Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

The West Needs a Cure for Cold War Fever

By Edward Lucas

05 Jul 2022 · 8 min read

Editor's Note

The author, who had been warning the West about a resurgent Russia since early 2000s weighs in on what is the endgame for this new cold war era.

The less you know about the old Cold War, the more you’ll be tempted to feel nostalgia—or shivers down your spine. One narrative glorifies the decadeslong conflict as a time of crystalline moral clarity—a Manichean struggle between good and evil, pursued with exemplary collective purpose and discipline. It ended in triumph with the collapse of communism: the disintegration first of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe and then of the Soviet Union itself. Never mind that the East-West struggle played out very differently for many countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, where it was an era of proxy wars fueled by ruthless superpower competition.

Another all-too-simple narrative sees the Cold War as a barely avoided apocalypse. The terrifying era of nuclear brinkmanship was marked by near-disasters including the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and the 1983 Able Archer incident, where the Kremlin misinterpreted a NATO exercise of that name as preparations for a surprise attack. If the Cold War ended peacefully, this narrative goes, it was only by the skin of our teeth. Had we been just a tad less lucky, I wouldn’t be here to write this article, nor would you be here to read it.

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