‘The long years we spent plunged in the Cold War made losers of us all,’ Mikhail Gorbachev lamented after the collapse of the Soviet Union. By then, Gorbachev was unequivocally a loser himself – out of power and soon to be Russia’s least popular former leader, with ratings far lower than Stalin’s.
Americans do not share the sentiment that the Cold War was a net loss. They experienced the fall of the Berlin Wall and the magical disappearance of their Soviet enemy as victory and vindication. Odd Arne Westad, however, eschews any notion of the Cold War as a triumph. A Norwegian-born historian whose recent appointment at Harvard was preceded by a long career in Europe, Westad has long been one of the most persuasive advocates of the view that the Cold War was a tragedy for much of humanity, above all for those in the unfortunate battlegrounds where millions of lives were lost.