Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1997-1998 index

Distributed April 14, 1998
Contact: Mark Nickel

The End of the Cold War

U.S. and former Soviet officials to seek reasons why the Cold War ended

Reagan-era policy-makers from the former Soviet Union and the United States will gather at Brown University May 8 to 10, 1998, to analyze the end of the Cold War and determine whether there are lessons to be learned for policy-making today.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Why did the Cold War end? Was it Gorbachev's new thinking? Did the U.S. military build-up spend its former adversaries into oblivion? What role did the global economy play?

Key policy-makers from the United States and the former Soviet Union will gather at Brown University May 8 to 10, 1998, to analyze the end of the Cold War and determine what policy lessons might be learned from that relatively peaceful end to an era of superpower conflict. The three-day conference is the first session of a larger project on the end of the Cold War being sponsored jointly by Brown University's Thomas J. Watson Jr. Institute for International Studies and the Mershon Center at Ohio State University.

"The events leading to the end of the Cold War have complex and poorly understood causes," said Thomas J. Biersteker, director of the Watson Institute. "Our objective is to explore these causes more extensively and to identify any lessons that might be helpful in preventing or arresting international misunderstandings and conflict."

Reagan-era U.S. policy-makers attending the conference include:

Former Soviet policy-makers whose attendance is confirmed include:

The Charleston String Quartet, in residence at Brown University, will perform a concert of Russian and American music on the eve of the conference. Conference participants and the general public are invited to attend at 9 p.m. Thursday, May 7, 1998, in the John Carter Brown Library on The College Green. The concert is open to the public without charge.

The critical oral history method

The conference at Brown will employ a research method known as "critical oral history." The method, which has been advanced by James Blight and janet Lang of the Watson Institute, draws actual participants of historical events into a moderated discussion of key issues. The discussion is informed by official documents (often recently declassified material from national archives) and by a small group of the best scholars from each side, who have mastered the material provided in the written record. The scholars and documents serve as an aid to memory and keep the discussion focused on the actual historical record.

The cricital oral history method has produced significant bodies of research material on the Carter-Brezhnev years and the Cuba Missile Crisis, which featured a five-day conference in Havana attended by Fidel Castro and surviving members of the Khrushchev Kremlin and Kennedy White House. Currently, the Watson Institute is applying the method to the American involvement in Vietnam and has already hosted an international conference in Hanoi.

"The time is ripe for a research endeavor like this," said Nina Tannenwald, managing director of the project. "It is crucial to take advantage of policy-makers' recollections while the events in which they participated are removed but not remote."

The End of the Cold War project

At least three more conferences will be held in 1999: one at the Mershon Center at Ohio State University, organized by Richard Ned Lebow, director of the center, and Richard K. Herrmann, associate director; another in Moscow, sponsored by the National Security Archive; and a third in Germany, sponsored by the University of Munich. The findings from the conferences will be published in several books.

For more information, contact Nancy Soukup at the Watson Institute by telephone at (401) 863-3438; by fax at (401) 863-1270; or by email at [email protected] Further information about the conference is also available at the Watson Institute's web site:

Conference schedule
"Understanding the End of the Cold War"

All sessions are open to the public without charge in Andrews Dining Hall on the Pembroke Campus at Brown University.

Thursday, May 7, 1998

9 p.m. A concert by the Charleston String Quartet of Russian and American music, performed in the John Carter Brown Library on The College Green.

Exhibit Ukrainian Posters on Perestroika in the Soviet Union, 1987-1990 will open at the John Hay Library on Thursday, May 7, and run through May 31.

Friday, May 8, 1998

8:30 a.m. First session: Soviet Politics and Gorbachev's Rise to Power

10:45 a.m. Second session: Perceptions of Objective Constraints in the Early 1980s: The Strategic Balance and the State of the Economy, Part I

2:30 p.m. Third session: The Strategic Balance and the State of the Economy, Part II

Saturday, May 9, 1998

8:30 a.m. Fourth session: From Geneva to Reykjavik: New Thinking on Arms Control and U.S.-Soviet Relations

10:45 a.m. Fifth session: Gorbachev's New Course: The Reform Process and Ideological Transformation

2:30 p.m. Sixth session: The Road to the INF Treaty

Sunday, May 10 ,1998

9 a.m. Seventh session: Reflecting on U.S.-Soviet Interactions