Unarmed Forces: The Transnational Movement to End the Cold War

Unarmed Forces: The Transnational Movement to End the Cold War

Unarmed Forces: The Transnational Movement to End the Cold War

Unarmed Forces: The Transnational Movement to End the Cold War

Synopsis

Throughout the Cold War, people worldwide feared that the U.S. and Soviet governments could not prevent a nuclear showdown. Citizens from both Eastbloc and Western countries, among them prominent scientists and physicians, formed networks to promote ideas and policies that would lessen this danger. Two of their organizations -- the Pugwash Movement and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War -- won Nobel peace prizes. Still, many observers believe that their influence was negligible and that the Reagan administration deserves sole credit for ending the Cold War. 'The first book to explore the impact these activists had on the Soviet side of the Iron Curtain, Unarmed Forces demonstrates the importance of their efforts on behalf of arms control and disarmament.

Excerpt

I began work on this book in the second half of the 1980s, at a time when the United States and the Soviet Union were engaged in an expensive and dangerous arms race and a major debate was raging over what to do about it. In those days, many people around the world had come to believe that the Soviet and U.S. governments were incapable of ending the arms race and the Cold War on their own. Citizens began to form transnational networks across the Iron Curtain to promote ideas and policies that would lessen the danger of superpower conflict. Particularly active were scientists and physicians, many of whom had engaged in similar transnational activity back in the 1950s and 1960s.

When I began to study the influence of transnational activism on the military policies of the United States and the Soviet Union, the topic was of immediate policy relevance. People wondered whether such efforts made any difference. What was the likelihood that Soviet participants in such transnational efforts were doing anything other than mouthing the official policies of their governments? Would not a surer route to ending the Cold War lie in support for the U.S. government's official policy of "peace through strength"? The literature in political science on transnational relations was not of much help in answering these questions. It dealt neither with military policy nor with the Soviet Union.

Much has changed since then. The Cold War and the arms race are over. My questions about the impact of U.S.--Soviet transnational networks shifted from the realm of policy debate to the realm of historical debate--a very contentious and lively debate about how the Cold War ended. At the same time, a new opportunity has arisen to conduct historical research using primary sources from the Soviet era. To be sure, these newly available memoirs, interviews, and archival documents do not tell us all we want to know. The New York Times . . .

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