A superficial glance of Novikov’s response might not surprise a casual reader. Indeed, the telegram mirrors what a typical high school student might expect from a Soviet document vilifying the United States. Not only did Novikov accuse the U.S. of desiring “world domination,” for example, but he also criticized unfair “monopoly capital[ism],” which in his view permitted U.S. expansion into Eurasia. Yet Novikov’s reply also reveals deeper insights into how the Soviets viewed themselves in the world. Normally, the Soviets portrayed themselves as a legitimate (and equally powerful) alternative to American hegemony. The launch of Sputnik in 1956, for instance, led the Soviets to tout communism’s superiority over capitalism (and Americans to fret over their lackluster science curriculum). Yet many parts of Novikov’s response portray the USSR as an underdog overcoming an imperialistic power – a portrayal strikin...
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...e – contrary to what Truman believed. At the very least, the U.S. significantly misunderstood Soviet intentions regarding the 1947 Greek Civil War. Indeed, while the Truman Doctrine advocated giving Greece and Turkey $400 million based on assumed Soviet interference in the area, Stalin actually did not give any assistance to the Greek communists. (In fact, the Russian dictator even explicitly ordered Yugoslavian dictator Josip Tito to withdraw his own support. ) Hence, Novikov’s portrayal of his country as an ascending underdog desiring independence more than imperialist domination may not have been a mere ideological invention. Instead, perhaps early Cold War Russia truly did desire to live in peaceful competition with the United States, making the worst instances of the Cold War preventable incidents arising from groundless suspicions and needless miscommunication.
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