Often we do not understand other people.  For example, Americans didn’t understand the fears of the Soviets during the Cold War.  For 3-1/2 years, the U-2 spy plane violated Soviet airspace, at will, and with impunity.  These flights struck a sensitive nerve with the Soviets.  Consider four factors that were immediately obvious to them, but painless for the West: 

  • Whereas two huge oceans protected and isolated America  . . . 
  • . . . Russia was surrounded. The West encircled them with military bases in Japan, Turkey, Iran, West Germany and Europe.  
  • Russia has suffered invasions from Scythians, Visigoths, Huns, Mongols, Tartars, Poles, Turks, Teutons and Germans.  “Foreign armies have overrun our land,” was drummed into the heads of school children.  This was used to justify the excessive secrecy and brutal will of the Soviet government.  
  • The Soviets were nervous because of their military inferiority.  Soviet secrecy was not only an expression of national character, but an instrument of national defense.

Khrushchev made lots of noise to cover up his fear.  Every U-2 flight could have carried an A-bomb, for all the Soviets knew. 

Often we fail to understand our critics; to see things objectively from their perspective.

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