March 25, 2022

In Ukraine, Biden must relearn Truman’s lessons from the cold war

Source: The Economist

Joe Biden entered the White House last year styling himself on Franklin Roosevelt. The better model today might be Harry Truman. His words to Congress 75 years ago this month—“It must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures”—girded America for the cold war. Those words have a new resonance as Ukraine, helped by the West, battles to resist Russia’s month-old invasion.


History suggests the boundaries of proxy conflicts can be dangerously fuzzy. Chinese “volunteer” forces fought against American troops in the Korean war of 1950-53, when America considered using atom bombs against them. Russians manned anti-aircraft batteries and, perhaps, flew missions against American aircraft in the Vietnam war of 1955-75.

“During the cold war the United States and the Soviet Union were at daggers drawn but usually did not stab each other directly,” explains Richard Fontaine of the Centre for a New American Security, a think-tank in Washington. Mr Putin has rattled his nuclear sabre, but American officials say they have detected no change in Russia’s nuclear posture, nor have they changed theirs.

Read the full story and more from The Economist.


  • Richard Fontaine

    Chief Executive Officer

    Richard Fontaine is the Chief Executive Officer of CNAS. He served as President of CNAS from 2012–19 and as Senior Fellow from 2009–12. Prior to CNAS, he was foreign policy ad...