Readers React: NASA and Apollo didn’t sink the Soviet Union — communism did

Crowds of pro–communist demonstrators march in Moscow on Feb. 23, 1998.
(Yuri Kochetkov / AFP)

To the editor: James Donovan promotes the myth that the Cold War represented a “Russian threat to democracy’s survival.” Bad enough were the Red Scare of the 1920s, McCarthyism of the ’50s and the disastrous notion that the reunification of North and South Vietnam had to be prevented at all cost lest the entire world follow the communists’ lead. (“America spent billions to put a man on the moon. Was it worth it?” Opinion, July 4)

Communism, both the Russian version and the Chinese variety, have yielded to free markets and the capitalism of the west, but not because we won in Vietnam (we lost), not because Sen. Joseph McCarthy rooted out the fellow travelers in the State Department, and not because we beat Russia to the moon.

The reason is because communism as an economic system was flawed. Instead of promoting entrepreneurial ambition, it suppressed it.

We would have “won” the Cold War simply by being patient and waiting for communism to fail from its own inadequacies. Come to think of it, that’s exactly what happened.


Jeff Vaughn, Encino


To the editor: Sure, the Soviets gained tremendous national prestige during the Cold War era with their 1957 launch of Sputnik, the Earth’s first artificial satellite.

Left unmentioned in the article was American pianist Van Cliburn winning the very first International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow in 1958, just a few months after Sputnik. His stunning win was regarded at the time as America’s cultural Sputnik, and his subsequent visits to the Soviet Union were warmly welcomed wherever he went concertizing and socializing there.


Virtually singlehandedly (no pun intended), Cliburn helped turn down the heat of the Cold War.

Dienyih Chen, Redondo Beach

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