Cold War Publications | Wilson Center

Cold War Publications

Fearing the Worst: How Korea Transformed the Cold War

Nov 22, 2019
After World War II, the escalating tensions of the Cold War shaped the international system. Fearing the Worst explains how the Korean War fundamentally changed postwar competition between the United States and the Soviet Union into a militarized confrontation that would last decades.Samuel F. Wells Jr. examines how military and political events interacted to escalate the conflict. Decisions made by the Truman administration in the first six months of the Korean War drove both superpowers to intensify their defense buildup. American leaders feared the worst-case scenario—that Stalin was prepared to start World War III—and raced to build up strategic arms, resulting in a struggle they did not seek out or intend. Their decisions stemmed from incomplete interpretations of Soviet and Chinese goals, especially the belief that China was a Kremlin puppet. Yet Stalin, Mao, and Kim Il-sung all had their own agendas, about which the United States lacked reliable intelligence. Drawing on newly available documents and memoirs—including previously restricted archives in Russia, China, and North Korea—Wells analyzes the key decision points that changed the course of the war. He also provides vivid profiles of the central actors as well as important but lesser known figures. Bringing together studies of military policy and diplomacy with the roles of technology, intelligence, and domestic politics in each of the principal nations, Fearing the Worst offers a new account of the Korean War and its lasting legacy

From Mao to Deng: China’s Changing Relations with the United States

Nov 13, 2019
What is the meaning of China’s rise? What are its consequences? Are China, the rising power and the world’s second largest economy, and the United States, the dominant power in the world, likely to chart a perilous course toward the “Thucydides’s Trap”? History alone does not provide direct answers to these critical questions. Yet, reflections on the history of Chinese-American relations in the 20th-century—and the past four decades in particular—may offer some time-tested wisdom, thus letting us occupy a more informed and discerning position to deal with vital challenges facing both the United States and China.

"Is the Possibility of a Third World War Real?" Researching Nuclear Ukraine in the KGB Archive

Mar 18, 2019
The archive of the Ukrainian KGB is open and full of former Soviet nuclear secrets. Nate Jones presents new evidence drawn from KGB documents and other eastern and western sources to examine Ukrainian and Soviet nuclear history.

The Origins of North Korea-Vietnam Solidarity: The Vietnam War and the DPRK

Feb 21, 2019
Drawing on diverse sources from around the world, Benjamin R. Young argues that Kim Il Sung inserted North Korea into the Vietnam War in order to strengthen his own international reputation and to consolidate his domestic control.

New Russian Evidence on Soviet-Cuban Relations, 1960-61: When Nikita Met Fidel, the Bay of Pigs, and Assassination Plotting

Feb 06, 2019
The forging of the Soviet-Cuban alliance in the years after Fidel Castro’s revolution took power in January 1959, in sync with a deepening split between Washington and Havana, was one of the tectonic developments of the Cold War. Much evidence has emerged, especially on the Soviet side, on relations between the two communist countries and their charismatic leaders, Castro and Nikita Khrushchev, climaxing with the October 1962 missile crisis.

The British Royal Air Force: Operations over Laos against the Ho Chi Minh Trail, 1962

Dec 14, 2018
Inconclusive rumors that the British Royal Air Force (RAF) flew occasional covert missions in the Vietnam War have circulated for decades, but so far evidence that British aircraft provided anything more than humanitarian relief services, notably by delivering supplies earmarked for refugees, has proved elusive. It seems, however, that in the second half of 1962, in great secrecy a series of such flights took place. These missions were intended to assist with newly initiated US attempts to interdict and shut down the increasingly effective Ho Chi Minh Trail logistical network of roads, paths, and bunkers that transported supplies from communist North Vietnam via Cambodia and Laos to supporters in South Vietnam.

The Chinese Communist Party’s Relationship with the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s: An Ideological Victory and a Strategic Failure

Dec 13, 2018
Utilizing untapped Chinese primary sources, including official documents, the biographies and memoirs of the CCP cadres involved in managing the relationship with the Khmer Rouge, and in particular the memoirs of ethnic Chinese in Cambodia, this paper argues that, under Mao Zedong, the Chinese Communist Party's policies towards the Khmer Rouge were subordinate to Mao’s political needs and shaped primarily by his efforts to safeguard the Cultural Revolution. But in the end, Mao’s “ideological victory” translated into a strategic failure for China’s post-Mao leadership.

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