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From Conflict Escalation to Conflict Transformation: The Cold War in the 1980s

(2002, NS 122)
The Norwegian Nobel Institute, Geir Lundestad and Olav Njølstad
June 17-19
Lysebu Conference Center, Oslo, Norway

The symposium brought together 36 prominent historians and political scientists from the United States, Canada, China and nine European countries including Russia. The 24 papers that were presented were commented upon by selected discussants, and then in plenum. The objective was to present and debate new perspectives on the final decade of the Cold War in light of the extensive historical source material that has become available to scholars in recent years.

The symposium was divided into eight sessions, each with its central theme. Session 1 examined the 1980s in a longer time perspective and discussed what characterized the 1980s compared to previous phases of the Cold War. Session 2 dealt with "crises and pseudo-crises" in the 1980s, with an emphasis on the invasion of Afghanistan, the nuclear missile race in Europe (SS-20, Pershing II, etc.), the state of emergency in Poland, superpower rivalries in Africa and Latin America and the seemingly acute war scare in the top Soviet leadership in 1982-83. Session 3 presented various reasons behind the shift from confrontation to cooperation in the mid-1980s, while sessions 4 and 5 focused on change and continuity in Soviet policy compared to American policy during the period. One theme that has been extensively discussed in recent years is the role of military/political intelligence expert Christopher Andrew and former CIA Deputy Director Douglas MacEachin among the introductory speakers. The last decade of the Cold War was not only a matter of the relationship between the two superpowers, the U.S. and the Soviet Union; session 7 thus provided a broad discussion of the role of China and Europe in the same historical processes. Finally, in session 8, former Soviet presidential advisor Anatoly Chernyaev and former American ambassador and presidential advisor Jack F. Matlock, Jr. were introductory speakers in a discussion of whether the lines of conflict from the Cold War have continued to assert themselves in international politicis.

A selection of the symposium contributions will be published as a book by Frank Cass Publishers in its Cold War History series during the autumn of 2003.

 

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