I grew up in a Europe of competing certainties. One imagined that we would forever teeter on the edge of nuclear conflagration with the Soviet Union. The other that, if only we could avoid mutually assured destruction, democracy and the market would underwrite prosperity. Each generation would be richer than the last. As things turned out, the second of these certainties helped falsify the first. Communism was brought down by economic failure. The grey men in their Zil limousines — remember Yuri Andropov? — could match the US thermonuclear missile for thermonuclear missile. Those they had imprisoned behind a wall began to notice that the western model made for a rather better life. For Europe’s democracies, the cold war provided a shared purpose and an alibi. The struggle against communism was an excuse to turn a blind eye to the many proxy wars fought by Washington and Moscow in Africa and Latin America. Once the Soviet empire collapsed, it seemed self-evident that the wider world ...

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