Dreams for a Decade
International Nuclear Abolitionism and the End of the Cold War
by Stephanie L. Freeman
During the 1980s, millions of ordinary individuals around the world mobilized in support of nuclear disarmament. Although U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev were not part of these grassroots movements, they too wanted to eliminate nuclear weapons. Nuclear abolitionism was a diverse and global phenomenon.
In Dreams for a Decade, Stephanie L. Freeman draws on newly declassified material from multiple continents to examine nuclear abolitionists’ influence on the trajectory of the Cold War’s last decade. Freeman reveals that nuclear abolitionism played a significant yet unappreciated role in ending the Cold War. Grassroots and government nuclear abolitionists shifted U.S. and Soviet nuclear arms control paradigms from arms limitation to arms reduction. This paved the way for the reversal of the U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms race, which began with the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. European peace activists also influenced Gorbachev’s “common European home” initiative and support for freedom of choice in Europe, which prevented the Soviet leader from intervening to stop the 1989 East European revolutions. These revolutions ripped the fabric of the Iron Curtain, which had divided Europe for more than four decades.
Despite their inability to eliminate nuclear weapons, grassroots and government nuclear abolitionists deserve credit for playing a pivotal role in the Cold War’s endgame. They also provide a model for enacting dramatic, positive change in a peaceful manner.
"As the world once again faces the threat of nuclear conflict, Stephanie L. Freeman’s Dreams for a Decade is a welcome reminder of the way that activists and officials, raising their voices in support of nuclear abolition, helped to reduce that risk in the past."—M. E. Sarotte, author of Not One Inch: America, Russia, and the Making of Post-Cold War Stalemate
"Dreams for a Decade links in novel, surprising ways the international nuclear freeze movement of the early 1980s to broader, East-West efforts to transcend the Cold War by rendering the nuclear arms race extinct. Stephanie L. Freeman deftly weaves top-down and bottom-up approaches together into a sweeping narrative of the largest peace movement of the past fifty years. A must-read for those interested in the entangled histories of nuclear weapons, antiwar movements, and the Cold War."—Jonathan R. Hunt, author of The Nuclear Club: How America and the World Policed the Atom from Hiroshima to Vietnam