American presidents have usually inherited poor relations with the Soviet Union. President Eisenhower, of course, was confronted by the tensions of Korea and President Kennedy by the Berlin crisis. Lyndon Johnson was a temporary exception, but Richard Nixon inherited Vietnam and the Czech crisis. Gerald Ford had to deal with a faltering détente, and Jimmy Carter was embroiled in early disputes. In January 1981, Ronald Reagan found himself in much the same position as his predecessors, except that relations were worse than usual. Indeed, relations were frozen. Even the outgoing Administration was pessimistic. The departing American Ambassador to the U.S.S.R., Thomas J. Watson, Jr., summed up the prevailing gloom: "I don't think the West has any conception of how dismal the future looks for East-West relations."

The incoming Administration, of course, was not likely to contest this appraisal, though its members analyzed the causes quite differently. They believed that Carter's reaction to the "most brazen imperial drive in history" by the Soviet Union had been too little and too late. The new President immediately set a new tone when he asserted that the Soviets reserved the "right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat." Other pronouncements from the new Cabinet secretaries and their minions echoed the President, though not as crisply or dramatically.

The basic Reagan attitude toward the Soviet Union was no surprise: the President himself had enunciated it over many years; he had challenged the Ford presidency over détente, and had campaigned vigorously in 1980 on a strong anti-Soviet platform. Moreover, there was a large body of scholarly and political literature that buttressed and elaborated his general concept of the nature of the Soviet threat, its future direction, and the proper American response.

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was seen by the Reagan Administration primarily as a military menace and only secondarily as an ideological and political adversary. This was because the appeal of the Soviet state as a model for development had long since declined. Most of Moscow's new clients claimed little ideological affinity with the theories of Marx or Engels and rejected the Stalinist economic monolith. They might appreciate Lenin's revolutionary tenacity or his organizational genius, but Leninism and Stalinism (or Brezhnevism) were remote from the conflicts in Angola of the Horn of Africa. In terms of economic performance, Moscow's influence would scarcely be spread on the basis of its superior agricultural achievements, and the forced industrialization model of the 1930s was irrelevant to the complexities of economic development in the 1970s and 1980s. The Soviet Union, of course, did have political weight. That was undeniable. And its patronage was valuable, whether measured in terms of potential protection in a regional crisis, votes at the United Nations, or material assistance.

Had this been the extent of the Soviet global threat, however, it would have been quite manageable with the traditional instruments of the 1970s and 1960s. But in the Reagan view, Soviet policy had gone well beyond geopolitical maneuvering. The U.S.S.R. had become a military giant. It was able and determined to project its power to distant areas, to intervene in regional military conflicts, to extend its position through a complex of foreign bases and a corps of proxy troops, and to seek and encourage new treaty relationships and regional alliances.

All of this, it was strenuously argued by the Reaganites, was a direct consequence of a significant shift in the balance of military power at every level. While America had allegedly put its confidence in the agreements and negotiations that comprised détente, the U.S.S.R. had not only failed to reciprocate, but had invested massive resources in its military establishment.

This accumulation of military power was not a product of the momentum of a massive bureaucracy. Rather, the Reaganites believed, it was a systematic and purposeful effort to meet the requirements laid down by Soviet doctrines which prescribed: (a) overall strategic superiority, (b) the necessity to prepare forces for both deterrence and actual warfighting, (c) the possibility of achieving victory in a general nuclear war, and (d) the decisiveness of striking first.

This analysis, despite the critical situation it suggested, did not cause the Administration to despair. For, on close examination, it could be seen that the fundamental underpinnings of the Soviet system were weakening-and this weakening was manifested in the accumulating internal and external crises. The Soviet state and Russian Communism had entered a historical decline.

Yet, it was argued that for the next few years this very trend was cause for even further apprehension. For if a Great Power saw that it had passed its zenith or soon would, and if that power was inherently aggressive and expansionist, it followed that it would desperately try to retrieve its historical fortunes through a series of forays and adventures. The Soviets, of course, were true believers in the "correlation of forces." History was predetermined in a broad Marxist sense, but the world position of the Soviet Union could be altered by skillful strategies and tactics, so long as the bedrock of massive military power remained unaffected. Thus, a unique and bizarre combination of strength and weakness made for a period of particular danger.

This was the challenge as seen by the Reagan Administration. As it was relatively simple and straightforward, so the American response had to be similarly simple and straightforward:

- to restore the military balance, achieving or preserving at least a true equality and preferably superiority in key equations (e.g., naval power). The Soviets were developing a nuclear war-fighting capability, the new Deputy Secretary of Defense testified, and "we are going to have to develop the same."

- to contain Soviet expansion and reverse it; Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig warned that Moscow was the "greatest source of international insecurity."

- to negotiate only from a position of genuine strength; refurbishing America's nuclear arsenal was "a necessary prerequisite" for negotiation, the new Secretary of Defense concluded.

- and, above all, to dispel the psychological lethargy of America and its allies in dealing with the Soviet Union; hence the new rhetoric: "It is not going to be business as usual," the new White House Chief of Staff, James A. Baker, explained in early February 1981.

The Soviets' response to the "new direction" in American policy was hardly a surprise. They have been dealing with successive American administrations from a well-developed post-Stalin strategy. First, the new Administration would be greeted with a generous offer to talk, to meet, and to settle "outstanding differences." Then, there would be a display of pique over a hesitant or negative American response. Then would come a Soviet decision point: either to launch more aggressive testing or to shift to a posture of more genuine accommodation. This process was usually not a matter of weeks or months, but often of one or two years.

The Reagan-Brezhnev encounter has passed through the first stage and is well into the second. During the election campaign there had been no great sympathy for Ronald Reagan. At a Central Committee plenum in mid-1980, the Soviets had concluded that no matter who occupied the White House, certain adverse trends were developing in American policy: strategic rearmament (the new mobile MX missile), rapprochement with China (including arms sales) and refurbishing NATO strategy and forces with new Pershing and cruise missile deployments. Nevertheless, the Soviets seemed puzzled by the prospect of a Reagan presidency. Would it be reminiscent of the Nixon presidency, in that a conservative would move toward the Soviet Union? Or would it be closer to the avowed objectives of the Republican platform?

In any case, underlying Soviet apprehension had to be subordinated to the obligatory gesture which just might be reciprocated, and, if not, serve as the start of an accusatory record. Thus, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, in a letter of January 28, 1981, answering charges against Soviet policy contained in a letter from his new counterpart, Alexander Haig, expressed an interest in an exchange of views on a wide range of issues. Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev, from the rostrum of the Soviet Party Congress in late February, offered another peace program and a summit meeting. After a confusing flicker of interest in the summit, the offer was dutifully turned down by Secretary Haig on the grounds that an unprepared summit would be "self-defeating in the extreme."

On the surface this was the end of the initial minuet. But, it was later revealed, the dialogue of the two Presidents continued in an exchange of initially secret letters. In early April, President Reagan, from his hospital bed, sent a hand-written letter to Brezhnev in which he asked, "Is it possible that we have permitted ideology, political and economic philosophies and governmental policies to keep us from considering the very real, everyday problems of our peoples?"1 This was a far cry from liars, cheats, etc.; it suggested at least a greater pragmatism than the Administration's public rhetoric. Brezhnev's reply on May 25 was properly cantankerous, but he reverted to his summit proposal: "An exchange of correspondence has its limitations, and in this sense a private conversation is better." But either Brezhnev's expectations or his interest was waning. Brezhnev now also favored a "well-prepared" meeting at a "moment acceptable to both of us."

There was a four-month lapse, until a Reagan letter of September 22 (released only in paraphrase). The tone was sterner, the accusations crisper, the rhetoric more reminiscent of the campaign. Yet, another shift was evident. With his initial defense budget battles behind him, the complexities of various strategic decisions (the MX missile and the B-1 bomber) pressing in on him, the pressure from Europe growing, and Haig about to meet Gromyko, the President emphasized that the United States was interested in a "stable and constructive relationship" with the U.S.S.R. The letter set forth what was, in effect, a rough agenda for Soviet-American relations: arms control and security, geopolitical conflicts, economic relations, and the situation in Poland. This was not a radically new framework. Except for Poland, the issues had been on the agenda for at least a decade.

On the first issue, arms control, the Reagan Administration has moved from preconceived positions on the Right toward the mainstream of postwar American foreign policy. The President's speech and proposals of November 18 may well represent a turning point; he not only emphasized his commitment to major reductions in strategic weapons, but he also proposed that the United States and the Soviet Union agree on "zero" intermediate range missiles, which could mean canceling the intended American deployment in Europe. On the second issue-regional conflicts-the clash of interests between the two powers has remained severe and threatens to worsen. The third issue, economic relations, was becoming less relevant as other forces have overtaken American policy. And on the fourth issue, the Polish revolution, broad uncertainties cast an ominous shadow over the future.

Soviet-American relations thus remain surrounded by a strong sense of foreboding. Despite the prospects of a summit meeting in 1982, only a small start has been made on the long road back to something resembling a more normal relationship.


Every Administration since Truman's has felt obliged to express an interest in achieving greater security through arms control. Each Administration has been skeptical of the prospects for any durable arrangement to restrict, let alone reduce, the level of weapons. Yet, American Presidents and those who seek the office cannot afford to denounce the humane objective of controlling nuclear weapons. The most they can do is to oppose a specific agreement, or insist that much better, safer solutions are possible. As a candidate, Reagan took this course by opposing the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT II), while insisting that substantial reductions could be achieved provided America began to rearm to impress on Moscow that the alternative to agreement was a severe competition.

Given this approach, the Reagan Administration had to give priority to the resolution of certain strategic issues, primarily how to deal with the much advertised "window of strategic vulnerability." This theory held that U.S. land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) were or would be highly vulnerable to a Soviet surgical strike; Soviet ICBMs, however, were almost immune because of the limitations on U.S. ICBM capabilities. The United States, therefore, had to deploy a new, larger ICBM capable of threatening the Soviet force, but deceptively based in multiple "shelters" so as to exhaust any potential Soviet attack. By 1986-89, the infamous window would not only be closed, but the Soviets would also feel the harsh draft of their own vulnerability. Confronted by such a prospect, Moscow supposedly would negotiate an accommodation in SALT III.

This scenario was initially embraced by Reagan, especially the catch phrase of the "window." But the timing of the MX program, its technical and political complexity, and its SALT origins made it suspect. Many Reaganites argued that a "quick fix" was needed. But quick fixes are by definition elusive (otherwise, preceding administrations would have grabbed them). Negotiation from strength was a theory looking for an operational plan. This was one dimension of the strategic problem confronting Reagan.

The other dimension involved Europe. The Administration inherited the dual-track NATO decision of December 1979: the first track was to deploy 572 new American intermediate-range missiles in Europe starting in 1983; the second track was to negotiate with the Soviet Union for an arms control agreement covering intermediate-range missiles on both sides. With Washington now strongly emphasizing the military character of U.S.-Soviet relations, a backlash sprang up in Europe, where for a variety of reasons the Soviet threat was viewed less urgently. The NATO allies were suffering under diverse but severe political pressures applied by a bewildering coalition of anti-nuclear, pacifist, environmentalist and other activists. The Europeans argued that they would not and could not sacrifice détente to justify Reagan's campaign predilections. In their view, détente in Europe had, after all, brought about a significant reduction of tensions over Berlin and Germany, expanded economic relations, and even contributed to the beginnings of the Polish revolution. The way out of the growing transatlantic conflict was to resume negotiations with the Soviet Union over theater nuclear forces in Europe. Otherwise, it seemed likely that the worst outcome would be realized: NATO would unilaterally abandon or scale down its TNF deployment plans, while the rapidly growing Soviet force of SS-20 intermediate-range missiles would be unaffected by the clamoring crowds in Bonn, Amsterdam or Aldermaston.

The nature of these European anxieties was badly misperceived by some elements of the Reagan Administration, whose initial response was to cry appeasement. But there was also in the Administration an underlying suspicion of the Carter TNF plan because it was believed to be militarily flawed. Land-based missiles in Europe would be vulnerable to a Soviet preemptive attack. They were cumbersome and lacked real mobility, and in times of crisis their rapid movement into firing position would be subject to European political vetoes. Deploying 572 new missiles in any case was not an effective counter to the longer range and highly mobile Soviet SS-20s, which in early 1981 were already at a level of 600-700 warheads. Countering them would require a much larger force with longer range than the Pershing missiles, which was politically infeasible in Central Europe. For the Reagan Administration, an attractive alternative was to fill the strategic gap with sea-based cruise missiles-truly mobile, under American command, and consistent with a new strategic emphasis on naval power. But such a shift risked "decoupling," i.e., creating the impression that the United States was eager to avoid a firm link between the territorial defense of Europe and the use of America's central, strategic weapons. This risk was enhanced by the impression in Europe that the Reagan Defense Department was looking for ways to disengage from the Continent in favor of an off-shore strategy, supposedly based on the British nineteenth-century model (incidentally, a bad misreading of history).

The Soviets, of course, exploited the European climate, as well as the growing divergency between Washington and its NATO allies. Brezhnev threw out a number of approaches. Basically, what he proposed in 1980-81 was a simple bargain: NATO should suspend its program, and Moscow would negotiate a "substantial" reduction in its intermediate-range missile force. This would be reasonable because-the Soviets contended-a balance of "intermediate" forces already existed of around 900 to 1000 on each side if one counted the British and French strategic forces and U.S. aircraft on carriers and in Europe (the so-called forward-based systems). It followed from this view that the new American missiles would radically alter the balance and, of course, force the Soviets to adopt a counter program. A bargain need not even await the resumption of SALT, even though the Soviets acknowledge that theater and strategic military forces were related.

For much of 1981, Brezhnev had the field to himself because of the Administration's resistance to premature negotiations. The Reagan Administration saw an early commitment to negotiate as a threat to the timetable for implementing the TNF program. Even if the Administration decided to enter talks with the Soviet Union, their preferred purpose would be to legitimize further NATO deployments, or to justify the shift to sea-based forces.

Inside the Administration there were strong counter-arguments to this tactical approach. The pro-negotiating group, largely in the State Department, argued that the NATO alliance was dangerously strained, and weak governments were under strong political pressure. Reagan's election was being used in Europe by critics who claimed that war was suddenly more likely, and his refusal to negotiate over SALT or theater weapons was cited as proof. Moreover, a stubborn refusal to explore a European accommodation on nuclear weapons, a solemn American commitment since December 1979, could only aggravate European relations. In a second-level NATO meeting on March 31, the Administration tentatively agreed to resume the talks on theater nuclear weapons but to hold back on SALT.

But there was a prolonged rear-guard action against this decision, conducted by the Defense Department. While Secretary Haig was publicly resuming his contacts with the Soviet Ambassador after the Soviet Party Congress, the Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, was lecturing Europeans, "if the movement from cold war to détente is progress, then let me say we cannot afford much more progress." Weinberger also introduced a new issue by linking negotiations on European missiles to prior Soviet restraint on Poland. The State Department countered by issuing repeated assurances that the United States was committed to negotiations; restraint in Poland was not a precondition, although Soviet action there would make any talks "impossible."

This skirmishing was simply a preliminary to the real decision by the President, made just before the NATO ministerial meeting in Rome in early May. At a National Security Council meeting, Haig was instructed to confirm the willingness of the United States to negotiate and to begin the talks by the "end of the year." Ironically, this new commitment had no great effect: the peace activists in Europe were not interested in diplomatic timetables; they wanted all American nuclear weapons out. Some of the NATO governments were still skeptical about U.S. policy. Moscow was contemptuous but did slightly improve its bargaining offer during a visit by two key Europeans, West German Socialist Willy Brandt and British Labour Party leader Michael Foot. Brezhnev offered a more substantial missile reduction as a reward for suspending the NATO missile program for the duration of negotiations.

The procedural fight having been settled, the United States and allied governments moved to the substance of the negotiations. Out of the second round of this arms control debate emerged the "zero option," proposed by the President on November 18: the United States would cancel its missile deployments if the U.S.S.R. would entirely "dismantle" its intermediate-range missiles.

During this debate, a quiet revolution in approaches occurred within the Administration. The skeptics in the Reagan Administration embraced the zero option as a simple but effective device to expose Soviet intransigence. The proponents of negotiation, who saw the talks as a means to bridge transatlantic differences, saw serious pitfalls in the zero option: could the United States negotiate for, say, 18 months, and then repudiate its own proposal by beginning actual preparations for deployments? Would NATO remain united in the face of tempting Soviet counter-offers? Nevertheless, the final Reagan decision contained in the speech of November 18 was both plausible and a shrewd tactical maneuver, meeting several problems and providing an effective counter to the Soviets. Yet, differences within the Administration and within NATO made it vulnerable to a Soviet counterattack.

The nature of the eventual dilemma was illustrated by Brezhnev's response. Contrary to the clever arguments for the zero option as a means of placing the Soviets in the dock, the Soviet rejection was coupled with a further offer. Brezhnev took another small step by offering to reduce "hundreds" of weapons if the United States and NATO canceled the deployment. Of course this was brushed off by Washington, though less so by Bonn. But it pointed to an eventual decision point after the preliminary posturing was completed in the Geneva negotiations that began on November 30. Would NATO give up its weapons for a low ceiling on Soviet SS-20s? This could result in a missile threat of less magnitude than Europe had faced for two decades from older Soviet missiles. But it would nonetheless be a substantial retreat from the position of December 1979. Or would a token NATO deployment be sufficient psychological compensation?

Whatever the outcome, the process of arms control in Europe has been revived, if only temporarily, and this simple fact illustrates a significant new dimension in superpower relations. Arms control and other security issues have ceased to be the domain of the statesmen in Washington and Moscow. New weapons are involved, and new actors; new strategic debates have begun under new popular pressures. The politics of protest has reared its head, and both Moscow and Washington are now involved in a new triangular relationship with Europe. As one observer put it, the struggle for the hearts and minds of Europe has begun-a sad commentary on the policies on both sides of the Atlantic.

The collision between theory and reality was also evident in the Administration's handling of strategic arms limitation talks. It entered office not only opposed to the SALT II treaty, but to the very idea of a SALT "process." The approved tactic seemed to be to allow the treaty to lie in limbo and let the SALT dialogue atrophy. This fitted the program of rearming and deferring negotiation until the American position was clearly strengthened. Initially it suggested that the SALT agreements might be allowed to lapse or even be repudiated in order to focus priority on bringing weapons systems into operation. This view was publicly expressed by a junior official early in the year, only to be severely and publicly repudiated by the Secretary of State.

Presumably the Secretary recognized the American dilemma. There was no immediate gain from explicitly freeing the Soviets from the SALT II constraints, which were being observed on both sides. With Reagan in the White House, the Administration did not need the psychological booster shot of officially denouncing SALT. Its defense budget would pass easily. And the Administration had no clear strategic program of its own; it could not even decide on the mix of new strategic programs (MX, B-1, etc.). Thus retaining SALT as a tactical hedge seemed to make sense, especially in light of the growing nervousness in Europe over the Reagan Administration. But having accepted the strange position of abiding by a treaty it had no intention of ratifying, the Administration for many months offered no substitute for SALT, other than the hackneyed insistence that substantial reductions were necessary.

The approach that finally began to evolve flowed from the three principal objections to SALT I and II made by SALT critics, including some prominent members of the Administration. First, there was the problem of developing a new unit of measure or new "common currency" for strategic weapons negotiations. Hitherto the unit had been numbers of launchers (e.g., missile silos, bombers). This was misleading and dangerous because it equated quite different elements of power. What was needed was a more comprehensive measure of what Administration officials loosely termed "destructive power." But the slogan was difficult to translate into a technical formula that might have operational significance and still prove negotiable.

Second, there was the question of reductions. Some reductions were obviously more effective than others. Some might even be dangerous. The United States would not want to reduce its own forces to a point where it might lose its second-strike capability and a first strike might prove tempting to the Soviets. Fewer fixed ICBMs with multiple warheads would not necessarily create greater stability. Fewer strategic submarines were in fact more vulnerable, and fewer bombers confronting an unconstrained air defense might be downright dangerous. But token reductions (already achieved in SALT II) were certainly illusory. So it appeared, more and more, that what would eventually be involved was in fact an old and unsuccessful demand, namely, that the Soviets reduce their heaviest ICBMs-scarcely a "new direction."

Third, there was a recasting of the problem of verification. The new structure of arms control would require more than national technical means, a euphemism for relying on intelligence monitoring, principally by satellites. The old approach was perhaps adequate for simple numerical limits on fixed weapons, but complex reductions would make residual forces highly sensitive to cheating, to circumvention, and to breaking out of an agreement. It followed that broader cooperative measures were necessary.

The Administration had not even embarked on a leisurely review of the fundamentals of strategic arms control when Brezhnev rather unexpectedly relieved some of the political pressures. At the 26th Party Congress in February he engaged in the obligatory attacks on the United States for failing to ratify SALT II, but then he created an escape from confrontations. Rather than insisting on ratification, he called for the preservation of the "positive elements" of SALT II. His main target was the theater nuclear forces rather than the strategic ones.

The Soviets' calculation was to prove a shrewd one. For it was the theater force negotiations that came to take precedence in the new Administration's hierarchy, though not necessarily by design. Pressure from Europe was also in part responsible for a gradual acceptance of the inevitability of the resumption of strategic force negotiations, which were finally confirmed by a presidential offer to begin talks "as soon as possible" in 1982. This intent was confirmed in the President's speech of November 18, which at the same time rechristened the new talks START (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks).

Thus an arms control negotiating schedule took shape in 1981, but without linkage or preconditions. The Reagan Administration had initially insisted that a broad improvement in Soviet conduct was mandatory, lest another agreement suffer the fate of its SALT II predecessor. Yet, the program outlined in the President's speech of November 18, putting forward a new four-point arms control plan, ignored any political conditions. It was only accompanied by some informal statements by Administration officials that seemed to suggest that Soviet "restraint" for the first nine months had met some minimum criteria and that movement toward both the TNF negotiations and SALT was thus justified. The Administration avoided confronting the implications of its own policy pronouncements: namely, that arms control agreements were not viable without political restraint; and that arms control for its own sake was bound to fail because of the realities of "linkage."

The substantive outlook was thus hazy. The Administration constantly emphasized that arms control could not be a "centerpiece" in a relationship with the U.S.S.R. But it was vague as to the role arms control could play. Some parts of the Administration still saw arms control as a threat to a sound military rearmament program, rather than a complementary effort. And they continued to believe that arms control served as a test of Soviet good faith: negotiations would demonstrate whether the Soviets would settle for a true balance of strategic forces and genuine stability, or would simply use any negotiations as a means of ratifying or concealing their own buildup.

The Soviet response was equally tactical in its inspiration, i.e., slight variants on the general theme that new agreements had to address America's forward-based systems. But an intriguing question was whether Soviet military policies were undergoing a reconsideration, perhaps stimulated by the increases over Carter's defense budget for fiscal 1982 and Reagan's commitment to continued increases over the next four years. As the European nuclear debate quickened in 1980-81, the Soviets appeared eager to dispel any suspicion that they sought strategic "superiority," that they would strike first, or that they believed in "victory" in nuclear war. Brezhnev took this line, and one widely quoted Soviet pamphlet even resurrected the old Malenkov heresy: that nuclear war would "probably" mean the end of civilization.2 While there were sound tactical reasons for introducing these nuances, nonetheless a serious question remained: were the Soviets grudgingly accepting the implausibility of continuing to justify large expenditures of scarce resources, in pursuing strategic goals that would inevitably prove elusive if they provoked American counterarmament?

Even if Soviet theory was, in fact, evolving, a different aspect of Soviet declaratory policy was disconcerting. In attempting to exploit Reagan's remarks in October about the possibility of limited war in Europe, Brezhnev insisted that if a nuclear weapon were to be used, then "unavoidably" the war would assume a "global character." These remarks, too, could be explained as tactical expedients, but it was possible that the U.S.S.R. was foreshadowing a new deterrent theory for Europe. After fifteen years of emphasizing the roughly equal likelihood of war beginning with a conventional or a tactical nuclear phase, well short of all-out escalation, it was possible that Moscow envisaged using the threat of its new and more accurate SS-20s to neutralize the accepted NATO strategy of threatening the first use of nuclear weapons. It was perhaps a significant confirmation of Soviet strategy that a number of observers, including some members of the Reagan Administration, believed the credibility of the traditional doctrine of flexible response and first use of nuclear weapons was deteriorating. In part, this explained the Defense Department's interest in new "long-war" strategies that might be fought entirely with non-nuclear weapons.3

In any case, the outlook for the Reagan arms control program is not very bright. What is being proposed, in essence, is a massive restructuring of Soviet nuclear forces, including the abandonment of several thousand missile warheads. Even in the best circumstances, when détente was flourishing, the Soviets showed great resistance to such a concessionary course. Moreover, U.S. strategic plans remain vague and tentative. The MX decision of October 2 to proceed with a limited deployment in hardened Titan missile silos was clearly a holding action, a weak alternative with strong opposition, and abandoned in 90 days. (Now the first 40 MX missiles will be installed in Minuteman missile silos.) The "zero option" in Europe obscured the Administration's new commitment to a substantial force of sea-based cruise missiles. Counterforce strategies aimed at attacking hardened military targets were still under serious consideration in both Moscow and Washington. There was a general uncertainty in NATO over the validity of a strategy of first use of nuclear weapons. All in all, the vital strategic relationship between the United States and the U.S.S.R. was in flux.

Moreover, there was no political framework to begin rebuilding a military equilibrium. In 1972 SALT I was supported by a structure of political agreements-the German treaties, the Berlin agreements. In 1979 when SALT II was signed there was no such supporting structure and the treaty was highly vulnerable. In 1981 the gloomy outlook for arms control reflected the pessimistic outlook for political progress. As far as the Reagan Administration was concerned Moscow remained poised on the brink of a new geopolitical advance.


The Reagan Administration inherited what seemed to be a series of crises, beginning in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf and stretching as far as El Salvador and Cambodia. The approach advocated by the new Administration flowed from an analysis that was almost the reverse of Carter's priorities. Whereas the old Administration had initially attempted to relegate the Soviet problem to a secondary position, the Reagan Administration ostentatiously restored Soviet relations to the central position. Indeed, it tended to assign Moscow a pervasive responsibility for international disorder. Even some fundamental North-South issues were seen as an indirect Soviet challenge, and old issues such as the Arab-Israeli dispute were re-examined on the basis of a need for a broad anti-Soviet "consensus." Finally, in the initial phase "linkage" was heavily stressed on the grounds that restraint in Soviet behavior was a prerequisite to real relaxation of tensions.

The Soviets, of course, brusquely dismissed any notion of preconditions. In April, Brezhnev said that the Soviets would be "simpletons" if they were to insist that Washington abandon all foreign bases before talks could begin. Yet for a number of reasons the Soviets have been cautious and circumspect in their behavior.

Of course, the opportunities were narrow. There was nothing resembling the openings in Angola in 1975 or Ethiopia in 1977-78. Throughout 1981, in each of the minor crises-Syrian missiles in Lebanon, the shootdown of the Libyan aircraft, the Sudanese-Chad-Libyan dispute, even El Salvador and Nicaragua-the Soviets did not continue the broad offensive of the late 1970s, but stopped well short of their capabilities for exploitation.

It may be that the Reagan position on linkage had some deterrent value; some Soviet officials indicated that it was desirable to insulate regional conflicts from broad U.S.-Soviet relations, thus acknowledging the practical impact of linkage. But probably the most important reason for Soviet caution was the need for a period of consolidation. The problems of Afghanistan and Poland, the inability to formulate a new five-year plan (finally published nine months late), and the need to evaluate carefully the Reagan policies, all combined to recommend a Soviet holding action, a watching brief. And this, indeed, seems to have been the main characteristic of Soviet policy in 1981.

Developments in the Middle East and Persian Gulf were additional reasons for Soviet caution. The Iraqi attack against Iran in late 1980 created a new situation: should Moscow support its treaty partner in Baghdad or play for larger stakes to influence the future alignment of Iran? In effect, the Soviets chose to hold the door open to Iran. This meant they could act with restraint in the war and even claim some international credit for doing so. Despite the bloody record of the Iranian regime, Moscow refrained from virtually any criticism, even though many of its sympathizers and supporters were being put to death. The Iranian revolution remained anti-imperialist "in essence" and thus was still a major prize to be won over.

Moreover, Pakistan was showing the signs of prolonged strain under the pressures emanating from Afghanistan, Moscow and New Delhi. Though all of the various efforts to open genuine negotiations over Afghanistan proved abortive, Western and Pakistani persistence in pursuing them may well have suggested to Moscow that it really had little to fear. (Whether it could somehow bring the Afghan rebellion under control was a different matter.) Added to the potential for significant gains in Iran and perhaps in Pakistan, there was a potential for further upheavals following the death of Sadat, the new alliance of Libya, South Yemen and Ethiopia, and the struggle for Chad and the Sudan. All of this turmoil probably encouraged Moscow to wait for new opportunities-a style well-suited to Soviet policy in any case.

This period of relative restraint facilitated a dialogue of sorts between Washington and Moscow. Despite some stringent qualifications, both sides indicated that it might be worthwhile to explore some ground rules to regulate their competition. Secretary Haig alluded to such an effort early in the year, Brezhnev took it up in April, and later in September President Reagan in his note to Brezhnev made it an agenda item. The President took the position that Soviet-American relations could not really improve without clear Soviet restraint in the Third World. Foreign Minister Gromyko responded by proposing to Haig negotiations on a set of principles of U.S.-Soviet relations. Whether drafting such principles remains on the agenda is not known, but the issues such a process would raise would strike at the heart of the relationship.

In May 1972 the two superpowers agreed on a set of principles which its principal architect, Henry Kissinger, described as expressing the "necessity of responsible political conduct." Their principal defect was that they lent themselves to varying and even contradictory interpretations (which the drafters, of course, recognized). The United States basically wanted to preserve the status quo, or at least regulate change in a measured fashion. It sought Soviet cooperation. The U.S.S.R., however, wanted to challenge if not assault the existing order whenever and wherever it was relatively safe to do so. A spheres of influence agreement might have resolved the conflict, but this was impossible. Therefore, a large area of the world has remained open to competition, because a code of conduct could not be translated into a meaningful set of understandings and agreements.

This issue, of course, has yet to be resolved. To reject out of hand any code of conduct would be an invitation to anarchy, if not confrontation. But to agree on generalities might also invite an inadvertent clash. Both sides seem well aware of the alternatives, and have been proceeding without much fanfare, but probably without any great expectations.

The issues are by no means abstract ones. In the Persian Gulf, the United States would have to seek guarantees that the U.S.S.R. would not pursue "unilateral advantage" by exploiting growing instabilities to occupy northern Iran. A similar guarantee for Pakistan from both the Soviet Union and India would be desirable if the area is to achieve any long-term stability. Similarly, Soviet restraint in the Arab-Israeli dispute is a condition to any durable long-term settlement. But Soviet statements suggest Moscow would, in return, be seeking the reduction or withdrawal of American influence and power in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, as well as a political neutralization of Southwest Asia. It is difficult to foresee the basis for any fundamental settlement between the two powers. Continued conflict seems far more likely.

On the one issue-ending the occupation of Afghanistan-where progress had at one time seemed to be a prerequisite. American policy under the new Administration proved increasingly indifferent. Lifting the grain embargo without any progress on Afghanistan was tantamount to writing an end to the policy of sanctions inaugurated by President Carter. Apparently some help has been flowing to the freedom fighters in Afghanistan, but on a modest scale. Washington has deferred too much to the Europeans and others who were pressing for a diplomatic solution on the dubious reasoning that the Soviet invasion had been a costly mistake that Moscow was eager to liquidate. Despite three separate U.N. condemnations, the U.S.S.R. suffered no lasting retribution, other than that inflicted on the field of combat. The resumption of arms control negotiations, the lifting of the grain embargo, and the gradual development of a high-level Soviet-American dialogue made the international condemnation of Soviet behavior irrelevant. Perhaps there is no solution. By the end of 1981, in any case, Afghanistan was well on its way to becoming the forgotten war. Whether the United States and its Western partners would eventually have to pay a price for this weakness remained to be seen.

Despite the withering away of the Afghan crisis as a major Soviet-American issue, the general impression was that little or no progress had been made on any of the major geopolitical issues dividing Washington and Moscow. The Soviet "threat" to the Persian Gulf remained, and American policy was increasingly oriented toward countering Soviet military action (e.g., operation Bright Star in Egypt, U.S.-Israeli "strategic cooperation," the provision of Saudi AWACS). Soviet influence among the more radical elements in the Middle East and Africa was growing, manifest in the new triple alliance of its clients, Libya, South Yemen and Ethiopia. Similarly its support for the Palestine Liberation Organization was demonstrably strengthened by the opening of an official representation in Moscow. For the first time since 1973 there was a possibility that the collapse of the Camp David process might lead to reentry of the U.S.S.R. in the diplomacy of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Moscow still provided the necessary support to Vietnam and the phony Cambodian regime. And, finally, the Soviet Union (and Cuba) and the United States seemed to be edging toward a serious confrontation over the Caribbean and Central America. The Soviets were giving Nicaragua more and more political and material support, including new arms shipments through Cuba. And the United States seemed intent on drawing a line against Cuban encroachments.

The potential for conflict, thus, remains high. But in one area Soviet-American strains might have actually been slightly reduced-China. The new Administration did, of course, carry the old policies a step further by openly (though in a confusing manner) offering to supply some arms and new technology to China during Secretary Haig's visit in June 1981. By the time it occurred, the Soviets had probably largely discounted the move. Gromyko (on August 8) said Moscow could not "remain indifferent," but China was not even mentioned in the litany of complaints to visiting American senators a few weeks later. Yet the underlying Soviet apprehensions must still be there.

American underwriting of a Chinese military buildup with what Gromyko called "up-to-date American weapons" could not be accepted in Moscow. But this no longer seemed likely, at least not in the short run. China was worried about the resolution of the new Administration, and was engaged in its usual maneuvering. The dispatch of a Chinese military mission to Washington was repeatedly and deliberately delayed. The reason, clearly, was that Peking wanted to pressure Washington to back away from its commitments to Taiwan. The U.S.S.R., ever sensitive to the nuances of triangular politics, responded with a new offer to settle the Sino-Soviet border dispute. While this particular issue remains dormant, the Chinese have moved to reopen border negotiations with India. The signal seems clear. The door to the Soviet Union was not slammed tightly shut. The real target of this Chinese maneuver, however, was Washington's nerves.


In his message to Leonid Brezhnev on September 22, President Reagan indicated that one objective of American policy would be "to expand trade and to increase contacts at all levels of our societies." (This was before the imposition of martial law in Poland and the announcement of economic sanctions by the President.) But, in any case, American and Western policy toward trade and other economic relations with the East was a shambles-which the Polish crisis illuminated. A decade ago it was generally believed that economic relations would be a key, if not the key, to a political accommodation with Moscow. This theory was tried briefly during the period of détente, when an expansion of the scope of economic relations was held out as an incentive for better political relations. Over the past ten years, however, in the United States the policy has undergone an almost complete turnaround. Now, economic relations are seen primarily as a punitive sanction.

Thus Secretary Haig on July 28 testified that "our trade relations and our broader economic relations must reinforce our efforts to counter the Soviet military buildup and its irresponsible conduct. . . ." He announced that as a result of a policy review, the United States had concluded that tightening of restrictions on "goods and technology which could upgrade production in areas relevant to Soviet military strength was both desirable and necessary." The problem was that before this policy review the Administration had already damaged its own rationale by lifting the grain embargo on April 24. Its claim at that time that its position could not be "mistaken" by the Soviets was a weak one.

But probably of more long-term significance, the Administration failed to obtain an allied consensus at the Ottawa economic summit. Even the Secretary of State had to acknowledge that "Some countries have more extensive commercial links with the East than the United States, and others believe that economic ties moderate political behavior." Finally, it was fairly clear that the use of economic relations as a retaliatory measure was far from agreed Western policy. Thus, when the Polish crisis broke in December 1981, Western policy was in disarray.

The weaknesses of the Western approach were nowhere more evident than in the abortive American effort to stave off the much publicized European-Soviet natural gas agreements that were finally consummated on November 20, just before Leonid Brezhnev visited Bonn. To be sure, the United States had a complicated hand to play. The United States had justified lifting grain sanctions on the very theory-commercialism-that the Reagan Administration was now arguing against with the Europeans. It thus found itself in the difficult position of proposing that the Europeans should make economic sacrifices lest they create a political dependency on Moscow, when the United States was selling over 23 million tons of grain to the Soviet Union and extending for one year the grain sales agreement of 1976.

Even the relevant security warnings against Soviet blackmail potential carried no great weight. The overall West German dependency on the Soviet Union for energy supplies (five percent) was not nearly as great as the European dependency on oil imports from the Middle East (or the U.S. dependency, for that matter). In any case, the growing web of economic relationships between East and West raised a serious question for American policy: could the United States afford to stand on the sidelines criticizing and carping while this relationship developed? Or should it modify its own position as the basis for attempting to forge a new Western consensus? The crisis over Polish sanctions made such a consensus mandatory.

Even the policy of restricting the transfer of technology raises questions. The Soviet Union is highly vulnerable to the perennial failings of its own agricultural sector. Twenty-five years after the opening of the virgin lands and the adoption of a policy of massive investment in agriculture, the Soviet Union is still importing sizable amounts of grain and paying for it with scarce hard currency (including gold sales). Any alleviation of this problem clearly has some strategic significance for the U.S.S.R. So it could scarcely be argued that denying other technology was imposing a truly significant strategic burden, as long as grain sales were virtually open-ended.

Yet it is undeniable that the U.S.S.R. benefits from access to high technology, since a major Soviet economic problem is declining productivity. But most technologies are by and large available on standard commercial markets in the industrialized countries. Tightening technology transfers is no easy matter. It was one of the sanctions announced by President Carter in January 1980; the new Administration announced a further tightening, and then it was one of the sanctions invoked during the Polish crisis. Half-way measures, such as selling some pipelaying equipment and then suspending it, or selling a complete tractor-combine plant, created an image of a confused and uncertain policy. The main beneficiaries were in Moscow.


The issue of greatest long-term significance in 1981 was the Polish crisis. The political and institutional changes in Poland since July 1980 were the most important development within the communist system since the split between China and the U.S.S.R., as well as potentially the most far-reaching development in European politics since the formation of the two military alliances. The outcome could profoundly alter the relations between the U.S.S.R. and the United States. A Soviet invasion would deal a sharp blow to any near-term chances for détente, for arms control, or for an alleviation of global tensions. The evolution of a pluralist political order, on the other hand, could not fail to have an historic impact on both the East and West in Europe. The consequences of such a phenomenon were difficult to foresee because the Polish crisis was genuinely unique. A third alternative, an internal crackdown, seemed initially to be ruled out by the weakness of the Communist Party structure and the dubious reliability of the armed forces.

In the waning days of the Carter Administration when it seemed possible that the Soviet forces would intervene, stern warnings were issued. Some Carter officials take credit for deterring a Soviet move, which Moscow of course denied was intended. Whatever the actual situation had been in December 1980, the situation was still tense when the new Administration took office. Within a few days Secretary Haig, in a letter to Andrei Gromyko, warned against Soviet interference. This prompted Gromyko to reply on January 28 that the situation in Poland "cannot be a subject of discussion between third countries, including the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A." He was wrong. Poland was the essence of the East-West discussion because it raised the fundamental questions about the nature of European détente: was Moscow prepared to permit peaceful political change in Eastern Europe? Or would it insist on some form of the Brezhnev Doctrine?

In essence, until mid-December the matter rested where the initial Haig-Gromyko exchange left it. The Soviets presumably needed no Western warnings to appreciate the repercussions of a bloody finish to the Polish crisis. Indeed, their behavior had been astonishingly restrained, so much so that some observers concluded there had been a loss of nerve in the Kremlin. More likely was a keen sense in Moscow of the high costs of direct intervention, matched by an equally deep apprehension over the consequences of a collapse of communist authority in Poland.

The primary Soviet maneuver was to try to strengthen the intestinal fortitude of the Polish party leaders. In April the Soviets toyed with a coup, but found no palace guard in the Polish Politburo. In exasperation, an attempt was apparently made to arrange the overthrow of Stanislaw Kania in June-an attempt which also failed. The Polish Party Congress which followed in July made matters worse: the Central Committee was almost completely purged and Kania's faction barely survived in the new politburo. After the Congress, the Soviets insisted on a "clear-cut program of extrication," and Kania's days appeared to be numbered. Steady Soviet pressure, including sporadic military maneuvers, and a vicious public letter in September succeeded in over-throwing him and installing General Jaruzelski on October 17, 1981. It was to be the penultimate move.

On December 13, Jaruzelski moved dramatically to impose martial law and to suspend, if not reverse, the whole process of change and reform that had evolved since July 1980. Tactically, the coup was executed with a precision and discipline that obviously reflected careful and long preparations, with Soviet coaching likely. It took completely by surprise the leaders of the Solidarity movement, which had by then obtained sweeping concessions even to the point of having a real share in power. Opposition was widespread but ineffective, with communications cut both within the country and externally. And although there were a number of strikes and outbreaks of violence, the Jaruzelski regime was apparently successful in maintaining control.

By the end of 1981 the situation seemed temporarily to have settled down, with the possibility of some form of negotiation involving the government, the Catholic Church and leaders of Solidarity, perhaps including Lech Walesa. The regime's special militia forces had proved reliable, but there had been no real test of how the army would perform if it had to deal with really serious resistance. And the economic situation remained desperate, with any improvement apparently dependent on some kind of compromise under which the Polish people would be willing to return to work on an effective basis, and on eventual financial and other assistance from the West.

Throughout the year, American opposition to Soviet military intervention had been straightforward. But beyond the worst contingencies, the Reagan Administration appeared divided over the proper response to the upheaval in Poland. Prior to Jaruzelski's imposition of martial law, the Administration had been wary of providing economic assistance, because it would relieve the Soviets of the responsibility or culpability for the failure of the communist system in Poland.

The other view was that Poland was drifting toward a disaster and needed Western assistance. If the economy continued to deteriorate, the inevitable result would be disorder and Soviet intervention. Assistance in stabilizing the situation was a gamble well worth taking and would ultimately benefit Solidarity. Reform of the economy could not even be contemplated in the midst of a crisis. This view did not prevail until shortly before Jaruzelski's coup. In failing to adopt a more positive approach to the Polish issue, the United States risked recriminations for watching and waiting too long.4

The Jaruzelski coup caught the West completely underprepared, and the initial reactions were largely improvised. Two general options seemed possible: to retaliate swiftly and strongly, even going so far as to freeze all East-West negotiations, or to defer the more drastic measures for use if the situation worsened. The Reagan Administration settled on a course between these alternatives. It was well out in front of its allies in announcing sanctions against both Poland and the Soviet Union, but the content of its measures was modest. The prospect for going further-such as denouncing the Helsinki accords-was not ruled out, but dependent on allied agreement which was very unlikely.

Beyond immediate reactions, a more fundamental question remained to be addressed by the West and by the United States in particular. Could a viable relationship with the Soviet Union, especially in Europe, continue to be based on a divisible détente in which the Soviets dominated every aspect of Eastern Europe, while the West continued to expand economic relations and other contacts, conclude arms control agreements, and promote a general political relaxation? For most of the postwar period the West accepted European spheres of influence without an official acknowledgment. Thus the Soviet position was never challenged in any of the Eastern crises. Why, then, should Poland be an exception? It was, after all, virtually at the center of the Soviet security zone.

Some in Europe argued that this was in fact the situation, and that it was only realistic to accept it. It was naive to believe that the Soviets would permit the situation to go so far as to challenge their position of dominance. And, they argued, a Polish solution was preferable to a Soviet solution. Hence, the West should proceed with great care, condemning the actions of Jaruzelski, but not drawing any drastic consequences for the general course of East-West relations. Direct Soviet military intervention, of course, would alter the situation; short of that, sanctions would only push the Polish regime closer to Moscow.

The Reagan Administration seemed to accept some of this reasoning in practice; at least its sanctions were carefully calibrated, and it had to give priority to protecting the Western alliance against new divisions. But Washington also seemed to be groping for a new position that challenged the postwar tradition. This interpretation held that Poland was in fact unique because it has occurred after the German treaties with Moscow and Warsaw and after the Helsinki conference of 1975. The 1970s thus marked a fundamental change in the European situation. Yalta was overtaken. A new political framework had been created: a sort of World War II peace treaty, in which the West recognized the territorial status quo in the East, and, in return, the East accepted certain principles of relations that implied a greater toleration of diversity and autonomy. Thus, an equilibrium was created between legitimate Soviet security interests and legitimate Western aspirations for a more relaxed European order. This general view was reflected in some of the statements of the Secretary of State in an interview with The Washington Post on December 26.

This interpretation-that Helsinki created a "whole new framework of international relations"-was bound to become an area of conflict not only with the the Soviet Union but within NATO. The Polish crisis exposed a serious Western disagreement over the concept of European security. The United States was boycotting a Soviet gas pipeline financed by its European allies. Both the United States and Europe accused Moscow of violating the Helsinki accords, but only the United States applied sanctions. Moreover, the Europeans still considered arms control agreement on missiles "imperative," while Washington contemplated ending the talks. A common approach to East-West issues had become mandatory. For the first time in at least a decade, serious concerns were raised in the United States about the viability of the Western alliance, a trend Moscow was certain to exploit.


In relations with the Soviet Union, Ronald Reagan is rapidly approaching a crossroads. There is still a mutual Soviet-American interest in improving relations and some incentive to do so. From a domestic standpoint the President is supported by a favorable constellation of political forces. Just as Nixon had the anti-communist credentials to develop an opening to Peking, so Reagan has the credentials to initiate a new relationship with the U.S.S.R. And he is creating the prerequisite military base. He will have to make some political concessions to Moscow, but he can expect and obtain some concessions in return. He does not have to embrace détente. He can learn from his predecessors the dangers of overselling (Nixon), as well as undercommitting (Carter).

The President seems to be a perceptive student. When it was appropriate early in his first year to sound a strong theme of rearmament, he eschewed some of the softer rhetoric. But as the realities of alliance responsibilities and the pressure of domestic politics began to congeal, he was more than willing to move in surprisingly unanticipated directions: the MX decision in October and the arms control speech of November 18. That speech may well have marked the end of the opening phase of the Reagan foreign policy, but the Polish crisis intervened and introduced new uncertainties.

What the President needs now is a strategy to see him through the next two years.

In their dealing with Moscow, Nixon and Kissinger brought a number of diverse forces and issues to bear at roughly the right time; after demonstrating resistance to Soviet-sponsored forays in Cuba and negotiating their way through the Jordanian and India-Pakistan crises, Nixon gained significant leverage when he decided to bomb Haiphong in May 1972. His summit strategy was saved not because the Soviets flinched, but because they did not want to jettison the German treaties and the Berlin agreements still pending in the West German Bundestag, or provide a new opening for China, or, for that matter, to endure an anti-ballistic missile race. Similarly, détente began to collapse when Washington was unable to turn back adverse trends: the collapse in Saigon, Soviet intervention in Angola, or the constant infighting over defense and SALT (to say nothing of the consequences of Watergate).

For Reagan the lesson should not merely be that he needs to impose penalties for Soviet misconduct: this is his natural inclination in any case. He also needs to create some incentives for the Soviets, and, above all, he must begin to relate issues to each other. Restraint and reciprocity are valid but inert slogans. They must be applied in some meaningful manner. Where do we want reciprocity: in European arms control? Where do we want restraint: Poland, Iran, Saudi Arabia? What do we offer in return: restraint in Chinese arms sales? Spelling out these equations is the essence of diplomacy. Deciding to do so is the essence of statesmanship.

The Reagan Administration has not done so in 1981. Indeed, it probably could not do so before straightening out its domestic economic programs, including its defense and strategic weapons programs. But in 1982 it should begin to untangle a number of internal divisions and to indicate to our allies and the Soviet leaders a clearer sense of the alternatives. At some point in the process, a summit meeting may be necessary.

Which brings up the Soviet side. It is a great temptation, but usually an error, to gear American policy to the intricacies of Kremlin politics. We will never really know the array of Soviet internal forces-when it is a propitious time to move, and when it is not. Following American interests is obviously a better guide. But the Soviet side is not irrelevant. And the role of Leonid Brezhnev is still quite central.

Brezhnev has staked much of his stewardship on improving relations with the United States and West Germany. One reason certainly has been his abiding concern about China. Another may be the economic benefits he had hoped for and has, in part, received. In any case, what and who will follow him is a mystery. The best case would be a period of internal consolidation, the worst case an aggressive thrust to cash in on a new strategic balance. It is probably in the interest of the United States and of the Reagan Administration to explore the possibility of restoring a better relationship with the Soviet Union while Brezhnev can still put it through the Politburo. Some of the post-Mao difficulties in Sino-American relations might be an object lesson.

No outside observer can sketch out the numerous intermediate steps involved in restoring some balance to Soviet-American relations. There has been too great an accumulation of serious conflicts not to be pessimistic about the chances for much change. But given the many difficulties confronting the Soviet Union, there may still be an opportunity for American diplomacy to work out acceptable terms. One question is whether the Administration of Ronald Reagan has any real interest in moving toward a new relationship. Despite the Polish crisis, such a desire seemed to be still alive at the end of the year. In his message of December 29 announcing sanctions against the Soviet Union, the President stated:

The United States wants a constructive and mutually beneficial relationship with the Soviet Union. We intend to maintain a high level dialogue. But we are prepared to proceed in whatever direction the Soviet Union decides upon-towards great mutual restraint and cooperation, or further down a harsh and less rewarding path.

It was an appropriately ambivalent note on which to end 1981.

1 Quoted by President Reagan in his speech before the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., November 18, 1981.

2 The Threat to Europe, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1981.

3 Richard Halloran, "U.S. Said to Revise Strategy ..." The New York Times, April 19, 1981.

4 Murrey Marder, "U.S. Never Met the Test Poland Presented," The Washington Post, January 2, 1981.



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  • William G. Hyland is currently a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He served in the Department of State in 1974-75 and as Deputy Director of the National Security Council Staff from 1975 to 1977.
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