Sometimes I get the sense that the *entire board* of PoFo revolves around this geopolitical issue -- was the USSR an 'empire', or not -- ?
I think it's best to start with the side that definitely *was* an empire, incontrovertibly / indisputably, which was the U.S., of course.
So the issue here is about *emphasis* -- any 'even-handed' kind of approach is really inappropriate, since the economic pressures for *empire* were nowhere *near* equivalent, or comparable, U.S. vs. USSR.
The most damning piece of evidence against the USSR being an 'empire' is that it never exported finance capital:
From your own source:
"Gaddis, however, argues that the conflict was less the lone fault of one side or the other and more the result of a plethora of conflicting interests and misperceptions between the two superpowers, propelled by domestic politics and bureaucratic inertia. While Gaddis does not hold either side as entirely responsible for the onset of the conflict, he argues that the Soviets should be held at least slightly more accountable for the problems. According to Gaddis, Stalin was in a much better position to compromise than his Western counterparts, given his much broader power within his own regime than Truman, who had to contend with Congress and was often undermined by vociferous political opposition at home. Asking if it were possible to predict if the wartime alliance would fall apart within a matter of months, leaving in its place nearly a half century of cold war, Gaddis wrote in a 1997 essay, "Geography, demography, and tradition contributed to this outcome but did not determine it. It took men, responding unpredictably to circumstances, to forge the chain of causation; and it took [Stalin] in particular, responding predictably to his own authoritarian, paranoid, and narcissistic predisposition, to lock it into place."
From Wiki's Historiography of the Cold War:
"Since the 2000s, benefiting largely from the opening of Cold War-era archives in the Soviet Union and elsewhere in the world, Cold War historians have begun to move on from questions of blame and inevitability to consider the Cold War in the longue durée of the 20th century, alongside questions of culture, technology and ideology. Historians have also begun to consider the Cold War from a variety of international perspectives (non-American and non-Soviet) and most especially have stressed the importance of what was then called the "Third World" in the latter half of the Cold War. As Odd Arne Westad, co-editor of the Cambridge History of the Cold War (2010) has written:
"Very few of our contributors believe that a "definitive" history of the Cold War is possible (or indeed that it should be possible). But a heterogeneous approach creates a strong need for contextualization.... First and foremost we need to situate the Cold War within the wider history of the twentieth century in a global perspective. We need to indicate how Cold War conflicts connect to broader trends in social, economic, and intellectual history as well as to the political and military developments of the longer term of which it forms a part."