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Safeguarding Democratic CapitalismU.S. Foreign Policy and National Security, 1920-2015$
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Melvyn P Leffler

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691196510

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691196510.001.0001

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The American Conception of National Security and the Beginnings of the Cold War, 1945–1948

The American Conception of National Security and the Beginnings of the Cold War, 1945–1948

(p.117) 4 The American Conception of National Security and the Beginnings of the Cold War, 1945–1948
Safeguarding Democratic Capitalism

Melvyn P. Leffler

Princeton University Press

This chapter considers how the concept of national security evolved. It demonstrates that U.S. military officers and their civilian leaders did not think that the Kremlin was poised to engage in premeditated military aggression during the Cold War. They did not think Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin wanted to begin another war. They grasped Stalin's view of his own military vulnerabilities and intuited that he wished to avoid military conflict. Nonetheless, U.S. officials felt threatened. They felt threatened precisely because of the lessons they had learned from World War II itself and the definition of America's vital interests that waging World War II had taught them. They had learned that an adversary, or coalition of adversaries, that conquered other countries could assimilate their resources into their own military machine, wage aggressive war, and challenge America's vital interests. Although the Kremlin seemed unlikely to wage war, it nevertheless had the capacity to gain indirect leverage or control over many countries in Europe and Asia because of the political ferment, economic chaos, social strife, and revolutionary nationalist fervor that existed in the aftermath of war.

Keywords:   Cold War, national security, Soviet Union, World War II, indirect control, military history

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