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The question that Canadian diplomatic, political and military leaders are now confronted with is not so much whether there will be a cold war between China and the West — it’s whether or not we call it a “cold war.” It can easily be argued that we shouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean we won’t go through something that is awfully cold war-like. The first Cold War, between Western democracies, led by the United States, and the Soviet Union, had very particular features born of geography and history. You cannot begin to understand the Cold War until you appreciate the fact that dozens of Soviet army divisions were within a distressingly short drive of the heart of Western Europe (and at times, it probably really would have been a mere matter of driving). You cannot begin to understand it if you do not appreciate how transformative it was when the United States and the Soviet Union rose to become the world’s only superpowers, with all of the great empires of European history either outright destroyed, as in Germany, humiliated and broken, as in France, or triumphant but broke, as in the United Kingdom.

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