Men of steel

“Stalin was a new kind of tsar, a people’s tsar, driven as much by an age-old paranoia—in his case both national and personal—in dealing with the West, a man with little interest or belief in the possibilities of a postwar alliance. By 1950, the Harry Truman who had made the first rather sympathetic run at Stalin was long gone. He had been replaced by a blunt, considerably more suspicious president who felt that the earlier Truman, the one who had ventured to Potsdam, had been ‘an innocent idealist.’ Stalin for his part had gotten Truman as wrong as Truman had gotten him. After they met at Potsdam, Stalin, like various conservative American politicians, had significantly, perhaps dangerously, underestimated the new American president, telling Nikita Khrushchev, then a rising star in the Soviet bureaucracy, that Truman was worthless. A great power chess game had followed the end of the war, inevitably so, given the power vacuum in the world with the collapse of Britain, France, Germany, and Japan, and the disintegration of their empires. By the time of the North Korean invasion [of South Korea], the Cold War had reached its most intense level save for the nuclear abyss the two powers faced during the Cuban Missile Crisis a dozen years later.” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter

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