Cold War quotations


These Cold War quotations were made by notable figures and historians of the Cold War. They have written and compiled by Alpha History authors. We welcome suggestions of new Cold War quotes for this page. If you would like to submit a quote, please contact us:


“Should the German people lay down their arms, the Soviets… would occupy all eastern and south-eastern Europe, together with the greater part of the [German] Reich. All over this territory, which would be of an enormous extent, an iron curtain would at once descend.”
Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, 1945

“Although the shooting war is over, we are in the midst of a cold war which is getting warmer.”
Bernard Baruch, US businessman, 1947

“Like apples in a barrel infected by one rotten one, the corruption of Greece would infect Iran and all to the east. It would also carry infection to Africa through Asia Minor and Egypt, and to Europe through Italy and France, already threatened by the strongest domestic Communist parties in Western Europe. The Soviet Union was playing one of the greatest gambles in history at minimal cost. It did not need to will all the possibilities. Even one or two offered immense gains. We and we alone were in a position to break up the play.”
Dean Acheson, Secretary of State under Truman

“If we mean that we are to hold Europe against communism, we must not budge [from Berlin]. I believe the future of democracy requires us to stay here, until forced out.”
US Lieutenant-General Lucius D. Clay, 1948

“Not just in China, but everywhere in the world without exception, one either leans to the side of imperialism or the side of socialism. Neutrality is mere camouflage; a third road does not exist.”
Mao Zedong, 1949

“Today we are engaged in a final, all-out battle between communistic atheism and Christianity. The modern champions of communism have selected this as the time, and ladies and gentlemen, the chips are down, they are truly down.”
Joseph McCarthy, US senator and communist hunter, 1950

“This is the first time in my experience… that I ever heard of a Senator trying to discredit his own Government before the world.… Your telegram is not only not true and an insolent approach to a situation that should have been worked out between man and man – but it shows conclusively that you are not even fit to have a hand in the operation of the Government of the United States.”
Harry Truman, in a telegram to Joseph McCarthy, 1950

“Stop sending people to kill me. We’ve already captured five of them, one of them with a bomb, another with a rifle. If you don’t stop sending killers, I’ll send one to Moscow – and I won’t have to send a second.”
Letter to Joseph Stalin to Yugoslav leader Yosip Tito, circa 1950

“I suppose that history will remember my term in office as the years when the Cold War began to  overshadow our lives. I have hardly a day in office that has not been dominated by this all-embracing struggle. And always in the background there has been the atomic bomb. But when history says that my term of office saw the begining of the Cold War, it will also say that in those eight years we have set the course that can win it.”
Harry S. Truman, 1953

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocked fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children… Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953

“I will not get into a pissing contest with that skunk [Joseph McCarthy].”
Dwight D. Eisenhower to his brother Milton, 1953

“When the wind is right, a faint odor of kerosene is exhaled from Senator McCarthy.”
Ray Bradbury, US author, 1953

“The junior Senator from Wisconsin, by his reckless charges, has so preyed upon the fears and hatred of uninformed and credulous people that he has started a prairie fire, which neither he nor anyone else may be able to control.”
J. William Fulbright, US senator, 1954

“We may be likened to two scorpions in a bottle, each capable of killing the other, but only at the risk of his own life.”
US Foreign Affairs journal, 1953

“The trouble with free elections is that you never know how they are going to to turn out.”
Vyacheslav Molotov, 1954

“Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you.”
Nikita Khrushchev to Western diplomats, 1956

“If I see that the Russians are amassing their planes for an attack, I’m going to knock the shit out of them before they take off the ground.”
Curtis LeMay, US Air Force general, 1957

“The individual comes face-to-face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists. The American mind has not come to a realisation of the evil which has been introduced into our midst. It rejects even the assumption that human creatures could espouse a philosophy which must ultimately destroy all that is good and decent.”
J. Edgar Hoover, FBI director, 1956

“Restraint? Why are you so concerned with saving their lives? The whole idea is to kill the bastards. At the end of the war if there are two Americans and one Russian left alive, we win.”
General Thomas Power, US Air Force, 1960

“Then you had better make sure that they are a man and a woman.”
William Kaufmann, in response to General Thomas Power (above)

“I am not a dictator, and I do not think I will become one. I will not maintain power with a machine gun.”
Fidel Castro, 1959

“I am not a communist and neither is the revolutionary movement, but we do not have to say that we are anticommunists just to fawn on foreign powers.”
Fidel Castro, 1959

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

“To give [the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba] even covert support is on a par with the hypocrisy and cynicism for which the United States is constantly denouncing the Soviet Union in the United Nations and elsewhere. This point will not be lost on the rest of the world, nor on our own consciences.”
J. William Fulbright, US senator, 1961

“You [President Kennedy] have made some pretty strong statements about their being defensive and that we would take action against offensive weapons. I think that a blockade and political talk would be considered by a lot of our friends and neutrals as being a pretty weak response to this [the Cuban missile crisis]. And I’m sure a lot of our own citizens would feel that way too. In other words, you’re in a pretty bad fix at the present time.”
Curtis LeMay, US Air Force general, to John F Kennedy, 1962

“You’re in there with me. Personally.”
John F Kennedy, responding to Curtis LeMay (above), 1962

“We’ve spent half the expenditures, we’ve wrecked our budget on all these other domestic programs, and the only justification for it, in my opinion, to do it in the pell-mell fashion is because we hope to beat them and demonstrate that starting behind them, as we did by a couple of years, by God, we passed them. I think it would be a helluva thing for us.”
John F Kennedy on the US space program, 1962

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win… It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency.”
John F Kennedy, 1962


“Berlin is the testicles of the West. When I want the West to scream, I squeeze on Berlin.”
Nikita Khrushchev, 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, 1963

“Communism has sometimes succeeded as a scavenger, but never as a leader. It has never come to power in a country that was not disrupted by war or corruption, or both.”
John F. Kennedy, 1963

“We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of a worldwide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth — but neither shall we shrink from that risk any time it must be faced.”
John F. Kennedy, 1963

“The Soviet Union has indeed been our greatest menace — not so much because of what it has done, but because of the excuses it has provided us for our own failures.”
J. William Fulbright, US senator, 1963

“The Cold War isn’t thawing; it is burning with a deadly heat. Communism isn’t sleeping; it is, as always, plotting, scheming, working, fighting.”
Richard M. Nixon, 1964

“We don’t propose to sit here in our rocking chair with our hands folded and let the Communists set up any government in the Western Hemisphere.”
Lyndon Johnson, US president, 1965

“President Kennedy once said… that the United States had the nuclear missile capacity to wipe out the Soviet Union two times over, while the Soviet Union had enough atomic weapons to wipe out the United States only once… I said jokingly, “Yes, he’s quite right. But I’m not complaining… We’re satisfied to be able to finish off the United States first time round. Once is quite enough. What good does it do to annihilate a country twice? We’re not a bloodthirsty people.”
Nikita Khrushchev, 1974

“We Communists have to string along with the capitalists for a while. We need their agriculture and their technology.”
Leonid Brezhnev, Soviet leader, 1976

Detente is a readiness to resolve differences and conflicts not by force, not by threats and sabre-rattling, but by peaceful means, at the conference table.”
Leonid Brezhnev, Soviet leader, 1977

“My job is to stop Britain going red.”
Margaret Thatcher, 1977

“It’s expensive to keep communism alive today. I’ve already got a huge foreign debt staring me in the face, and I can’t reduce it by exporting tomatoes or toilet paper. We should be making dollars any way we can. And we should be exporting arms any way and every way, openly and secretly, legally or by smuggling, I don’t care how.”
Nicolae Ceausescu, Romanian dictator, 1977

“With what moral authority can [the US] speak of human rights… the rulers of a nation in which the millionaire and beggar coexist; where the Indian is exterminated; the black man is discriminated against; the woman is prostituted; and the great masses of Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, and Latin Americans are scorned, exploited, and humiliated… Where the CIA organizes plans of global subversion and espionage, and the Pentagon creates neutron bombs capable of preserving material assets and wiping out human beings.”
Fidel Castro, 1978

“I hate extremes of any kind. Communism [seeks] the domination of the state over the individual… All my life I have stood against banning Communism or other extremist organisations because, if you do that, they go underground and it gives them an excitement that they don’t get if they are allowed to pursue their policies openly. We’ll beat them into the ground on argument.”
Margaret Thatcher, British prime minister, 1978

“The West will not contain communism; it will transcend communism. We will not bother to renounce it, we’ll dismiss it as a bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written.”
US president Ronald Reagan, 1981

“[The Soviets] preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the earth; they are the focus of evil in the modern world.”
Ronald Reagan, 1983

“Washington’s adventuristic policy, whipping up international tension to the utmost, is pushing mankind towards nuclear catastrophe.”
Konstantin Chernenko, Soviet leader, 1984

“My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”
Ronald Reagan jokes before a televised speech, 1984

“How do you tell a communist? Well it’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-communist? It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin.”
Ronald Reagan, 1987

“If the Soviet Union were to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial establishment would have to go on, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy.”
George Kennan, US diplomat and historian, 1987

“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Ronald Reagan, 1987

“When he saw injustice, he wanted to do away with it. He saw communism, and he wanted to put an end to it.”
Polish leader Lech Walesa, on Ronald Reagan

“A world without nuclear weapons may be a dream but you cannot base a sure defence on dreams. Without far greater trust and confidence between East and West than exists at present, a world without nuclear weapons would be less stable and more dangerous for all of us.”
Margaret Thatcher, British prime minister, 1987

“Our rockets can find Halley’s comet, and fly to Venus with amazing accuracy, but side by side with these scientific and technical triumphs is an obvious lack of efficiency in using scientific achievements for economic needs… many Soviet household appliances are of poor quality.”
Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet leader, 1987

“The Soviet people want full-blooded and unconditional democracy.”
Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet leader, 1988

“Anyone who doesn’t regret the passing of the Soviet Union has no heart. Anyone who wants it restored has no brains.”
Vladimir Putin, Russian political leader

“I want to say, and this is very important: at the end we lucked out. It was luck that prevented nuclear war. We came that close to nuclear war at the end. Rational individuals: Kennedy was rational; Khrushchev was rational; Castro was rational. Rational individuals came that close to total destruction of their societies. And that danger exists today.”
Robert McNamara, former US Secretary of Defence, 2003

“For 40 years we were led to think of the Russians as godless, materialistic and an evil empire. When the Cold War ended, we suddenly discovered that Russia was a poor Third World country. They had not been equipped to take over the world. In fact, they were just trying to improve a miserable standard of oppressive living, and couldn’t. They had to spend too much on arms build-up. We didn’t win the Cold War; we bankrupted the Russians. In effect, it was a big bank exhausting the reserves of a smaller one.”
Norman Mailer, American writer, 1995

“It was man who ended the Cold War in case you didn’t notice. It wasn’t weaponry, or technology, or armies or campaigns. It was just man. Not even Western man either, as it happened, but our sworn enemy in the East, who went into the streets, faced the bullets and the batons and said: we’ve had enough. It was their emperor, not ours, who had the nerve to mount the rostrum and declare he had no clothes. And the ideologies trailed after these impossible events like condemned prisoners, as ideologies do when they’ve had their day.”
John le Carre, British novelist, 1990