Courtesy Reuters

U.S.-Soviet Relations: Unhappy Coexistence

As has been true of practically all American presidents since World War II, Jimmy Carter entered the White House with high hopes of effecting a major and salutary breakthrough in our relations with the Soviet Union. Also evident was the President's determination to achieve some substantial success in this direction quite early in his first term in office. The new Administration believed, as new administrations are prone to, that, unlike its predecessor, it had some special qualifications and opportunities to establish a more satisfactory rapport with the Kremlin. It had a fresh, though to be sure not overwhelming, popular mandate. The executive and Congress were now in the hands of the same party. The Republican Administration, despite its contribution to détente, eventually faltered because it was tainted and hobbled by Watergate and Vietnam, and its chief foreign policymaker unduly addicted to power politics. Now the new people, free of such burdens, would be able to turn a new leaf, not only in our relations with the U.S.S.R., but also in the arena of the growing competition between the two superpowers - the Third World.

There were other, more subjective reasons for America's new leaders to feel that they would succeed where their predecessors had faltered. Despite all the evidence that if anything the opposite is true, the American public and politicians have never quite gotten over the belief that the communists prefer to deal with people whose political orientation is, well, call it progressive, rather than conservative. "I go to see Mr. Khrushchev in Vienna. I go as the leader of the greatest revolutionary country on earth," said John Kennedy in 1961. In a sense he was right, yet it did not help him much on that occasion with Khrushchev. In 1977 it was still felt that the Soviets should react positively to the fact that the U.S. government was now in the hands of those who had been critical of our past involvements with foreign reactionaries, who

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