Richard Pipes has died at age 94

Historians in the News
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From the end of Word War II until 1991 a Cold War was fought by Cold Warriors. The West, led by the United States, won that conflict, and one of the individuals responsible was Richard Pipes, who died Thursday at age 94.

Check the index for any history of the U.S. during the Cold War period, and you will find these words: Team B, detente, Ronald Reagan, Committee on the Present Danger, Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson and Richard Pipes. 

Pipes spent his academic career as a professor of Russian history at Harvard University. He entered Harvard as a graduate student in 1946 having fled Poland and taught until 1996. Not content to spend those years handing down theories on the Soviet Union from the ivory tower, Pipes was an active participant—some would say combatant—in the debates of those years.

He advised Scoop Jackson, the pro-defense and anti-Soviet Democratic Senator whose like has disappeared from that party today. During the Ford Presidency, Pipes led an exercise known as Team B, a small collection of Cold War specialists tasked with challenging the CIA’s dominant views about the Soviet threat.

Pipes was perhaps the leading intellectual opponent of the policy of “detente” with the Soviet Union. He did not believe it was possible for the West to accommodate itself indefinitely to the presence of the Soviet Union’s Communist state. As now with the debates over Islamic fundamentalism, these Cold-War arguments were hotly contested. Possibly there were moments when Pipes gave ground, but we can’t recall them. Back then, he was the voice of dissent.

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