Jimmy Carter, April 1980.

U.S. - Soviet Relations: From Bad to Worse

All happy families are alike," wrote Leo Tolstoy at the beginning of Anna Karenina. "But an unhappy family is unhappy after its own fashion." A similar melancholy generalization applies to good and bad years in Soviet-American relations: the good ones are often alike in the deceptiveness of what seem to go right, while the bad ones are as varied as the possibilities for something going wrong in a relationship of such fundamental mistrust, misunderstanding and enmity. The future is not inclined to honor promises made in such a relationship, or so the past has shown.

There have been few good years in Soviet-American relations; and those that may have seemed relatively good at the time tend, in retrospect, to be distinguished more by false hopes and missed opportunities than by genuine and lasting improvements. Either that, or they are memorable to historians writing now for reasons that were largely overlooked by commentators writing then. 1933, when the United States ended its snub of the Bolsheviks and recognized the Soviet government, also saw the promulgation of the Second Five-Year Plan and the consolidation of Stalinist totalitarianism-hardly an auspicious turning point for the world. 1941, when the United States and the U.S.S.R. suddenly found themselves allies, was a dark hour in a world war that their common enemy seemed to be winning. In 1959, when Premier Nikita Khrushchev rollicked across the United States preaching peaceful co-existence, the Soviets were deploying their first intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the United States was conducting U-2 reconnaissance missions overhead-two developments that augured ill. In 1972, Richard Nixon became the first American President to visit Moscow, where he and General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev signed a code of conduct for Soviet-American relations; but four months before, Nixon had visited Beijing (Peking), then signed the Shanghai Communiqué-the original China card in what was to become a long and deadly serious game of three-hand poker among the world's two nuclear superpowers and its largest nation.

Yet even by the rather dismal

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