27 January 2020

Symposium: The Cold War and its Repercussions

Following the thirty year anniversary of the end of the Cold War, Dr. Laurien Crump and several colleagues have published three books that unveil previously uncharted issues about the tense historical period.

Together with the Centre for Global Challenges, Dr. Laurien Crump organized a book symposium to present and discuss these three studies as well as the repercussions of the Cold War today. Former foreign minister Ben Bot also joined in to deliver his reflections upon the studies.

The symposium started with a presentation from Dr. Crump and Dr. Susanna Erlandsson about their work on the role of smaller states during the Cold War. In contrast to general belief, the authors were intrigued by how smaller states within the two great power blocs position themselves vis-à-vis the superpowers and whether these would see their position constrained or as an opportunity. Margins for Manoeuvre analyses the smaller powers their freedom for foreign, economic and cultural policies.

Following this presentation, Dr. Paschalis Pechlivanis presented his work on the United States (US) foreign policy of differentiation towards Ceausescu’s Romania between 1969 and 1980. Dr. Pechlivanis showed that Washington’s Eastern European policy was much more nuanced than solely focusing on East versus West. The study examines the dynamics that shaped the evolutionary relationship between the US and Romania, especially after Bucharest’s opening towards the West.

After Dr. Pechlivanis, Dr. Eleni Braat and Dr. Pepijn Corduwener elaborated on their work regarding the implications of the 1989 collapse of the Berlin wall and the End of the Cold War on Western Europe. Their study challenges assumptions such as ‘the end of history’ and a ‘victory for Western liberal democracy.’ Dr. Braat and Dr. Corduwener their work certainly reveals how the end of the cold war has accelerated and reinforced processes that shaped the fragile geopolitical situation and economic order of Europe today.

The symposium ended with Dr. Ben Bot giving an inspiring keynote speech on his firsthand experiences as a diplomat and international consultant during this tumultuous historical period. Dr. Bot lauded the books on enlightening him with insights he did not even knew of despite his many years in foreign service. He also addressed the way the superpowers acted towards their smaller allies; stating that while the US acted like a giant that did not want to step on the toes of the dwarfs, the Soviet Union was more like the opposite and acted more assertively. After his speech different people from the audience asked questions on the role and perception of the Netherlands in the cold war period, which directed the symposium towards its end.