Quotes / History of the Cold War

"Neither side would allow themselves to believe the other side was as frightened as they were."
Senior British intelligence officer, quoted in Peter Hennesey's The Secret State: Preparing for the Worst 1945-2010 (2010) p.1

"The Cold War didn't just end, it was won!"
Society of the Strategic Air Command, Motto

"For 40 years we were led to think of the Russians as godless, materialistic and an evil empire. When the Cold War ended, we suddenly discovered that Russia was a poor Third World country. They had not been equipped to take over the world. In fact, they were just trying to improve a miserable standard of oppressive living, and couldn't. They had to spend too much on arms build-up. We didn't win the Cold War; we bankrupted the Russians. In effect, it was a big bank exhausting the reserves of a smaller one."
Norman Mailer noting the Soviet state's inability to reign in the military-industrial complex (>30% of GDP in the '80s)

"Some American politicians and pundits are too quick to claim that containment of Soviet Communism worked. Those who do usually have even today only a very vague idea about the country that was the target of containment. Reagan's overzealous admirers continue to claim that his anti-Communist crusade and SDI won the Cold War. [However,] it was Reagan the peacemarker, negotiator, and supporter of nuclear disarmament, not the cold warrior, who made the greatest contribution to international history. [...] However misguided, Gorbachev's 'new thinking' ensured a peaceful end to one of the most protracted and dangerous rivalries in contemporary history. [...] Gorbachev and those who supported him were not prepared to shed blood for the cause they did not believe in and for the empire they did not profit from. Instead of fighting back, the Soviet socialist empire, perhaps the strangest empire in modern history, committed suicide."
Vladislav Zubok, A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev (2007), pp.343-344

Indeed, as I explain in 'Camus and Sartre', the Cold War itself, its demand that everyone take sides in a pitched struggle of good against evil — to which Sartre and Camus fell victim and became accomplices in their distinctive ways — converted the authors' tragic world-historical conflict into a mere morality play. If one was right, it seemed, then the other had to be wrong, and their story lacked complexity and interest...Both adversaries deserve to be seen with understanding and sympathy, as well as critically...After their split, the Cold War's either/or demands would dominate the Left: supporting revolutionary social change often meant becoming indifferent to political freedom; defending political freedom often meant rejecting the only significant project challenging capitalism. Much of the Left learned to justify one side or the other. Thus were the hopes of a generation to move toward socialism and freedom — both Sartre's and Camus' hope in the postwar period — to be dashed. People on the Left were pressured to make an impossible choice between what became Sartre's grim realism (communism as the only path to meaningful change) and Camus' visceral rejection of communism (which left him unable to identify himself with any significant force struggling for change). Sartre and Camus voiced the half-rights and half-wrongs, the half-truths and half-lies of what became the tragedy of the Left—not only in France but across the world — for at least the next generation.
Ronald Aronson, "Sartre versus Camus: The Unresolved Conflict".