Security Challenges: Thinking Outside a Much Bigger Box

Instructor:  Dick Topping

  • Thursday Afternoon
  • 1:00 – 3:00 pm

The international system has been undergoing a generational challenge for over a decade, and U.S. national security issues are far more numerous and complex today than when President Truman created his National Security Council (NSC) in 1947. Although the list of major geopolitical challenges remains much as it was 20 years ago, the potential threats to our well-being now go well beyond those traditionally on the NSC’s agenda. Among the “new” concerns meriting our attention: climate change, future pandemics, scientific-technological advances, and the like.

Each session will review the state of play regarding some traditional concern: resurgent Russia; China on the rise; uncertainty on the Korean peninsula; unrest in the Muslim world; the instability in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and South Asia; and divisions among our European allies to name a few. Each session will hopefully also offer a free-wheeling discussion about whether potential natural disasters, devastating epidemics, or the many economic and social issues that divide us here at home, deserve as much attention as more traditional worries from U.S. national security experts today. Job-one, of course, is to get our own house in order.

Dick Topping has been a student of Soviet, Russian, and East European affairs for almost 60 years. After having been stationed in West Berlin at the height of the Berlin Crisis (1961 – 62), he spent 30 years at CIA, serving as a senior analyst for Soviet – Russian domestic and foreign affairs. He also worked on several task forces for crises in Eastern Europe and in the Counter-Intelligence field before retiring in June 1995, and he has now lived in Belfast for 23 years. Dick graduated from Lehigh University in 1959, received his M.A. in Public Law and Government from Columbia University and a certificate from its Russian Institute in 1965. He has previously taught nine courses at Senior College Since 2008 he has taught nine courses at Senior College, primarily on U.S. National Security & Intelligence Issues, or Russia’s Evolution under President Vladimir Putin.