THE SPECTER OF COMMUNISM by Melvyn P. Leffler

THE SPECTER OF COMMUNISM

The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1917-1953
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A brief but thoughtful essay outlining the terrible misapprehensions that led to escalating tensions between the US and the Soviet Union from the close of WW I to the end of the Korean conflict. Although anti-Bolshevik feelings ran high even at the time of the Russian Revolution, fear of the USSR didn't dominate American foreign policy until after WW II. Drawing on materials newly available from Soviet, East European, and Chinese archives, Leffler (winner of the 1993 Bancroft Prize for A Preponderance of Power) deftly traces the history of US-Soviet relations in prÇcis, from the Bolsheviks' rise to power through the uneasy truce in Korea. Begining as an ideological clash, the tension between the two nations only gradually became a power struggle as well. Indeed, it was only when the USSR became a player on the same global scale as the US (albeit considerably weaker in key strategic areas after the pounding it took during WW II) that the Soviets were perceived as an active threat abroad. On the other hand, seen through the distorting mirror of obsessive anti-Communism, domestic American radicals were regarded as a danger almost from the first murmur of the word ``Bolshevik'' in the popular press, and it was the specter of homegrown subversion rather than foreign invasion that haunted American policies for a long time. Leffler retells this often familiar material methodically, using the new documentation to reveal Stalin as hesitant and tentative in foreign policy, primarily concerned with erecting a security buffer around Russia rather than building an evil empire. The portrait that emerges is of two superpowers-in-formation engaged in a grim dialogue of the deaf, with terrible consequences for humanity. Although much of the ground covered is well trod, this is an admirably complete introduction to the history of the Cold War.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-8090-8791-X
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1994




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