The overarching question imparting urgency to this exploration is: Can U.S.-Russian contention in cyberspace cause the two nuclear superpowers to stumble into war? In considering this question we were constantly reminded of recent comments by a prominent U.S. arms control expert: At least as dangerous as the risk of an actual cyberattack, he observed, is cyber operations’ “blurring of the line between peace and war.” Or, as Nye wrote, “in the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user.”
In addition to being a visiting scholar with the Applied History Project at the Belfer Center, Stephen Kotkin is a senior fellow at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and a Kleinheinz Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is also the Birkelund Professor in History and International Affairs emeritus at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs (formerly the Woodrow Wilson School), where he taught for 33 years. He earned his PhD at the University of California–Berkeley and has been conducting research in the Hoover Library & Archives for more than three decades.
Kotkin’s research encompasses geopolitics and authoritarian regimes in history and in the present. His publications include Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929–1941 (Penguin, 2017) and Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878–1928 (Penguin, 2014), two parts of a planned three-volume history of Russian power in the world and of Stalin’s power in Russia. He has also written a history of the Stalin system’s rise from a street-level perspective, Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization (University of California 1995); and a trilogy analyzing Communism’s demise, of which two volumes have appeared thus far: Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse 1970–2000 (Oxford, 2001; rev. ed. 2008) and Uncivil Society: 1989 and the Implosion of the Communist Establishment, with a contribution by Jan T. Gross (Modern Library, 2009). The third volume will be on the Soviet Union in the third world and Afghanistan. Kotkin’s publications and public lectures also often focus on Communist China.
Kotkin has participated in numerous events of the National Intelligence Council, among other government bodies, and is a consultant in geopolitical risk to Conexus Financial and Mizuho Americas. He served as the lead book reviewer for the New York Times Sunday Business Section for a number of years and continues to write reviews and essays for Foreign Affairs, the Times Literary Supplement, and the Wall Street Journal, among other venues. He has been an American Council of Learned Societies Fellow, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, and a Guggenheim Fellow.Last Updated: