22 Sep 2014 - 23 Sep 2014 12:30pm History Faculty Board Room


This conference is not open to the public. 


David Reynolds (History Faculty, University of Cambridge)
Kristina Spohr (International History Department, LSE)


In the early 1970s it seemed that Europe’s Cold War order had set firmly in place. Détente agreements stabilized dangerous flashpoints, especially Berlin, and established a framework for the two blocs to coexist. Division made the Continent safe for détente. By 1990, however, that apparently stable order had fallen apart. The Communist regimes in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania were toppled and the historic ‘German question’ had been resolved through reunification. A year later the Soviet Union itself disintegrated.

The aim of this conference is to analyse the contribution of summitry to the peaceful ending of the Cold War, compared with other more structural factors such as military pressure, economic change and social transformations. Specifically, we look at the period 1970 to 1990 through the eyes of policymakers who, while having to handle as current politics the effects of long-term systemic economic and political failures in the Soviet bloc or massive socio-economic and technological transformations in the West, used personal summitry to first manage Cold War crises and then to move beyond the whole structure of bipolar confrontation. The overarching questions are: (1) How far did decisions at the summit affect international outcomes? (2) Where did that process of summitry fit within the larger story of the Cold War’s dénouement.

The main task of the conference will be to discuss and critique draft chapters of a book, for which we have a contract from Oxford University Press. These run from the Erfurt meeting of 1970 between Willy Brandt and Willi Stoph – the two German leaders – right up to the Caucasus summit of 1990 between Mikhail Gorbachev and Helmut Kohl, which concluded the deal for German unification. Along the way we shall examine the détente summits of the 1970s and the dramatic series of Reagan-Gorbachev meetings that broke the ice of the New Cold War. 



Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH), the British Academy (Marc Fitch Fund) and the Knowledge Exchange and Impact Strategy Group. 


When you first arrive in Cambridge, we recommend you make your way to CHRIST'S COLLEGE and check in/ or at least drop off your luggage. Directions: From the train station, turn left for the buses (numbers 1, 3 and 8 should go to the city centre [10 minutes] – then ask for Christ's College), or turn right for a taxi (about £6). Go to the front gate of Christ's College on St Andrew's Street and check in at the Porter's Lodge.

Administrative assistance: events@crassh.cam.ac.uk


DAY 1 - Monday 22 September

Registration (History Faculty Lobby) 


Welcome and Lunch





Brandt (Benedikt Schoenborn, Tampere) & Stoph (Gottfried Niedhart, Mannheim) 




Mao (Yafeng Xia, Long Island) & Nixon (Chris Tudda, Office of the Historian, US Dept of State)




Nixon & Brezhhev (James Cameron, Stanford) 




Wrap Up and ‘Friction’
Heonik Kwon (Trinity, Cambridge) and Harald Wydra (St Catharine’s, Cambridge) 

19.15 for 19.00

Dinner, Christ’s College (dress: smart casual)

DAY 2 - Tuesday 23 September


Ford (Dan Sargent, Berkeley) & Brezhnev (Mike Morgan, UNC) 




Giscard (Ilaria Parisi, Paris) & Carter (Kristina Spohr, LSE) 






Reagan, esp. Reykjavik (Jonathan Hunt, Stanford) & Gorbachev (Mark Kramer, Harvard) 




SESSION 7: 1989 PEKING (1 & 2) & MALTA
Bush (Jeff Engel, SMU) & Deng (Sergey Radchenko, Aberystwyth) 




Kohl (Kristina Spohr, LSE) 





19.15 for 19.30

Dinner, Christ's College (dress: smart casual)

DAY 3 - Wednesday 24 September

Witness Seminar and Roundtable Discussion Foreign & Commonwealth Office, London – in collaboration with Prof. Patrick Salmon, Chief Historian, and FCO Historians

The transcript of the Cold War Summitry Discussion can be found here.

Note: we shall travel together from Cambridge by train after 10.00 (exact train to be confirmed). Participants should check out of Christ’s College and bring their luggage with them to FCO, where it can be left during the seminar. We shall enter not from Whitehall (main front entrance) but by the side entrance on King Charles Street, near to Clive Steps and St James’ Park.
Dress code: smart casual


Arrival and security





We have invited distinguished British diplomats with direct experience of the summitry of these years (including Sir Brian Fall and Lord Charles Powell) to share their impressions of key meetings and personalities. We ask them to reflect in opening statements on specific summits that they attended or helped to prepare, and more generally on their perspectives about the role of personal diplomacy of this sort (as against long-term, structural change) in effecting a peaceful end to the Cold War in 1989-91. 





We reflect more generally, as academics and practitioners, on the pros and cons of summitry in promoting international dialogue and agreement. At a time when the media is full of talk about a new Cold War, it seems particularly useful to seek possible ‘lessons’ from the past.

Our agenda is loose but among our themes in both sessions:
– Pre-summit preparations and the importance of ‘sherpas’
– Scope for political leaders’ own input and independent, ad hoc activity at the summit – Value of these meetings for informal dialogue as opposed to formal bargaining
– Considerations of public presentation (actively using or avoiding the media)
– Extent to which summit meetings are pre-packed, with conclusions largely worked out beforehand 



Abstracts & Biographies


SESSION 1: The German-German summits in Erfurt and Kassel, 1970

Both the FRG and the GDR were products of the Cold War and became parties to this confrontation. While the GDR strove for recognition on the basis of the post-war status quo, the FRG perceived itself as a revisionist state – seeking ultimately to overcome the 1949 division. In this respect the summits in Erfurt and Kassel were a partial success for East Berlin. At the same time it emerged that the SED regime suffered from a twofold constraint. Without much room to manoeuvre within the Soviet empire, it was forced to remain in the shadow of West German-Soviet relations. Moreover, it lacked legitimacy at home and perceived Bonn’s Ostpolitik as a major challenge. For West German Chancellor Willy Brandt the summits in Erfurt and Kassel were to be the first step of a normalisation process using rapprochement as the basis for eventual change. Rather than expecting any immediate results from his meetings with Stoph, Brandt put great emphasis on initiating regular German-German contacts on lower levels in order to institutionally interlock the GDR and the FRG, and to forestall the further alienation of German from German. Brandt eventually saw his concrete objectives for Erfurt and Kassel fulfilled, with the signing of the Basic Treaty of 1972.

SESSION 2: Beijing, 1972 – Mao and Nixon

The Mao-Nixon summit took place in Beijing after 22 years of hostilities and confrontations between the People’s Republic of China and the United States. It was a result of a radically changed international situation. When the Sino-Soviet split took place in the 1960s, the Sino-Soviet alliance broke up. Mao adjusted his foreign policy in an attempt to join forces with the United States to counter the Soviet Union. At the same time, Nixon chose to pursue a new strategy by working toward, and then achieving, a rapprochement with China that none of his predecessors even attempted, much less expected. Nixon’s China trip did accomplish its pre-set strategic as well as political goals. Nixon broke rooted American taboo in dealing with the PRC. Without any apology, he engaged Mao in a discussion that ended the isolation of the PRC from the West and America’s isolation from China.

SESSION 3: Moscow, 1972 – Brezhnev and Nixon

The May 1972 summit in Moscow between U.S. President Richard M. Nixon and Soviet General Secretary Leonid I. Brezhnev was a watershed. The two main summiteers had built their careers in the high Cold War, yet they reached beyond confrontation to conclude accords on strategic arms limitation as well as on basic principles by which they aspired to conduct their relations. The Moscow Summit was not designed to end the Cold War, therefore, but to regulate it. In this, it provided only a temporary respite. Both sides walked away with important gains but they failed to secure a compact that would facilitate a long-term amelioration of the superpower competition on mutually acceptable terms. Nevertheless, in freezing certain key areas of the superpower competition, the Moscow Summit served as the basis for later developments that would overcome the division of Europe.

SESSION 4: Helsinki, 1975 – Ford and Brezhnev

The Helsinki Summit of July/August 1975 was anomalous among Cold War summits. Unlike the meetings at Yalta and Potsdam that birthed the Cold War and the summits at Reykjavik and Malta that ended it, Helsinki was a multilateral undertaking, in which thirty-five governments participated. The summit itself was a set-piece: the Final Act that leaders signed being negotiated not in Helsinki but during the three-year preparatory process that preceded it. While the obvious outcome of Helsinki was de facto ratification of the 1945 territorial status quo that was the Soviets’ main objective, the conference nevertheless proved a turning point in the Cold War because of Western European insistence on basic precepts of human rights and freedom of movement. Helsinki did not, therefore, stabilize the Cold War and consolidate Soviet-American détente, as some have claimed. Rather, it ended the geopolitical détente that the superpowers built in the early 1970s and initiated a new and distinctive phase in the Cold War, during which transnational contacts across the blocs began to surmount Europe’s division, prefiguring and precipitating the rise of reform movements in Eastern Europe and Mikhail Gorbachev’s bid in the late 1980s to reintegrate the USSR to the broader world. Understanding how Helsinki yielded such unexpected results, we argue, requires thinking about the ways in which the allies and clients of the superpowers, especially in Western Europe, were able to influence and shape the summit, steering the multilateral dialogue towards conclusions that neither superpower had intended or desired.

SESSION 5: Guadeloupe, 1979 – The Meeting of the Big Western Four

The informal summit held at Guadeloupe offered the first occasion for a quadripartite, face-to-face discussion on European security issues and NATO’s nuclear strategy, involving America, Britain, France and West Germany. It allowed the host, French president Giscard d’Estaing to achieve a double aim – supporting the Allies in moving towards a decision on the modernization of American long-range theatre nuclear forces, while itself staying out of NATO’s military planning.  France proposed modernization ahead of negotiation and Carter picked up this theme, against Schmidt’s emphasis on negotiation in parallel to modernization, on which he was supported by Callaghan. This was the basis of NATO’s December 1979 ‘dual track’ decision that, in turn, helped set the stage for new Cold War tensions.

SESSION 6:  Reagan’s Summits in Geneva, Reykjavik and Washington, 1985-7

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev ushered in a new era for Soviet-American relations at three summits from 1985 to 1987. Reagan’s efforts to re-engage the Soviet Union led to in the Geneva summit, where the two leaders built goodwill and identified the common ends needed to sustain a more fruitful dialogue. Next, they came to the brink of a Cold War revolution at Reykjavik, where Reagan’s antipathy toward nuclear weapons combined with his burgeoning trust in Gorbachev yielded a conceptual framework for eliminating ballistic missiles and perhaps nuclear weapons altogether, even though the two leaders drew back from practical implementation.  Shock at how far the leaders had gone at Reykjavik, however, set off a counterrevolution within the US government. At their next summit in Washington, Reagan and Gorbachev signed the Intermediate Forces Treaty (INF) but elements of the Reagan administration spoiled opportunities to resolve broader Cold War conflicts in Afghanistan and Central America, or to prepare the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) for signature at the 1988 summit in Moscow.

SESSION 7: Bush in 1989 – From Beijing to Malta  

George Bush changed over the course of 1989, accepting not only the possibility that the Cold War was truly at an end, but also his need for a stable partner in Mikhail Gorbachev to ensure that the tectonic changes wrought by communism’s collapse did not overwhelm the international system.  This was not where he began the year, entering office instead skeptical of Gorbachev’s sincerity, and fearful that perestroika was part of a brilliant Soviet scheme to capture victory from the jaws of Cold War defeat. His priority in early 1989, as a trusted ‘old friend’ of China and of Deng Xiaoping, was to build a stronger relationship with the People’s Republic.  Ironically, the dramatic events in China in June did as much as anything to change Bush’s mind, or at least catalyze his willingness to work with Gorbachev, lest the violence in Tiananmen Square be repeated across Eastern Europe.  His evolution can be seen most clearly in two summits that largely bookend his experience of 1989: his visit to China in late February of 1989, and then his more famous encounter with Mikhail Gorbachev that December at Malta.  This paper presents a close examination of the former, with particular attention paid to the evolution of Bush’s thinking prompted by events in Asia as Europe’s revolutions of 1989 progressed.

SESSION 8: Caucasus, 1990 – Kohl and Gorbachev

On 15 and 16 July 1990 German chancellor Helmut Kohl and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev held summit talks in Moscow and in Stavropol and Archyz in the Caucasus. This sometimes neglected meeting was of considerable international importance – sealing the deal on Germany regaining full sovereignty upon unification and allowing unified Germany to remain in NATO. The chancellor’s use of chequebook diplomacy also facilitated agreements on the reduction of the Federal Armed Forces to 370,000 soldiers and on a bilateral treaty that would define a four-year transition period for Soviet troop withdrawals from eastern Germany. The Caucasus summit thereby brought the Cold War to an end in the country that had been its original cockpit. It also marked Germany’s coming of age by clearly indicating Germany’s international emancipation after four decades of limited sovereignty. Not only was it Kohl, not US president George H.W. Bush, who wrapped up all the practical questions that in effect shaped Europe’s post-Cold War security order. Kohl also negotiated on a par with the eastern superpower – and did so without any American presence. Yet, one must not overlook the fact that the preservation of NATO in the first place, albeit in a more political form, had its essential roots in the way the United States decided in late 1989 to define its national interests. And this security parameter –set by the Americans as a sine qua non of German unification – actually allowed the United States to remain a European power and thus also a shaper of the continent’s evolution after the Cold War.


Edoardo Andreoni (rapporteur) is a doctoral candidate at Cambridge, whose research focuses on Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative and transatlantic relations during the closing decade of the Cold War. He previously studied at the University of Bologna, where he obtained an MA in International Relations with a thesis on neoconservative criticism of Reagan's Soviet policy.

James Cameron received his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 2013. Since then, he has been a postdoctoral fellow in nuclear security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. He is currently working on a book manuscript, provisionally entitled The Secret Struggle: The Rise and Demise of America’s First Missile Defense System, 1961-1972.

Jeffrey A. Engel is founding Director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University, having served until 2012 at Texas A&M University as the Howard and Verlin Kruse ‘52 Professor and Director of Programming for the Scowcroft Institute for International Affairs.  Author or editor of eight books on American foreign policy and the presidency, he is currently writing When the World Seemed New: George H.W. Bush and the Surprisingly Peaceful End of the Cold War (Boston, forthcoming).

Mathias Haeussler (rapporteur) is currently a Ph.D. candidate in History at the University of Cambridge, working on a dissertation on 'Helmut Schmidt and Anglo-German Relations, 1974-82'. He has a BA from Queen Mary University of London and an MPhil from Cambridge and has held fellowships at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn and the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

Jonathan R. Hunt received his doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin in 2013. He has been a fellow of the Eisenhower Institute, International Green Cross, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and Stanford University. He is now a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at RAND Corporation, where he is finishing his book manuscript, The Bargain: America and the World’s Pursuit of Perpetual Peace in the Nuclear Age.

Mark Kramer is a Professor and Director of Cold War Studies at Harvard University and a senior Fellow of Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.  Trained in mathematics and later in international relations, he was formerly an Academy Scholar in Harvard’s Academy of International Studies and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.  His most recent books are Imposing, Maintaining, and Tearing Open the Iron Curtain:  The Cold War and East-Central Europe, 1945-1990 (Lanham, 2014) and Reassessing History from Two Continents (Innsbruck, 2013).  He is also the lead editor and principal author of the forthcoming 3-volume collection, The End of an Era:  The Fate of Communist Regimes, 1989-1991 (Cambridge, Mass, 2014-2015).

Heonik Kwon (commentator) is a social anthropologist interested in Cold War history. He is a Senior Research Fellow at Trinity College, University of Cambridge, and previously taught at the London School of Economics. Among his recents works are Ghosts of War in Vietnam (2008) and The Other Cold War (2010). He is directing an international research on the Korean War social and transnational history and has completed an intimate history of the Korean War as part of this project. His current writing project deals with the plurality of Cold War memories in East Asia.

Mike Morgan is Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He is currently writing a book on the origins of the Helsinki Final Act.  He previously taught at the US Naval War College and the University of Toronto, and has held fellowships at the University of Virginia and Sciences Po.

Gottfried Niedhart is Professor Emeritus of Modern History at the University of Mannheim. He has published on English and German history and on the history of international relations mainly in the 20th century. His publications on East-West relations during the era of détente include Helsinki 1975 and the Transformation of Europe , co-editor Oliver Bange (New York, 2008) and Entspannung in Europa: Die Bundesrepublik Deutschland und der Warschauer Pakt 1966 bis 1975 (Munich, 2014).

Ilaria Parisi is a doctoral candidate at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3. She is writing her thesis on ‘France and the Euromissiles crisis, 1977-1987’. She has specialized in French foreign and security policy during the Cold War, with a focus on France’s relationship with NATO and the implications of her nuclear doctrine within Atlantic politics. Since the 2012/2013 academic year, she has also co-organized a young researcher’s seminar on nuclear history at the University of Paris 3, the ‘Atelier d’histoire nucléaire’.

Sergey Radchenko is Reader in International Politics at Aberystwyth University, Wales and Guest Professor at East China Normal University, Shanghai. He is the author of Unwanted Visionaries: the Soviet Failure in Asia at the End of the Cold War (Oxford, 2014) and Two Suns in the Heavens: the Sino-Soviet Struggle for Supremacy (Stanford, 2009).

David Reynolds is Professor of International History at Cambridge where he is currently Chairman of the History Faculty. He is the author of ten books including One World Divisible: A Global History since 1945 (London, 2000), Summits: Six Meetings that Shaped the 20th Century (London, 2007) and, most recently, The Long Shadow: The Great War and the 20th Century (London, 2013). 

Dan Sargent is Assistant Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. He received his BA from Christ’s College, Cambridge in 2001 and his PhD from Harvard University in 2008. He has held fellowships at the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University and at International Security Studies at Yale University. He is the author of A Superpower Transformed: The Remaking of American Foreign Relations in the 1970s (Oxford, 2015) and a co-editor of The Shock of the Global: The 1970s in Perspective (Cambridge, Mass., 2010).

Benedikt Schoenborn is a Senior Research Fellow and Lecturer at the Tampere Peace Research Institute and the University of Tampere, Finland. His major publications include the prize winning book La mésentente apprivoisée: de Gaulle et les Allemands (Paris, 2007), and, with Jussi M. Hanhimäki and Barbara Zanchetta, Transatlantic relations since 1945: An Introduction (London, 2012).

Kristina Spohr is Associate Professor of International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is author of Germany and the Baltic Problem after the Cold War: The Development of a New Ostpolitik, 1989–2000 (Routledge, 2004), and co-editor of At the Crossroads of Past and Present – ‘Contemporary’ History and the Historical Discipline [Special Issue: Journal of Contemporary History 46:3 (July 2011)]. She is currently finishing a monograph entitled West Germany Comes of Age: Helmut Schmidt and the Reshaping of the International Order in the 1970s.

Chris Tudda is a Historian in the Declassification Division in the Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State. He is the author of The Truth is our Weapon: The Rhetorical Diplomacy of Dwight D. Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles (Baton Rouge, 2006) and A Cold War Turning Point: Nixon and China, 1969-1972 (Baton Rouge, 2012).

Harald Wydra (commentator) is a Fellow of St Catharine’s College and has taught politics at the University of Cambridge since 2003. His work has dealt with post-communist transitions, demo-cratisation in Eastern Europe, and politics of memory in Europe. His books include Continuities in Poland’s Permanent Transition (Palgrave, 2001) Communism and the Emergence of Democracy (Cambridge, 2007), Democracy and Myth in Russia and Eastern Europe (Routledge, 2008), Politics and the Sacred (Cambridge, forthcoming 2015).

Yafeng Xia is Professor of History at Long Island University in New York and guest professor at the Center for Cold War International History Studies, East China Normal University in Shanghai. He is the author of Negotiating with the Enemy: U.S.-China Talks during the Cold War, 1949-72 (Bloomington, 2006) and has published over twenty articles on Cold War history. He is at work with Zhihua Shen on a book tentatively entitled Friendship in Name Only: Mao Zedong, Kim Il Sung, and the Myth of Sino-North Korean Relations, 1949-1976.



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