What is bewildering is the conviction-and it is becoming more and more general-that in all the perils that confront us, the direction of affairs is given over to a way of thinking that has no longer any understanding of itself. It is like being in a carriage, descending an increasingly precipitous slope, and suddenly realizing that there is no coachman on the box." The lines were written in 1854 by Fyodor Tiutchev, poet and diplomat, in a letter to his wife. The image is frightening and many seem to have experienced similar fears as the year 1983 drew to a close.

It was the year of Korean Air Lines Flight 007, of Beirut and Grenada, of the breakdown in arms talks and the escalation in the shouting war. It was also the 500th anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther, a great believer in the educational value of inducing fear among his audiences, proclaiming that the Judgment Day was at hand. But at least some of the thunder was of the variety produced on the stage, and there is reason to believe that those who feared to have lost Tiutchev's coachman, thought the ground had disappeared under their feet, felt a new ice age coming or saw Sarajevo and 1914 written in giant letters all over a blood red horizon, will look back at some future date to that annus horribilis with greater composure.

Soviet-American relations, to be sure, were in an appalling state-but not exactly for the first time: in fact, the very word "appalling" was used in the same context by one of my predecessors in these pages only three years ago.1


Leonid Brezhnev died on November 10, 1982; two days later Yuri Andropov was made his successor. Within the next eight months Andropov also became President of the Soviet Union and was identified as Chairman of the Defense Council, thus combining in his hands all three main functions of his predecessor. Much had been written earlier on in the West about Andropov's intelligence, agility and toughness, his vigor and matter-of-factness. Some said that he was a veritable dynamo who would get Soviet state and society out of two decades of torpor, that he would be the most formidable antagonist the West had faced since Stalin. Other Western observers, more skeptical, predicted a change in style but did not expect, for a variety of reasons, many changes of substance in the near future.

Given the character of the Soviet system, it seemed clear that it would take the new leader considerable time to establish his authority. He would be closely watched by his peers in the Politburo, who would zealously insist on their prerogatives and oppose any retreat from the principle of collective leadership. If Andropov intended to carry out sweeping reforms, an assumption that could by no means be taken for granted, he did not have much time, for he was the oldest Soviet leader ever to come to power. Even at the outset there were many reports that he was not in the best of health either. But even if he had been a much younger man, forceful and decisive, it would still have been doubtful whether any one man or group of people would have been in a position to effect major change in Soviet domestic and foreign policy.

In any case, Andropov seems to have been out of action during much of the second half of 1983. Having last appeared in public in August, he returned to his desk, according to Soviet sources, in December but failed to appear at the meetings of the Central Committee and the Supreme Soviet in late December. If the reports from Moscow about a "new style of leadership" were right, it still remained uncertain whether this was the result of Andropov's presence or his absence.

Within a few months of his appointment the picture of Andropov as a great shaker and mover was revised. The first foreign statesman to talk to him at any length was Claude Cheysson, the French foreign minister, and in Cheysson's unusually frank account, Andropov emerged as a sober and precise man, cold and above all cautious, comparable to a computer. Andropov's presentation was cool and objective, according to Cheysson, but it also appeared that the United States was the only partner that counted for the Soviet Union: "That we want to be independent does not interest him," Cheysson reported, "he wants to take into account our forces but not our reasoning."2

The republication of Andropov's Selected Works later in 1983 reinforced this impression. In these speeches spanning the years 1942-1983 there was little of the hyperbole so typical for earlier generations of Soviet leaders. But there were also few if any original thoughts, no memorable phrases and, strange for an educated Russian, virtually no literary allusions. Even Stalin had his dozen standard quotations from Saltykov-Shchedrin, Gogol and Gorki; in Andropov's case there were none, even since he had moved from Petrozavodsk to Moscow.3 These publications were not meant to reveal the innermost thoughts and feelings of Mr. Andropov, but there are degrees of caution and blandness; in this case the impression emerged that these qualities had become second nature over many years of service. Such a man was more likely to regard himself as a caretaker than as the initiator of mighty new enterprises; perhaps it was for this reason that the transition had been so smooth.

As for style, Andropov began by visiting the shop floor of a Moscow factory where he talked to a few workers. ("How long have you worked here, Comrade Korolev? How much do you earn? How large is your family, Comrade Skripkin?") It was a handsome gesture: Brezhnev had not gone among the people for many years, nor had Aleksei Kosygin or the others. But it seemed about as effective as his various appeals for greater discipline, and the experiment was not repeated.

According to some reports, Andropov had suggested that one could learn from the economic experience of other communist countries such as Hungary, that he was willing to consider greater emphasis on decentralization and less rigid planning-without, of course, sacrificing in any way the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism. But he was immediately told by his experts that a system that had worked in Hungary (and not too well in recent years) could not be used in the Soviet Union, that "localism" and "departmentalism" (i.e., decentralization) were incompatible with the Soviet system for both practical and political reasons, and that state interests must always have priority. This seems to have been the end of the Hungarian flirtation-at least for the time being.

The 1983 harvest was fair and productivity in industry seems to have gone up slightly during the first half of the year. But there was nothing very dramatic in these developments, and when Vadim Zagladin later wrote in a survey of 1983 that "historians will no doubt consider our time to have been extremely interesting," it was difficult to know what he had in mind, unless he referred to something hidden to most of his countrymen and all foreign observers.

Would Soviet writers, artists and academicians have a little more freedom under the new "intellectual" leader? The first indications did not augur well: the supreme Party bodies were convened to discuss stricter controls and restrictions and the need to combat deviations. There was a speech by Konstantin Chernenko, Andropov's colleague in the Politburo, that was more hard-line than anything in years. At the time of his appointment, the new Secretary General was hailed as the best informed man in the Soviet Union, and it was speculated that there would be some new departures in Soviet foreign policy: liberalization in Poland, or a disengagement in Afghanistan, or perhaps a rapprochement with Japan or Germany. Nothing of the kind has taken place or is likely to happen. In Andropov's messages to West European leaders no new approaches were discernible, and the same seemed to be true with regard to consultations with the East Europeans.

Some new ideas on arms control were voiced and the gradual normalization in relations with China continued. But the new arms control ideas had been initiated by Andropov's predecessor, who had first suggested an SS-20 moratorium back in the spring of 1982; Brezhnev had also initiated the middle-level talks with China.

Lastly, there were the strange circumstances surrounding the shooting down of KAL 007: the handling of the whole affair gave rise to questions whether, and to what extent, the new Secretary General was truly in charge. There were dissonant voices from the Kremlin and these gave rise to speculation at home and abroad. And so the balance sheet of the first year of Andropov showed neither liberalism triumphant nor a resurgence of Stalinism; it showed, in fact, less movement than even the skeptics had assumed.


The only noticeable change during 1983 was a further worsening of U.S.-Soviet relations. Commenting on the "tremendous deterioration" in Soviet-American relations in April 1983, the Kremlin's veteran U.S. specialist, Georgi Arbatov, said that the situation was worse than at any time since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. The same month Pravda dwelt upon the danger of a new cold war, of military hysteria, of whipping up an unprecedented arms race which increased the threat of war. Voices in the West also claimed that relations had reached an all-time low and that the cold war had come back.

There is no full unanimity on when exactly the cold war began and when it ended, but there is general agreement that during this period the media were full of vituperation, and the diplomats hardly talked to each other; the atmosphere, in brief, was quite bad. During détente, on the other hand, there were dialogues on all levels, summitry, many agreements, and much talk about common endeavors, bridge-building and generations of peace. Seen in retrospect, it could be argued that the present period is worse even than the cold war. Stalin, after all, never said that the U.S. President was a man uttering deliberate lies (as Andropov has done), and Truman and Eisenhower, unlike Reagan in 1981 and again in March 1983, kept a certain restraint in their public utterances about the Soviet leadership. At the end of 1983 all forms of communication were at an extraordinarily low ebb.

Such a breakdown in diplomacy is a serious business and atmospherics do matter. But these are not the only considerations; if the arms buildup is taken as a yardstick-and few will argue that it is of no relevance-it would appear that the cold war was not as dangerous, and détente not as constructive, as usually believed. Soviet arms budgets during the cold war and its aftermath (i.e., until about 1965) actually grew at a slower rate than during détente. Thus, between 1968 and 1977, Soviet military spending rose from $101 billion (in constant prices) to $130 billion-whereas U.S. military expenditures fell from $130 billion to $96 billion.4 These two sets of figures are frequently ignored in juxtaposing the "cold war" and "détente"; unfortunately, they have a great deal to do with our present predicaments. Nor did the last five years of NATO and Warsaw Pact defense spending suggest "a mad race out of control"; rather, they showed a "steady advance by countries laboring under difficulties."5 In brief, there is a discrepancy between the popular views and the realities of cold war and détente.

Soviet spokesmen ceased to mention détente (except as a historical memory) well before 1983, and the brink-of-war theme first appeared in 1981. But public expressions of skepticism about the Reagan Administration by no means implied that Soviet leaders were in principle unwilling to do business with the American President. True, Soviet commentators said that an improvement in relations with the United States was practically impossible while Reagan's people were "playing with fire" in the White House. But such pessimistic appraisals were usually followed by a postscript: while there was no room for illusions it would be wrong to postpone negotiations and to give up hope. Commentators in Literaturnaya Gazeta and on Radio Moscow said in mid-August that things had begun moving in Soviet-American relations, that they were "not as bad as they had been yesterday." U.S. export controls on oil and gas equipment had been relaxed and there were other straws in the wind: on August 25, a pact was signed in Moscow for the sale of 9-12 million tons of American grain to the Soviet Union in each of the next five years-a 50-percent increase over current levels. There were negotiations about opening a U.S. consulate in Kiev, and Washington considered a summit meeting in 1984.

But on September 1 the South Korean airliner was shot down with heavy loss of life, and the relations between the two superpowers took an immediate turn for the worse. Although he limited actual U.S. retaliation to token measures such as the closing of Aeroflot offices in the United States, President Reagan called the incident a "crime against humanity" and Secretary of State George Shultz said he could not see "any excuse whatsoever for this appalling act." It was assumed that the Soviet military command and perhaps also the civilian leadership had been aware of the fact that a civilian plane had mistakenly violated Soviet airspace, but had nevertheless given the order to shoot it down. But Washington overrated Soviet efficiency; it appeared several weeks later that Soviet air defense forces had been slow in discovering the 747, then lost it, and also might have mixed it up with a U.S. military surveillance plane which never entered Soviet airspace. Despite the Korean plane's distinctive silhouette, the Soviet pilots might not have been aware of its true identity to the very end.

Soviet explanations were slow, contradictory and mendacious, insisting that the Korean flight was carrying out a U.S. "intelligence mission." Even four weeks later Andropov said that it had been a "sophisticated provocation masterminded by the United States"-an example of extreme adventurism. He also said that the guilt was squarely upon the shoulders of those who had engaged in this provocation. Andropov left it open whether it had been a simple case of espionage or whether the plane had been sent with the intention to violate Soviet airspace, assuming that the unwitting Soviets would destroy it, and that the incident could then be used by American propaganda to whip up more war hysteria.6

This official line, from which Soviet propaganda did not deviate, angered Americans even more than the deed itself. There was no willingness to apologize, to admit that a mistake might have been made. But such behavior was by no means unprecedented. Students of Russian history were reminded of the 1904 Dogger Bank affair, also known as the Hull Incident, in which Russian warships en route to fight in the Russo-Japanese War sank several British fishing boats in the North Sea, mistaking them for Japanese torpedo boats. Even 70 years after the event, Soviet accounts of the incident attribute the responsibility to "British provocation," though, from a Marxist-Leninist point of view, the Soviet government has no obligation to defend blunders committed by a pre-revolutionary admiral and compounded by the Tsarist government.7

In 1983 the Soviet leaders displayed even greater anger: they were treated by the Americans in a manner not befitting their status as a superpower and they would not stand for it. "Our nerves are strong and we do not base our politics on emotions," Andropov said, in his September 28 statement. But he also asserted that the "malicious attacks" on the Soviet Union had produced a natural feeling of indignation. Some of the anger was real, some was political calculation: Reagan's blunt, outspoken comments had frightened some Americans (and more people in Europe) and those who had conjured up 1914 already before the incident were now subject to even more painful visions of the apocalypse. The Soviet leaders drew the conclusion that if they reacted harshly, following one of Marx's favorite maxims-à un corsaire, un corsaire et demi-pressure on the American Administration at home and abroad would force Washington to mend its ways and be more conciliatory. To defy the storm of Western indignation seemed not only good psychology-it appeared a useful ploy in the war of nerves.


What were the main foreign policy issues facing the Soviet leadership in 1983 and which were the leading problems likely to remain on their agenda in 1984? In addition and often related to the central problem of dealing with Reagan, Brezhnev's legacy included a long list of difficult foreign policy issues-Afghanistan, Poland, China, the Middle East and, of course, Europe. Soviet foreign policy had focused increasingly on American plans to put new missiles in Europe. Brezhnev had been slow in replying to this NATO initiative, offering mainly to freeze the status quo, blocking American deployments while keeping the Soviet arsenal intact. Naturally, this was not attractive, and the negotiations stalled.

Andropov was immediately more active in employing the more traditional carrots and sticks: the carrot taking the form of repeated offers to scale down the number of Soviet missiles, the stick being repeated broad threats to take counteraction against both Europe and the U.S. mainland. In December 1982, Andropov mentioned the possibility of reducing Soviet SS-20s in Europe to the level of British and French missiles (162), and followed up later by offering to "liquidate" the remaining missiles, rather than transferring them to the Far East. By late 1983 the Soviets even seemed to hint at a willingness to set aside their concern over British and French missiles. But the hard core remained unaltered: to freeze out any American missiles, thereby defeating the United States in what had become a crucial test of will. This made it impossible for Western leaders to retreat.

U.S. suggestions following the November 1981 "zero option" proposal and the July 1982 "walk-in-the-woods" plan-the latter put forward on his own initiative by the U.S. negotiator, Paul Nitze, and not accepted by Washington-included an interim scheme proposed in March 1983 providing for equal numbers, and lastly the President's U.N. speech of September 26, 1983, offering a reduction in the numbers of both the Pershing and cruise missiles. All offers were turned down by Soviet spokesmen, claiming that there was no real American interest in reaching an arms control agreement but just an attempt to gain time until the medium-range missiles were deployed in Western Europe.

The Soviet leaders were, of course, aware of the growth of the peace movement in Europe and America and the increased pressure on Western leaders to make unilateral concessions. In these circumstances a compromise must have appeared at the very least premature. The risk in this gamble may not have appeared high, for even if the underlying calculation had been wrong, there still seemed to be time for a policy adjustment at a future date.

When the West German Bundestag voted approval of the first missiles in Germany in late November 1983, the Soviet leaders on November 23 carried out their threat to break off talks, and made it known that they would not return to the negotiating table repentant, as some Western leaders predicted. Their unalterable demand, their precondition for a renewal of the talks, remained a return to the status quo ante. Otherwise there would be counter-measures of a "very serious character, specific and effective," analogous to the new threat posed to the Soviet Union. Harsh, even threatening, letters were dispatched to Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, to Messrs. Helmut Kohl and Bettino Craxi (but not to President Reagan). If, since the initial deployment decision in 1979, the Western leaders had waited four years to match the Soviet strategic buildup, the Kremlin made clear that its response would be quick and formidable.

Soviet reactions failed to have an immediate impact and in some respects they were counterproductive. Those in the West who had argued that a major opportunity had been missed in Geneva, and that the danger of war had (as the Russians claimed) grown even further, felt even more alarmed after the breakdown. But most observers thought that sooner or later talks would be renewed, perhaps subsumed in the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) or some new framework. (The distinction between strategic and theater weapons had in any case always been somewhat artificial.)

It was possible that the Soviet leaders had lost all interest in an agreement, having failed to attain their aim of decoupling NATO Europe from the United States, and would strengthen their sea-based missile potential closer to the American mainland. This was not a political response but a military threat, and not a qualitatively new threat at that. Was it not possible, judging on past performance, that the Soviet leaders would have continued strengthening their worldwide strategic potential in any case, quite irrespective of an agreement on Euromissiles? The Soviet reaction lacked credibility because it represented in its details no more than a dramatic actualization of decisions probably made a long time ago, or already being implemented.

The tenor of the statement threatening reprisal, published in Andropov's name on November 24, was certainly unfriendly; was it real anger or a charade or a mixture of both? Soviet policy vis-à-vis Western Europe had for a long time used threats and promises alike in an attempt to influence both leaders and public opinion. During the weeks prior to the West German elections in March 1983 this admixture had been particularly blatant. Would the threats become more pronounced now that Soviet foreign policy had failed to attain its objectives?

Such a strategy was likely to bear out those in the West who had argued all along that the ultimate Soviet objective in Europe was not friendly cooperation but political hegemony. Toughness made sense if one judged that public opinion in Western Europe was so much on edge as to compel the governments to make almost any concession to prevent Soviet displeasure. But such assumptions could by no means be taken for granted and the Soviet leaders were therefore unlikely to base their policy entirely on a strategy of intimidation.

The Soviets had suffered a defeat, but it was hardly a decisive defeat, as some Western commentators had argued. Overall, they had been on the political offensive, and seen in this wider perspective their failure to achieve their aims was no more than a temporary setback which did not preclude a renewed attempt at a later stage. On past occasions the Soviet leaders had found it possible to play off one major European government against another, or several of them against America, but the present constellation in Europe-Kohl, Mrs. Thatcher, Mitterrand and Craxi-was not auspicious for such a tactic. On the other hand, Soviet leaders could derive satisfaction from witnessing the break-up of the national consensus on defense in Britain and West Germany, with the main opposition parties opting for unilateralism. This did not open up any immediate possibilities for Soviet foreign policy, but it must have appeared as an encouraging trend in a long-term view.

To encourage such a trend was one reason why the Soviets also chose not to continue the talks on strategic weapons (START) or on conventional force reductions in Europe (MBFR). In December they simply declined to set dates for the resumption of either negotiation, linking their actions to the "new strategic situation" caused by the presence of the medium-range Pershing and cruise missiles. To continue would also have given ammunition to those in the West who saw the Soviets as bluffing.

The Soviets did, however, have some complaint on strategic matters and the START talks had not made much progress in any case. There had been an unnecessary ambiguity in the American approach. On one hand, the speeches about war-winning or at least "prevailing," on the other, statements such as President Reagan's unequivocal pledge "to seek and accept any equitable and verifiable agreement that stabilizes forces at a lower level." The Soviet approach, to be sure, had been at least equally ambiguous. On one hand, declarations were made that war had ceased to be an instrument of policy and that the expectation of victory in nuclear war was madness. But on the other hand it was also asserted that the objective possibilities for attaining victory existed even in nuclear war. Soviet leaders have complained about unrealistic American proposals for deep reductions which would compel them to rebuild their nuclear arsenal to be compatible with American specifications. And lastly, they have argued, probably correctly, that there has been a tendency in the United States to overrate Soviet strategic power.

The second area of increasing East-West conflict was the Middle East-always complicated by the independent and frequently unpredictable behavior of local actors. Brezhnev's last year had witnessed the defeat of Soviet arms and Soviet clients in Syria in the Lebanese war. Andropov had to choose between accepting this setback, or rebuilding Syria's military position. Of course, he chose the latter. Several thousand "experts" were stationed there, a large complex of anti-aircraft installations was deployed; if the new Soviet leadership was in an adventurous or angry mood this region remained as propitious as any for a test of strength, to teach the Israelis (and the Americans) a lesson and to regain some of the prestige that had been lost. At the very least, by staying put, the Syrians could effectively prevent an early settlement of the Lebanese civil war.

But as so often, a seemingly straightforward situation was complicated by variables such as Syrian President Hafez Assad's uncertain health, a possible struggle for his succession, the internecine war in the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the rapidly changing relations among the Arab countries. Andrei Gromyko lectured the Syrian foreign minister, Abd al-Halim Khaddam, on Arab unity. The Soviet Union supported Yassir Arafat and his loyalists, but the Soviets were unable or unwilling to provide decisive help to the PLO or even to restrain the Syrians who had built up and consistently backed the PLO rebels. A war against the "common enemy" of the Arabs might have appeared to some as an excellent cure for the internal divisions, but past experience had shown that it was quite likely to have unforeseen consequences. Furthermore, such a war could always escalate into something more than a regional conflict, a fact known not only to Syria and Israel, but also to their chief supporters, and therefore likely to act as a restraint.

In the war between Iran and Iraq, Moscow had first tilted toward Teheran, then become more neutral; toward the end of 1983 it tilted discernibly back toward Baghdad, partly perhaps because of the growing danger of an Iraqi collapse, and partly because the Khomeini regime-following its attack on the communist Tudeh Party-was considered more inimical to Soviet interests, and in view of the dynamics of militant Shi'ism, potentially more dangerous. Some Soviet arms shipments to Iraq resumed. For the time being, however, there seemed to be no need for the Soviet Union to come out in active support for one side, and the general line in Moscow was for a peaceful settlement.

While urging a settlement on the two warring parties, the Soviets were not amenable to the same advice in Afghanistan. There had been a flurry of speculation that Andropov might want to get out of the bog created by Brezhnev. The comings and goings of various mediators yielded no real change; despite reports of detailed agreements being drafted to provide assurances to the Soviets should they withdraw, the reality was that the war continued. There was, however, no massive increase in the Soviet counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan. The Soviet assumption apparently was that in a war of attrition the rebels were bound to lose, provided not too many supplies would reach them from across the border-which meant maintaining pressure on Pakistan. The Soviet army had fought an unhurried ten-year war against the Basmachi in Central Asia early in its history and the lessons learned then were applied five decades later in neighboring Afghanistan.

Whatever the Soviet prospects in Afghanistan, one of the few tangible successes of 1983 for Moscow was in Indochina, where Vietnam moved somewhat further into the Soviet orbit. Vietnam was in need of greater economic assistance, and the closer relationship was also manifested in military and cultural ties; a high-level Soviet delegation headed by Gaidar Aliyev, the new star in the Politburo, visited Hanoi and was received with great honor. Not all Vietnamese leaders seemed enthusiastic about the closer links, but as long as their fences with China were not mended, resentment directed at excessive dependence on Moscow had to be suppressed. On the other hand, Soviet relations with Bangladesh deteriorated, and several Soviet diplomats were expelled.

As for China, Moscow continued the negotiations initiated by Brezhnev. The Chinese ostentatiously attended Brezhnev's funeral and were received by Andropov. But the reality of their differences persisted. The talks produced no breakthrough; both parties seemed to be playing to other audiences, including the United States. Various Chinese assured visiting Americans that no breakthrough would be likely, but the last round of talks between the two communist powers did note that "international" issues had been touched on, thus broadening the scope from the more intractable bilateral issues.

At year's end, Central America was the one remaining major focus of world tension, with the Soviet Union only indirectly involved. U.S. activities in the region were bitterly denounced-U.S. intervention in Grenada was compared to a "Nazi-like invasion." It is doubtful, to say the least, whether Soviet leaders were greatly shocked by the American action; privately, some indicated that they would have acted in the same way. Moral indignation was more manifest in some Western and neutral countries than in either the Soviet bloc or the Third World generally.

It has been traditional Soviet policy to move with caution in an area so remote, and on occasion there has been evidence that the Cubans have been warned against an excess of zeal. Basic policy remained, of course, to add as much as feasible to America's difficulties in the Western Hemisphere, notably by helping the ruling circles in Nicaragua to build up an effective dictatorship. But equally, warnings seem to have gone out to act with prudence and perhaps even some restraint, reminiscent of the advice given by Zhou Enlai to the Albanians in the 1960s that distant waters were not likely to quench a nearby conflagration. Hence, apparently, the slightly subdued Cuban attitudes and the Nicaraguan professions of goodwill to all mankind.

Closer to home, the Soviets had to deal with the Polish problem. Their tactic was to avoid dealing with it-allowing General Wojciech Jaruzelski to muddle through with occasional gestures of approval from Moscow, and occasional hints to crack down harder. In general the Soviets appeared to have calculated that the rest of Europe would accommodate to the new Polish regime, despite its odious behavior. Legitimacy seemed to be conferred by the visit of the Pope, which the regime handled without major incident. A gradual easing of sanctions and a relief from debt payments also suggested the West was accepting Jaruzelski.

But elsewhere in Eastern Europe apprehensions began to reappear in the wake of the collapse of the missile talks. Soviet plans to put new, shorter-range missiles in Czechoslovakia and East Germany produced some mutterings of concern in Prague and East Berlin. The Romanians underscored their limited autonomy by criticizing both sides.

In both parts of Europe there was a new interest in the use of the January 1984 Stockholm Conference on European Disarmament to salvage something of East-West relations, but this would depend on the superpowers, and especially on the way they behaved in an American election year. Soviet commentators, on the other hand, expressed pessimistic views: given the general political climate, not much was to be expected of Stockholm despite the meeting of the foreign ministers of the two superpowers.


How did the Soviet leadership view U.S. policy in the third year of the Reagan Administration? According to what emerged from the comments of official, semi-official and unofficial Soviet sources, their arguments and conclusions were approximately as follows:8

-In 1969 President Nixon had for the first time admitted that there was a balance of power between the United States and the Soviet Union. Ever since, two tendencies had been competing in U.S. foreign policy. Those who stood for a relaxation of tensions had initially prevailed. But in the second half of the 1970s American imperialism had concluded that détente was somehow responsible, directly or indirectly, for the oil crisis, the economic crisis, the relative weakening of the United States vis-à-vis Europe, and also political changes in the Third World which had weakened America's overall position. Hence President Ford's dissociation from the very term détente in 1976, which was of more than symbolic importance.

-The Soviet leaders had not been happy about President Carter from the beginning, even though he had proclaimed that he wanted no confrontation with the Soviet Union. But his sweeping offers for arms control had been unrealistic in their eyes and his human rights policy was bound to lead him into confrontation, even if he did not realize it. His reaction after Afghanistan, the "totally false allegation" that this had represented a change in Soviet policy, caused a further deterioration.

-First Soviet attitudes toward Reagan were not altogether negative: historical experience had taught them that it was easier to deal with right-wing Republicans who believed in realpolitik than with well-meaning but unrealistic Democrats. But Reagan proved to be no Nixon. A "feverish arms buildup came under way to achieve military superiority," along with an "ideological crusade aiming at the destruction of socialism as a sociopolitical system." A steady stream of abuse was pouring out of Washington about communism as the "focus of evil in the modern world," a "bizarre chapter in human history," predicting that it would end "on the dust heap of history."

The answer from Moscow in 1983 was a massive propaganda barrage; it referred to insane warmongers, adventurists, cowboy tactics, ignoramuses who had not the faintest idea about the realities of world affairs, and so on. Soviet military leaders noted that the arms race had grown to an "incredible size" and they dwelt on the danger that the White House was pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war. This theme was first used by Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov, taken up by Dmitri Ustinov, the defense minister, and also by Brezhnev in his address to the Soviet military leadership just before his death.

It was continued by Andropov, and again by Ogarkov in an Izvestia article in September 1983. Those in charge of Soviet propaganda were equally concerned by the "unprecedented ideological crusade, the new psychological warfare" represented by the Reagan Administration's 1982 initiative on "public diplomacy," Presidential Directive 77. The Soviets saw in that document a "wave of slander and calumny," which was said to be part of an all-out subversive propaganda offensive. Many billions of dollars were allegedly spent for the U.S. media, not just to unleash psychological warfare but, as Zagladin asserted in Literaturnaya Gazeta, to coordinate and direct "centers of counterrevolutionary forces." Lieutenant General Professor Volkogonov9 made it known on Moscow television in early July that the CIA had been built up to a strength of 150,000 employees, not to mention such organizations as Professor Marshall Shulman's Russian Institute at Columbia University and Amnesty International, which were also conducting subversive activities against the Soviet Union.

Zagladin, the deputy head of the Central Committee's foreign affairs department, found a quasi-Marxist, quasi-geopolitical explanation, namely a shift in the internal American balance of power from "Easterners" to "Westerners." Both Easterners and Westerners wanted to save capitalism, but those from the Eastern seaboard were willing to compromise with the Soviet Union, whereas the Westerners, representing the arms industry, stood for an arms race. (Zagladin's theory did not provide an answer to the question why the "Westerners" had suddenly gained in strength; the fact that President Richard Nixon had also been a "Westerner" did not fit either.) As a result of this shift there was the danger of "uncontrollable and unpredictable developments on the international scene." But while there was cause for alarm there was, as Zagladin saw it, no reason for despair. There were objective limits beyond which the American efforts could not go-because of the economic situation in the United States on one hand and public opinion on the other, the peace movement in the United States and in Europe, and the growing dissent among America's European allies. Furthermore, while Reagan had unleashed a campaign of chauvinism and nationalism in the United States, this could not drag on forever. To enhance his chances for reelection Reagan had to engage in a balancing act; he had to stress his peaceful intentions, if only to avoid frightening his fellow countrymen.

Thus, as the Soviets saw it, the situation was likely to remain unstable at the very least up to the next elections. Soviet commentators have now joined the camp of those who complain about the vagaries and the immobilism of the American political system. "For the first eighteen months," Zagladin asserted, "a new president is all at sea."

Some of the interpretations were for obvious propagandistic use. But it was also true that unnecessary complications had been caused in U.S.-Soviet relations as the result of exaggeration in American political language and of bombast. There had been too much loose talk in 1981-82 about war-winning capacities, which had frightened America's allies much more than her enemies. President Reagan's speech to the evangelicals in March 1983 and the subsequent "Star Wars" speech, advocating intensified research toward a space-based anti-missile defense system, probably caused added dismay in Moscow. Furthermore, Soviet leaders have been upset by the lack of decorum, as they see it, on the part of the President and some other leading officials. This concerns not so much what has been said as the personality of the speakers. Soviet authors and speakers have referred since time immemorial to the evil character of capitalism and Western style democracies; they also invented the "dust heap of history." There is something comic in their sudden indignation about being addressed in their own language.

But the Russians are great believers in diplomatic propriety and this involves a clear division of labor. Rank-and-file journalists could compare the American President with Hitler ("Think about Nuremberg," Sakhnin in Literaturnaya Gazeta, October 5, 1983), or at least designate him "the Fuhrer's heir" (Krasnaya Zvezda), call him a bandit (Izvestia), a liar and murderer (Borvik on Moscow Television), the world's foremost terrorist (Novosti), a troglodyte (Bogdanov in Komsomolskaua Pravda), a rank hypocrite (Kornilov in Tass).10 On a higher hierarchical level Zagladin, Arbatov and Leonid Zamyatin, chief spokesmen on foreign policy, preferred irony to the grosser insults used for mass consumption. They complained, more in sorrow than in anger, about the abysmal lack of political sophistication in Washington, about the primitive intellectual level of the movie actor, the stock-market dealers and the provincial lawyer (this was before Judge William Clark's transfer) who were now the top foreign policy decision-makers.

However, the First Secretary of the Party and Chief of State, or the Foreign Minister, will not transgress certain borders of behavior, just as in the olden days the Soviet Foreign Ministry would seldom engage in open propaganda, which was the preserve of the Comintern. (Nikita Khrushchev's unorthodox behavior was condoned in Washington but not by his peers in Moscow.) This may be dismissed as mere hypocrisy, but there is, in fact, some wisdom in the Soviet approach. For at the end of the day, the heads of the two most powerful states will have to be in contact from time to time because of the one overriding interest they have in common-survival. They will almost certainly face crises in the years to come, and the search for a peaceful solution will be easier if certain rules of outward politeness are adhered to.

To what extent have the Soviet leaders been able to reach a more or less realistic appraisal of the Reagan Administration? Soviet understanding of the American political process is now more sophisticated than 20 or 30 years ago, but the Soviet leadership still frequently fails to understand the underlying motives of America's foreign policy, the contradictory forces at work, the frequent and far-reaching changes. Soviet spokesmen have complained, and not always without reason, about the "irrational" character of U.S. foreign policy. A great deal of mischief has been caused by invoking in vain Churchill's dictum about the Soviet Union being a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. For, in truth, Soviet policy is infinitely more consistent and predictable than American policy, not because of its "scientific" base but because of its innately conservative, unchanging character. This is what makes it so difficult for Soviet leaders to understand the recent American Administrations and, generally speaking, a system so different from their own.

Sometimes their comments are not meant to be taken too seriously; Soviet American experts surely know that billions of dollars are not spent on U.S. foreign propaganda but that the U.S. Information Agency and other such institutions-having to fight for every million-have every reason to be envious of the budgets of their Soviet counterparts. They know that U.S. media are as often critical of U.S. foreign policy as they are supportive, that the CIA does not have 150,000 employees and that the "Anti-Socialist International" (which has recently figured prominently in Soviet media) is a figment of imagination. These are obvious exercises in propaganda, but even a study of the specialized Soviet literature on international affairs and American politics not scheduled for a wider public and hence not suspect of an openly propagandistic character quite frequently reveals profound ignorance or basic misunderstanding.11

This is now history and the main issues involved are no longer in dispute. But a related question still persists: Does the Soviet leadership feel as insecure as some observers claim, when criticizing American attempts to reduce the Soviet advantage in land-based missiles? Or, as others maintain, are the protestations of fear a mere smokescreen for an aggressive strategy now that the Soviet Union for the first time feels stronger than its enemies? Do they aim at superiority? And how do they define parity? Whatever the weaknesses of Soviet leaders, fear and excessive nervousness are not traditionally among them. It is now generally accepted in the West that the Soviet military buildup has gone for years beyond reasonable needs connected with the defense of the Soviet homeland and the Soviet bloc, or acceptance as an equal.

Soviet military doctrine, following its Tsarist predecessors, has always emphasized quantitative superiority because of the suspicion of qualitative inferiority. This was Stalin's prescription for Soviet heavy industry and it still persists in most fields of Soviet life. It is also true that according to Soviet doctrine Russia has to be stronger than all its neighbors and potential enemies taken together. General Samuel Wilson, a former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency who also served in Moscow, once noted that the Soviet leaders would not feel comfortable unless they had a ratio in strength of seven or eight to one "and they might relax if it were fifteen to one."12 These, of course, are fantasies; how is one to achieve a total absence of danger in the nuclear age?

The concentration on questions of parity and superiority in the West has been unhelpful. The Soviet claim that there is at present rough parity is probably correct, and even if it were not, it is not at all clear whether Soviet superiority in the nuclear field would have any decisive effect. The real problem is that from the early postwar days there has been a fundamental asymmetry, in view of the Soviet superiority in the field of conventional arms. This was balanced up to the 1970s by American superiority in nuclear arms. Once the Soviet Union had achieved parity in strategic weapons as the result of America's failure to modernize and thus keep a qualitative edge, and as a result of Western inability to match the Soviet conventional buildup, Moscow had, in fact, gained an important advantage. The overall balance of power had been upset.

This involved the Soviet Union in delicate maneuvering. On one hand, the desire to be stronger than all other powers was perfectly legitimate from the Soviet point of view. It is one of the fundamental tenets of Leninism that imperialism generates war and that peace will not be assured as long as the power of imperialism is unbroken. On the other hand, it must not become known for the time being that the Soviet Union was trying to achieve overall superiority.

The dilemma was not new. Veljko Micunovic, Yugoslavian ambassador to Moscow, wrote in his diary on December 16, 1957, that the Soviet party presidium decided to put a stop to the "exaggerated propaganda" about Soviet strength and technical superiority in the field of armaments following Sputnik I, for it was "beginning to have the reverse effect from what they wanted to achieve."13

Real Soviet security can be achieved only if their overall military power is greater than that of all other potential enemies combined, which, of course, means insecurity for the countries outside the Warsaw bloc. There is a way out of the dilemma, at least in theory, as seen from the West: the restoration of the balance of power through the maintenance of parity in the strategic nuclear field at agreed levels, preferably much lower than at present, and the buildup of Western conventional forces to the Soviet level. But NATO countries have not been able and willing to make the effort in conventional defense, which may not be as impossibly great as often believed.

For this reason there is no real solution in sight for the dilemma facing East and West alike. One alternative is that of the unilateral disarmers, invoking social psychology: as they see it, it is all a matter of perception, of exaggerated fear, of the inner demons driving us. The modern Coués regard the threat as a figment of a sick imagination; some Germans have already created a new term for this kind of autosuggestion: Entfeindung.14 One day perhaps the concept will be accepted by the Soviet leaders too. But for the time being they seem to believe that Stalin was right when in a famous interview he told H.G. Wells: "You, Mr. Wells, apparently assume that all people are good. But I don't forget that many are evil. . . ."


Looking back on the events which led to the deterioration in U.S.-Soviet relations, there is on one hand the temptation to assume that everything happened because it was bound to happen, and on the other the assumption that everything would have proceeded quite differently if only great opportunities had not been missed. A case could be made in retrospect that the game was not worth the candle as far as the stationing of the Pershing II and the cruise missiles was concerned: that, in other words, the political price that had to be paid in terms of European good will was too high. The Soviet leaders would no doubt have made friendlier noises vis-à-vis Washington if NATO had not decided to counter the deployment of the SS-20s. Likewise, a case can be made in retrospect against the U.S. embargo on grain shipments to the U.S.S.R. following the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and against the pipeline sanctions announced after the 1981 imposition of martial law in Poland. Those policies were, in any case, ineffective.

Perhaps relations between Moscow and Washington would be better now if trade had been enlarged, loans extended, and no discriminatory policies followed with regard to the export of high-technology products of marginal military significance. The story of the handling of U.S. grain exports certainly is not a shining example of consistency or farsightedness. And an excellent case can be made that President Reagan should have left his more outspoken remarks about the Soviet Union and its communist regime to his chief aides, even in cases of great anger and provocation such as the shooting down of the Korean airliner. One could point to other sins of commission and omission, and it is clear that, but for these, exchanges would have been more civil in character, less charged with emotion, and the diplomats would have met and discussed the world situation and other topics of mutual interest.

But would the basic differences between the two superpowers have disappeared? Hardly, for as the French diplomat Jean Laloy again recently reminded us, the Soviet leaders do not see their country as a power like others, and American ties with the Soviet Union are therefore likely to be different from our relationships with other countries. (Whether, or to what extent, the Soviet Union is actually different is yet another question.) True, the messianic impulses of world communism were exhausted decades ago. An abridged version of Marxism-Leninism prevails today with a strong admixture of Russian nationalism. In communist strategy in the West, the fight for peace (another post-Marxist proposition) increasingly takes the place of the revolutionary class struggle. But if the missionary ardor has vanished, the ecumenical ambitions persist, and the Soviet Union has not become a status quo power. The state-of-siege system is still needed to provide legitimacy for the ruling stratum.

True, a conservative power will think twice before engaging in adventures, and unlike Fascism there is no expansionist automatism. But then Tsarism too, despite all its internal difficulties and innate conservative character, did not give up its aspirations to rule the Turkish straits or its pan-Slavic ambitions. Despite all the wisdom and caution that allegedly comes with age, the Soviet leaders make the most of opportunities arising on the world stage, and this includes giving a little push to history now and again.

If, for argument's sake, there had been no deployment of Euromissiles, or if the protests about Poland, Afghanistan and the Korean airliner had been muted, expressing sorrow rather than anger, a deterioration in the relations between the two superpowers would have been prevented. But for how long? Sooner or later America would have taken some measures to match the Soviet arms buildup, and there is no certainty that Poland, Afghanistan and the shooting of the KAL flight were the last incidents of their kind.

There can be no doubt that the Soviet Union wants to avert world war. But it is equally true that the Soviet leaders still believe that the antagonism between the two world systems is irreconcilable and cannot be removed by any amount of good will and cooperation. This problem would not disappear even if the Soviets were to face a more amenable U.S. president than Mr. Reagan. Events since World War II have taught them that even communist countries cannot be trusted unless they are under direct Soviet control. Seen in this light, even a communist North America would be a formidable antagonist from the Soviet point of view-perhaps even a more dangerous one. Economically powerful, it would not be subject to the foreign policy restraints from which a democracy suffers. All of which is to say that the conflict between the two countries will continue in the foreseeable future. The problem is not whether it can be solved but how to assuage and defuse it.

It has been eloquently argued by some Western commentators that a lasting improvement in Soviet-American relations will come only if we cease to demonize the Soviet people and their leaders, only if the wicked comparisons with Nazi Germany are made no longer, only if it is realized that Russians and Americans need each other. Such admonitions are not new. Around the turn of the century, Archibald Coolidge, who later became the first editor of Foreign Affairs, observed that many Americans considered the Russians "mysterious, nay almost devilish people."15 This referred, however, not so much to genuine Russophobia as to the strong aversion among the American people to Tsarist tyranny. Alternatively, in our days, ideological blinkers and blind anti-communist fanaticism have been blamed for the sad state of affairs in Soviet-American relations. But the fact that China, Yugoslavia and Romania are also communist has not affected normal U.S. relations with these countries. Clearly, one ought to look for an explanation in another direction.

It is certainly worth repeating that the Russians are a great people, that their character, like their country, is shaped by extremes of feeling, that they have many admirable qualities-great humanity, a yearning for the absolute, the shirokaya natura, disdain for form (and formality), warmth and charity, idealism and a willingness to sacrifice, a capacity for suffering. It is difficult to think of more attractive human beings than the heroes of the great Russian writers; these are not the kind of people morally corrupted by centuries of Tartar rule and Muscovite serfdom. It is impossible to think of more vital and spontaneous people than some of those who made the golden age of Russia's intellectual life so interesting. Russians have been among the world's greatest liars, but in no other country could one find the same fanatical, even self-destructive search for honesty and truth. Not in key political positions, to be sure. The saintly qualities of some of Dostoevski's and Tolstoi's heroes would probably not qualify them for service in the top echelons of the KGB. Russians have been the most consistent atheists and the most exalted mystics, the most revolutionary fighters and the greatest reactionaries; they have praised the mission of their people in the most fulsome manner, but they have also been the most relentless critics of the failures of their people.

Back in the 1850s, Alexander Herzen wrote that one more century of the present despotism would destroy all the good qualities of the Russian people. The despotisms in various intensities have continued and they were bound to have a certain effect on the character of the people. But centuries of autocratic rule have also taught the Russians great patience and a good deal of dissimulation. There have been changes, but who can fathom the depths of the Russian soul and say with any assurance how deep they go?

The problem is not de-humanization; Lenin and Stalin were human, so were the extroverts Khrushchev and Brezhnev, and with all his diffidence and aloofness Andropov is no less human than other contemporary statesmen. The problem is not the Russian people but the fundamental hostility of the regime towards other systems of government. The Soviet system is not "evil" in the sense that it lacks a moral source; originally it was perhaps more highly motivated by morality than any other. Lenin was not (as Berdyayev wrote) a vicious man, nor were, with one exception, his successors. They only lost-were bound to lose given their aims and ambitions-the immediate sense of the difference between good and evil.

The internal state of affairs of the Soviet Union is not America's concern, nor the personal qualities of Soviet leaders, but rather the ambitions of the regime, its suspicions and its hostility towards other forms of political organization. Determination, as George Kennan has rightly pointed out, is not relentless and the thirst for power not unquenchable. Soviet ambitions are in some ways quite modest; Soviet leaders only want to be number one, and have never made a secret of the fact. And some in the West are suggesting that one should accommodate them. It would make them feel more secure, but would be, in fact, quite meaningless.

Ambitions and hostility are not constant factors in the life of nations. They tend to diminish in the course of time, and the Soviet Union is no exception. One day genuine collaboration may be possible; until then the West should not lead the Soviet leadership into temptation by showing weakness or conversely by creating panic among them through lack of caution. But it would also do no harm if the President of the United States and some of his chief aides would find an occasional word of praise for the great and talented Russian people, and, of course, also for the other peoples of the Soviet Union. Nationalism in the Soviet Union is certainly not on the decline and it may be useful to remind them and us from time to time that we have no quarrel with the Russian people.


The prospect for a radical improvement in relations in the near future is nonexistent. But both superpowers still want to avert direct military conflict and both will do their utmost to refrain from actions that could lead in this direction. True, the arms control negotiations have come to a halt, but there had not been much progress anyway; the talks on Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions in Vienna had been stalled for more than ten years. This does not necessarily mean that a new phase in the arms race is under way. The Soviet leaders are unlikely to engage in new major ventures from which they would have otherwise refrained. Equally, there are obvious economic limits to any U.S. military buildup.

The Soviet leaders seem to have accepted that there will be no return to détente (as they interpret it) as long as the present balance of power exists and as long as America has not given up her interest in many parts of the globe. A negative policy entails certain dangers. Seen in retrospect, Soviet foreign policy has traditionally been more successful when it smiled (the Popular Front period, wartime collaboration, détente) than when it scowled (the "third period," the cold war). But the Soviet Union is now stronger and what was true in the past may now no longer apply. Furthermore, a harsh line has its compensation at home: a state-of-siege mentality makes it easier to indoctrinate the population and to impose discipline, whereas détente always creates problems on the domestic front.

Such a Soviet strategy has to be based on a mixture of threats and promises. Too much bluster may be counterproductive; the strategy has to be carefully attuned to the mood in the country concerned. The promise of a little German unity may be dangled in front of the Bonn government. Pressure will be brought on the Danes and Norwegians and there will be various threats against the other European NATO members. If this policy should work, resulting in growing NATO disunity, there will be little inducement for the Soviet leaders to return to the negotiating table in the near future. If it should fail to have a significant effect, they will easily find ways and means (and a new label) to renew the arms talks after a decent interval-in Lausanne, if need be, rather than in Geneva.

There is one major uncertainty in this equation: unless there is a strong hand in the Politburo and the Supreme Defense Council, nothing much is likely to happen in Moscow. There will be decisions by default, wait-and-see decisions, but not initiatives which involve risks or constitute a change from past policies. In Andropov's continued absence or during yet another transitional period it would be wise to expect more of the same from Moscow quite irrespective of what the West is doing.

It was recently noted (by Georgi Arbatov) that the Reagan Administration will not last forever-a statement that cannot have come as a surprise to Soviet readers familiar with the American Constitution. There are no similar provisions in the Soviet Constitution. But the laws of biology also apply in Moscow; like King Lear, most of the members of the Politburo have seen the best of their time. A change, probably more extensive than last time, seems a virtual certainty. Such a change does not, however, necessarily imply-as some Western observers tend to believe-a more liberal turn. It may lead to something akin to pluralism; in a transitional period with various contenders jockeying for power (or trying to consolidate power) the army and the KGB may play a greater role in policy making than they would normally have. For all one knows, such changes have, in effect, already taken place.

But, on the whole, continuity will be preserved in Soviet policies. Soviet communism today is more sophisticated than under Stalin; the paranoia and the cult of the individual have gone to a large extent. But the basic political structures created under Lenin and Stalin still exist and will not vanish in the near future. One day, no doubt, they too will give way to something else, but not in this decade, probably not even in this century. Nor has the fundamental Soviet belief disappeared that "in our time one does not count with the weak, one counts only with the strong."16

A change of guard may imply different priorities and preoccupations, but it will not alter the underlying realities that any Soviet leaders must face. The two superpowers will not come to love each other more dearly, but they have to avert war and in any case they confront a great many problems at home and abroad which have little or nothing to do with U.S.-Soviet relations. This, if not other circumstances, will help to deflect them from a collision. If détente is not in the cards, normalization seems, in the long run, almost a certainty.

Normalization could mean, for instance, the establishment of a U.S.-Soviet Risk Control Center such as recently suggested by Senators Sam Nunn and John Warner, an urgent and important task. There is room for other Western initiatives and a dialogue-tough and specific with the Stalinist generation (as James Billington has written), general and generous with those coming after it. If Stalin taught his party that only power counts in the final analysis, he also taught it to proceed in foreign policy with utmost caution and prudence. Hence the necessity to renew negotiations with the West once the last echoes of the stage thunder have faded away and the struggle for the succession has been decided.

The preconditions exist for peaceful coexistence between the two superpowers-a coexistence free of illusions, based on an awareness of common as well as opposed interests. This is not a very satisfactory perspective; it is far from the dreams of détente of yesteryear. But at the present time it is the only perspective not based on self-deception, the only one to ensure a more normal relationship.

1 Robert G. Kaiser, "U.S.-Soviet Relations: Goodbye to Détente," Foreign Affairs, America and the World 1980, p. 515. The 1914 analogy, first made by some American writers, was taken up with great gusto by leading Soviet commentators. Georgi Arbatov, director of the U.S.S.R.'s Institute of the United States and Canada, wrote that he fully agreed with the American professor, one of the shrewdest U.S. foreign policy experts, who had written an article "Another 1914?" But unlike 1914 it was all the fault of the Americans.

2 The New York Times, February 23, 1983.

3 The only exception was apparently a quote from the Bible about turning the other cheek in an interview with Der Spiegel, April 24, 1983. Y.V. Andropov, Izbrannie Rechi i Stati, Moscow, 1983, p. 259.

4 World Military Expenditures and Arms Trade 1971-1980, Washington: U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, 1983.

5 Robert O'Neill, Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, on the occasion of the publication of the Military Balance 1983-84, reported in The Times (London), September 30, 1983. New CIA reports in November 1983 suggested that the recent annual rise in the total cost of Soviet defense spending had been lower (at about two percent) than previously thought. The growth rate of Soviet military spending was still more than twice that of the United States, but the new figures suggested that Soviet planners were facing problems not unlike those confronting Western leaders. U.S. defense spending as a percentage of gross national product remained fairly consistently in the 5- to 6-percent range over the last 12 years; Western estimates of Soviet defense spending range from 12 to 18 percent of GNP and even higher.

6 In the paragraph immediately preceding the "sophisticated provocation" statement, Andropov said that "even if someone had illusions as to the possible evolution for the better in the policy of the American Administration, the latest developments have dispelled them." Tass, September 28, 1983. This leaves open the question whether anyone in Moscow did have such illusions prior to the "American provocation." There were other indications that the statement had been hastily drafted. On one hand, it referred to an Administration "blinded by anti-Communism," but at the same time it alleged that the Administration used anti-communism as a "cover" to rule the destinies of the world-that, in other words, anti-communism was a tool, not a fundamental belief.

7 The incident caused a great deal of anger in Britain, where some newspapers predicted British military retaliation. Elsewhere in Europe the sanity of the Russian commander was questioned; Japanese torpedo boats had never been seen in the North Sea, nor was it easily understood how a sailor could possibly mistake a small trawler for a torpedo boat. The Russians had quite obviously panicked, but while they agreed to go to a Court of Arbitration in Paris and indemnify the victims or their families, they did not really admit their guilt. According to Russian versions of the event, Japanese torpedo boats had been hiding among the hostile fishing boats; other Russian accounts maintained that the trawlers had opened fire on the Russian fleet. The conservative Russian daily, Novoe Vremya, announced that indisputable facts justified the action not only in Russian eyes but "in the eyes of every impartial observer."

8 One important source of information on this subject was the June 1983 plenum of the Central Committee, which was devoted in part to discussing U.S. policy. The protocols of this meeting were, as usual, not published. But during the subsequent weeks and months there were a great many editorials in the Soviet press and articles by individual commentators referring to the deliberations and the decisions of the meeting, and a fairly clear picture emerged as a result.

9 Soviet titles these days seem to take a leaf from Thomas Mann's books, e.g., "General Professor von Staat."

10 Of the cold war vocabulary, only "poisoner" has not been used so far.

11 This also refers to the understanding of background and tradition. A recent study published by I.B. Ponomareva (Foreign Affairs Publishing House, Moscow, 1983) on the theory and practice of the American policy of balance of power says that the fundaments of this U.S. theory were created by Arthur Schopenhauer, Henri Bergson, Eduard von Hartmann and Friedrich Nietzsche. Schopenhauer indeed!

12 I owe this reference to a recent study by Joseph G. Whelan, "Andropov and Reagan as Negotiators," Washington: Congressional Reference Service, June 1983, p. 11.

13 V. Micunovic, Moscow Diary, New York: Doubleday, 1980, p. 327. The author added that the Soviet leaders had reached the conclusion that this situation (Soviet superiority) could be quickly changed by means of vastly increased American investments aimed at catching up as soon as possible and depriving the Soviet Union of the monopoly it enjoyed for the moment.

14 Ulrich Schmidhaeuser, Entfeindung, Stuttgart, 1983.

15 Robert F. Byrnes, Awakening American Education to the World: The Role of Archibald Cary Coolidge, 1866-1928, Notre Dame and London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1982, p. 69.


You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now
  • Walter Laqueur is Chairman of the International Research Council at the Center for Strategic and International Studies at Georgetown University. He is co-editor of the Journal of Contemporary History and of The Washington Quarterly and the author of Russia and Germany, The Fate of the Revolution, and many other works.
  • More By Walter Laqueur