Spoils of the Cold War for Fans of The Americans

EndGame Podcast host Tsar Misha studied, lived and worked in Moscow during the last days of the Soviet Union and the birth of post-Soviet Russia. He was always fascinated by Soviet propaganda art, and following the fall of the USSR he traveled back to Moscow and undertook an exhaustive search of newspaper and printing house archives to find some of the best examples of Soviet propaganda and have them reprinted as a spoil of the Cold War.

“Pipe Dreams and Exaggerated Threats” is the one he chose to have reprinted in the newly independent Russia – only 1,000 were made and Misha witnessed the destruction of the printing plates at the end of the run. They exist nowhere else on the planet.

The poster has been donated to, and now sits in the permanent collections of, The Wende Museum, The Cold War Museum, and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. At the start of Season 5 of The Americans Misha sent copies to showrunners Joe and Joel as a token of thanks for such an amazing show, and as the sixth and final season approaches copies are being gifted to all the principle cast members as well as members of The Americans art, design and set dressing teams.

And because EndGame Podcasts LOVES The Americans – on top of everything else, it’s the first show we ever covered – and because we know you do too, we want to make the poster available to all the other die-hard fans of the show and our podcasts. There’s only a couple hundred copies left so grab yours today, and get ready for the final season of The Americans! EndGame Podcasts shares your love of the show, the actors and the characters and we’ll be with you every step of the way!

“Pipe Dreams and Exaggerated Threats” was originally published in 1984 during perhaps the lowest and most dangerous period of the Cold War since the Cuban Missile Crisis and right in the middle of the time-frame of The Americans. President Reagan’s tough stance towards the Soviet Union contributed to the Great Soviet War Scare of 1983, when the USSR became convinced that a surprise US nuclear attack was imminent and was seriously considering launching a preemptive strike of its own. The shooting down of Korean Air Lines flight 007 in September, 1983, did little to improve relations between the two superpowers.

1984 saw a further increase in tension between the US and the USSR, though the immediate fear of impending nuclear war abated. The aging Soviet leadership faltered yet again, as Yuri Andropov was succeeded by Konstantin Chernenko in February of that year. Chernenko would be succeeded by Mikhail Gorbachev just over one year later. In the summer of 1984 the Soviet Union boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics in retaliation for the US boycott of the 1980 Moscow games over the Soviet’s invasion of Afghanistan.

Most significantly, at the end of 1983 the first Pershing II theatre nuclear missiles became operational. These missiles were deployed by the United States on the territories of its NATO allies in Europe in order to counter the Soviet’s SS-20 missile. Their deployment in Europe continued into 1984, and it is this ongoing deployment of the Pershing II missiles that “Pipe Dreams and Exaggerated Threats” was targeting with its image of President Reagan as a wrinkled old cowboy, flexing his tattered muscles with his arm around one of the Pershing missiles.

They say that one mocks what they fear, and the imagery used in “Pipe Dreams and Exaggerated Threats” employs many of the traditional motifs of Soviet political propaganda art, underscoring the deep fear and grudging respect the Soviets felt at the time towards President Ronald Reagan. The depiction of President Ronald Reagan as an aging, decrepit cowboy plays on Reagan’s own self-styled cowboy image, but takes it to its most absurd extreme by clothing him in oversized boots with spurs, stars-and-stripes underwear, and a “cowboy” hat that looks slightly more like the hat worn by Napoleon than by Wyatt Earp. The image also takes a direct shot at Reagan’s age (already well into his 70’s when the image was published) by portraying him as a wrinkled old man with a sagging pot belly and skinny little legs, who needs to have his “muscles” inflated for him. President Reagan is depicted with his arm around a Pershing II missile, whose deployment in Europe to counter existing Soviet SS-20 missiles is the issue that the image was created to protest.

Inflating President Reagan’s muscles for him is an evil looking US soldier, a staple of Soviet-era anti-US propaganda since all US soldiers were, by definition, evil. The soldier is using the Pentagon itself as the pump to inflate Reagan’s muscles – not so subtle imagery used to imply the idea that all of Reagan’s bellicose talk was actually being fueled by the war-hawks in the Pentagon, and that Reagan was little more than the puppet of the military-industrial complex. In another frequently-used motif in Soviet propaganda art, Reagan, the evil soldier, the Pentagon and the Pershing II missile are all standing on a map of the world, implying that the ultimate goal of Reagan and the US is world domination.

– The inscription on the Pentagon says simply “Pentagon” as a means to identify it to Russians who might not recognize the building simply by its unique shape

– The inscription on the Pershing II missile says “Holy Crusade” and is a swipe by the atheist Soviet Union at President Reagan’s piety and reinforces the implication that the US was after global domination and that it treated that goal as being of a divine nature, a true holy crusade.

– The bottom right-hand corner of the poster carries the artist’s original signature and date of 1984, along with the date of 1993 when the poster was produced in Russia, and the inscription in Cyrillic verifying that only 1,000 posters were printed.