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Wars that “Must Never be Fought”—Nuclear Disarmament in the Wake of the Cold War

From the words of President Reagan to the fears of people all over the world, unease over world-ending technology being at the fingertips of two belligerent powers defined the latter half of the twentieth century. Even today, with the potential for nuclear arms to fall into terrorist hands and resurgent tensions between Russia and the […]

60 Minutes in Central America: The Politicization of Development During the Cold War

Complex geopolitical realities, poor leadership, and economic dysfunction characterized the Cold War in Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador. USAID (United States Agency for International Development) played a crucial role in strengthening the political and economic institutions of these countries. Its ability to work and achieve success in Cold War conditions was nothing short of extraordinary. […]

Cold War Cover Stories: The U-2 Incident

On May 1, 1960, at the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union brought down an American U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers.  The U.S. government’s first reaction was to construct a believable cover story to conceal its program of high-altitude surveillance missions over the Soviet Union. Powers began his flight from […]

“The Cold War Was Truly Over” — The 1986 Reykjavik Summit

After the 1985 Geneva Summit, where President Ronald Reagan and leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, met for the first time, the Reykjavik Summit, held on October 11-12, 1986, presented an opportunity to try to reach an agreement between the two sides on arms control. While Gorbachev wanted to ban all ballistic missiles and limit the talks […]

George Kennan — Containment and the Cold War

George Frost Kennan was, and still remains, a very controversial and legendary figure in American diplomatic history. As a historian, political scientist, and diplomat, Kennan focused most of his career on Russian culture and history. Widely regarded as one of the most brilliant diplomats of his day, he was collegial with his staff and, despite […]

 Taking the Chill off the Cold War: The First Reagan-Gorbachev Summit

The Geneva Summit of 1985 was the first meeting between President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev to talk about the arms race, particularly the Strategic Defense Initiative, and to establish personal relations between the leaders of the world’s superpowers.  Held November 19, 1985 at a chateau owned by the Aga Khan, the first meeting went over […]

Frenemies: Warm Encounters with Cold War Soviets

Just because the war between the two superpowers was cold didn’t mean that relations between U.S. and Soviet diplomats had to be frosty. While there were certainly some testy times, U.S. diplomats report that their relationships with Soviets were sometimes warm, funny, and congenial — especially if the Soviet officer was trying to convince them […]