Con­fronta­tion

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Michael Sex­ton

been ear­lier sig­nals in the form of the Hun­gar­ian up­ris­ing of 1956 and the Prague Spring in 1968 that led to the in­va­sion of Cze­choslo­vakia, but it was the grad­ual ex­po­sure of these coun­tries to Western con­sumer goods and pop­u­lar cul­ture that made change in­evitable.

The later years of the Cold War saw some ex­tra­or­di­nary al­liances. The US sup­ported China’s at­tack on Viet­nam, even though this was in re­sponse to Viet­nam’s de­feat of the Kh­mer Rouge in Cam­bo­dia. The Sovi­ets spent the 80s mired in a Viet­nam-like quag­mire in Afghanistan while the US sup­ported their Mu­ja­hed­din op­po­nents, some of whom later mor­phed into al-Qa’ida and the Tal­iban.

This book cov­ers a vast can­vas and one of its themes is that the Cold War was essen­tially a con­flict be­tween cap­i­tal­ism and so­cial­ism, al­though ar­guably this at­tributes an ide­o­log­i­cal con­tent to both sides that was never the dom­i­nant fac­tor in com­par­i­son with na­tion­al­ism and sim­ple su­per­power ri­valry. One of the cu­riosi­ties of the pe­riod was the sym­pa­thy of the left in Western coun­tries for the Soviet Union, de­spite the mil­lions who had been killed or sent to labour camps by the regime right up to the 50s.

All of this makes even more puz­zling the ef­forts by some mem­bers of the US congress and much of the Amer­i­can me­dia to launch a 21stcen­tury ver­sion of the Cold War with Rus­sia, de­spite the fact that it would not ap­pear to rep­re­sent any kind of threat to the US or to the West gen­er­ally.

If Rus­sia did try to in­flu­ence the re­sult of the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion — which no one has been able to es­tab­lish — there is no ev­i­dence that it had any im­pact on the re­sult.

It is still, of course, a (some­what di­min­ished) su­per­power and not pre­pared to tol­er­ate hos­tile regimes on its borders, but the hys­te­ria in Wash­ing­ton in re­cent times about Rus­sia is hard to un­der­stand. is the au­thor of War for the Ask­ing: How Aus­tralia In­vited It­self to Viet­nam.

Nikita Khrushchev, left, and John F. Kennedy led the Soviet Union and the US through the Cuban mis­sile cri­sis of 1962

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