Here's how the cold war was explained to me by my brother when I was 5-years-old or so. Paraphrased a bit, naturally.

Him: Imagine a rough part of a rough town. You have two bully kids, Nate and Warlow, who are thoroughly dominating their neighborhoods. Time goes by, and the bullies become stronger. One day, the two bullies meet. They each pull out a gun. Let's say you're one of them. What do you do?

Me: Okay..So I shoot the other guy!
Him: But he might be able to shoot you, too, on his way down.
Me: Okaaay...So I walk away!
Him: Idiot! He'll shoot you!
Me: Um..I try to talk to him?
Him: How do you know you can trust each other? You'd both like to be -the- top dog, and neither of you is above lies or murder.

At the time, the Soviet Union still stood, so the saga wasn't quite over. I suppose the completion of this story would be that the bullies stood as they did until one of them keeled over from exhaustion or starvation or something.