By Eric Vandenbroeck and co-workers

The Cold War part one

There are different versions about when the Cold War would have started, there is the Western version which we will mention underneath, yet this contrasts with the version that is thought in Russia including as thought to all Rissian diplomats and graduates of the Foreign Intelligence Academy of the SVR (Foreign Intelligence Service).


The story they are thought is that the Cold War started following a coup orchestrated by the US and the UK to topple the Lenin regime and kill Lenin. This idea was started by Secretary of State Lansing when he told President Wilson on 10 Dec. 1917 that the only hope for Russia lay in setting up a “military dictatorship.” Lansing’s idea was to choose one man and make him the boss of Russia on the side of America and the Allies. And in turn, David R. Francis, the American ambassador to Russia, asked Washington for 100,000 troops to take Petrograd and Moscow to support the coup against Lenin.


And while the Cold War later in the West became a time of tension, fear, and danger, but because it ended in ‘victory’ for the West, it came to be viewed with nostalgia, last week Britain's army chief General Nick Carter as reported by the BBC explained that there is a greater risk of an accidental war breaking out between the West and Russia than at any time since the Cold War, with many of the traditional diplomatic tools no longer available.The risk of an accidental war breaking out between Russia and the West is greater than at any time during the Cold War, Britain's most senior military officer has said in an interview with Times Radio.

This ( nostalgia aside) made us decide to revisit and take a close look at what started the previous cold war and what we can learn from it for when the next one according to General Nick Carter might start.

For a millennium, Russia has been an autocracy with power concentrated in the hands of an all-powerful leader or leadership group. The strong centralized rule has held together with a disparate, centripetal empire and preserved it from the predations of powerful foreign enemies. Sporadic attempts at democracy have ended in a return to the same default mode of governance; the cause of the state has taken priority over the interests of the individual.

Tsarist Russia and Weimer Germany were failing states before either Lenin or Hitler came along. But that does not mean their victories were foregone conclusions. Neither man had ever run anything; their immediate supporters hadn't either.

By summer 1921, around 27 million people in Russia were dying from starvation, including some 9 million children.

Maxim Gorky, a Russian writer and independent Marxist who had been exiled by Lenin for opposing the Soviet dictatorship, sent his own appeal.

J. Edgar Hoover replied to Gorky, saying certain conditions would have to be met before U.S. aid could be sent: All Americans had to be freed. American relief workers had to have complete freedom to do their jobs. Distribution would be on a non-political basis. The relief workers would need free transportation, storage, and offices.

Lenin stalled. He was convinced the aid workers, would-be spies.

The history of the twentieth century, worldwide, was marked by the two world wars. The Russian Revolutions of 1917 were a consequence of the First World War, the Cold War of the Second.

For a millennium, Russia has been an autocracy with power concentrated in the hands of an all-powerful leader or leadership group. A strong centralized rule has held together with a disparate, centripetal empire and preserved it from the predations of powerful foreign enemies. Sporadic attempts at democracy have ended in a return to the same default mode of governance; the cause of the state has taken priority over the interests of the individual.

The term "Cold War" itself was first used by the English writer George Orwell in an article published in 1945 to refer to what he predicted would be a nuclear stalemate between “two or three monstrous super-states, each possessed of a weapon by which millions of people can be wiped out in a few seconds.” It was first used in the United States by the American financier and presidential adviser Bernard Baruch in a speech at the State House in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1947.

Churchill was more concerned with Eastern Europe than was Roosevelt, and not only because he felt that Britain owed something to a heroic and tragic Poland.

He knew the history and the geography of Europe: he was concerned with Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, rather than with Romania and Bulgaria. The last two had been often dependent on imperial Russia, while the others belonged to Central, rather than Eastern, Europe (As late as December 1944 he wrote to Roosevelt about that distinction.) But his powers were limited.

Conferences in Yalta in February and Potsdam in July 1945 were intended to secure a sense of lasting global peace and a new, functioning system of international cooperation, but they took place against this background of hurt and resentment. The British, Americans, and Soviets had been thrown together in a somewhat unlikely wartime alliance, and only common effort and common sacrifice had advanced it from a matter of convenience to a relationship of nascent respect. By 4 February 1945, when Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill gathered in Yalta’s Livadia Palace, there was a certain willingness not to throw away the gains that had been made. 

But history is not always made through the logical development of policy. Policies are made by men and women, and the personalities of the leaders of the Big Three Allied powers and the interactions between them would do much to determine the shape of the postwar world, at times retreating from, at times hastening, the advent of the Cold War. Stalin had taken a conscious decision to use charm and cunning to extract what he could from the face-to-face discussions with his fellow leaders. At times he would be aggressive, at others conciliatory, but always focused on achieving his goals. Roosevelt and Churchill, the latter from an increasingly weakened position, had other aims and other negotiating styles. In this clash of wills and egos, history would judge that the British and Americans allowed themselves to be bullied and intimidated by Stalin.

Each of the three leaders brought his demands. Stalin’s most press­ing goal was to retain his vast territorial gains in Poland and install a pro-Soviet government in the country. This was to cause much wran­gling over the days that followed and dominated the agenda for seven of the eight plenary sessions. The Soviet leader held the upper hand, for his troops had already overrun eastern and central Europe, with much of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary under Red Army control.


President Roosevelt had two principal aims: to persuade the Soviet Union to join the war against Japan, which proved so costly in Amer­ican lives, and to cajole Stalin into accepting his proposals for a new organization, the United Nations. He believed that such a body was the only means of avoiding future global conflict.


Churchill’s overriding goal was to preserve the integrity and status of both Great Britain and her empire, which still ruled over a quarter of the world’s population. He also had strong views on Poland, on whose behalf Britain had first declared war on Nazi Germany. Above all else, he was determined to prevent postwar Europe from being dominated by the Soviet Union.


Stalin appeared in fine humor, yet behind the smiling facade was an ingrained distrust of both Churchill and Roosevelt. Just a few months earlier, he had described the British prime minister “as the kind of man who will pick your pocket of a kopeck if you don’t watch him!” As for the American president, Stalin said that Roosevelt “dips his hand only for bigger coins” It was an apt metaphor coming from one who had robbed a bank in his twenties. When Stalin stole, he did so on a grand scale.

America’s ambassador to the Soviet Union, W. Averell Harriman, sensed a peculiar dynamic between the two men. “I think Stalin was afraid of Roosevelt,” he said. “Whenever Roosevelt spoke, he watched him with a certain awe. He was afraid of Roosevelt’s influence in the world.” Harriman noted that Stalin never displayed the same sense of awe when talking with Churchill.

Stalin had good reason to feel confident. In the weeks before the conference, Soviet intelligence had supplied him with copies of the British strategy documents for the meeting. It meant Stalin knew London’s aims and weaknesses, and he knew the negotiating strategy Churchill planned to adopt. Correspondence between Churchill and Roosevelt, provided by the Cambridge spies Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, revealed the western Allies’ disagreements about the postwar Europe they wanted to see. Forewarned, forearmed, Stalin held the psychological advantage and used it to decisive effect. 

He knew, in particular, that the Americans and British were unsure about the solidity of their alliance and divided on their postwar aims. And he knew that the British feared the Soviet military might enough to avoid confrontation on some of the key divisive issues that would arise.

In Jill Rose’s Nursing Churchill: Wartime Life from the Private Letters of Winston Church ill’s Nurse Doris Miles speaks of him strolling down the corridor ‘with only a towel around him. Another of his nurses, Dorothy Pugh, records similar instances in her wartime diary. Terry Waite recalls, ‘We had a conversation in which she [nurse Pugh] mentioned that she had been the Matron to Churchill. She told me that Churchill wore the pajamas of that period with the open fly, which sometimes showed his private parts, and she would say, “Put it away, Winnie!” I feel they had a great closeness, God rest her soul.’ Commenting in ‘A Unique WWII Archive from Churchill’s Nurse’.

Soviet intelligence reports, some accurate, others exaggerated, deepened Stalin’s mistrust. His responses grew increasingly vehement. He made threats that were in turn viewed by the West as disproportionate and antagonistic. The self-amplifying cycle of antipathy pushed Washington and London towards the very hostility that Stalin had begun by imagining in them.

Churchill could no longer dismiss Stalin’s behavior as harmless. He wrote to him with a stark warning of the future that would emerge from a breakdown in East-West trust.

At Yalta in February 1945, Winston Churchill, a dying Franklin Roosevelt, and the cagey Joseph Stalin carved up Germany, with the Russians taking the eastern half and the Allies dividing up the West.


The carving up of Germany took place on 1 August 1945 at Potsdam with the signing of the Potsdam


Protocol by President Harry S.Truman, Prime Minister Clement Attlee, and Marshal Joseph Stalin, provisionally only until the signing of a peace treaty between the involved countries. At this point, Russia took over the northeastern part of East Prussia with Königsberg/Kaliningrad, Poland annexed the rest of East Prussia plus Pomerania, Eastern Brandenburg, and all of Silesia while Czechoslovakia annexed the Sudetenland, in all, 1/3 of autonomous prewar German territory.


The post-WWII German-Polish border was drawn southward from the Baltic along the Oder and Neisse rivers. Even though Pomerania’s capital Stettin/Szczecin (the birthplace of Catherine the Great, born in 1729 in Stettin) lies on the western side of the Oder river and consequently should still be German, it is today a Polish harbor city.


Despite occasional outbursts, the meeting at Yalta had been conducted in an atmosphere of goodwill. Potsdam, according to Hugh Lunghi, was ‘a bad-tempered conference’. The alliance of personalities, the human glue that held things together when politics were tearing them asunder, was dissolving. Roosevelt was dead; within a few days, Churchill would be out of office, replaced by Clement Attlee. By the end of the Potsdam gathering, only Stalin would remain from the wartime Big Three leaders.


 Late in February 1946, George Kennan, the No. 2 at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, sent his momentous “long telegram” to the State Department analyzing Stalin’s malign designs on Europe and sketching a containment strategy. A few weeks later, Churchill ventured to Missouri to give his epochal speech: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste on the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.


Stalin made the diplomatic wrangling moot 18 months later when the Soviets abruptly sealed off the roads and railways linking Berlin to the West and cut off sources of food, clean water, electricity, coal, and medicine from the east. The blockade meant starvation for the citizens of West Berlin and was designed to force the Allies to abandon the capital.


After using nuclear weapons against Japan, he would send an urgent message to the managers of the Soviet atomic program. ‘Hiroshima has shaken the whole world. The balance has been broken. Build the Bomb – it will remove the great danger from us.’ In the minds of many Soviet citizens, the demonstration of western nuclear might represented an imminent threat.


In August 1959, with his second term nearing its end, Eisenhower made the surprise announcement that he and Soviet premier Nikita S. Khrushchev would visit each other’s countries as a means of “thawing some of the ice” of the Cold War. Khrushchev’s trip to the United States in September 1959 resulted in plans for a four-power summit involving Great Britain and France and for Eisenhower’s visit to Russia in early summer 1960. Then, in May 1960, the Soviet Union shot down an American U-2 surveillance plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers. The ensuing collapse of the summit and the subsequent cancelation of Eisenhower’s trip to the Soviet Union amounted to a critical missed opportunity for improved US-Soviet relations at a crucial juncture in the Cold War.


Eisenhower’s prestige within the Soviet Union was so great, and the trip, if it had happened, could well have led to a détente in the increasingly dangerous US-Soviet relationship. Instead, the cancelation of Ike’s visit led to an escalation in hostilities that played out around the globe.


This led to the formation of NATO, the founding of the West German federal republic, with Konrad Adenauer as its first chancellor, and eventually, the unification of a Germany firmly allied with the Western democracies against Russian expansionism: the world as we know it today.


FDR and Churchill negotiated much of the end of the war at Yalta. Neither would see Potsdam through to the end. FDR died in office, and Churchill was voted out of office.


The Cold War thus began as a competition between capitalist and communist governments to expand their social contracts as they raced to deliver their people a better life. But the economic shocks of the 1970s made promises of better living untenable on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Energy and financial markets placed immense pressure on governments to discipline their social contracts. Rather than make promises, political leaders were forced to break them.


In the West, neoliberalism provided Western leaders like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher with the political and ideological tools to shut down industries, impose austerity, and favor the interests of capital over labor. But in Eastern Europe, revolutionaries like Lech Walesa in Poland resisted any attempt at imposing market discipline. Mikhail Gorbachev tried to reform the Soviet system in vain, but the necessary changes ultimately presented too great a challenge.

Faced with imposing economic discipline antithetical to communist ideals, Soviet-style governments found their legitimacy irreparably damaged. But in the West, politicians could promote austerity as an antidote to the excesses of ideological opponents, setting the stage for the rise of the neoliberal global economy.


To stop this, access to the West through West Berlin had to be cut off. In August 1961, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev authorized East German leader Walter Ulbricht to begin constructing what would become known as the Berlin Wall. The wall, started on Sunday, 13 August, would eventually surround the city, despite global condemnation, and the Berlin Wall itself would become the symbol for Communist re­pression in the Eastern Bloc. It also ended Khrushchev’s at­tempts to conclude a peace treaty among the Four Powers (the Soviets, the Americans, the United Kingdom, and France) and the two German states.


The CIA recognized the impact the Wall would have on their work in Berlin. The possibilities for obtaining information deteriorated significantly by September 1961, and the CIA feared morale would drop among its employees in the city. The staff of Berlin Operations Base (BOB) was to be reduced from around 95 to 75. The importance of BOB as an outpost in hostile territory diminished after 1961. This was especially true of what the Americans and the British called HUMINT (human intelligence), namely gathering intelligence by agents. Reconnaissance flights by the American U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union had been undertaken since the mid-1950s with great success. As will be seen, other indications of the changes taking place in the gathering of intelligence were the construction of the Berlin spy tunnel and the erection of large listening stations in the city. The focus on the human being as a source of information, as a secret agent, began to wane. Technological progress meant that telecommunications and electronic surveillance became the most essential tools of espionage.

When Gorbachev became general secretary in March 1985, following the death of the final interim leader, Konstantin Chernenko, he inherited the Soviet Union in economic and spiritual decline.

The first of their five summit meetings would take place within eight months of Gorbachev assuming office. ‘Time is short,’ he told Dobrynin. ‘We need to get to know Reagan and his plans, and most importantly, to launch a personal dialogue with the American president.’ The emphasis on personal rapport was new. Previous general secretaries had lacked anything approaching a personality and had been too sick, or their time in the post too short, for a meeting to be arranged with Reagan. Meeting face to face, Gorbachev told Reagan, could ‘create an atmosphere of trust between our countries … For trust is an especially sensitive thing, keenly receptive to both deeds and words. It will not be enhanced if, for example, one were to talk as if in two languages: one – for private contacts, and the other … for the audience.’1

When they met again a year later, in Reykjavik in October 1986, they were pals, calling each other by their first names and – astoundingly – giving serious thought to the dismantling of all nuclear weapons within ten years. The deal might have been struck, had Reagan not insisted on the right to continue the development of SDI. Gorbachev tried to look on the bright side. ‘In spite of all its drama, Reykjavik is not a failure,’ he told the final press conference. ‘It is a breakthrough, which allowed us for the first time to look over the horizon.’2

Many high officials struck up warm relations, too, in a way that was largely unthinkable in the recent past. The only people who did not get along were Raisa and Nancy.3

Gorbachev had gambled on his relationship with the West. He had banked on securing concessions for the Soviet Union in exchange for allowing the peaceful collapse of socialism in eastern Europe. But he had misread the psychology of the Cold War. The brief interlude of warm personal relations with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher persuaded him that the West might offer the USSR a way out of its dire economic and social predicament. But four decades of entrenched hostility could not be wiped away. With the communist monster at their mercy, the western powers were hardly going to take their foot off its throat. 

Gorbachev was surprised and affronted when the Americans rejected his request for big loans to help perestroika succeed. He complained that Bush had left him and the Soviet Union ‘to stew.’ But Gorbachev’s indignation, Anatoly Chernyaev wrote, was ‘the wail of a desperate man whose control over his country was visibly slipping away – of one who no longer understood what he was trying to achieve.

Three decades after the Cold War ended, the hopes for a new and more cooperative era in world politics have been lost. With the rise of China and the resurgence of Russia, today, there are once again global powers rivaling those of the West. We are now in a Second Cold War, and international security is under threat.


The Soviets had their own James Bonds. The hero of the 1974 film The Starling and the Lyre battles a western plot to sow discord between the USSR and her allies, makes long speeches about the US military-industrial complex, and enjoys a weepy romance with a female spy. In The Shield and the Sword, a title is drawn from the KGB’s service emblem (overleaf), secret agent Belov is pitched into action against the Nazis. By the time of his fourth film appearance, he was the poster boy of Soviet postwar espionage in the minds of millions, including that of the sixteen-year-old Vladimir Putin, who went straight from the cinema to volunteer his services to the KGB.


Continued in part two.



1. Anatoly Chernyaev, Notes from the Politburo Meeting, 21 January 1989, trans. Svetlana Savranskaya, The Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation, Cold War International History Project, Virtual ArchiveCWIHP.

2. See ‘Gorbachev: his life and times, William Taubman in discussion with Vladislav Zubok.

3. D. Reynolds, Summits: Six Meetings that Shaped the Twentieth Century, London, Allen Lane, 2007, p. 193.


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