Summary of "Cold War Parties and Issues"

Summary of

Cold War Parties and Issues

By Louis Kriesberg

This Article Summary written by: Tanya Glaser, Conflict Research Consortium 

Louis Kriesberg, "Cold War Parties and Issues," from International Conflict Resolution, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992) 26-30.

Kriesberg examines the parties and issues involved in the Cold War. Who the parties to the Cold War conflict were can be difficult to decide. It can be described as a conflict between democracy and totalitarianism, between imperialism and socialism, between NATO and the Warsaw Pact nations, or between the leaders of the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Kriesberg focuses on the American and Soviet governments as the main parties to the Cold War conflict.

Kriesberg examines the U.S. and Soviet interests which fueled the Cold War. Both sides had certain realistic goals. The U.S. was interested in maintaining its global economic power, in reducing Soviet control of eastern Europe, and in improving human rights for Soviet citizens. The U.S.S.R. was interested in gaining acceptance in the international community, legitimating its control in Eastern Europe, and expanding its sphere of influence.

Both sides had some misunderstanding of the other's interests. Each nation claimed to be acting only in their own defense, each had strong domestic reasons for expanding their military, yet each saw the other's actions as threatening and aggressive. As the Cold War wore on, the issues of the conflict were often vague and unclear. When relevant, ideological issues tended to escalate the conflict. Competing U.S. and Soviet programs tended to spark more specific disputes, over the Middle East or Germany, for example. The specific issues in such disputes tended to be muddied by their connection to the larger issues of the Cold War. The U.S. and the U.S.S.R. also had common interests. Both wanted to avoid nuclear war. Both would benefit from reduced military spending, and from more open cultural and scientific exchanges. By cooperating, they could prevent third parties from challenging their global dominance.