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The rivalry that forged the Cold War

America, Russia, and Political Warfare, 1945-2020
By Tim Weiner

Tim Weiner’s “The Folly and the Glory” provides a sweeping, lively survey of the worldwide competition between the Soviet Union (and later, Russia) and the United States since the end of World War II. Weiner has, in abundance, the knowledge and experience required to write such a book. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988 while at The Philadelphia Inquirer. Later, he worked for The New York Times from various parts of the world and then became its national security correspondent. His 2007 history of the C.I.A., “Legacy of Ashes,” won a National Book Award. That was but one of his many acclaimed books.

His latest, “The Folly and the Glory,” covers numerous landmark events dating back to the beginnings of the Cold War rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States. These include the creation of the Marshall Plan and NATO; the 1953 C.I.A.-backed coup in Iran that restored the shah’s monarchy; the Red Army’s crushing of revolts in East Germany, Hungary and Czechoslovakia; the rise of Poland’s anti-Communist Solidarity movement; Mikhail Gorbachev’s failed reforms together with the Soviet Union’s implosion; and Vladimir Putin’s land grab in Ukraine as well as his meddling in the 2016 American presidential campaign.

The odds of doing justice, in a relatively short book, to such multitudinous and tangled events over 75 years are slim. Occasionally, Weiner slows his speedy stride through history for deeper probes into particular episodes, but one wonders why those, rather than others, merit case studies. The murder of the Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba and Washington’s embrace of his kleptocratic successor, Mobutu Sese Seko, occupy virtually an entire chapter; Libya’s civil war rates barely a page, and Syria’s not even that.

Read the full book review in The New York Times.

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