To Run the World: The Kremlin’s Cold War Bid for Global Power

Cambridge Univ. May 2024. 450p. ISBN 9781108477352. $34.95. POL SCI
Historian Radchenko (global affairs, Johns Hopkins Sch. of Advanced International Studies; Unwanted Visionaries) provides a fresh and deeply researched history of Soviet foreign policy. His engaging and narrative, sometimes presented with a dose of irony, begins in 1945. It features a massive trove of recently available material, mostly official sources from the former Soviet Union, China, and the United States. The author says these powers shaped Soviet policy through more derivative actors, such as Willy Brandt and Ho Chi Minh. Personal relationships among Soviet leaders, with their allies and adversaries, such as Mao Zedong and Kim Il-Sung, revealed little known episodes, such as the impact of destalinization. From Stalin through Gorbachev, the book shows remarkably similar strategic objectives, such as power and international status. Radchenko gives less attention to some areas, including the Balkans. He makes the case that it was Gorbachev’s “new thinking,” driven by the restructuring of economic and political systems, that ended the Cold War.
VERDICT A remarkably balanced, brilliant, ambitious, durable work of scholarship, combining histories of the Cold War with Soviet foreign policy. A good read-alike is Adam Ulam’s Expansion and Coexistence: The History of Soviet Foreign Policy, 1917–67.
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