Famous Quotes – Cold War

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“We have to get tough with the Russians. They don’t know how to behave. They are like bulls in a china shop. They are only 25 years old. We are over 100 and the British are centuries older.  We have got to teach them how to behave.”
Harry Truman, April 1945″From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”
Winston Churchill, March 5, 1946

“The seeds of totalitarian regimes are nurtured by misery and want.”
Harry S. Truman, March 3, 1947 (ahead of the Marshall Plan).

“People of this world, look upon this city and see that you should not and cannot abandon this city and this people.”
Ernst Reuter, Mayor of West Berlin during the Berlin blockade, September 9, 1948

“The reason why we find ourselves in a position of impotency is not because the enemy has sent men to invade our shores, but rather because of the traitorous actions of those who have had all the benefits that the wealthiest nation on earth has had to offer – the finest homes, the finest college educations, and the finest jobs in Government we can give.”
Joseph McCarthy, February 9, 1950.

“In the simplest of terms, what we are doing in Korea is this: We are trying to prevent a third world war.”
Harry S. Truman, April 16, 1951

“He suddenly opened his eyes and looked at everyone in the room. It was a terrible gaze, mad or maybe furious and full of fear of death… Then something incomprehensible and frightening happened. … He suddenly lifted his left hand as though he were pointing to something above and bringing down a curse on us all. … The next moment, after a final effort, the spirit wrenched itself free of the flesh.”
Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, recounting her father’s death on March 3, 1953.

“Senator; you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”
Joseph Welch, US Army Attorney, to Joseph McCarthy, June 9, 1954.

“If you don’t like us, don’t accept our invitations and don’t invite us to come to see you. Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you.”
Nikita Khrushchev, November 18, 1956

“America has been in existence for 150 years and this is the level she has reached. We have existed not quite 42 years and in another seven years we will be on the same level as America. When we catch you up, in passing you by, we will wave to you.”
Nikita Khrushchev, July 24, 1959

“The Earth is blue… how wonderful. It is amazing”
Yuri Gagarin, April 12, 1961 (during his space flight)

“Nobody intends to put up a wall!”
Walter Ulbricht, Leader of the GDR, June 15, 1961 – 2 months before the Berlin Wall was erected.

“A wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.”
John F. Kennedy, August 1961 (on the construction of the Berlin Wall)

“Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.”
John F. Kennedy, September 25, 1961

“I am a Marxist-Leninist and I will be one until the last day of my life.”
Fidel Castro, December 2, 1961

“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on. Ideas have endurance without death.”
John F. Kennedy, December 14, 1962.

“Berlin is the testicles of the West, every time I want the West to scream, I squeeze on Berlin.”
Nikita Khrushchev, 1962.

“Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. When all are free, then we can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great Continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe. When that day finally comes, as it will, the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were in the front lines for almost two decades. All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words Ich bin ein Berliner.”
John F. Kennedy, June 26, 1963.

“There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass’ sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin.”
John F. Kennedy, June 26, 1963.

“[Communism] has never come to power in a country that was not disrupted by war or internal corruption or both.”
John F. Kennedy, July 1963

“The survivors (of a nuclear war) would envy the dead.”
Nikita Khrushchev, July 20, 1963

“In free society art is not a weapon…Artists are not engineers of the soul.”
John F. Kennedy, October 26, 1963

“If you (the USA) start throwing hedgehogs under me, I shall throw a couple of porcupines under you.”
Nikita Khrushchev, November 7, 1963.

“We are not going to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.”
Lyndon B. Johnson, October 21, 1964 on US involvement in the Vietnam War.

“Capitalism is using its money; we socialists throw it away.”
Fidel Castro, November 8, 1964

“You have opened a new chapter in the relations of the American and Chinese people… I am confident that this beginning of our friendship will certainly meet with majority support of our two peoples.”
Chou En-lai, Chinese premier, April 14, 1971 on the US ping-pong team’s visit to China.

“There can be no whitewash at the White House.”
Richard Nixon, April 30, 1973

“No words can describe the depths of my regret and pain at the anguish my mistakes over Watergate have caused the nation and the presidency – a nation I so deeply love and an institution I so greatly respect.”
Richard Nixon, September 8, 1974.

“When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”
Richard Nixon, May 19, 1977

“Under Lenin the Soviet Union was like a religious revival, under Stalin like a prison, under Khrushchev like a circus, and under Brezhnev like the U.S. Post Office.”
Jimmy Carter, November 7, 1977

“This is the moment of your defeat; you have just put in the last nails in the coffin of communism.”
Lech Walesa, December 13, 1981

“Regimes planted by bayonets do not take root.”
Ronald Reagan, June 8, 1982

“I like Mr Gorbachev, we can do business together.”
Margaret Thatcher commenting on the new Soviet leader, December 17, 1984.

“Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Ronald Reagan, June 12, 1987

“The threat of a world war is no more.”
Mikhail Gorbachevfarewell speech signifying the end of the USSR and the Cold War, December 1991.

“By the grace of God, America won the cold war.”
George Bush, Snr., January 28, 1992

Read about the Cold War in The Cold War: History In An Hour by Rupert Colley, published by Harper Press and available in digital formats and audio.

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The Kitchen Debate – Cold War: Hot Kitchen

The Cold War and its ongoing ideological, political, cultural battle was encapsulated by two men, both seemingly polite, arguing in a showroom kitchen in what has become known as the ‘Kitchen Debate’.

The two men were Nikita Khrushchev, Soviet Premier, and Richard Nixon, the US Vice President. The occasion, on 24 July 1959, was the American National Exhibition in Sokolniki Park in Moscow, part of a cultural exchange between the two superpowers. Although in Moscow, this was an American exhibition and Nixon, for the benefit of Khrushchev, was its proud host.

Communism v. Capitalism

At times polite, at times restrained, mocking, jibing, or heated, the two men debated the relative merits of communism and capitalism, from nuclear weapons to washing machines, over several hours across many venues. At one point Nixon makes his point by jabbing his finger into Khrushchev’s chest whilst the Soviet leader listens, his bottom lip jutting out in anger.

But it was the image of Nixon and Khrushchev leaning on the railing in front of the model General Electric kitchen, surrounded by interpreters and reporters that captured the moment. The Cold War in a make-believe kitchen. Standing behind Nixon, looking somewhat distracted, is future Soviet premier and Khrushchev’s successor, Leonid Brezhnev.

The make-believe kitchen

The kitchen was part of a showroom house which, according to Nixon, almost any worker in America could afford. “We have such things,” said Khrushchev, adding that they had much the same for the Russian worker, but better built.

Nixon boasted of the processes and appliances available to the modern American housewife, “In America, we like to make life easier for women”. Khrushchev shot back, “Your capitalistic attitude toward women does not occur under communism”.

Khrushchev, exasperated and perhaps intimidated by the display of modernity, asked, “Don’t you have a machine that puts food into the mouth and pushes it down? Many things you’ve shown us are interesting but they are not needed in life. They have no useful purpose. They are merely gadgets.”

“We will wave to you.”

In one notable exchange Khrushchev asks Nixon how long America had been in existence, “Three hundred years?” he asks, making the mistake to emphasis a point. 150 years, Nixon corrects him.

Khrushchev’s answer captured the essence of the Soviet Union’s paranoia and jealousy of the USA: “One hundred and fifty years? Well then, we will say America has been in existence for 150 years and this is the level she has reached. We have existed not quite 42 years and in another seven years we will be on the same level as America. When we catch you up, in passing you by, we will wave to you.”

Of course it didn’t quite work out that way.

 Rupert Colley

Read more about the Cold War in The Cold War: History In An Hour available in various digital formats and audio.

See also article on Ping-Pong Diplomacy.

Richard Nixon – a summary

The 37th president of the US, Richard Milhous Nixon remains the only US president to have resigned from office.

Born the second of five sons to Quaker parents in California on 9 January 1913, Richard Nixon practised law from 1937 to 1942 and then served in the US Navy in the Pacific during World War Two, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander. As a Republican Congressman, Nixon showed great zealous and deep patriotism in unmasking ‘Un-American activities’ during the 1950s McCarthy era of communist witchhunts. He made his name in his rigorous prosecution of Alger Hiss, a high-ranking State Department official accused of passing information to the Soviets.

The Vice-President

Richard Nixon was elected to the Senate in 1950, aged 36, where his dealing with political opponents earned him the nickname, ‘Tricky Dicky’. From 1953 to 1961 Nixon served as Dwight Eisenhower‘s vice-president. But allegations of financial irregularity almost finished his career and in 1952 Nixon had to defend himself on television – at the time a revolutionary use of this new medium. In answer to the charge that he had been accepting financial gifts, Nixon responded by saying the only gift he ever accepted was a puppy named Checkers for his daughter. The “Checkers” speech helped Nixon survive.

As vice president, Nixon helped Eisenhower retain the presidency, winning the 1956 elections. In 1960, Nixon stood for president. The campaign saw the first televised US presidential debate between Nixon and his Democrat rival, John F Kennedy. Those that listened on the radio put Nixon ahead but those who saw the four debates on television were swayed less by what was said and more by what they saw – a smooth, confident Kennedy versus an underweight, sweaty Nixon with a perpetual five o’clock shadow. In the end, Kennedy won the election by the narrowest of margins, winning the popular vote 49.7 percent to Nixon’s 49.5 percent. An embittered Nixon blamed the pro-Kennedy media.

The President

Failure two years later in his bid for Governor of California marked the low-ebb of Richard Nixon’s pre-presidential career. He retired from politics, telling reporters, “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.” He moved to New York, returning to law. However, after six years, in November 1968, and following President Johnson’s decision not to rerun for office, Nixon re-emerged and stood again for president, promising to “bring us together”, and pledging the gradual withdrawal of troops from Vietnam.

This time, aged 55, he was successful, becoming the 37th president of the US. True to his promise, Nixon gradually handed back the organisation of the day-to-day military operations to the South Vietnamese in what he called a policy of ‘Vietnamization’. Following the Paris Accords with communist North Vietnam in January 1973, the last American soldiers left Vietnam in March that year. (The war, however, was set to continue for a further two years until, in 1975, North Vietnam conquered South Vietnam and reunited the country under communist rule.)

During his first tenure as president, the US landed the first person on the moon.


Nixon advanced the Cold War period of détente, an acknowledgement of the differences between the East and the West and an attempt to make the world a more secure place. He oversaw the SALT agreements (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) with the Soviet Union, aimed at mutual limitation of aggressive weapons and recognised the People’s Republic of China. He visited both China (February 1972) and the Soviet Union (May 1972). But still a fervent anti-communist, Nixon helped undermine communist rule in Chile, resulting in Augusto Pinochet’s seizure of power and the removal and suicide of Salvador Allende, the first Marxist to have become president of a Latin American country through open elections. (Although Allende is believed to have taken his life there is still speculation that he was assassinated during the overthrow).


Nixon won a landslide election in 1972 with 61% of the popular vote and winning 49 of the 50 states, the first of only two presidents to have done so (the second, in 1984, was Ronald Reagan). But the Nixon era came to a premature end when a bungled burglary on the Democratic Party’s HQ in Washington DC started a trail that led right to the White House and the heart of government. Nixon’s attempt to cover-up his involvement only led to his downfall. Nixon initially denied any personal involvement, but the courts obliged him to relinquish tape recordings which showed that he had, in fact, tried to cover up and mislead the investigation. His claim that “when the president does it, that means it is not illegal,” did not wash. Public opinion put legality above state brinkmanship and on 8 August 1974, rather than face impeachment, Nixon announced his decision to resign – in order to begin “that process of healing which is so desperately needed in America.” He duly resigned the following day, the only president in American history to do so.

“A nation I so deeply love.”

Within a month, his successor and former vice president, Gerald Ford, unconditionally pardoned the disgraced ex-president. In reply, Nixon said, “No words can describe the depths of my regret and pain at the anguish of my mistakes over Watergate have caused the nation and presidency, a nation I so deeply love and an institution I so greatly respect.”

Richard Nixon retired to California and died of a stroke, aged 81, on 22 April 1994.

Rupert Colley
See also Nixon and Khrushchev and the Kitchen Debate, and Ping-Pong Diplomacy.
Read more about the Cold War in The Cold War: History In An Hour published by Harper Press and available in various digital formats and audio.