Category Archives: History & Political Science

#ReadUPK in the Washington Post

The following editorial has been re-published from the Washington Post Monkey Cage blog (12/16/2016).

Trump may be borrowing Nixon’s ‘back channel’ strategy in his contacts with Russia

by Richard A. Moss

News that the president-elect’s son, Donald Trump Jr., met with pro-Russian Syrian opposition in Paris, or that two Russian officials acknowledged longer term contacts with the Trump campaign, has prompted concern about undue foreign influence — especially given recent news that the CIA has concluded that Russian hacking during the election was designed to help Donald Trump. Those worries have escalated with the president-elect’s apparent selection of Rex Tillerson, chief executive of ExxonMobil who has made multibillion-dollar deals with Russia President Vladimir Putin, for secretary of state — especially since Russian Duma members applaud his nomination.

But we can look at the incoming Trump administration’s contacts with Russian officials in a different way. The Trump team may be taking a page from Richard M. Nixon’s 1968 playbook by using “back channels” to improve U.S.-Russian relations. Perhaps the incoming administration can achieve detente — a relaxation of tensions — through this more informal approach to diplomacy. If that’s what’s going on, the Trump team might wish to be mindful of this approach’s longer-term pitfalls.

 

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Richard A. Moss is the author of Nixon’s Back Channel to Moscow

Nixon used two ‘back channels’ before taking office

 

Before his narrow victory in November 1968, Nixon used two back channels to get messages to the Soviet leadership. First, Nixon dispatched his longtime aide and personal friend, Robert Ellsworth, to contact Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin and Soviet Charge d’Affaires Yuri Cherniakov. Once he did so during the campaign, Ellsworth conveyed the incoming Nixon administration’s views on a variety of issues, such as the ratification of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Middle East.

The second channel — one that would probably raise eyebrows today — involved Henry Kissinger and a KGB intelligence officer, Boris Sedov. This connection functioned informally during the presidential campaign when Kissinger was a foreign policy adviser to Nixon and petered out shortly after Kissinger became national security adviser. The Kissinger-Sedov contact added the dimension of Soviet intelligence seeking additional information about the main players in the incoming Nixon administration and corroborating the Ellsworth-Dobrynin-Cherniakov exchanges.

Both Ellsworth and Kissinger were assessing whether the Soviet leadership might be open to working through back channels. These contacts quickly led to the Kissinger-Dobrynin Channel, which came to define U.S.-Soviet relations during the Nixon administration and led to detente.

Many analysts consider “the Channel” to have been an effective tool. At a 2007 conference hosted by the State Department, Russian-born scholar Vladislav Zubok stressed that there was “a 90 percent chance . . . that there would not have been a summit in Moscow in ’72, and such a productive summit that it was, without the back channel.”

Back channels can convey messages more subtly than formal contact  

The early back-channel forays also helped communication during the transition between Nixon’s election and inauguration. Nixon used both channels to kill the idea of an early U.S.-Soviet summit championed by his predecessor, Lyndon B. Johnson. As Nixon explained later, he did not “want to be boxed in by any decisions that were made before [he] took office.” The Soviet leadership received Nixon’s intended messages via Ellsworth and Kissinger. The private exchanges kept the issue out of the spotlight and set a precedent of back channels as preferred communication mediums for both Washington and Moscow.

Because of an exchange between Kissinger and Sedov, Nixon added a line to his inaugural address. At the posh Pierre hotel in New York City on Jan. 2, 1969, Sedov told Kissinger that the Soviet leadership “was very interested that the inaugural speech contain some reference to open channels of communication to Moscow.” Kissinger recommended that a phrase be included, and Nixon initialed his agreement on a memo two days later.

“I was never clear whether this request reflected an attempt by Sedov to demonstrate his influence to Moscow,” Kissinger wondered years later, “or whether it was a serious policy approach by the Politburo. In any event I saw no harm in it.”

And so in his inaugural address, Nixon proclaimed, “our lines of communication will be open.” The gesture cost nothing but almost certainly established goodwill between the new administration and the Soviet leadership.

Why use U.S.-Russian back channels?  

 

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Nixon, Dobrynin, and Kissinger at Camp David in 1973. Source: NPMP

When used to supplement rather than supplant traditional diplomacy, back channels may offer a protected forum free from leaks to explore points of agreement, disagreement and potential conflict. For instance, on relations with Vietnam, Nixon and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev disagreed. The United States wanted the Soviets to cut aid and push Hanoi to negotiate, while Moscow wanted the United States to stop bombing North Vietnam and withdraw its troops from Indochina. Nevertheless, via back-channel exchanges, Nixon and Brezhnev eventually reached tacit agreement on broader issues, like the status and tone of U.S.-Soviet relations, and had a successful summit meeting in Moscow in May 1972.

If they choose, Russian and U.S. leaders may use back channels to clearly convey what they see as their core interests, to explore potential areas of cooperation, and to try to mitigate conflict or escalation.

Back channels are like regular diplomacy, but with more intimacy and without the bureaucracy. Like intimacy, it requires willing partners. Kissinger found one in Dobrynin, and Nixon in Brezhnev; both the United States and the Soviet Union benefited during the short-lived period of detente that enabled the two superpowers to start cooperating on arms control and in other areas, like agreements signed at the Moscow Summit on avoiding naval incidents at seabilateral trade, science and technology, public health, environmental protection, and collaboration on space exploration(the Apollo-Soyuz docking in 1975).

Of course, U.S.-Russian relations are now strained. The two nations have been backing different sides in the Syrian civil war; Russia has invaded and annexed a portion of Ukraine, resulting in U.S. sanctions; NATO installed a missile defense site in Romania and began another in Poland; and the Russians have sent nuclear-capable short-range ballistic missiles to Kaliningrad, to note a few issues. While there is no Cold War now, both countries remain nuclear powers. In the Internet era, when provocations and communications travel instantly around the globe, keeping back channels open could conceivably help prevent or minimize confrontation.

If the Trump team is indeed in informal contact with the Russians, which it denies, some observers may find comfort in the idea that diplomacy — even the back-channel variety — is underway.

But of course, Nixon — for all his accomplishments — isn’t usually held up as a president to admire, given his illegal actions in the Watergate scandal, leading to the only U.S. presidential resignation in history. Relying on back channel communications too exclusively means operating in secrecy while avoiding — or even disdaining — the news media. Circumventing the usual systems, his example tells us, has its risks.

Richard A. Moss is an associate research professor, co-director of the Halsey Bravo research effort, and a faculty affiliate in the Russian Maritime Studies Institute at the United States Naval War College’s Center for Naval Warfare Studies. His book, “Nixon’s Back Channel to Moscow: Confidential Diplomacy and Détente,” is available now.

Author’s note: The thoughts and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the U.S. government, the U.S. Department of the Navy or the Naval War College.

Horace Holley Subject of New Biography, Talk at Transylvania University

holleyHistorian James P. Cousins, author of a new biography on controversial Transylvania University president Horace Holley, will discuss Holley’s legacy and impact in a talk sponsored by the Humanities Division of Transylvania University starting at 3 pm in Room 102 of Cowgill Hall on Wednesday, December 7, and sign copies of the book afterward. Cousins will also be at The Morris Book Shop in Lexington on Friday, December 9, from 4 to 6 pm signing copies of the book.

Outspoken New England urbanite Horace Holley (1781–1827) was an unlikely choice to become the president of Transylvania University—the first college established west of the Allegheny Mountains—in 1819. Many Kentuckians doubted his leadership abilities, some questioned his Unitarian beliefs, and others simply found him arrogant and elitist. Nevertheless, Holley ushered in a period of sustained educational and cultural growth at Transylvania, and the university received national attention for its scientifically progressive and liberal curriculum. The resulting influx of wealthy students and celebrated faculty—including Constantine Samuel Rafinesque—lent Lexington, Kentucky, a distinguished atmosphere and gave rise to the city’s image as the “Athens of the West.”

In Horace Holley: Transylvania University and the Making of Liberal Education in the Early American Republic, Cousins offers fresh perspectives on a seminal yet contentious figure in American religious history and educational life. The son of a prosperous New England merchant family, Holley studied at Yale University before serving as a minister. He achieved national acclaim as an intellectual and self-appointed critic of higher education before accepting the position at Transylvania. His clashes with political and community leaders, however, ultimately led him to resign in 1827, and his untimely death later that year cut short a promising career.

Drawing upon a wealth of previously used and newly uncovered primary sources, Cousins analyzes the profound influence of westward expansion on social progress and education that transpired during Holley’s tenure. This engaging book not only illuminates the life and work of an important yet overlooked figure, but makes a valuable contribution to the history of education in the early American Republic.

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Ho-Ho-Holiday Sale!

If you’re in need of gifts and stocking stuffers for the holidays, then look no further than the University Press of Kentucky. Whether you’re shopping for a history or military buff, local foodie, bourbon lover, or Wildcats fan, the UPK can help you find the perfect gift. You can save up to a whopping 80% on thousands of some of our most highly sought-after books, including new releases!

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Below is just a sampling of what we have to offer, but click here to peruse our complete listing of sale items. Snag a few of our great titles for friends, family, co-workers … or yourself! Order online and make sure to use code FHOL or FSNO at checkout to receive discounted prices. Place orders before December 9 to ensure holiday delivery.

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Civil Rights Hero Receives International Recognition

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Bernard LaFayette Jr., taken at the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, standing in front of two photographs in 1963: one was when he was attacked in Selma, the other a mug shot of when he was arrested.

University Press of Kentucky author Bernard LaFayette Jr., whose memoir In Peace and Freedom: My Journey in Selma was released in paperback earlier this year, has been awarded the 2016 Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Reconciliation and Peace. He is also co-editor of The Chicago Freedom Movement: Martin Luther King Jr. and Civil Rights Activism in the North. The award is presented by the Gandhi Development Trust. The GDT was founded in 2002 by Ela Gandhi, the social activist granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi. The Gandhi Development Trust’s mission is to promote a culture of peace, justice, non-violence, and ubuntu (human kindness); promoting Gandhian values of ahisma (non-violence), self-sufficiency, love, sarvodaya (good of all), compassion, and universality in order to reach their core vision of a peaceful, just, and non-violent world.

The Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Reconciliation and Peace was established in 2003 to honor people who have surmounted religious and ethnic obstacles to promote democracy, peace, and justice through non-violent measures. GDT believes that the award should not merely be seen as an annual event, but rather a catalyst for initiating non-violence, ubuntu, and nation building under the influence of non-violent leaders. LaFayette was chosen as this year’s winner in recognition of his outstanding work towards the promotion of peace, reconciliation, and justice both locally and internationally in his capacity as a civil rights activist.

peace and freedom.final.final.inddLaFayette’s memoir, In Peace and Freedom, recounts that career as an activist. He was a cofounder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a leader in the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins, a Freedom Rider, an associate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the national coordinator of the Poor People’s Campaign. At the age of twenty-two, he assumed the directorship of the Alabama Voter Registration Project in Selma—a city that had previously been removed from the organization’s list due to the dangers of operating there.

LaFayette was one of the primary organizers of the 1965 Selma voting rights movement and the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, and his memoir, written with Kathryn Lee Johnson, shares the inspiring story of his finley.final.inddstruggles there. When he arrived in 1963, Selma was a small, quiet, rural town. By 1965, it had made its mark in history and was nationally recognized as a battleground in the fight for racial equality and the site of one of the most important victories for social change in our nation.

The award was presented on November 7, 2016, in Durban, South Africa.

 

Join UPK Authors in Crestview Hills

Authors David J. Bettez and William A. Penn will discuss Kentucky’s role in key historical events and sign copies of their new books at 4 pm Saturday, October 22 at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, 2785 Dixie Highway, Crestview Hills, KY 41017.

636052369773913058kentucky-and-the-great-war_webKentucky and the Great War: World War I on the Home Front explores the impact of the conflict on women’s suffrage, child labor, and African American life. In particular, Bettez investigates how black citizens were urged to support a war to make the world “safe for democracy” even as their civil rights and freedoms were violated in the Jim Crow South. This engaging and timely social history offers new perspectives on an overlooked aspect of World War I.

In addition, Kentucky and the Great War was named this year’s Thomas D. Clark Medallion recipient at a ceremony at UK’s Maxwell Place. The book is considered the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of the Great War on Bluegrass society, politics, economy and culture,
contextualizing the state’s involvement within the national experience.

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Bettez was named this year’s Thomas D. Clark Medallion recipient at a ceremony at UK’s Maxwell Place.

The Thomas D. Clark Medallion is presented by the Thomas D. Clark Foundation, which was established in 1994 in honor of Thomas D. Clark, Kentucky’s historian laureate and founder of the University Press of Kentucky (UPK). Since 2012, the foundation has chosen one book each year that highlights Kentucky history and culture to be honored with a Clark Medallion.

 

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In his fascinating book, Penn provides an impressively detailed account of the military action that took place in this Kentucky region during the Civil War, drawing on dozens of period newspapers as well as personal journals, memoirs, and correspondence from citizens, slaves, soldiers, and witnesses to provide a vivid account of the war’s impact on the region. Kentucky Rebel Town: The Civil War Battles of Cynthiana and Harrison County provides an illuminating look at divided loyalties and dissent in Union Kentucky.

 

 

 

 

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Kentucky by Design Wins Alice Award

ky-by-designKentucky by Design: The Decorative Arts and American Culture edited by Andrew Kelly and sponsored by the Frazier History Museum has been named the winner of The Alice Award, given by Furthermore Grants in Publishing. Furthermore is a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund and is concerned with non-fiction book publishing related to art, architecture, and design; cultural history; conservation and preservation; the city; and public issues of the day. “It is a privilege to be in the company of the other distinguished publications shortlisted for the Alice Award,” said Kelly. “On behalf of all the outstanding scholars, experts and museum professionals nationwide who made this book possible, I am delighted that Kentucky by Design has been recognized by the Furthermore Foundation.”

The Alice Award was established in 2013 by Joan Davidson, president of Furthermore, in honor of her mother Alice Kaplan. Alice, vice-president of the Kaplan Fund, was a well-known patron, scholar, and activist in the arts, who urged the foundation to support music, dance, libraries, and the visual arts. She loved and collected illustrated books as works of art and considered them essential documents in a civilized society. The Alice Award is dedicated to recognizing and cherishing the lasting values of the well-made illustrated book, and the special sense of intimacy it affords. Each year a jury of distinguished leaders in publishing and the arts selects the winning Alice book from the hundreds of eligible titles that have been supported by Furthermore.

Kentucky by Design celebrates the 80th anniversary of the Federal Art Project’s (FAP) Index of American Design. The FAP was established at the height of the Great Depression under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. One of the aims of this project was to collect and record the history of American material culture, and it culminated in the creation of the Index of American Design. This work, while intended for a wide audience, was never published.

Now, after eighty years, Kentucky’s contributions to the Index of American Design have at last been compiled in Kentucky by Design. Kelly has gathered the contributions of experts to catalog prime examples of the state’s decorative arts that were featured in the index, pairing the original FAP watercolors with contemporary photographs of the same or similar artifacts. He provides information surrounding the history and current location (and, often, the journey in-between) of each piece, as well as local or familial lore surrounding the object. In addition to a wealth of Shaker material, the objects featured include a number of quilts and rugs as well as a wide assortment of everyday items, from powder horns and candle lanterns to glass flasks and hand-crafted instruments.

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The Frazier History Museum will be presented with a $25,000 grant at a reception in the Rare Book Room at Strand Books on Tuesday, October 25. “The Frazier History Museum is dedicated to sharing the stories of Kentucky, her people, heritage, industries, and culture. Kentucky by Design is a wonderful representation of that commitment to Kentucky’s unique story,” said President and CEO Penelope Peavler. “The Frazier is deeply honored to be the recipient of the 2016 Alice Award and is very grateful to Joan Davidson and Furthermore.” An exhibition featuring over 85 original and facsimile watercolor renderings paired with the actual objects and artworks depicted in the book is on display at the Frazier through February 12, 2017.

Andrew Kelly trained at Sotheby’s New York, is a Helena Rubinstein Fellow of the Whitney Museum of American Art and has authored and edited numerous monographs and catalogs on the fine and decorative arts. He has worked in association with many institutions, including the American Academy of Arts and Letters, McNay Art Museum, Harry Ransom Center, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Lisbon Ajuda National Palace Museum, Pilar and Joan Miró Foundation Palma de Mallorca, Russian State Museum at the Marble Palace, Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, and the Tate Gallery London.

Two Score and Three Years Ago…

Today marks the forty-third anniversary of the start of the Yom Kippur War.  This twenty-day war was fought over the territory lost during the third Arab-Israeli War in 1967 between Egypt, Syria, and Israel.

Yom Kippur is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, and Egypt and Syria used this to their advantage when they decided to attack Israel.  While most of the Israeli guard were away from their posts in observance of the holiday, Egyptian troops swept deep into the Sinai Peninsula while Syria struggled to overthrow the occupying Israeli in Golan Heights.  Not too long after Syria’s siege did Israel counterattacked and recaptured the area.

After less than a month of fighting, the Egyptian-Israeli cease-fire was secured by the United Nations on October 25, 1973.

The following two books are fantastic resources for anyone who is wanting to learn more about the Yom Kippur War.

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Inside Israel’s Northern Command by Brigadier General Dani Asher is a personal account from the war, relaying stories of war strategies used to fight off the Syrians during the Yom Kippur War.  Established as the successor of the 1948 Northern Front, the Northern Command was in charge of the operational routine, ongoing defensive activities, and the preparation for war with regards to Israeli borders with the three Arab nations: Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.  The crushing victory of the Six-Day War served as the basis for the concept of security, the doctrine building, and for the way we view the enemy in the six years’ period from the end of the Six-Day War to the onslaught of the Yom Kippur War.

 

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Soldier in the Sinai is another personal account from the Yom Kippur War that describes the impact of the security concept on Israel’s defensive doctrine in Western Sinai after the Six-Day War, especially during the War of Attrition and the following cease-fire. Sakal examines the performance of the ground troops on October 6-15, 1973 (especially October 6-9) and their total dependence on airpower. Major General Emanuel Sakal, IDF (Ret.) focuses on a tactical and operational analysis of the defensive battle on the southern front from early morning October 4, 1973 to the evening of October 15.  Within this range of events, the book surveys the operational and strategic decisions made by the chief of staff and the defense minister, mainly regarding the defensive campaign, the preemptive or parallel air strike, and the counterattack.