Emotions and Play-acting in the Cold War: How Leonid Brezhnev Won and Lost the West’s Trust

In: The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review
Susanne Schattenberg Director and professor, Research Centre for East European History, University of Bremen, Klagenfurter Str. 8, Bremen, Germany,

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This article seeks to prove that not only do emotions matter in foreign politics, but they are strong catalysts for political action. In Brezhnev’s case, it was fear of a third world war that made him strive for endurable peace. To gain the trust of the West, he tried to act like a Western statesman in order to be perceived as “familiar” and recognized as “one of us”. The article is structured along four key emotions: fear, trust, stress and mistrust, which are debated as concepts and as decisive states for Brezhnev’s foreign policy. I argue that Brezhnev won the trust of his supporters by showing he was different, but lost it when he became addicted to sleeping pills and had to retreat after 1974.

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