President George H.W. Bush is surrounded by a sea of U.S. military personnel as he greets troops following an arrival ceremony in the eastern Saudi Arabian city of Dhahran November 22, 1990.
President George H.W. Bush is surrounded by a sea of U.S. military personnel as he greets troops following an arrival ceremony in the eastern Saudi Arabian city of Dhahran November 22, 1990.
Terry Bochatey / Reuters

In 1945, a year before his speech in Fulton, Missouri, Winston Churchill sent a message to the new president, Harry Truman, about the ominous developments in Soviet policy: "An Iron Curtain is being drawn down over their front. We do not know what lies behind it. It is vital, therefore, that we reach an understanding with Russia now before we have mortally reduced our armies and before we have withdrawn into our zones of occupation." Churchill's advice went unheeded, and the West lost a historic opportunity to negotiate a favorable deal with the Kremlin when the bargaining leverage of the United States vis-à-vis the Soviet Union stood at its peak.

After almost half a century, the communist world's leader, President Mikhail Gorbachev, has undertaken dramatic changes within the Soviet bloc that give the free world's new leader, President George Bush, another historic opportunity to enhance the West's security and to effect a sea change in the U.S.-Soviet relationship. Gorbachev's policies of glasnost and perestroika have been hailed, even by some hard-line Western leaders, as heralding the end of the cold war. While his reforms give reason for a reappraisal of the West's policy toward the Soviet Union, we must bear in mind that the causes of the cold war-Moscow's domination of Eastern Europe and aggressive foreign policies around the world-still endure. Those who urge the West to "help Gorbachev" with low-interest loans and subsidized credits fail to realize that such actions are not in our interest until he makes an irrevocable break with the Kremlin's past policies.

An opportunity now exists to make genuine progress toward a more stable peace. President Bush can exploit this opportunity if he takes a hard-headed look at the Soviet Union under Gorbachev and devises a policy that presents the Kremlin leaders with intractable strategic choices. We must make Gorbachev choose between a less confrontational relationship with the West and the retention of his imperial control over Eastern Europe, between a continuing race in arms technology and arms control agreements that could create a stable strategic and conventional balance, and between access to Western technology and credits and continuing Soviet adventurism in the Third World.


Gorbachev has sparked enormous excitement in the West because he is perceived to be a new kind of Soviet leader. Dazzled by his "star quality"-the fashionably tailored suits, the polished manners and the smooth touch in personal encounters-reporters and diplomats alike have naïvely confused changes in style and rhetoric with shifts in substance and policy. I have met with three of the Soviet Union's principal postwar leaders-Nikita Khrushchev in 1959 and 1960, Leonid Brezhnev in 1972, 1973 and 1974, and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986. Gorbachev is in a class of his own. He is their match in tenacity and forcefulness, but outstrips them in realism, quickness and intelligence. He deserves great respect for his boldness, his courage and his mastery of public relations. He is a different but, from the West's point of view, not necessarily a better type of leader. We must keep in mind that his talent and capabilities can just as easily make the world a more dangerous place as they can contribute to greater global security.

Gorbachev has launched his reforms and pursued a more conciliatory approach to the West because the communist economic system failed at home and the Soviet Union's foreign policy became counterproductive abroad. The centrally planned economy of the Brezhnev era has become a monument to corruption and inefficiency. Brezhnev's militarism and expansionism not only mobilized the West to strengthen its armed forces but also gave the Soviet Union a severe case of imperial indigestion after it gobbled up Third World countries. By the early 1980s, Moscow's clients in Afghanistan, Cuba, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Angola and Ethiopia cost the Kremlin at least $20 billion a year to keep in power. It is a mistake to think that only Gorbachev would have initiated a reform program, for these realities would have forced whoever came to power into rethinking Soviet domestic and foreign policy.

Unlike his predecessors, Gorbachev sees the world without ideological blinders. He has realistically assessed the Soviet Union's enormous economic, political, imperial and geopolitical problems. First, he recognizes openly that the Soviet economy has stagnated, with negligible or even negative growth rates since the late 1970s. Without economic reform and access to Western technology and capital, the Soviet Union will fall hopelessly behind the United States, Western Europe, Japan and-perhaps as early as the middle of the next century-China.

Second, Gorbachev initiated his economic reforms-perestroika-because he knows that the Soviet people can no longer be motivated with political slogans. The increased East-West contacts of the détente era and the revolution in mass communications have rendered futile the Stalinist strategy of isolation and ideological indoctrination. Today, the Soviet people are aware that their standard of living-cramped housing, endless food lines and empty store shelves-compares unfavorably not only with that of the West but also with those of the newly industrializing countries of the Third World. Gorbachev knows that only material incentives, not ideological exhortations, will induce the people to work harder. They will produce more only if they can actually purchase decent consumer goods with the additional rubles they earn.

Third, Gorbachev knows that economic failure and political repression have created seething unrest throughout the Soviet empire that could erupt at the slightest provocation. Time bombs lie just below the surface ready to explode, not only in virtually all his East European satellites but also in many of the non-Russian republics of the Soviet Union itself. Through glasnost, he has tried to create a safety valve to defuse this pent-up frustration, but by venting these angers he may have let the genie out of the bottle. He will find that demands for pluralism in Eastern Europe and greater national autonomy for the non-Russian peoples are difficult to control. Ironically, Soviet leaders used appeals to nationalism to expand their empire into the Third World. Now nationalism threatens to tear that empire apart.

Fourth, as Gorbachev surveys the global political scene, he must be struck by the fact that instead of improving the Soviet Union's position in the world, the Kremlin's foreign policy has managed to unite all the world's major powers against Moscow. The United States, Canada, Western Europe, Japan and China-which together account for over 60 percent of the world economy and which pose the threat of a two-front engagement in any world conflict-have cooperated actively for more than 15 years in opposing Moscow's traditional expansionist ambition. Moscow's old thinking led to a dead end, so Gorbachev has launched his "new thinking" in foreign affairs to loosen the bonds of, or break up, that anti-Soviet bloc.

Fifth, Gorbachev, as a communist, instinctively believes in the importance of the battle of ideas, but as a realist, he knows that the Soviet Union has lost that battle. Around the world-not only within the Soviet bloc but also in Africa, Asia and Latin America-Soviet socialism is perceived as the road to stagnation, not prosperity. It still appeals to those who want to seize and hold power but not to those who want to build a better life for their people. Through his reforms, Gorbachev seeks to create a new model and image for socialism and to give the communist ideology a second wind.


Gorbachev's goal is to reinvigorate his country's communist system, to make the Soviet Union a superpower not just in military but also in economic and political terms. Without sweeping reforms, he will not be able to afford the costs of the Soviet military establishment and of Soviet client-states, to provide the Soviet people with a better life, to create a model that can be competitive in the global ideological battle and to keep the Soviet Union in the front rank of world powers.

Gorbachev's reforms face three massive internal roadblocks that could derail his efforts. Despite his successes at the recent special party conference (June 1988) and his tours de force at the recent Central Committee and Supreme Soviet meetings, Gorbachev has not consolidated a firm political grip over the Soviet system. He can count only three or four of the 12 members of the Politburo as steadfast allies. While Yegor Ligachev, his apparent rival, may no longer be looking over Gorbachev's shoulder as the recognized number-two man, Ligachev's faction is waiting in the wings, ready to take over should Gorbachev falter. The last Soviet reformer-Nikita Khrushchev-met with an untimely political demise when he threatened too many entrenched interests.

Thus, we should make no concessions to Gorbachev that we would not make to the least progressive Soviet leader, for the chance still exists that the latter could come to power. While Gorbachev has been hailed as a superstar on the world stage, we must remember that the stars that shine the brightest sometimes fade away the fastest.

In Gorbachev's four years in power, there has been a lot of talk but precious little progress. He has been unable to force the sclerotic Soviet party and state bureaucracies to abandon their Stalinist ways. He has the unenviable task of teaching old bureaucrats new tricks. It is one thing to tell a bureaucrat to do a certain task and another to order him to be creative and innovative. The former at least stirs him to action, while the latter evinces blank stares of total incomprehension.

Gorbachev's most profound problem is that he still believes in Marxism-Leninism. Even if he wins his political and bureaucratic battles, this handicap will ultimately doom his reforms to failure. Rapid, self-sustaining economic growth has occurred only in countries that respect the right of individuals to own private property and that allow unregulated prices and the laws of supply and demand to allocate economic resources. Gorbachev has expressed a willingness to grant farmers long-term leases for private farming and has stated that some prices will be decontrolled in the early 1990s, but he still wants to keep the party-state apparatus in firm command of the economy as a whole. While there have been several examples of economies moving from capitalism to communism, there are no examples of economies moving from communism to capitalism. No one has ever constructed a successful halfway house between a market-based and a command economy.

Gorbachev faces a profound philosophical dilemma: he can choose ideology or progress. If he chooses communism, he cannot have progress; if he chooses progress, he cannot have communism. Only by abandoning the ideology that is the bedrock of his power can he produce progress that will match that of the West.

Given the inefficient central planning system and the irrational pricing system, no foreign investor today has the slightest idea of how to judge which economic risks in the Soviet Union are worth taking. Making loans to the Kremlin is like laying down chips on the dice table; some bets may pay off but the odds are that in the long run the money will be wasted. In fact, it is not even in Gorbachev's interest for the West to provide economic assistance before fundamental economic reforms have been institutionalized. A banker does no favor to a borrower by making him a bad loan. We should not enable the Kremlin to borrow its way out of today's problems and thereby delay the inevitable day of addressing the causes of those problems.

Both American superhawks and superdoves overstate the impact Western policies can have on the Soviet Union. Superhawks argue that the West's arms buildup and its opposition to Soviet aggression in places like Afghanistan were the primary factors that prompted Gorbachev to launch his reforms. Those Western actions were vital on their own merits. But even without those actions Gorbachev would have had to initiate changes because the Soviet economic system was suffering from terminal illness. As a Chinese leader told me in 1985, without reforms the Soviet Union by the middle of the next century would "disappear" as a great power. That made internal change imperative, regardless of Western policies.

Superdoves, on the other hand, believe that we should do anything within our power to help Gorbachev in order to promote peace. But we must realize that whether he succeeds or fails ultimately depends on events and forces within the Soviet Union that we cannot affect. We cannot induce Gorbachev to cast aside his Marxist-Leninist obsession with keeping the state in charge of the economy. We cannot whip the Soviet bureaucracy into shape. We can hardly even make out the patterns of Kremlin political intrigue after the fact, much less lend a helping hand to those whose views and interests seem to parallel ours.

Above all, we must keep Gorbachev's reforms in perspective. He does not want to overturn the Soviet system; he wants to strengthen it. To paraphrase Churchill from another context, Gorbachev did not become general secretary to preside over the demise of the Communist Party. We have an interest in the success of his reforms only to the extent that they change the system to make it less threatening to our security and interests. We should applaud glasnost and perestroika but not pay for them, for if his reforms do not irrevocably alter Soviet foreign policy we will be subsidizing the threat of our own destruction.


Those who parrot today a fashionable slogan-"the cold war is over"-trivialize the problems of Western security. Gorbachev's public relations experts have made many Western policymakers forget that a more benign Soviet image does not mean a more benign Soviet foreign policy. As a result, the race to Moscow is already on. In recent months, Western leaders have jetted off to the Kremlin with planeloads of eager bankers and industrialists in tow, and Soviet leaders have gleefully lined up more than $10 billion in easy credit. Unless the West steps back and designs a coherent strategy, we will squander our leverage and lose the historic opportunity presented by events in the Soviet Union.

We should bear in mind a remark made to me in 1953 by Field Marshall Slim, then the British governor-general of Australia. In arguing for a dialogue between the United States and the Soviet Union, he said, "We must break the ice. If we don't break it, we will all get frozen into it so tight that it will take an atom bomb to break it." Today, the ice has broken even before the end of winter. We are witnessing the thaw that brings the promise of spring. While it is a period of great possibilities, we must tread carefully or risk falling into the icy waters.

We have to recognize that the situation we face now is infinitely more complex than the one we faced at the outset of the cold war forty years ago. At that time, the threat was as clear as Stalin's Iron Curtain and his belligerent rhetoric about the inevitability of war, all of which enabled President Truman to prevent a return to isolationism, adopt a policy of containment and win bipartisan support for entry into NATO and unprecedented levels of peacetime defense spending.

Gorbachev has brilliantly changed the game. In Europe, he has discarded the traditional Soviet tactics of diplomatic bluster and military threat and has mastered those of deceptive propaganda and political maneuver. He has substituted the wiles of diplomacy for the threat of force as his chosen instrument for foreign policy conquests. As a result, at a time when Soviet superiority in conventional military forces and in accurate land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) is larger than ever before, he has made more progress toward the traditional Soviet objective of dividing the NATO alliance than any of his predecessors. We cannot counter his "peace offensive" simply by loudly warning about the military threat of Moscow's Red Army. Instead, we must launch our own political offensive to achieve our strategic and geopolitical objectives.

We will be pursuing those goals in what has become a multipolar world. Japan is already an economic superpower and will inevitably use its economic clout for political effect. Western Europe will become a unified economic market by 1992 and is beginning to intensify its cooperation in political and strategic matters. China, already a major nuclear power and fast becoming a major economic player, will emerge as one of the world's superpowers in the next century.

We can work with all of these new major powers more easily than Gorbachev can. Therefore, before the new administration holds a substantive summit with Gorbachev, it should conduct intensive discussions and meetings with our major allies and friends. We should do this not to present Moscow with an antagonistic and belligerent united front but to explore our common interests and to coordinate our policies where possible.

President Bush should continue to reject the advice of those who urge that he schedule a quick summit with Gorbachev in order to have a foreign policy "victory" early in his term. Gorbachev needs a summit far more than the president. Only when the Bush Administration has agreed on a strategy with our allies and has a definite program for making significant substantive progress on major issues should President Bush schedule an American-Soviet summit.

In formulating a strategy, we should begin by estimating what Gorbachev wants, then map out what we want, what trade-offs are possible, and what we can do to put pressure on him to agree to our terms. Most important, we have to recognize that linkage-the linking of progress on one issue to progress on another-is the key to any successful negotiations with Moscow. Kremlin leaders will always explicitly reject linkage, but they always implicitly accept it.

Without linkage, Gorbachev will string together a series of easy victories at the bargaining table. Each superpower has a greater interest in progress on some issues than on others. Gorbachev, for example, will press hard for access to Western capital markets and technology. The United States, on the other hand, has a greater interest in reducing Soviet influence in the Third World through settlements of certain regional conflicts that threaten our interests. Moscow will be more than willing to negotiate solely on the former. If we fail to pursue a determined policy of linkage, Gorbachev will dominate the agenda and make one-sided progress on his top priorities.

Linkage requires subtlety. An American president should not step before the cameras and announce that he intends to hold the next arms control agreement hostage to Soviet capitulation on one or another issue. Nor should the Congress make the mistake of publicly linking U.S. foreign policy objectives to Soviet domestic policy reforms. The Jackson-Vanik Amendment in 1973-74 was a case in point. Its purpose was to force the Soviet Union to increase Jewish emigration, but it had the opposite effect of drastically reducing it. We should vigorously press the Soviets in world forums to eliminate their human rights abuses. But we must allow them to appear to do so of their own volition rather than by clumsily making it look as if they did so only because of direct Western intervention in their internal affairs. No great nation can appear to allow its internal policies to be dictated by a foreign power.

We should link progress toward better East-West relations to restraint in Soviet global behavior. If we enter into agreements beneficial to Moscow despite direct or indirect Soviet aggression, we will in effect be giving the Kremlin a green light to assault our interests. If we pursue a determined strategy that includes linkage, we can further our strategic interests in Europe, in arms control negotiations and in the world's key regional conflicts.


Europe has again become the central focus of the East-West conflict, and our strategy vis-à-vis the Soviets must change to meet these circumstances. From 1945 to the early 1960s, the European continent was the principal arena of the world ideological struggle. From the early 1960s through the mid-1980s, after the division of Europe had become a settled political reality, the primary fields of conflict-Indochina, the Middle East, southern Africa, the horn of Africa, southwest Asia and Central America-were situated in the Third World. Now Gorbachev has made the Old World the central priority and target of his new foreign policy.

The traditional goal of Kremlin leaders has been to create political fissures between the United States and Western Europe in order to erode the strength of the alliance. Moscow has pursued this objective, at various times, through a strategy of confrontation that seeks to rattle European nerves and demonstrate the unreliability of America as an ally, or through a strategy of condominium with the United States that seeks to weaken European confidence by creating the impression that the superpowers are settling Europe's fate. Gorbachev has adopted the more straightforward tactic of appealing directly to the West Europeans. He has called for the creation of a single "European home" stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals-thus implying that the United States represents an obstacle to peace-and has sought to exploit the West European fatigue after forty years of East-West conflict.

The world of 1949, when NATO was formed, differs profoundly from the world of 1989. We need a new strategy in Europe-one that enhances the Continent's stability not only through initiatives to revitalize the alliance in Western Europe but also through a sustained effort to foster peaceful change and positive political evolution in Eastern Europe.

The new administration should make Europe its top foreign policy priority. It should call for a major working summit-no black ties and no spouses-to hammer out a strategy for enhancing our collective security. First of all, we should articulate a common analysis of the nature of the Soviet military threat in Europe. Americans, and many Europeans, believe that the Soviet threat remains as great as or even greater than ever, especially because of Moscow's unrelenting buildup of conventional and strategic weaponry. But in recent years there has been a tendency among other West Europeans, especially but not exclusively those on the left, to view the Soviet Union as a stagnant society incapable of threatening the West or even to view Washington's calls for vigilance and readiness as a greater threat to peace than Moscow's armies.

Harold Macmillan once told me that alliances were held together by fear, not love. For many in Europe and the United States, the fear of the Soviet Union has waned, and what love may exist among economic competitors in the West is a very weak glue to hold an alliance together. It is therefore imperative that Western leaders issue a joint statement, in conjunction with its arms control proposals, that educates their publics on the nature and scope of the Soviet threat.

Second, we should agree on ways to defend common Western interests outside of Europe. In 1949 the West faced the threat of a direct Soviet military thrust into central Europe. In recent years, with the East-West competition in Europe focusing on the political plane, Soviet direct and indirect aggression has principally taken place in the Third World. The United States has borne the overwhelming share of the burden in countering Moscow's subversion and proxy warfare to protect regions such as the Persian Gulf, even though the Gulf is far more important to Western Europe than to the United States. Unless we devise a more equitable global security framework, it is inevitable that pressure will build in the United States for a significant reduction of the U.S. troop commitment to NATO.

Third, we should articulate a compelling rationale for NATO's nuclear deterrent and a joint approach for the next round of European arms control talks. At the Reykjavik summit, the Reagan Administration undermined public support for nuclear deterrence by advocating the idea of eliminating all nuclear weapons. We must renounce the Reykjavik rhetoric in unequivocal terms and explain to Western publics the realities of the nuclear age. We should pursue the so-called competitive strategies on the conventional level to undercut the significance of Soviet quantitative superiority and thereby raise the nuclear threshold. But nuclear deterrence, both strategic and tactical, remains imperative. Even if conventional arms control succeeds, NATO will have to maintain a residual, even if diminished, tactical nuclear capability in Europe, though the deterrent should be reconfigured to allay West German concerns regarding the bases and targets of these weapons. More important, NATO must arrive at a joint conventional arms control proposal that makes offensive warfare futile and that mobilizes public support for the Western negotiating position. A good beginning has been made in the recent NATO proposal for major cuts in the tank armies in Europe, though a public diplomacy offensive needs to be launched to sell it to Western publics.

Fourth, we must agree on a common approach to East-West trade. We should not provide the Soviet Union with technologies that can significantly improve its military forces. We should also create a joint institution for coordinating and regulating the Soviet Union's access to Western capital markets. It is not in our interest to have Western banks competing to provide the Kremlin with loans at below-market rates. Nor is it in our interest to repeat the mistakes of bankers in the 1970s who lent East European countries tens of billions of dollars that will never be repaid.

Fifth, we should design a common approach to the problem of Eastern Europe. The cold war began in Eastern Europe, and it will not end until Moscow's satellites receive their independence. In the past, it has always been in the West's interest, but not in Moscow's, to address the issue of Eastern Europe. Today, since Gorbachev needs East-West economic links and reduced tensions for perestroika to succeed, a new settlement is in the Kremlin's interest as well.

Without a political settlement in Eastern Europe, no stable, enduring improvement in East-West relations is possible. Postwar history is the story of continual attempts by the East Europeans to wrest their freedom from Moscow. The workers' uprising in East Germany in 1953, the popular rebellion in Hungary in 1956, the Prague Spring in 1968, the Solidarity movement in Poland in 1980, and the scores of other smaller incidents of open opposition all testify to the popular determination to be free. All these outbursts had to be suppressed directly or indirectly by Soviet arms, and all those interventions destroyed the prospects for an immediate improvement in East-West relations.

That pattern could soon recur. Eastern Europe has become an economic and political powder keg waiting to blow up. Today, the tectonic plates of East European nationalism and Soviet expansionism have built up enormous pressure as they have pushed against each other. We have seen the first tremors in the rise of East European dissident and reform movements. But a political earthquake is inevitable in the 1990s. If Moscow responds with military force, it will mean a return to sharper tensions in East-West relations and an abortion of Gorbachev's reforms.

If we want to avoid this grim scenario, we must work on three fronts.

First, the West should press for peaceful change in Eastern Europe. We should continue to exploit modern means of mass communication to break the grip of the East European regimes over their peoples. Radio Free Europe has been one of our most effective programs in the East-West struggle. In the 1990s we should establish direct television transmissions via satellite into these countries. We should also provide material support to those behind the Iron Curtain who are pressing for peaceful change, with Western trade union support to the Solidarity movement in Poland serving as a model.

Second, the West should continue its policy of differentiating between those East European regimes which demonstrate a willingness to enact reforms that move their countries toward political pluralism and those which do not. For those leaders who liberalize their regimes, we should make available economic credits, more advanced technology and debt rescheduling, while the others should be left to fend for themselves.

Third, the United States should put Eastern Europe on the U.S.-Soviet agenda. In Yugoslavia last year, Gorbachev signed a declaration that stated that "no one has a monopoly on truth" and that foreign powers had no "claim on imposing their notions of social development on anyone." We should insist that Kremlin leaders back up their words with deeds. We could even propose the neutralization of Eastern Europe along the lines of the Austrian Peace Treaty of 1955, with an interim agreement that leaves the military structure of the Warsaw Pact intact but that would allow the East European peoples to choose their own forms of government through genuine elections.

Eastern Europe is the natural field for political initiatives by Western Europe. Our allies' historical fatigue stems in part from the fact that for forty years their role has been defined by a negative mission-stopping further Soviet expansion. It can be cured by devoting energy to the positive mission of promoting peaceful change beyond the Iron Curtain. Holding the line against the Red Army has principally involved sacrifice and risk, but supporting the development of pluralism under the nose of the Red Army requires ingenuity and inspiration. It is a task that will not only enhance Western Europe's security but also help to restore its sense of purpose.


Arms control should be treated as only one part of Western defense policy and not vice versa. Arms negotiations are a political imperative, indispensable in holding the NATO alliance together and for winning support in Congress for adequate defense budgets. For too long, however, many Western leaders have endorsed arms control as an end in itself, regardless of the impact that particular agreements would have on our strategic position. Moscow, on the other hand, has traditionally sought to use arms control to achieve political and strategic ends-to lull the West into a false sense of security, to limit developments in American weapons technology, and to preserve or increase Soviet advantages in weapons deployments. It is time for the United States to borrow a page from the Kremlin's negotiating handbook.

Since Soviet superiority in conventional arms represents the greatest threat to Western security, cuts in those forces should be the top priority of Western arms control strategy. Moscow's main goal is to reduce the numbers of strategic nuclear weapons and to stifle the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) while preserving its advantage on the conventional level, because that would maximize the political importance of its conventional superiority. Therefore, it is imperative that the United States link progress in the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) to progress in conventional arms control negotiations.

Western conventional arms control proposals should focus geographically on the European central front, the most militarily congested territory in the world, and should seek to reduce those weapons that are most useful for offensive warfare. These should include at a minimum reductions in tanks and self-propelled artillery even beyond those proposed by Gorbachev at the United Nations. The weapons must be destroyed rather than pulled back into the Soviet Union; otherwise Moscow could redeploy them in a matter of days. In addition, military bases and supply depots should be relocated away from the front in order to make surprise attacks more difficult. NATO governments must insist in arms control talks that Gorbachev fulfill his pledge to accept "asymmetrical reductions" on the conventional level.

Gorbachev's rhetoric about reconfiguring Warsaw Pact forces to fit a "defensive" doctrine has been all talk and no action. His pledge in his recent U.N. speech to demobilize 500,000 troops and retire 10,000 tanks represents a significant symbolic gesture. But we must not pretend that it solves the security problem posed by the Warsaw Pact's tank armada (currently about 53,000).1 Thus, if the 5,000 tanks withdrawn from East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary are not destroyed but simply parked on the Soviet side of the border, they can be redeployed rapidly. Even if the tanks were destroyed, the Warsaw Pact's tank advantage would drop only slightly.

In addition to linking the strategic and conventional arms control talks, the new administration should redirect the U.S. approach to the START negotiations.

Our problem on the strategic level, which began in the mid-1970s and threatens to become much worse in the 1990s, is the growing vulnerability of our land-based missiles and command-and-control systems to a first-strike attack by the most accurate and powerful Soviet missiles. The Reagan Administration's effort to cut strategic forces by 50 percent focused too much on simply reducing the total number of strategic weapons instead of reducing the vulnerability of U.S. strategic forces and thereby enhancing strategic stability. The real test is not whether the treaty reduces the number of nuclear weapons but whether it reduces the likelihood of nuclear war. We must ultimately judge the value of any START agreement by whether it increases the security of our strategic forces and decreases the incentives for either side to resort to nuclear weapons in a crisis.

That is where the current START formula falls short. Under its terms, both sides would reduce their arsenals to 1,600 launchers including heavy bombers, ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and to 6,000 warheads, of which only 4,900 would be permitted on ballistic missiles. While such radical reductions might be politically appealing, close scrutiny shows that they actually increase the vulnerability of U.S. forces. Moscow would retain a land-based ICBM force composed almost entirely of the newer SS-18, SS-24 and SS-25 missile launchers, all of which are first-strike weapons. At the same time, the cuts would reduce the number of targets inside the United States that would have to be destroyed for a first strike to succeed. Assuming that after reductions the United States would choose to retain its most accurate and modern weapons, the ratio of Soviet first-strike warheads to U.S. first-strike targets would grow drastically worse. In addition, the prospective reductions would restrict the deployment of our most capable and survivable force, the fleet of Trident II submarines, to no more than 17 boats. As a result, this force could well become vulnerable, for some number will always be in port or off-line, and the remainder, reduced to, say, ten boats, will be tracked by Moscow's fleet of 270 attack submarines.2

Some argue that these issues do not matter, because under the proposed START agreement we would be allowed to reconfigure our strategic forces to account for the new ceilings. They contend that we could build a new fleet of smaller submarines that would carry fewer missiles and a new generation of land-based missiles that would carry fewer warheads. This argument is flawed for two reasons. First, the START force reductions are to be carried out over seven years, while any programs to develop and deploy entire new strategic systems would take a decade or more. Second, it is totally unrealistic to think that Congress, which expects arms control to produce cuts in the defense budget, would vote to increase military spending by the tens of billions of dollars necessary to overhaul completely our strategic force posture.

Instead of seeking an arbitrary 50-percent reduction, the Bush Administration should consider adopting a two-part proposal, with the first level designed to meet minimum U.S. requirements and to produce a quick interim agreement and the second level directed to major reductions in first-strike weapons. In formulating our proposal for the first stage, we should calculate what kind of strategic force posture our security requires and propose launcher and warhead ceilings that could involve some reductions from present levels but would not impede the necessary U.S. weapons programs, particularly the mobile Midgetman missile. In addition, since the United States observed and the Soviet Union ignored the modernization restrictions of the treaties negotiated in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, this initial agreement would permit unrestricted modernization.

After the completion of the interim agreement, the two sides would focus on the far more difficult objective of increasing strategic stability by reducing the number of warheads on both sides capable of destroying hardened military targets in a first strike. Both superpowers would be allowed to retain an equal number of counterforce warheads. But the level of these most threatening weapons would be scaled back dramatically-far more than by the current START proposal. This should involve a 75-percent cut from the present level of such Soviet weapons and should also require reductions in planned deployments of comparable U.S. weapons, such as the MX, the Midgetman and the Trident II D-5 missiles.

This second agreement would also address the issue of strategic defense. As long as the Soviet Union possesses its formidable arsenal of first-strike weapons, the United States must press forward with SDI. Our position should be that research, development, testing and deployment of defensive systems is not negotiable. Only the extent of our deployments should be subject to limitation through mutual agreement, and those deployments should be calibrated to the extent of the Soviet counterforce threat.

A two-stage approach along these lines offers the best prospects for successful nuclear arms control. It would enable Presidents Bush and Gorbachev to conclude quickly an interim agreement capping the number of launchers and warheads, though unlike the current START formula the accord would not inhibit U.S. weapons programs needed to redress the asymmetry in strategic vulnerability and the imbalance in counterforce weapons. It would also create a stable foundation for a treaty to enhance strategic security by reducing the number of counterforce systems to levels that make a successful first-strike attack on the other side's strategic forces militarily in-feasible.


The two regional conflicts requiring immediate presidential action, Afghanistan and Central America, represent opposite poles in American policy. Our program to aid the Afghan resistance has received bipartisan support, has operated continuously for almost a decade and verges on ultimate success. Our assistance to the Nicaraguan freedom fighters has been subjected to partisan bickering, has been at best episodic and has failed so far. In distant Afghanistan, we learned that a sustained, bipartisan program of large-scale assistance to anticommunist freedom fighters can produce major geopolitical gains. We should apply the same lesson to the nearby and strategically critical conflict in Central America.

In Afghanistan, as Moscow's tanks retreat, one round of the great game closes-but yet another begins. Our goal has been twofold, to force the Soviet Union to withdraw and to restore the Afghan people's right to self-determination. Achieving the former does not automatically accomplish the latter. First of all, the communist regime in Kabul must be replaced. The best solution would be the removal of the Soviet puppet regime through the direct talks now taking place between Moscow and the resistance leadership. But should those talks stall or fail we must continue to provide whatever kinds of weapons the resistance requires to topple the Kabul regime. Since the character of the fighting has changed from guerrilla warfare to battles for taking and holding cities, the United States must upgrade its assistance quantitatively and qualitatively, particularly in terms of antiaircraft missiles, long-range mortars, and mine-clearing devices and equipment.

It does not serve American, or Afghan, interests for the United States to disengage before a political process is in place that will establish real self-determination for the Afghan people themselves. If the country collapses into a civil war with dozens of tribal warlords ruling their separate fiefdoms, the Kremlin will seize this as a lever to regain a measure of influence by supporting one or another group in the fighting or by declaring the need to keep forces in a "security zone" in northern Afghanistan. Therefore, at a time when our weapons pipeline still gives us influence, we need to address directly the critical issue of establishing, through the traditional Afghan means of a tribal assembly and through elections, a post-communist government that truly represents the people.

Central America poses far more difficult and, from the U.S. point of view, far more critical problems. Our interests are not threatened by Nicaragua simply because its government systematically violates human rights and spouts anti-American rhetoric. A dictatorship, even a totalitarian one, does not threaten our interests per se. Rather, the Sandinista regime threatens our interests only because Managua has forged links with the Soviet Union and has become a base for indirect Soviet subversion of other Central American states such as El Salvador. The problem is not that the Nicaraguan government is communist but that the communist government of Nicaragua is inherently expansionist. As the Sandinistas freely admit, and even boast, they seek "a revolution without frontiers" in Central America and insist on the right to aid communist guerrillas in neighboring countries.

At the first opportunity, the Bush Administration must impose linkage between the issue of Soviet access to U.S. capital, credits and technology and that of Soviet military assistance to Managua. Gorbachev must be made to understand that Nicaragua is a neuralgic issue for us. While academics might debate whether the Monroe Doctrine has become obsolete, the United States cannot allow the Soviet Union or any other foreign power to provide arms to a virulently anti-American and aggressive regime in the western hemisphere. Given the Soviet economy's pathetic condition, our economic power represents tremendous leverage. If we link these issues, we should be able to profit politically, as well as economically, from our economic relationship with the Soviet Union.

At the same time, we must recognize that the Sandinista leaders have made a mockery of the Arias peace plan, despite the cutoff of U.S. assistance to the contras. Managua permits fewer civil liberties and holds more political prisoners today than it did when the so-called process of democratization began. In its direct talks with the contras, it has in effect demanded surrender, rather than opening the way to a political compromise. Moreover, the Nicaraguan-backed communist guerrillas in El Salvador have dramatically stepped up their terrorist and military attacks.

The Bush Administration must determine, once and for all, the viability of the Arias peace plan. If the Sandinista-contra talks cannot achieve their objective, they should be ended. Since endless negotiations work to the advantage of the Sandinistas, the United States should undertake a final, 90-day effort to breathe life into the peace process. If that fails to produce a concrete, workable plan for genuine democracy in Nicaragua, the president should request from Congress a major military and humanitarian aid package for the contras. Coupled with the effort to cut off Soviet aid to Managua through superpower talks, this policy would represent a pincer movement against the Sandinistas, with Moscow putting the squeeze on one end and the contras on the other.

The United States today faces a clear choice: Do we oppose communist subversion in a series of protracted wars throughout Central America or at its source in Nicaragua? Managua's leaders are avowedly committed to supporting anti-U.S. insurgencies throughout the region. If Nicaragua becomes a safe haven and an arms conduit for communist guerrillas, we will be doomed to decades of facing the messy problems of advising our friends in counterinsurgency warfare.


Revitalizing the Western alliance, redirecting the arms control process, and resolving the critical regional conflicts in Afghanistan and Nicaragua should represent America's immediate foreign policy priorities. Gorbachev's admission of Soviet economic failure and his need for a breathing spell in the East-West competition so perestroika can take root creates an excellent opportunity for the United States not only to enhance the West's security but also to promote a more stable peace through a determined strategy.

This is not to say that Moscow's economic failures will make Gorbachev a pushover. His toughness and intelligence will more than compensate for his country's economic weakness, and his consummate ability in diplomacy and political maneuver will guarantee that he seldom winds up with the short end of a deal. If Western leaders want to avoid being taken to the cleaners, they must understand what Gorbachev wants and how the West should respond.

On his first priority, strengthening the Soviet Union's economy, he will seek free access to Western capital and technology. The United States, Western Europe and Japan must coordinate their policies so that the West exploits its economic power for political effect. We should go forward with unsubsidized trade in nonstrategic goods on a cash-and-carry basis. But until the Soviet Union overhauls its domestic economic system and discontinues its aggressive policies, it is not in our interest to bankroll reforms that will either squander our loans or bolster our adversary.

On his second priority, ending the Soviet Union's international isolation, Gorbachev will seek to separate the United States from Europe, particularly Germany, and to open a new relationship with China. We must undertake a new effort to reinvigorate the Western alliance and to infuse Western Europe with the positive purpose of fostering peaceful change in Eastern Europe. If Gorbachev satisfies China's "three obstacles," we should welcome a normalization of Sino-Soviet relations. We can be confident that, since China's top priority remains economic development, our relations with Beijing will continue to be closer than the Kremlin's.

On his third priority, arms control, he will seek new agreements that will reduce strategic weapons stockpiles but preserve the present Soviet advantage in counterforce capability. In order to reduce the main threat to the West-Moscow's conventional superiority-we must link progress in START to progress on conventional arms control. We must also recast our strategic arms negotiating positions so that a START treaty will enable us to restore the counterforce balance and eventually to enhance strategic stability.

On his fourth priority, prevailing in Third World conflicts, he will seek agreements that appear to settle the conflicts but that actually keep his client regimes in power. We possess the leverage necessary for the freedom fighters in Afghanistan, Nicaragua and Angola to prevail. We must never sign an agreement with the Soviet Union that undercuts, militarily or politically, those relying on our support, and we must exploit linkage to promote the retraction of the Soviet empire.

In the short run, we can sympathize with the thrust behind many of Gorbachev's aspirations. We both want to reduce military competition and the danger of nuclear war. We certainly should applaud those of Gorbachev's reforms that reduce, even marginally, the repression and poverty which plague the people of the Soviet Union. At the same time, we must keep in mind that in the long run the goals of the two sides diverge diametrically. Gorbachev wants reform because he wants a stronger Soviet Union and an expanding Soviet empire. We should support those reforms in the hope of making the Soviet Union less repressive at home and less aggressive abroad.

As the outpouring of sympathy and support for the victims of the Armenian earthquake so vividly demonstrated, there is a great well of friendship for the Russian people in the United States. The people of the United States and the people of the Soviet Union can be friends. Because of our profound differences, the governments of our two nations cannot be friends-but we cannot afford to be enemies. Gorbachev's historic challenge is to implement reforms that will remove those differences.

1 The Military Balance 1988-1989, London: The International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1988, p. 237.

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