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