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The summer of 1987 was unusually hot. To the Reagan White House it must have also seemed unusually long, for the Administration's basic competence in the conduct of foreign policy was on public trial, day after day, on national television.
Written in anticipation of the third summit and the signing of the INF treaty, concludes that Gorbachev has adopted a basically defensive strategy and seems prepared to settle for a prolonged stalemate in terms of strategic superiority to the USA. This leads him to seek arms control agreements as a means of codifying his assumptions about security and the nuclear relationship. Washington's policy of selective containment is balanced by Moscow's policy of selective commitment.
In the light of the anticipated INF agreement the question is whether confrontation is entering a genuine phase of de-escalation or merely a tactical one. Most NATO commanders agree that a surprise attack by conventional Soviet forces is improbable. NATO should develop a plan for exploiting the potential for reductions in conventional weapons and make a serious effort to achieve an agreement. There may be room for trade-offs in economic credits and managerial skills for large-scale Soviet force reductions.
The process leading to a resumption of Soviet-Israeli diplomatic relations shows a new direction being taken by Soviet Middle Eastern policy. The Soviet government appears more willing to make practical and ideological concesssions to improve relations with Middle Eastern states. Its objective remains to limit US influence and to break Washington's monopoly on the Middle East peace process.
Syria's alliances have shown more signs of shifting than any other relationships, hostile or friendly, in the Middle East, but the West has little scope at the moment for exploiting the situation. Assad faces many challenges, not least from within his own country. The USSR and Iran are the most important of his few allies. But Moscow's new policies of forging ties with Middle Eastern countries and the PLO often contradict those of Damascus, while Teheran has tried to use the alliance to promote political expansion in the Lebanon, wherein Assad's own hopes lie for achieving a Greater Syria.
Three issues preoccupy Asia's leaders (1) economic strategy (2) political stability versus greater openness (3) regionalism. The accelerating socio-economic revolution presents challenges to both the Marxist and the democratic states. There is a requirement for increased public participation, greater local autonomy and more regional and international interaction. On balance the odds favouring a largely peaceful revolution are lengthening.
The USA maintains that its aim is for a peaceful settlement in Nicaragua in a regional context that advances the prospects for democracy, protects the interests of the Contras and preserves US strategic interests. These goals involve a potentially long and difficult process. The accord concluded by the Central American Presidents in Aug 1987 by no means ensures peace. The practical question facing the USA is how to preserve its commitment to the Contras while still influencing the negotiating process.
The debt containment policy conceived in 1982, under which repayments were financed by the creation of trade surpluses, has run its course. The question now is not only whether the big debtors will pay, but where the money will come from. There is an urgent need for innovative financial mechanisms. The new strategy should include economic reform in debtor countries, new capital in-flows and, if necessary, workable formulae for interest deferral.
A successfully concluded free trade pact will consolidate co-operation between the USA and Canada, and be of economic benefit to both. It will provide an effective example of liberalizing trade in a world riddled with protectionist tendencies. Failure on the contrary will inflame nationalist sentiments on both sides. The outcome of the trade negotiations may also influence co-operation in other fields such as acid rain, Arctic sovereignty and North American air defence.
There is disagreement on the relevance of the Cuban missile crisis to today's world. Either there are many lessons, emphasizing the need for flexibility, precision and caution, or there are none, because the nuclear danger in 1962 was imaginary and represented only a failure to comprehend US military superiority. One can conclude that the crisis should not be dismissed as irrelevant; certain crucial factors have not changed. But there is a need for caution in attempting to read from it simple lessons in crisis management. See also Cohen in 1986:03556