Dr. Simeon Paravantes

War Historian (Utrecht University)

There are many misconceptions about the legacy of the Cold War and the relations between the Liberal Democratic world, its institutions and values, and the world that the Soviet Union was striving to bring into existence. The profound difference between these two worlds in terms of values, the role of the state, the role of the individual, and the rights and obligations of both, meant that conflict was inevitable. I believe that a more complete understanding of the Cold War helps us to re-discover the values upon which open societies function, and what it is that make such societies unique in human history. It also helps us understand that in international relations and the study of the ways in which states exercise power, often there are no ‘good’ decisions, just decisions between options with varying degrees of foreseeable negative consequences. Often, those in power are simply trying to      mitigate those negative outcomes, when doing nothing is no longer an option. In saying this however, no exoneration is intended for those in power during the Cold War, whose decisions impacted the lives of millions. Nor is the intention to say that everything done in the name of one civilization or the other was wise or good. Rather, the objective is just to re-iterate how complicated human history truly is, and to show how large narratives of history often overlook the nuance and complexity that a historicist view of the past embraces.


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