New York Times Correspondent David Sanger Describes the Era of ‘New Cold Wars’

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In his more than four decades covering national security for the New York Times, David Sanger says he can’t recall when there was so much turmoil abroad. Meanwhile, the United States faces two cold wars — with Russia and China.

Sanger, a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and the White House and national security correspondent for the New York Times covering diplomacy, cyber conflict, national security, and geopolitics, visited Colgate on March 26 for a lecture and discussion about his new book, New Cold Wars: China’s Rise, Russia’s Invasion, and America’s Struggle to Defend the West. The lecture was sponsored by the Lampert Institute for Civic and Global Affairs as part of its spring lecture series.

Sanger says, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and fall of the Berlin Wall, the United States was lulled into thinking the entire era of superpower conflict was over and that we were entering a permanent era of peace. Instead, he says we are in the midst of a more complex and dangerous era than any we have faced in nearly a century, adding that almost everything we think about the next few decades — how we defend ourselves, how we build our microchips, how we nurture our international alliances, and how we handle more than $30 trillion in national debt — faces contentious debate at home and around the world.

“Clearly we have to begin to rethink in very fundamental ways what the structure of our national security is going to be like,” he said, noting that, unlike the old Cold War, now the United States is dependent on our adversaries for products we use every day. 

Sanger says the last national security strategy written by the Biden administration states “the post-Cold War era is over, but we don’t know what era we’re heading into,” noting the “old Cold War” had a beginning, a very long middle, and a surprise ending.

“If we are looking for this one to follow the same pattern, to end with the collapse of our opponents and a clear victory for the West, we are likely to be sorely disappointed,” Sanger says. “There’s no guarantee that these cold wars will stay cold. We have to think hard about why we misjudged the last 30 years and make sure we don’t make the same mistake going into the next 30.”

David Sanger: Over a 40-year career at the Times, Sanger has become known for the depth of his sources in the world of national security, his painstaking reporting and research, and his in-depth investigations into the complex events of our time. He is a CNN contributor on national security and politics and the bestselling author of four books — The Inheritance, Confront and Conceal, The Perfect Weapon, and New Cold Wars: China’s Rise, Russia’s Invasion, and America’s Struggle to Defend the West. Sanger also teaches national security at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. 

At the Times, Sanger’s previous investigative work led to Pulitzers for the investigation into the causes of the space shuttle Challenger disaster and into Chinese technology investment in the United States. His coverage of the Iraq and Korea crises won the Weintal Prize, one of the highest honors for diplomatic reporting. He also won the White House Correspondents’ Association Aldo Beckman prize for his coverage of the American presidency. 

The Lampert Institute for Civic and Global Affairs, named after Edgar Lampert ’62, was first established in 2008 as the Institute of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and renamed the Lampert Institute for Civic and Global Affairs in 2014. The Institute's mission is to teach students to apply the fundamental tools of a liberal arts education — identifying substantive questions and reading and writing with clarity, balance, and public purpose — to the most significant policy issues of the day, during their time at Colgate and beyond.