Carter's ambitious proposals for total multilateral nuclear disarmament are rejected by Brezhnev; his championing of human rights does not win favour either. The Helsinki Accords encourage writers to establish Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia. The visit of Pope John Paul II revitalises Polish nationalism, while in the Soviet Union high profile dissidents and refuseniks gains popular attention. The Soviets continue a conventional arms race, draining resources from a demoralised consumer economy. SALT II is signed, to the consternation of many Europeans because of the Treaty's "double track" provisions concerning the deployment of new SS-20 and Pershing II missiles. Carter's failure to exercise American resolve and strength over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Iran hostage crisis and an oil shock ultimately costs him the 1980 elections, and the United States decisively swings to a more confrontational foreign policy under Ronald Reagan. Breznhev successfully leans on Polish leader Wojciech Jaruzelski to crack down on the Solidarity movement. Interviewees include Jeane Kirkpatrick, Lech Walesa, Václav Havel and Helmut Schmidt.

Following the Chinese Revolution Mao Zedong aligns China firmly with the Soviet Union. China becomes the recipient of Soviet aid, supports Communist movements worldwide and confronts the United States in Korea and in the Taiwan straits. Domestically China experienced upheaval and disaster with the post-revolution land reforms, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. A range of factors, including Khrushchev's apparent acceptance of co-existence with the capitalist West and his refusal to share Soviet nuclear technology with China, led to the Sino-Soviet split and eventual conflict. Both sides become deeply distrustful of the other, particularly after China develops nuclear weapons. Sensing an opportunity to contain the Soviet Union, in 1972 the United States suddenly and unexpectedly moves to reestablish ties with China. Interviewees include Wu Ningkun, Marshall Green, Liu Binyan, Stepan Chervonenko and Henry Kissinger.

The United States entered the 1960s with strength and self-confidence. Kennedy increased arms production, bringing an economic boom to California. Rising expectations led to the civil rights movement growing stronger, despite the rough response from authorities which regarded them as Communist inspired. More of America's youth became increasingly hostile to the Vietnam War, and embraced new counterculture and permissive definitions of the American ideals of freedom. Fractures in America's society became increasingly violent, and the latter half of the 1960s brought race riots, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy and the Chicago Convention protests. With the political left appearing divided and radicalised, Richard Nixon is voted into office. Interviewees include Irwin Allen Ginsberg, Bobby Seale and Eugene McCarthy.

The United States nuclear strategy of counterforce, intended to counter a Soviet conventional attack by targeting military facilities, is discredited following the Cuban Missile Crisis. Instead Defence Secretary McNamara adopts the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), with the belief that the targeting by the superpowers of each other's cities would deter a nuclear war.

Fidel Castro comes to power following the Cuban Revolution. Cuba aligns itself with the Soviet Union and the government starts nationalising American interests, resulting in the United States imposing an economic boycott, and the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion. Following the detection of Soviet medium range missiles stationed in Cuba, the United States imposes a blockade on the island, and the Soviet Union mobilises for war. The Cuban Missile Crisis is eventually resolved through secret negotiations, in which the United States and the USSR agree to withdraw missiles from Cuba and Turkey respectively. Interviewees include Fidel Castro, Walter Cronkite, Pierre Salinger and Theodore Sorensen.

Korea after the Second World War was occupied by both the Soviets and the Americans, who respectively installed Kim Il-sung and Syngman Rhee as leaders. With Soviet support, North Korea invaded the South in 1950, pushing the unprepared South Korean and US forces back to Pusan. The world responds, both to combat communism and demonstrate support to the United Nations. After landing at Inchon and liberating Seoul, United Nations forces advance into North Korea. This unsettles Mao Zedong, who on Stalin's request sends Chinese forces into Korea and pushes the UN back. Eventually both sides are more or less at stalemate in the centre of Korea. After countless talks, eventually an armistice is signed. Communism was contained, but Korea would remain divided. Interviewees include Lucius D. Battle, Paik Sun Yup and John Glenn.

The wartime allies demobilise - the United States enjoys its economic strength and resurgence while Britain and the rest of Europe is exhausted. A new series of purges takes place in the Soviet Union, and is ravaged by famine. Germans are expelled from territories now given to Poland by the Soviet Union, and differences emerge over Germany's post-war rehabilitation. Stalin increases his grasp on Eastern Europe, although does not intervene on the side of the Communists in the Greek Civil War. Britain's power influence goes into decline, weakened from the war and a severe winter. Food shortages threatening stability throughout Europe. The United States begins to adopt with a more assertive foreign policy, countering Soviet influence in Turkey and Iran. Interviewees include Lord Annan, Sir Frank Roberts and Paul Nitze.

The fears the leadership of both sides had were projected inwards towards their own people. In the United States the House Committee on Un-American Activities and the Tydings Committee carried out investigations into alleged Communist sympathisers in US public life, in particular the State Department and Hollywood. In the Soviet Union a personality cult emerged around Stalin, and a repressive police environment and comprehensive surveillance kept the population fearful. In response to Yugoslavia's maverick foreign policy, Stalin inspired the Prague Trials to warn Eastern European leaders not to stray away from emulating the Soviet model. Repression in the Soviet Union peaked with the investigations into the so-called Doctors' Plot, just before Stalin's sudden death in 1953. Interviewees include Arthur Kinoy, Ralph de Toledano and Boris Pokrovsky.

By 1947, the United States placed as a high priority the revival of the German economy, an approach opposed by the Soviet Union. After the introduction of a Deutsche Mark the Soviet Union began to allow increasingly stringent checks on passenger and cargo flows travelling to the French, British and American sectors of Berlin, located in the heart of East Germany. This ultimately led to a blockade on all rail and road transport linking West Berlin, but an extensive airlift operation (Operation Vittles) allowed the city to survive. The Communists were however successful in staging a putsch in the Berlin municipal government, eventually leading to the divisions of both Berlin and Germany. Interviewees include Gail Halvorsen, Sir Freddie Laker and Clark Clifford.

For both altruistic and self-serving purposes, the United States provides massive grants of aid to the countries of Europe in the form of the Marshall Plan. Stalin, concerned that the intent of the Marshall Plan is to weaken Soviet influence in Europe, prevents countries in its orbit from participating, and establishes the rival Council for Mutual Economic Assistance. Communists come to power through a coup in Czechoslovakia in 1948. Tito, while originally aligned to the Soviet Union, adopts a more independent foreign policy and eventually switches to receiving Marshall Aid Assistance. The CIA and the Catholic Church conspire to help oust the Italian Communist Party and its coalition allies in the 1948 Italian election. The Marshall Plan has the effect of modernising European economies and societies, bringing Western Europe closer together, and closer to the United States. Interviewees include Vladimir Yerofeyev, Gianni Agnelli and Giulio Andreotti.

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