Honors | The Cold War and After
Y210 | 3447 | spechler

Contrary to most people’s expectations, the end of the Cold War has
not eliminated the threat to national and planetary survival posed by
nuclear weapons. Both the USA and Russia retain huge arsenals, which
both sides are working hard to modernize. A growing number of other
states are acquiring arsenals of their own. In the meantime, the
collapse of the Soviet Union has accelerated the process of nuclear
proliferation and increased the danger of nuclear war from an
accident or detonation by terrorists, while the two nuclear
superpowers are faced with serious environmental damage and
substantial risks resulting from the production and storage of
nuclear warheads and fuel. This course will examine the key decisions
over the last 50 years by policy makers in the USA, the USSR/Russia,
Europe, and the Third World that created this dangerous situation,
the contemporary consequences of these decisions, and the prospects
for the future. We will consider the options open to decision makers
in the past and the present, the wisdom of and rationale for the
choices that they made, and what should be done now.
The course will be taught as a seminar, meeting two hours a
week and emphasizing discussion. Weekly reading will be 50-60 pages,
including many original source documents (memoirs, letters, speeches)
and news articles from the past and present, as well as scholars’
discussions of the issues. Writing assignments will total
approximately 20-25 pages. There will be a midterm and a final.