George R. Urban

From Powerbase
Revision as of 15:59, 18 October 2008 by Claire Robinson (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search

Dr. George R. Urban is a former director of Radio Free Europe (RFE) and director of the Centre for Policy Studies. Hungarian by birth, George Urban was one of the leading organisers in the West of the democratic front against Cold War communism. Urban was known for his interviews (with Raymond Aron, Arnold Toynbee and Arthur Koestler) which appeared in Melvin Lasky's Encounter, a literary magazine.

He also joined the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) in Geneva, running a series of European seminars on the subject of European unity, in which he was a passionate believer.

After the exposure of the CIA's funding of the CCF in 1968, Urban moved to Los Angeles as a senior research associate of the school of politics and international relations at the University of Southern California. Here, with Roger Swearingen, he founded the journal Studies in Comparative Communism.

Urban's interviews resulted in several books, including Can We Survive Our Future? (1972, with Michael Glenny), a symposium about the state of the planet, and Detente (1976), a series of discussions about East-West relations with experts such as Leopold Labedz, Sir William Hayter and Dean Rusk.

From 1983 to his retirement in 1986, Urban was in Munich as the director of RFE, bringing fresh impetus to "the unmasking of communism". He was a member of the BBC European Service from 1947-60, a middle-ranking programme executive with RFE between 1961-65 and a Reagan-appointed director of RFE in Munich 1982-85.

During the Reagan-Thatcher era, Urban was part of the inner circle of foreign policy advisers as a director of the International board of the Centre for Policy Studies and on the board of the Centre for Research into Communist Economies (CRCE), based in 57 Tufton Street.[1]

'Diplomacy and Disillusion at the Court of Margaret Thatcher: An Insider's View', Urban's memoir of Thatcher, states he first met her in January 1981 (p16) with a group of 'academics' – Sir Michael Howard, Douglas Johnson, Sir Lawrence Martin, Leonard Schapiro, Dennis Mack Smith and Esmond Wright – who were assembled to prepare her to meet Reagan. Schapiro joins Urban on the Institute for European Defence and Strategic Studies.

Further Reading

Giles Scott-Smith (2006) US Public Diplomacy and the New American Studies: No Logo

"The use of private organisations and citizens as interlocuters in contact with other nations had several advantages: It provided greater credibility and legitimacy; it appeared spontaneous and thus a reflection of a dynamic, committed domestic society; it was flexible, allowing for what George Urban referred to as the ‘privatisation of the Cold War’; and it conveyed domestic political advantages to those forces that could successfully mobilise the popular will behind their cause. In the conditions of the Cold War these factors led to the creation of a vast, dynamic network of state and private forces, both overt and covert, to promote the national interest."
  • George Urban, "From Containment to Self-Containment: A conversation with George Kennan," Encounter (September 1976), p. 17.

According to the Margaret Thatcher Foundation the minute of the seminar leaked and was published by The Independent on Sunday on 15 July 1990. "It has now been declassified and is present on this site, as is Charles Powell ’s letter to summit participants setting out an agenda." Norman Stone accompanied by Timothy Garton Ash attended, Stone writes:

"She asked the two of us, with Lord Dacre – Hugh Trevor - Roper , as he was, and a best-selling expert on Hitler 's Reich – along with the two best-known American historians of Germany, Fritz Stern , who is German-Jewish by origin, and Gordon Craig , who is Canadian-Scottish. Both men had received high recognition from the West German government, deservedly so. With us came George Urban , the one-time head of Radio Free Europe, who is Hungarian by origin, and who had talked to Thatcher several times over the years about the cold war, and whose writings and interviews in Encounter, the magazine, had been a distinguished contribution to the collapse of that bogus business, détente."


  1. The CRCE Newsletter No. 27 Winter 2006/2007