Sergei Khrushchev continues to de-escalate Cold War tensions.

Words Not Wars 

Sergei Khrushchev continues to de-escalate Cold War tensions.

"You can know everything from looking from the outside but understand nothing," says Sergei Khrushchev -- who saw plenty from the inside. The 65-year-old Khrushchev is the son of Nikita Khrushchev, who served as the Soviet Union's premier from 1958 to 1964 and died in 1971 at the age of 77. A key Cold War figure, Nikita Khrushchev was given to histrionic outbursts. He chillingly taunted Americans, telling them, "We will bury you."

But his son is decidedly pacifist. Cerebral where his father was bellicose, Sergei Khrushchev spoke with Pitch Weekly from his office at Rhode Island's Brown University, where he is a senior research fellow at the school's Watson Institute for International Studies. "The Cold War was the transition from the period when people solved their problems through fighting, through the war. Then when nuclear weapons emerged it became clear that you cannot gain anything through the nuclear war," he says. It was a time "filled with misperceptions and misunderstandings that could bring the world to nuclear disaster."

While his father famously pounded his shoe on a United Nations desk, Khrushchev sees the UN as continuing to bring the world out from under the Cold War's menacing pall. It's an idea he'll reinforce on Monday, when he's the keynote speaker for the Mayor's Annual United Nations Day Dinner at UMKC.

For Khrushchev, the UN serves as a forum for representatives of countries throughout the world to discuss issues important to them -- and it tempers the sometimes flaring egos of superpowers who attempt to gain approval from the organization's members. Because of the UN's highly bureaucratic structure, these volatile superpowers are often dissuaded from following through on their plans "because it's calming you down when you want to make some sharp measures," Khrushchev says. "The representatives of different countries have to find the conclusion that will be acceptable to most of them."

And even though the threat of nuclear annihilation no longer seems so imminent, Khrushchev says mutual understanding between the world's countries is as important as it was during the Cold War. "Without mutual understanding the world will have no future."

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