Saturday, February 28, 2009

Cold War may have been by mistake

It seems the Cold War may have happened by mistake. After Stalin’s death between 1953 and 1955 there was an opportunity for détente. The USSR applied to join NATO and offered to reunify Germany on condition of it being neutral and demilitarised. And they really meant it. They weren't acting the maggot, as they say here in Ireland. So says Prof. Geoff Roberts of University College Cork (UCC)..

This is not an original idea, he says, people in the West were saying this at the time. The point is, after going to Moscow to study the archives of the foreign ministry, he concludes this contemporary view, that the Soviet proposals were in earnest, was well-founded.

What about the West’s politicians? Did they (a) share his view of Soviet good faith, take it for a sign of weakness, and decide to put the boot in? Or (b) did they not believe that the Soviets' proposals were serious?

His answer - Western politicians genuinely doubted Russian good faith. So in this sense both sides were acting in good faith, insofar as both sides genuinely believed the other was in bad faith. Lefties and liberals in the West were for détente. Western governments feared these elements were being duped. The Soviets ran a sophisticated campaign amongst the populations of the West, they didn’t just rely on diplomatic channels.

All this is from a UCC History Postgraduate Seminar, 25.02.2009. Anyone is entitled to walk in off the street to attend these seminars, but so far as I can tell, I am the only one who does so.

Prof. Roberts has covered the Soviet collective security campaign in the 1950’s in “A Chance for Peace? The Soviet Campaign to End the Cold War, 1953-1955” (Cold War International History Project Working Paper No.57) (63 pages)