John Lewis Gaddis and other Cold War historians are back in demand

Historians in the News
tags: Cold War, New York Times

With the ongoing tumult in Ukraine, major news outlets are reaching out to a group of historians who were once media darlings but have received considerably less attention in subsequent years: historians of Russia and the Cold War.

John Lewis Gaddis, widely considered to be the dean of Cold War historians, Robert A. Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History at Yale University, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of George F. Kennan: An American Life, and an unofficial advisor to the Bush administration during Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in 2005, was quoted in a front-page story in Tuesday’s New York Times about President Obama’s handling of the Ukrainian crisis, telling the newspaper that the cautious statements coming from the White House are reflective of the administration’s broader ‘broader “policy of restraint”’ when it comes to dealing with overseas crises.

The author of the story, Peter Baker, also quoted Professor Gaddis extensively in his 2013 book Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House.

On the other end of the political spectrum, The Nation contributing editor and New York University Russian studies professor Stephen Cohen has been actively calling for more active U.S. involvement in promoting “a stable and united Ukraine, at peace with itself and not trapped in an either or proposition between Russia and Europe.” Cohen warned that absent such efforts, Ukraine could splinter between the country’s pro-European West  and a pro-Russian East.

Even pre-Cold War historians are getting involved in commentary and analysis. Timothy Snyder, also a professor at Yale University and author of the 2010 book Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, wrote a detailed analysis for the New York Review of Books of the Euromaidan protesters in Kiev, defending the majority of protesters from Russian accusations of neo-fascism and critically examining Moscow’s Eurasian Union project.

One thing is certain: as infighting continues in Kiev and the possibility of a Ukrainian split lingers, the demand for topical experts will continue unabated.

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