The Cold War Through The Looking Glass

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The Cold War has now passed into history. But the transition is far from complete. We stand at the beginning of a new phase of the transitional period and again face a real danger of new (so far limited, nonnuclear) armed conflicts. And God forbid that my Father’s prophecy—that as soon as a nonnuclear war seriously affects the interests of the world’s great powers, it will inevitably grow into a nuclear conflict—should come to pass. Again, just as forty years ago, our fate, the fate of the world and of humankind, depends on the wisdom of the political leaders in power.

The next historical fork in the road is now visible. We can choose the path that now appears to the strong (we don’t know who will be strong tomorrow) to be the simple and easy one: that of imposing order by fire and the sword. But this path is easy only at first, since the mindless use of force will provoke the rest of the world to increase its military and nuclear might, and the result will at best be a new spiral in something similar to the Cold War, but with new participants. At worst. … One doesn’t even want to imagine.

The leaders who replaced Father hurried to “correct his mistakes,” and the Cold War was prolonged by twenty years.

Or we can choose another path, the complicated, long, and tedious one of introducing a new world order by strengthening world institutions, primarily the United Nations. That holds no appeal for political cowboys, but the UN’s seemingly excessive bureaucratization, its habit of following every conceivable and inconceivable bureaucratic procedure, suppresses inflamed emotions and allows for consideration of the contradictory diversity of positions held by dissenting countries. Here is where we can detect the wisdom of the founding fathers of the United Nations. I think it would be just as counterproductive to neglect their counsel as to rewrite the American Constitution. UN procedures irritate the world’s politicians, just as they irritated my father in the 1960s, but that only confirms that those who devised this balanced system knew what they were doing. We can make progress only along this path. All others will lead the world into a vicious circle, from which it will always be difficult to break loose.