“The world can sigh in relief,” Russian leader Boris Yeltsin declared soon after the Soviet Union staggered to its death. “The idol of communism, which spread everywhere social strife, animosity and unparalleled brutality, which instilled fear in humanity, has collapsed.”[i]

Yeltsin wasn’t exaggerating. For most the 20th century, the ideology Vladimir Lenin let loose upon the world and the empire Joseph Stalin constructed around the world sowed a harvest of death, destruction and brutality. Thirty years after the USSR’s end, humanity is still wading through the wreckage; history is still counting the costs; and the Free World is still wrestling with totalitarian regimes modeled after Lenin’s terror. 

“They turned upon Russia the most grisly of weapons,” Winston Churchill wrote of Germany’s decision to load Lenin onto a train in 1917 and unleash him onto his homeland: “Lenin in a sealed truck like a plague bacillus.” Neither Russia nor the world would ever be the same. The immediate effect was exactly what Germany desired. Lenin’s revolution felled the Russian Empire and removed Russia from the Great War. But there were far more lasting consequences. Lenin’s regime would become one of the greatest enemies of freedom, faith, peace and humanity the world has even known.

President Ronald Reagan labeled the USSR an “evil empire”—and rightly so. We can measure its evil in many ways, but perhaps the simplest way is its utter contempt for human life.

To build his workers’ paradise, Lenin murdered some six million people; Stalin erased three times as many.[ii]Stalin’s collectivization swept seven million people into Siberian work camps, culled 148 million heads of livestock and destroyed countless tons of grain. The ensuing manmade famine killed 10 million people.[iii]

Soviet communism, Churchill ominously concluded, had ushered in “an animal form of barbarism.” And just as he predicted, it spread like a plague.

The Black Book of Communism catalogues the “state-sponsored reign of terror” and “multitude of crimes…against individual human beings…world civilization and national cultures” spawned by communism. In the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the toll of importing Soviet-style government by mass-murder was 65 million human lives; in North Korea 2 million; in Cambodia 2 million; in Vietnam 1 million. Communist regimes in Africa (1.7 million), Afghanistan (1.5 million), Eastern Europe (1 million) and Latin America (150,000) also learned Lenin’s ways of murder on an industrial scale.[iv]

With 100 million corpses in their wake,[v]Lenin and his heirs altered the world’s very ethnic composition. Communism’s victims are every creed, every color and every race. They’ve died on nearly every continent. And with communist regimes still in power in certain places, Lenin’s plague is now in its second century.

The USSR also laid siege to the soul. Lenin’s regime nationalized church property in 1918, erased 100,000 Jews in 1919,[vi] and murdered more than 1,200 priests and bishops by 1926. Before Lenin and Stalin, there were 54,000 Orthodox churches in Russia; by 1940, there were 500.[vii][viii]

After World War II, Moscow expanded its war on faith into Eastern Europe. All across communist Europe, as Baylor University’s Philip Jenkins writes, “Christians suffered horrific persecutions”—forced labor, torture, concentration camps—under Soviet-backed regimes.[ix]In Hungary, “Christian clergy and laity were murdered in the thousands.” In Poland, religious holidays were abolished. Children from churchgoing families were denied acceptance into college.[x]In 1953, Stalin ordered more than a million Jews deported to Siberia. They were spared only by his death.[xi]

Contrary to the mythology spewed on many college campuses, from the very beginning, the Soviets sought to spread their reach and revolution by force of arms. The USSR was a constant threat to peace.

The Soviets seized Polish territories in 1920.[xii]In 1939, Stalin and Hitler formally divvied up Poland. In the early phases of World War II, Stalin invaded Finland; annexed Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania; and lopped off part of Romania. By war’s end, Stalin’s troops reached as far west as the Elbe and the Adriatic.[xiii]They would stay for 45 years.

Stalin shruggingly ignored the agreements he signed at Yalta, which called for free elections in postwar Poland. Hungary, Romania and the rest of Eastern Europe also disappeared behind Stalin’s Iron Curtain. But Stalin’s appetite was far from sated. He fomented revolution in Greece and Turkey through the “terrorist activities of several thousand armed men led by communists,” as President Harry Truman reported in 1947.[xiv]A year later, Stalin blockaded West Berlin in an attempt to bully his erstwhile allies out of the city. He then gave a greenlight and much more to Kim Il-Sung—supplying North Korea and China with weapons, advisors, warplanes and fighter-pilots to support the invasion of South Korea.[xv]

When Hungarians tried to establish a multiparty government in 1956, Moscow’s troops and tanks crushed them.[xvi]

Soviet aid began flowing to Ho Chi Minh’s communists soon after World War II. By the early 1960s, Moscow was delivering North Vietnam warplanes, artillery, air-defense systems, fuel and guns. Upwards of 3,000 Soviet personnel deployed to Indochina.[xvii]

In 1962, in an act of recklessness that nearly triggered World War III, Moscow secretly planted nuclear missiles in Cuba.

In 1968, Moscow spearheaded a Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia to prevent it from escaping the prisonyard of communism.[xviii]

Moscow poured aid, advisors and weaponry into the Americas, Africa and Southwest Asia—backing client regimes in Cuba, Nicaragua, Egypt, Libya, Angola, Mozambique, Congo, Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.[xix]Like Hungary and Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan learned that perhaps the only thing worse than being an enemy of the USSR was being an ally: As the Red Army invaded Afghanistan in 1979, KGB agents assassinated Afghanistan’s Soviet-backed president. Moscow claimed it was acting in accordance with a friendship treaty.[xx]


In the middle of Moscow’s Orwellian war of friendship against Afghanistan, a Soviet warplane shot down a South Korean airliner and murdered 269 people. For Reagan, the attack served as definitive proof of the USSR’s moral bankruptcy. Moscow’s “crime against humanity,” he concluded, “was an act of barbarism born of a society which wantonly disregards individual rights and the value of human life.”[xxi]

Alongside the fairytale that the USSR was a peace-loving regime, there’s the myth that America is somehow equally to blame for the Cold War’s origins.

In fact, as the Soviets were seizing territory, fomenting revolution and violating postwar agreements, Americans were packing up and heading home. “Demobilization has become,” Gen. George Marshall lamented two months after Japan’s surrender, “disintegration not only of the Armed Forces, but apparently of all conception of world responsibility.”

As historian Derek Leebaert writes, “Ten months after the war’s end, not one U.S. Army division or Air Force group could be rated ready for combat.” Nine million U.S. troops had been discharged. As late as 1949, the U.S. had just 12 battle-ready tanks in Germany.[xxii]Simply put, these are not the actions of a nation spoiling for a cold-war contest with Moscow.

“The Soviet government held a vastly different vision of the future,” as President Dwight Eisenhower explained. “In the world of its design, security was to be found not in mutual trust and mutual aid, but in force: huge armies, subversion, rule of neighbor nations.”[xxiii]And so, Americans reversed their postwar demobilization, reconstituted their military strength, and held their position in Europe and Japan. Alliances were forged, arsenals built, lines drawn—all in response to Soviet aggression.

These history lessons remain relevant for two reasons. 

First, post-Soviet Russia is no longer governed by a democratically-elected reformist seeking partnership with the West. Vladimir Putin is a former KGB officer who calls the collapse of the USSR “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century”; who has launched wars of aggression to reincorporate parts of the USSR; who subscribes to the fiction that Moscow’s seizure of the Baltic states was “implemented” with their “consent”[xxiv]; who undermines international order through cyberattacks, treaty violations and armed annexations; who has ensconced himself as Russia’s president for life; who leads a country where 53 percent of the population believes Lenin played a positive role.[xxv]

Second, Xi Jinping’s China has embraced many of the methods and objectives of the USSR. While the USSR and PRC are not identical, there are troubling similarities.

Like the USSR, the PRC is an ends-justify-the-means regime that has contempt for the individual at home and disdain for norms of behavior abroad. If there’s a silver lining to the COVID19 disaster, which was exacerbated by Beijing’s intentions or incompetence, it’s that it confirmed how the PRC’s internal political system is an international problem—just like the USSR’s. XI’s China, it pays to recall, engages in genocide[xxvi]against Uighur Muslims, complete with involuntary sterilizations[xxvii]and forcible abortions[xxviii]; bulldozes Christian churches and Buddhist temples; imprisons pastors; herds religious people into concentration camps; and seeks to make all religions “instruments of the Party.”[xxix]  A regime that can justify imprisoning, torturing and killing its subjects for peacefully practicing their faith can justify anything: stealing proprietary information, violating treaties, leveraging pandemics for geopolitical advantage, seizing foreign lands, annexing international waterways, subjugating free peoples. The godless USSR did these sorts of things, and so does the godless PRC.

Like the USSR, China is using force to expand its reach and dominion. Beijing seems intent on annexing Taiwan, controlling the South China Sea, and intimidating Australia, India, Japan and the Philippines into submission.

Like the USSR, China is building an authoritarian bloc spanning the globe, has partners and proxies in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa and South America, and controls over 18 strategically positioned ports.[xxx][xxxi] 

Like the USSR, the PRC seeks to upend the U.S.-led international order. Thus, Xi’s vows to forge “a more just and reasonable new world order.”[xxxii] He’s pursuing that goal, not unlike the USSR, through economic pressure (see Beijing’s debt-trap diplomacy[xxxiii]); cultural coercion (see Beijing’s insidious influence over Hollywood[xxxiv] and its 480 Confucius Institutes planted on college campuses around the world[xxxv][xxxvi]); propaganda (see Beijing’s labyrinth of front organizations spreading misinformation in Africa, Europe and even America[xxxvii]); espionage (see Beijing’s global cybersiege, which has vacuumed up vast amounts of military technology, nuclear expertise, and compromising information about Free World government personnel[xxxviii][xxxix]); political interference (see Beijing’s digital-age infiltration and subversion operations in Australia, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan[xl]); and massive military expansion. PRC military spending has mushroomed by 517 percent since 2000[xli]—enabling Beijing to deploy the world’s largest navy, rapidly expand its nuclear arsenal and nuclear-strike capabilities,[xlii]construct layers of ship-killing missile systems, and enhance its space capabilities.[xliii]

This explains why many experts conclude we’ve entered a second Cold War.[xliv]Cold War I doesn’t provide a perfect roadmap for navigating Cold War II. After all, America and the USSR were literally walled-off from one another, while America and the PRC are economically intertwined. But the broad contours of these conflicts—the divergent systems and ideologies; the surging confidence and duplicitous character of the enemy; the stakes for America and the Free World; the enemy’s capacity to challenge America across every domain and region—are strikingly similar.

The good news is that the PRC, like the USSR, is rational and thus deterrable. The bad news is that Washington isn’t investing enough to deter this century’s communist behemoth and keep Cold War II from turning hot. U.S. defense spending has fallen from 4.7 percent of GDP in 2009 to 3.1 percent. The average during Cold War I was more than twice that.

Some will counter that China spends a fraction of what America spends on defense. But they ignore how China hides defense spending in a range of nondefense programs[xlv], invests little relative to America on personnel, steals the technology America spends billions developing, and is largely focusing its military on one region.

And they forget what Churchill counseled at the outset of Cold War I: “We cannot afford,” he warned, “to work on narrow margins, offering temptations to a trial of strength.”

[i] https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs-xpm-1992-06-18-1992170074-story.html


[iii]Paul Johnson, Modern Times, 1992, pp.270-272; Zbigniew Brzezinski, Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the 21st Century, 1993, https://tinyurl.com/3aajtx6s



[vi] Paul Johnson, Modern Times, p.75.

[vii] Glenn E. Curtis, Ed., Russia: A country Study, Library of Congress, July 1996, https://cdn.loc.gov/master/frd/frdcstdy/ru/russiacountrystu00curt/russiacountrystu00curt_djvu.txt.

[viii] Glenn E. Curtis, Ed., Russia: A Country Study, Library of Congress, July 1996, https://cdn.loc.gov/master/frd/frdcstdy/ru/russiacountrystu00curt/russiacountrystu00curt_djvu.txt .

[ix] Philip Jenkins, "Memories of persecution," The Christian Century, November 18, 2011.

[x] John O’Sullivan, The President, the Prime Minister and the Pope, 2006, p.14

[xi]Washington Times, "How Stalin, the ‘breaker of nations,’ hated, murdered Jews," August 16, 2003. 



[xiv] https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/harrystrumantrumandoctrine.html

[xv]https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/preparing-war-soviet-north-korean-relations-1947-1950  https://www.airforcemag.com/article/0291russians/  https://uknowledge.uky.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1027&context=ex-patt


[xvii]https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/vietnam/hist-2nd-indochina-ussr.htm  https://www.history.com/news/vietnam-war-combatants#section_4


[xix]https://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/specials/1624_story_of_africa/page28.shtml  https://www.jewishpolicycenter.org/2009/02/28/the-syria-soviet-alliance/https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2016/09/01/russia-and-libya-a-brief-history-of-an-on-again-off-again-friendship/https://www.brown.edu/Research/Understanding_the_Iran_Contra_Affair/documents/d-nic-4.pdf

[xx] Derek Leebaert, The Fifty-Year Wound, p.482.

[xxi] https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/ronaldreagankal007disaster.htm

[xxii] Derek Leebaert, The Fifty-Year Wound, p.27, p. 74, pp. 88-89.


[xxiv] https://mobile.reuters.com/article/amp/idUSKCN24O1XQ





[xxix]https://www.wsj.com/articles/inside-chinas-war-on-christians-11559256446https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2164358/china-bulldozing-churches-and-replacing-holy-imagery-communist  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/13/china-christians-religious-persecution-translation-bible






[xxxiv]https://www.wsj.com/articles/disneys-mulan-tops-china-box-office-amid-controversy-11600024568https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2237717/Red-Dawn-remake-swapped-Chinese-flags-insignia-North-Korean-ones-fear-losing-billion-dollar-box-office.html  https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/22/media/top-gun-flags-intl-hnk/index.html



[xxxvii]https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/dec/07/china-plan-for-global-media-dominance-propaganda-xi-jinpinghttps://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3124152/cgtn-set-return-european-screens-french-regulator-warns-abouthttps://america.cgtn.com/https://www.cgtn.com/about-ushttps://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/us-media-09192018135731.htmlhttps://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/feb/15/obama-admin-to-cancel-voice-of-america-china-broad/  https://www.wsj.com/articles/justice-department-has-ordered-key-chinese-state-media-firms-to-register-as-foreign-agents-1537296756


[xxxix]https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-china-cyber/u-s-accuses-china-linked-hackers-of-stealing-coronavirus-research-idUSKBN22P2CShttps://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/us-charges-five-chinese-military-hackers-cyber-espionage-against-us-corporations-and-labor  https://thediplomat.com/2015/01/new-snowden-documents-reveal-chinese-behind-f-35-hack/  https://www.everycrsreport.com/reports/RL30143.html

[xl]https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/reports/2019/02/28/466669/understanding-combating-russian-chinese-influence-operations/  https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-05-29/chinas-been-interfering-in-australian-politics-for-past-decade/9810236https://thediplomat.com/2020/10/chinas-disinformation-campaign-in-the-philippines/https://www.sundayguardianlive.com/news/china-help-rig-south-korean-election





[xliv]https://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/471460-kissinger-warns-china-us-are-in-foothills-of-a-cold-war  https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2020/12/17/cold-war-ii/