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Euromissiles: The Nuclear Weapons That Nearly Destroyed NATO
January 10 @ 6:00 pm - 7:15 pm
The Center for Presidential History welcomes Susan Colbourn (Duke University) to discuss her new book, Euromissiles: The Nuclear Weapons that Nearly Destroyed NATO. Colbourn tells the story of the height of nuclear crisis and the remarkable waning of the fear that gripped the globe.
In the Cold War conflict that pitted nuclear superpowers against one another, Europe was the principal battleground. Washington and Moscow had troops on the ground and missiles in the fields of their respective allies, the NATO nations and the states of the Warsaw Pact. Euromissiles—intermediate-range nuclear weapons to be used exclusively in the regional theater of war—highlighted how the peoples of Europe were dangerously placed between hammer and anvil. That made European leaders uncomfortable and pushed fearful masses into the streets demanding peace in their time.
At the center of the story is NATO. Colbourn highlights the weakness of the alliance seen by many as the most effective bulwark against Soviet aggression. Divided among themselves and uncertain about the depth of US support, the member states were riven by the missile issue. This strategic crisis was, as much as any summit meeting between US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, the hinge on which the Cold War turned.
Euromissiles is a history of diplomacy and alliances, social movements and strategy, nuclear weapons and nagging fears, and politics. To tell that history, Colbourn takes a long view of the strategic crisis—from the emerging dilemmas of allied defense in the early 1950s through the aftermath of the INF Treaty thirty-five years later. The result is a dramatic and sweeping tale that changes the way we think about the Cold War and its culmination.
Susan Colbourn is the Associate Director of the Triangle Institute for Security Studies (TISS), based at the Sanford School. A diplomatic and international historian, she is interested in questions of strategy and security in the atomic age. She specializes in the history of the Cold War with a focus on NATO, the politics of European security, and the role of nuclear weapons in international politics and society. Prior to joining TISS, she held fellowships at Yale University’s International Security Studies program and at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. She received her Ph.D. in History from the University of Toronto.