March 11, 2011

Colloquium Speaker: David E. Hoffman

David E. Hoffman is a contributing editor at the Washington Post and Foreign Policy magazine. For The Post, he covered the White House during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, and was subsequently diplomatic correspondent and Jerusalem correspondent. From 1995 to 2001, he served as Moscow bureau chief, and later as foreign editor and assistant managing editor for foreign news. He is the author of The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia and The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy, for which he was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction, 2010. He lives in Maryland.

Colloquium Topic: Two Sides of Mikhail Gorbachev at the End of the Cold War: Decisions on Strategic Defenses and Biological Weapons, 1985-1991

The talk will focus on two major discoveries in my research. The first was how the Soviet leadership, including Gorbachev, reacted to Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative. I found internal documents showing that upon taking office in 1985, Gorbachev was presented with a huge plan by the leading missile and outer space designers, among others, to build a giant Soviet "Star Wars." The plan cobbled together all of the Soviet activities in this field and would have provided the military-industrial complex with vast new subsidies. Gorbachev did not accept their plan, and in so doing made an important shift in direction. Secondly, the documents and interviews I conducted show that the illicit Soviet biological weapons program, which began in the 1970s in violation of the Biological Weapons Convention, continued during Gorbachev's years in office, and he participated in the cover-up. The talk will examine these two decisions and what Gorbachev may have been thinking.