levering's and Verena Botzenhart-Viehe's essay on the American perspective is an intelligent, judicious, and cautious narrative. It focuses as much on the quality of American leadership and the relevant aspects of American society and culture as on the international situation. Its classroom value is enhanced by the authors' ability to open up controversies in such a way that more than one conclusion is possible for a perspicacious and conscientious reader. The documents that follow the essays express the views of historical actors ranging from Henry Wallace to J. Edgar Hoover and provide ample material for classroom discussion.

Naturally, Vladimir Pechatnov's and C. Earl Edmondson's essay conveys an overall impression of greater novelty because there is more fresh material with which to work. The opening of archives has helped historians understand more fully how the Soviet elite's sense of its place in the world developed in the period from 1945 to 1949. The authors effectively highlight the contrast between the views of that elite and the hopes of ordinary people in the immediate post-1945 era. They also emphasize a point that American students should always bear in mind: "The Red Army suffered [End Page 198] fifty-five times more casualties than did U.S. forces and inflicted 93% of German combat losses between...June 22, 1941 and D day" (p.92). The dimensions of the Soviet effort against Germany, they argue plausibly, "enhanced the Soviet Union's appetite and created a sort of entitlement complex" (p.96).

Pechatnov and Edmondson maintain a good balance between understanding the views of the Soviet side as ideology, on the one hand, and traditional Russian foreign policy objectives on the other—an enduring problem in serious Cold War studies. They emphasize Josif Stalin's unsurpassed ruthlessness, his boundless suspiciousness, and his Machiavellian style of leadership. Although they stress the ambition of Stalin's postwar strategic goals, they note that these goals were not conceived in "absolutist terms of global hegemony or world revolution" (p.91). Their apt conclusion is that the Soviet Union "was...too strong to capitulate and too weak ultimately to win. Such was the essence of Stalin's Cold War predicament" (p.151).

Robert Grogin's oddly titled Natural Enemies is a straightforward narrative account of the Cold War. He seems to account for the origins and development of the Cold War almost entirely in terms of the ideological struggle between Wilsonianism and Leninism, although mysteriously he also states that it was really about the balance of power (pp.16-17). He mentions Halford MacKinder but does not undertake any analysis involving...