The U.S.-Soviet détente is neither fully understood nor certain to endure. The sheer complexity of détente balancing-holding the Soviet Union, China, the Western allies and Japan in a complicated network of associations with the United States which involve conflict as well as cooperation-may not last. Even if it could be sustained, some argue that American interests dictate that it should be dropped or radically modified. To others détente is an attitude, but not a policy. It represents a desirable and overdue recognition of realities in foreign policy-the need to achieve better relations with the Soviet Union and China. But it does not specify where the United States should go from there. Détente without a positive core of policy goals could jeopardize American relations with Japan and Western Europe without gaining any durable benefit from the Soviet Union. The collapse of the Soviet-American trade agreement makes it seem even less likely that the United States can use détente as a means to extract important concessions from the U.S.S.R.

Other critics contend that whatever the merits of détente policy, the political costs it imposes cannot ultimately be borne. Congress and the American public can understand and support a policy which clearly discriminates friend from foe. They can accept a policy of nonintervention and reliance upon allies. But they can neither understand nor fully support a policy which switches back and forth: now balancing for one state, now for another.

Such shifts in policy depend upon a bureaucratic mastery of the defense and foreign policy apparatus that has seldom existed in American history. Today they rest on the personal ascendancy of one man, Henry Kissinger. But even in 1975 new centers of opposition to Secretary Kissinger-on the President's staff and in the Defense Department, to say nothing of Congress-were threatening his unparalleled sway. No successor seems likely to achieve a similar primacy.

Entirely aside from its apparent structural weaknesses, the opponents of détente now note the presumed advantages which the Soviet Union may be coming to derive. Pentagon and congressional critics see the United States being lulled into a false sense of security while the U.S.S.R. makes signal advances in international power and influence. The SALT II agreement reached at Vladivostok does not allay critics' fears because it perpetuates Soviet advantages in strategic throw-weight and allows such a large number of multiple targeted reentry vehicles (MIRVs) that U.S. land-based forces are likely to be vulnerable to attack. In the economic field as well, the Soviet Union and its militant Arab allies, so it is argued, have put the industrial countries, including the United States, on the defensive. Western states are now squabbling about economic policy, and Russia has gained a significant edge militarily.

It is useful to record these negative estimates of the value and viability of the détente if only to lay the ground for counterargument. For it is this writer's view that the superpower relationship must be preserved, and that if it collapses a much greater tension and polarization in world politics will follow. At the extreme this could lead perhaps to overt conflict between America and Russia. The choices that American and Soviet decision-makers face are similar to those confronted by European and American statesmen in eras past. Before World War I and immediately after World War II, critical decisions were made by European and American leaders which led directly to major periods of conflict or war. These decisions were by no means inevitable: they were the result of conscious choices, not the impartial and irresistible pressure of circumstances. The parallel is that today the world is moving toward possibly similar and equally disastrous decisions, decisions which could affect mankind for decades to come. The choice that is involved is essentially between a mixed international system in which allies and potential adversaries are held together in a network of fundamental cooperation, and a system in which lines of conflict are starkly drawn, with the United States and its allies more or less firmly on one side, and its enemies more or less firmly on the other. It is a choice between a new form of bipolarity and an ambivalent system in which neither cooperation nor conflict is permitted to dominate patterns of alignment.

The point of decision is coming nearer if only because conflicts in world politics are becoming sharper: the détente has suffered important reverses in the past 18 months-the Soviet-American accord linking trade and a greater freedom of emigration has foundered; the Middle East war of 1973 raised important and still unanswered questions about détente's value in both Moscow and Washington. Meanwhile the oil crisis has signaled new and yet-undigested shifts in economic power, and compounded the already grave twin problems of inflation and recession throughout the world.

But equally important and in a longer term sense more critical, the political basis of Western progress and stability may be cast into question. It has frequently been observed that democratic political structures have become more fragile. They cannot abide inflation, yet neither can they tolerate the remedies which would be necessary to stop or contain it. Even more certainly, however, they may not survive a prolonged period of economic dislocation. Any sustained industrial or economic chaos would create a belt of discontent and political ferment running across Western and central Europe which could ultimately undermine the bases of internal politics forged after World War II. Depending on the choices that are made in the next several years, the basic political world of the post-World War II period could come unstuck.


The historical parallels for this situation are at least three in number. The first is to be found in German policy in 1890. Prior to Chancellor Otto von Bismarck's dismissal early in that year, European diplomacy had been dextrously bound up in a network of alliances and alignments that linked Germany with every major state except France. Bismarck had been particularly successful in preventing the chronic rivals, Austria and Russia, from coming to blows over Balkan real estate. The alliance ties with Austria dated back to 1879 on a bilateral basis, and they had been reaffirmed in the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. The Russians, on the other hand, had not lacked for German support and friendship. Their aims had been supported nationally by Bismarck but the German Chancellor had also been careful to sponsor an opposing coalition, including England, Austria and Italy, to prevent Russia from actually taking military steps to realize them. In 1887, Bismarck had negotiated the Reinsurance Treaty with the Tsar, to secure Russia against Austrian expansion. Bismarckian alliances were condemned as "inconsistent" because the alliance with Austria was directed against Russia, and the alliance with Russia against Austria. At the same time it was precisely the "inconsistency" of Bismarck's central position that allowed him to keep on good terms with both protagonists, and to prevent them from going to war.

After Bismarck's fall, the new German Emperor and his Chancellor, Caprivi, decided to drop the Russian connection. It was thought to prevent an alliance with England, and it made their link with Vienna much more difficult. It was simpler to eliminate the inconsistency and take sides in world politics. As it turned out, of course, England was not ready to be one of Germany's formal allies. She was willing to cooperate only on limited bases in particular parts of the world. When this was proved, it was already too late for Berlin to reverse its course: Russia had already allied with France, commencing a new process of polarization in European politics.

The polarization was not yet complete, however. England remained unconnected with the Triple Alliance or with its Franco-Russian adversary. Nor were the British ready to join one against the other. In 1904, in Lord Lansdowne's ministry, the British concluded a colonial entente with the French which was supposed to alleviate the friction over Egypt and Morocco. But the entente was not a general alliance, nor was it directed against Germany. Lansdowne had treated overtures from Germany and France evenhandedly. He had worked together with Germany in Venezuela, and the prospect of a more far-reaching accommodation with Berlin had not been ruled out. The defeat of France's ally, Russia, by Japan in 1905 made the reconciliation with France still less attractive, and France's own obeisance before German pressure in that same year cast doubt on her solidity as a useful makeweight in world politics. Lansdowne's understanding with the French was based on previous British policy: it was limited; it operated in specific areas of the world; it was not intended to circumscribe British freedom of action.

But Sir Edward Grey, Lansdowne's successor at the Foreign Office, began in 1906 to treat the French entente as if it were a fixed and general article of British policy, almost as if it were an alliance.1 Grey did not seek to keep on good terms with both France and Germany. The Germans also ceased trying to lure England into their net. They sought rather to build a continental position which was unassailable.2 Once again, consistency was chosen at the expense of general cooperation, and the European international system became finally polarized into two camps: Triple Alliance and Triple Entente. World War I followed shortly thereafter.

But the most salient blunder in modern international relations occurred after World War II when Russia and America lurched into a cold war that neither wanted or could easily afford. President Roosevelt knew that the United States would never fight the U.S.S.R. over the Soviet position in Eastern Europe; intermittently, he understood how important the East European buffer was to Premier Stalin. Yet he and President Truman allowed themselves to be trapped into a policy that made conflict with the Soviet Union inevitable. It was not possible for the United States to meddle in the Soviet sphere of occupation and still maintain Russian friendship.

Similarly, Stalin made egregious errors in his relations with the Western powers. He did not realize that Roosevelt's offers of friendship were genuine, and that in any event the American leader was not in a position really to oppose Soviet policy in Eastern Europe. The very abrasiveness in Soviet dealings with Western statesmen after 1945 actually made easier the creation of the strong group of anti-Communist nations that it was in the Russian interest to avoid. Here the issue was not that of choosing between two possible partners, but of maintaining tolerable relations where interests were partly opposed but also partly harmonious. Bismarck had maintained good relations with Russia in similar circumstances in the 1880s. In 1945, however, rather than live with the ambiguity, both Russians and Americans lapsed into more "consistent" modes of diplomacy. The result was the cold war, and an ensuing series of major crises in world politics.


Today similar temptations beset the two major powers. The American case against superpower détente is well known and needs only brief restatement here. Critics claim that the United States has gained little and lost much from its "special relationship" with the U.S.S.R. In the Middle East crisis of 1973, it is contended, the Soviet Union did little to restrain its clients, but then threatened to intervene to save them from Israeli counteroffensives. Despite American efforts to pledge Moscow to a "hands-off" position, the Soviet resupply of the Arabs took place at the first sign of an Arab deficiency. Only after the Soviet effort was in full swing did America reluctantly begin to aid Israel. Americans ponder the value of détente in managing crises if on each occasion the Soviets still threaten unilateral intervention.

In economic terms, it is held, the Soviet Union only seeks high technological inputs from the United States and other industrial countries, not a stable trading relationship with two-way advantages. Even in the agricultural field, the Soviet Union will use its access to Western food markets merely to supplement harvests, buying episodically and with little warning.

In the military realm, congressional and Pentagon specialists fear not only Moscow's strategic rearmament but also the growing power of its conventional land and sea forces. The Soviet threat to the central region in Europe is greater now than it was five years ago, and Western, particularly American, strength has declined.3 The Soviet Navy is not growing in size, but is definitely increasing in capability. The danger it poses to U.S. carrier forces has considerably increased.4 The Soviets, it is argued, will use their growing might to gain political influence in Europe, the Middle East and the Indian Ocean.

Finally, the Soviets are seen as encouraging the militant oil producers to take advantage of the economic troubles of the West. Growing talk of counteraction against Arab states-whether it be political, economic or military-has downplayed the Soviet role. Yet the more U.S. leaders think about intervention, the more surely they must consider Soviet involvement.

In short, the opposition to détente in America-while diverse and inconsistent from one group to another-must be rated today as strong. One could well imagine developments that would make it predominant in the next few years.


It is not generally recognized, however, that the Russian case against détente is fully as strong as the American one. For many reasons it is a pity that the Soviet Union is such a closed society. If we knew more about opposition in Soviet bureaucratic and political circles to Brezhnev's policy, perhaps some Americans would see it in a more favorable light. In any event, from a variety of Soviet bureaucratic perspectives it could be argued that many of the supposed advantages to the U.S.S.R. of the détente policy have not in fact accrued. America did not remain in a state of post-Vietnam paralysis after 1972. The revulsion against the war and things military did not lead to a drastic cut in the U.S. defense budget. The weakness of U.S. foreign policy in Europe was not as great as the Russians had thought it might be. Russia's Westpolitik was a successful reciprocation of Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik, but it did not lead to European political weakness nor to a favorable environment for the reception of Soviet policy. In the Vienna mutual and balanced force reduction negotiations, the Europeans, not the United States, have pressed for tough negotiating stances. In the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Europeans, more than the Americans, were unwilling to concede on political and economic issues unless the Soviet Union would yield important concessions in the field of information and cultural exchange. Far from softening up European populaces for more far-reaching Soviet gestures, a limit to the rapprochement appeared to have been drawn.

In the Middle East the United States rebounded with vigor after October 1973. The Russians lost leverage with Egypt and Syria and had little in Tel Aviv. Secretary Kissinger, on the other hand, maintained and increased his influence on both sides. At minimum the October War showed that the Arabs might win battles, but that they could not force Israel to withdraw from the territories occupied in 1967. This meant that a solution could only be found diplomatically. Kissinger was in a unique position to negotiate the beginnings of such a settlement. The American reconciliation with Egypt even improved his negotiating position with Israel: Tel Aviv could no longer take American support for granted. His position was also enhanced by his style of negotiation: taking a leaf from Bismarck's book, he refused to take sides. He knew that opposite numbers cannot simply be "forced" to agree. The art of gaining diplomatic acceptance depends upon a subtle mixture of constraint and volition. Whatever the realistic pressures, a statesman has to be persuaded to reach an accommodation, if it is to endure. This policy was in direct contradiction to that used previously in dealing with the militant Arab world; it was also in sharp contrast to the cold-war diplomacy of 1945-47. From the Soviet standpoint, therefore, American foreign policy success in the Middle East was completely unprecedented. Brezhnev's doctrines of U.S. weakness and passivity had not prepared the Russians for such an outcome.

Equally important, though the U.S. military position might seem weak to Americans, it looked formidable to the Russians. To be sure, the U.S.S.R. gained important advantages in the 1972 SALT negotiations. The Soviets were building launchers, the Americans were not. The former had to be persuaded to stop. At the same time, the United States was into the full rush of its MIRV (and follow-on MARV [maneuverable, independently targetable reentry vehicles]) technology. In numbers of warheads and in accuracy, Washington remained far ahead of Moscow. It was not until the announcement of four new Soviet missiles (three initially equipped with MIRVs) in August 1973 that it began to appear that the Russians would catch up.

The failure to reach agreement on limitations on MIRVed missiles in June 1974, and the relatively high levels (1,320) set for such missiles in November, however, did not leave the United States in an inferior position. Both larger and more accurate warheads (the Mk I2A and a terminally guided MARV) were in prospect for Minuteman III.5 Either or both will permit the 550 advanced Minuteman missiles to pose a hard-target threat to a substantial portion of the Soviet land-based missile force. With terminal guidance it will not be long before U.S. CEPs (circular error probable) fall to less than 700 feet. With a 200-kiloton warhead, such accuracies will permit target overpressures of well beyond the 300 pounds per square inch needed to destroy many current ICBM silos.6

The superior accuracy of present and prospective U.S. missiles over systems the Soviets have in prospect also has an important bearing on the effectiveness of warheads deployed against a single target or a cluster of targets.7 American accuracies may more than counter-balance Russian superiority in throw-weight for some time to come, so that by 1980 U.S. first-strike capabilities against Soviet land-based missiles may be considerably greater than corresponding Soviet capabilities against the American fixed-base force.

The 1974 Vladivostok agreement between the U.S.S.R. and the United States, while placing rather high limits on MIRVed missiles, in no way constrains the research and development race in sophisticated warhead technology, mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles, and antisubmarine warfare. Any such competition will almost certainly underscore American advantages, not only putting some Soviet systems under constraint or pressure but also demonstrating American prowess before the rest of the world. Very accurate missiles, higher-yield warheads, maneuverable reentry vehicles are only some of the innovations that will follow from the reopening of the Pandora's box of American technological wizardry. Despite the U.S.-Soviet aide-mémoire of December 1974 and the offer to negotiate lower ceilings on MIRVed missiles, the completion of currently planned U.S. deployments and force improvement programs at levels below the agreed ceiling will put considerable pressure on Soviet systems.

The détente can be attacked from other Soviet standpoints. In the traditional Soviet lexicon the strength of adversary coalitions has been roughly assessed in terms of their cohesion. This is not a surprising criterion because it is one the U.S.S.R. uses in its relations with Eastern Europe. A cohesive Soviet bloc, from Moscow's standpoint, is ipso facto a strong bloc. Conversely, a Western alliance in disarray is automatically weaker: it is both more vulnerable to Soviet pressure and more open to Soviet blandishments. These assessments are made independently of the basic strength of the component units of the alliance. On the other hand, while it is true that American relationships with traditional allies are somewhat looser than they were ten years ago, it is also true (except in raw materials) that the strength of U.S. allies has grown greatly over the last ten years, certainly in economic and to some degree even in military technological fields. Thus the Soviet Union now faces a stronger alliance than it did previously, if one that is less tightly knit. Where previously the Soviets encountered a single American-allied response, now there are several. But in certain areas British, French, and even Japanese objections may be harder to deal with than American ones.

In other words, détente, by drawing the United States slightly closer to the Soviet Union, has not simplified the U.S.S.R.'s negotiating task. Because of greater independence within U.S. alliances, American assent is no longer the assent of the developed world. Even after U.S. concurrence, Paris, Bonn, London and Tokyo must still be dealt with. If détente is to be fully implemented, Moscow should even want a more cohesive Western alliance, if only to be sure that its tentative agreements with the United States will be endorsed by other powerful states.

A final thorn in Moscow's side is the U.S. connection with Peking. The American rapprochement with Russia's major enemy is hardly likely to make American policy more consistent with Soviet aims. Of course, long-term normalization of the Sino-Soviet relationship is not entirely out of the question. But neither the Soviets nor the Chinese appear willing to make the fundamental concessions that would make that possible. The Chinese assert their independence at every point. If the current regime will not accept dictation from Moscow, their successors seem even less likely to do so. They will not give up their nuclear weapons; nor will they concede Chinese territory. The Russians, on the other hand, are likely to demand far-reaching concessions for any accommodation. China's very power and independence will lead the Soviet Union to insist upon the most formal and complete coordination of all policies from Moscow. Nothing short of this will assure Russian leaders that China would not use an accommodation to further its own divisive policies. The Russians view China as an "apostate" power which must make no small obeisance to be admitted back among the "faithful." Thus the terms for a resumption of normal relations between them will be very stiff. There is little evidence that any Chinese regime would be willing to pay them.

But if the Sino-Soviet split is a relatively dependable reference point in interstate relations, the United States gains major advantages. Secretary Kissinger, like Bismarck, is in the position of being "honest broker" between them. Kissinger formally declines such a role. He told James Reston recently: "The current policy for the United States is to take account of what exists and to conduct a policy of meticulous honesty with both of them, so that neither believes we are trying to use one against the other."8 It remains true, however, that Washington has approached Moscow through Peking. Just as Bismarck's Dual Alliance with Austria in 1879 made possible the Three Emperors' Alliance in 1881, so it is that good American relations with China make the Soviet Union more pliable. Only after the China visit in 1972 could Kissinger and Nixon have expected such a profitable reception in Russia.

It could even be argued that the solidity of the Chinese military position on the Soviet border, tying up 1,000,000 Soviet troops, had some useful implications for European defense. In Secretary Schlesinger's Fiscal 1975 posture statement it is noted that the West may be able to counter a Warsaw Pact mobilized threat to central Europe of 80 to 90 divisions if NATO continues and expands its force-improvement programs. But it could not hope to cope with the threat of up to 130 divisions that would result from a transfer of Soviet troops from the eastern regions of the Soviet Union. Since the Soviet Union has to be concerned with the Chinese theater, however, NATO can effectively concentrate upon meeting the designated threat of 80 to 90 divisions.9 This means that Chinese forces are an essential analytical ingredient in European defense. As long as Sino-American ties remain tolerable, Russia faces complications if she exerts pressure on either front. Some experts have recently speculated that if Russia sought to attack China or to eliminate Chinese nuclear capabilities, she could not be certain that Chinese nuclear weapons might not be replenished from the American arsenal,10 adding additional uncertainties to the Soviet calculus.


With such pervasive reasons on both Soviet and American parts for distrust of détente, it may seem surprising that it has lasted this long. There is certainly nothing automatic in its continuance, nor has it become an accepted article of policy in either Washington or Moscow. Important political and bureaucratic groups in each capital almost certainly oppose it. On the other hand, there are overriding claims in its favor. One very important consideration is that international politics would become a much more unpredictable arena if America and Russia were not frequently able to coordinate their policies. And policy coordination, at least episodically, has become possible because the Soviet Union has begun to recognize that it derives important benefits from the existing international situation which might be jeopardized by radical adventures.

The Soviet Union and the United States are now at the summit of the international power and status pyramid. Both are conscious that there are forces and nations in world politics that are rising to challenge their ascendancy. China and Japan, the Arab nations, Iran, Brazil, and even India, to say nothing of the states of Western Europe, may be much more powerful relative to the superpowers ten years from now than they are at present.

In years past, Russia probably believed that forces producing domestic unrest or revolution would greatly improve her international position while harming that of the United States, the apostle of the status quo. Today, it is no longer clear that Moscow calculates that it would be the beneficiary of domestic chaos. Domestic progress and economic growth seem to be the sine qua non of political stability in Eastern Europe. If this growth should falter, or if local Communist regimes sought to deny their citizens a better life in economic and social terms, the pattern of Polish resistance might be repeated in a variety of contexts. As the Czechoslovakian example in 1968 showed, these developments would produce political currents and eddies in the Soviet Union itself.

A total disruption of international trade and a severing of economic relations with the West could have grave effects, particularly in Eastern Europe where trade with non-Communist industrial countries has helped to make a better life possible. Indeed, it has been the development of East European economies, partly through Western technological cooperation and trade, which has sustained the momentum of the Communist bloc in its competition with the West. The drive to true "modernity," as many Communist leaders are now beginning to recognize, cannot be sustained in isolation from the rest of the world.11

From an opposite point of view, it is no longer unequivocally clear (if indeed it ever was) that it is in Moscow's interest to have local Communist parties triumph in Western states. In the aftermath of World War II and the vacuum of power which resulted, the Soviet Union organized the countries of Eastern Europe through the device of military occupation. Where Soviet troops did not penetrate, as in Yugoslavia, Moscow did not have dependable or controlling influence. Even where Russian troops were present, as in Rumania, the longer term evolution of the regime could not be predicted. The fact is that the Soviet Union bought control only through military power, and even that control is not absolute. It is therefore questionable whether governmental coalitions including Communists, where Moscow has no military presence, would represent unalloyed boons. Coalitions tend to co-opt local Communists, to make them work within the system. That they would call the tune politically is far from transparent.

But even if Communists were to dominate a government, the independence of European Communist parties has been amply demonstrated in a series of episodes since 1956. These unruly parties would not be a dependable instrument of Russian will. They might even contribute to what has probably been one of Moscow's greatest headaches and fears-the need to commit itself to support regimes which de facto it does not control. Cuba was a major lesson to Russian policy-makers in this regard, and they may not want to repeat the experience.

Ultimately, of course, such evolutions would look problematical from Moscow's viewpoint because Western responses could well be unpredictable or severe. Khrushchev's policy was to challenge the West, to take risks, to probe for weak spots. But he did not add much to Russian power and influence. He neither improved the Soviet position in Europe nor in the developing world. He did not prevent China from leaving the bloc. He did not gain an edge over the United States technologically or militarily. Nor did his domestic schemes solve the problem of agriculture, or production of a wide variety of sophisticated industrial goods. Rather, he provoked a Western response that greatly fueled the arms race, provided major counter-challenges in Berlin and Cuba and kept the Soviet Union off-balance. Khrushchev, in this respect, can be held responsible for Kennedy's anti-Communist "world policy."

It is an important question whether the Russians now wish to press a maximum international offensive against the West. They might urge their more militant Arab clients either to reimpose the oil embargo or to raise the price greatly; they might put more pressure on in certain domestic contexts. But the ensuing Western and American response could not be foretold: how much industrial chaos would Western countries accept without intervening militarily in the Middle East? And if they did intervene, would the Russians have improved their position? They would then face the alternative either of accepting the local success, and a large-scale and perhaps permanent Western presence in the Middle East, or of very high risk opposition to Western forces. Neither could possibly be attractive to Moscow.

The policy of maximum pressure and "adventurism" also has other defects. During Khrushchev's rule, the Soviets' challenge to Western governments kept them in the position of international "pariahs." Russia was distrusted by many, including some of her titular allies. She was not in a position to forge useful contacts with capitalist economies. The current Russian leadership, in contrast, has sought to stress the Soviet Union's responsible international role, and for the first time Russia has in effect been admitted to a Western system of international relations. Her initiatives are no longer immediately and categorically rejected. Her advice and help are sometimes sought. She has a certain standing in the international community. The long-term goal of recognition and acceptance by Western nations has in effect been achieved.

From a Western point of view, such gains may seem ephemeral, but to Soviet leaders accustomed to backwardness, isolation and exclusion from international contacts, they are of first importance. One should remember that the Soviet Union is a "new nation" unused to patterns of Western diplomacy and initially incapable of participating in them. Russia's international policy, originally based on a rather vulgar Marxism, was crude. In her Communist lexicon other nations would favor her only if it was in their manifest economic and military interest to do so. If cooperation was not given automatically on the basis of such interests, the only leverage the U.S.S.R. had was through the threat of force and the building of substantial military power. In this sense after World War II, the Soviet Union had "power" in international relations, but it did not possess "influence." For the attainment of "influence" depended upon a strict disciplining of power, and a rather complete avoidance of threat and bluster in world politics. It depended in short on "responsibility" and the development of a more or less predictable policy in international politics. Crises could not be staged from year to year, if the Soviet Union hoped to gain cooperation and help from Western and non-Communist regimes.

Today the Soviet Union faces the choice between crude power and responsible influence in world politics. The attempt to use the former will surely undermine the latter. Since this dilemma is coming to be understood in Moscow, there is reason to believe that Russia's "revolutionary" policy may well be nearing an end. Henceforth it seems likely that Russian gains will be sought through marginal increments in her own domestic political, economic and military position, and through ties with other nations that do not commit her to crisis intervention. If gains are not sought in this marginalist fashion, the ultimate achievement of modernity in the Soviet Union itself may be jeopardized.


Détente has other important foundations. The pattern of international change today is anarchic. Economic trends, the exhaustion of critical raw materials, the spread of nuclear weaponry, the rapid mobilization of domestic crisis all mean that nations have to react to a much more bewildering and dynamically changing international and domestic environment. Givens of yesteryear are dubious today. Monolithic domestic stability in Portugal, Greece and possibly also Spain has eroded. There are fissures in the Soviet bloc as well. Rumania has achieved and continues to express a distinctive and independent position in foreign relations. As Czechoslovakia showed in 1968, the placidity of East European Communist regimes is marred by deep currents of unrest. If these rise to the surface, Communist leadership in several countries, not least Yugoslavia, would be affected. Nationality problems continue, along with desires throughout the Soviet orbit for a much greater degree of personal and political freedom, and for access to the Western storehouse of ideas, and industrial and consumer goods. The very "slab-like" solidity of Communist governments means that there are few political safety valves for the outlet of discontent. Domestic crises within communism are thus extremely serious, imperiling the regime itself. The Russians have not forgotten that the most unregenerate and thoroughgoing autocracy of the Tsars ultimately collapsed of its own weight. International connections with Western states may not prevent domestic change, but they may very well mitigate the advantage which capitalist powers might otherwise seek to gain in such circumstances. Here the Russians clearly bear in mind the danger of interventionist precedents set after World War I.

Trends in the international economy also hold dangers for the Soviet Union. Despite large apparent reserves of oil and natural gas, Russia in recent years has become more dependent upon Middle Eastern sources of supply, and she has coincidentally reduced her fuel and energy exports to Eastern Europe. This paradox is explained by the fact that the new reserves in the northern part of Western Siberia are exceedingly difficult to develop. Thus far, Soviet and East European technology and resources have been inadequate to the task. Western help seems absolutely required if substantial production is to be realized. A measure of Soviet incapacity in this realm is the fact that Moscow has actually been increasing exploratory efforts in the European regions and offshore where new finds are likely to be high-cost. Coal presents equivalent problems. Even if it can be extracted, Siberian coal will be difficult to use because of a completely inadequate transport system. Thus the U.S.S.R. has tried to make expensive energy sources in the western regions do additional service, so far with little success.12 But if the Soviet bloc must import more oil, increases in the price of Middle Eastern crude will have growing significance for Moscow and an even more dynamic impact upon Eastern Europe.

The West, however, should not take comfort from Soviet energy dilemmas, for the world industrial system, capitalist as well as Soviet, may be nearing a crisis created by temporary or permanent limits to expansion and welfare. The availability of food, oil and raw materials may be less than that needed by Communist and Western states in the next decade. The West is vulnerable on oil, and the Communist states may be becoming increasingly vulnerable on both food and oil. Only a sharing of total world supplies of both items may ultimately suffice.

The spread of nuclear technology and ultimately weaponry also provides new justifications for cooperation with the West and the United States. The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has failed to prevent the dissemination of such technology. And even where the treaty remains formally in force, nations may develop their nuclear power programs to a point where a weapons option can be taken up in short order. India's "peaceful" detonation will certainly not slow down the nuclear arms acquisition process in the Middle East and South Asia, and it seems to be providing an additional spur to Japanese and Australian efforts in the general nuclear field. No new nuclear decisions can be expected in the next few years, but the process of industrial and technological familiarization with nuclear techniques will, if anything, accelerate.13 Meanwhile, existing nuclear forces in China and France, and perhaps also in the United Kingdom and India, will become less vulnerable and more sophisticated.

If and when major nuclear capabilities are possessed by five, seven or more powers, the international strategic environment will undergo important transformations. It is seldom understood that deterrence was a fundamentally bipolar doctrine, requiring clear identification of an attacker and depending upon the possession of relatively modest retaliatory capabilities. As long as each of the two superpowers had only to retaliate against the other, deterrent requirements were not onerous. When China became the fifth nuclear power, however, the retaliatory requirements of "assured destruction" capabilities against "any combination of attackers" became much more stringent. If Indian targets are eventually to be added to superpower lists, the task will become still more difficult.

The development of new nuclear powers raises deterrent requirements because it increases the population that any global deterrent power must be able to hold at risk. It also heightens the deterrent threshold in another way: the size of the aggressive coalition that might seek to launch a disarming attack against a single power is now at least potentially greater. For multilateral deterrence, one wants relatively equal, invulnerable forces. But since at least the first-generation capacities of new nuclear states will be much smaller than those of established powers and also vulnerable to attack, neither of the conditions is likely to be met.

Entirely aside from global deterrent problems, nuclear rivals may possess local first-strike capabilities. China's nuclear force may deter an attack by Delhi on Peking, but the converse may not be true. In much the same way a fledgling nuclear force in Pakistan might be vulnerable to Indian attack while India would not have to worry about a first strike from Karachi. In the Middle East, two-sided vulnerabilities could exist. The inability of conventional capabilities to force a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict will tend to encourage the development of nuclear capabilities in the region. With adequate intelligence, however, victory in a local nuclear war could depend upon who struck first.

Failures of deterrence in such cases could place enormous strain on the general structure of peace in world politics. A small client of one superpower might act, relying on his major power guarantor to prevent counteraction by his opposite number. If, on the other hand, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to act together, the local aggressor might be inhibited from either the threat or use of nuclear weapons. Indeed, it may even be possible that some such minimal superpower cooperation will be forced by manifest and rising deterrent instabilities in the next decades.


In nineteenth-century international relations, the pattern of peace or war was largely determined by the state of relations among Germany, Russia and England. When despite their differences, basic agreement was obtained, war could not take place. The Austrians were dependent upon Germany, and the French could not act without an ally. When the three great powers fell out, however, no recombination or alignment would prevent war. War actually occurred when each of the three began to treat its combination with a lesser power as decisive, ruling out a more general accommodation in world politics. Britain and Russia began listening to France, while Germany gave all its attention to Austria. In this respect, the role of allies as a conflictual factor in world politics has not been sufficiently stressed.

After World War II, the United States and Russia initially made conservative choices, preferring known associates and probable outcomes to the "leap in the dark" that would have been involved in an attempt at general reconciliation in world politics. Today, the interests of allies or associates might also take precedence. In the Middle East, it is now possible that either or both sides will take matters into its own hands-the Israelis militarily, the Arabs through the use of the oil weapon. Israeli action would be strongly resisted by the Soviet Union. It would be difficult for it to tolerate another Arab defeat. The United States and Western Europe, however, could scarcely acquiesce in another application of oil sanctions. If either superpower yielded to such temptations, however, the contemporary system of international relations would be overthrown.

But in the longer term the détente will not be maintained simply by avoiding entanglement in the disputes of allies or clients. The European system of international relations ultimately collapsed when there was no one who understood its complexities to run it, as did Bismarck. In the final quarter of the twentieth century, the world cannot tolerate dependence upon the bureaucratic skill or diplomatic prescience of a single statesman to perform a similar sleight of hand. Some new institutional and political structures may have to be developed to ensure that legerdemain is not the only policy instrument.

As nuclear weapons spread and the economic disruption of industrial economies proceeds, nothing short of a partial Soviet-American entente will provide the necessary structure in which present destabilizing currents can be contained. Such an entente, of course, could not be a condominium, nor could it deal with all important issues. It should not prevent even closer Sino-American relations. It would not substitute for NATO, a European defense system, or from the Soviet point of view, for the Warsaw Pact. It clearly could not hope to regulate the world's economic and financial system, in which the United States and the Soviet Union are important but by no means dominant participants. It could not be used as a means of repressing the poorer, less satisfied fraction of the globe in hopes of maintaining a permanent inequity in the division of world wealth. Above all, it could not repeat Grey's error: of forging ties with one nation or group at the expense of another, and thereby creating a new polarization in world politics.

A policy of significantly strengthening American-Soviet links, however, should now be embarked upon. Without its opposite number neither power can expect to cope with the increasing disorder of international relations at political and military levels. As nuclear weapons spread, some joint "crisis control" measures may have to be taken. Common positions on peaceful nuclear explosions and their implications for arms control and development will have to be worked out. There will have to be a substitute for the now defunct Soviet-American trade agreement. In the Middle East there must be a greater concert both to prevent war and to agree on the outlines of future peace. Perhaps there should be informal bureaucratic links across the range of ministries and functions. The issue becomes all the more important as the prospect of change in either Soviet or American leadership beckons. Short of such major ties, the fruitful but still insubstantial rapprochement of the last few years could dissolve as its authors leave the political scene.


1 I am indebted here to recent research in Grey's papers by Mr. Alan Alexandroff.

2 Fritz Fischer argues: "Up to 1911 Germany had not succeeded in adopting Britain's policy of concluding compromises with her competitors, for she had equated moderation with an inferiority incompatible with the world power status which was her aim." Germany's Aims in the First World War, New York: W. W. Norton, 1967, p. 24.

3 The Military Balance, 1974-75 points out: "In 1962 the American land, sea and air forces in Europe totalled 434,000; now the figure is around 300,000. There were 26 Soviet divisions in Eastern Europe in 1967; now there are 31." International Institute for Strategic Studies, London, 1974, p. 101.

6 Dr. Kosta Tsipis in Offensive Missiles, Stockholm Paper No. 5, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (1974), develops a measure of the lethality of U.S. and Soviet warheads. If the United States adds terminal guidance and doubles the yield of Poseidon and Minuteman III warheads, "the total (kiloton) value of the U.S. arsenal will rise to over 110,000, that is, to a value five times more than the Soviet nuclear arsenal could possibly have by 1981-82, and high enough to threaten the Soviet silos with assured destruction" (p. 27).

8 The New York Times, October 13, 1974.

9 Defense Report, p. 89.

10 See International Institute for Strategic Studies, Strategic Survey 1973, May 1974, p. 69.

11 It is significant that in the leading industrial sectors, East European dependence upon imports from the West has been very marked. The Joint Economic Committee study on Soviet Economic Prospects for the Seventies observes: "The degree of dependence in fact is considerably greater than the share of the West in total East European imports would indicate. The industries dominating East European growth are leading the way in imports from the West." Joint Committee Print, Ninety-Third Congress, June 27, 1973, Washington: GPO, p. 39. Statistical information for all countries but Bulgaria indicates that if Western trade were cut off, East European development would be considerably affected.

12 For a definitive review of Soviet energy problems see Marianna Slocum, "Soviet Energy: An Internal Assessment," Technology Review, October/November 1974.

13 George Quester takes a slightly more optimistic view in "Can Proliferation Now Be Stopped?" Foreign Affairs, October 1974.

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