The Best Defense

500 years from now, will history remember the USSR primarily as an ally of the United States?

It just might. Think about it: A historian trying to reach across the centuries might think that, sure, they had some jostling for more than four decades, but they never actually went to war with each other -- and, as it turned out, the most significant moment for the world in their relationship was when they were allies, from 1941 to 1945.

Truth be told, it likely was the Commies who were the most important partner. As Max Hastings writes in Winston's War, "Though the United States was by far the strongest global force in the Grand Alliance, the Soviet Union mobilised raw military power more effectively than either Western partner." On the other hand, the Soviet Union lasted about three-score and ten years, the lifetime of one person, according to the Bible. In the history books, that's a blip -- not so much an empire as a sustained tantrum.

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