Is an East-West policy necessary, and what should it be? Such a question would seem to go without saying and, in the eyes of countless academics and other observers, requires an affirmative response. More vigorously than ever, they are demanding from their governments, and, above all, from the United States, a "clear," "coherent," and "global" East-West policy. The question will become still more pressing in 1983, which will see the playing out of one of the most difficult matches in the game of nuclear arms negotiations since the beginning of the cold war, after the close of a year marked by two major events. In Moscow, the death of Leonid Brezhnev and the rise to power of Yuri Andropov may offer an opportunity for a new approach to old problems, and open up new perspectives on Soviet behavior. In Washington, in 1982, we have seen Ronald Reagan's policies run into their first serious problems in two areas that are supposed to be the main pillars of his "doctrine" regarding the Soviet Union: the philosophy of trade with the communist nations and the rearmament program.

One must always be wary of abstract doctrines and, in particular, of the terms in which they are expressed. Politics is the art of the possible, and the labels which seem most simple and seductive are those which correspond the least to reality. The 1950s policy of "rollback" was merely a slogan: communism was in no way rolled back during this period. The policy of "global containment" which succeeded it was no more aptly named, since communism was contained neither in Cuba nor in Vietnam. On the contrary, Soviet influence was "rolled back" in areas where such an evolution was scarcely expected, for instance, in Egypt and Somalia. Moreover, does not the use of such simplistic slogans, rather than "defining" a policy, lead to the creation of a "mission impossible" and the inevitable failure to attain the stated goals?

Its first result will always be to release a wave of "intellectual" criticism, criticism encouraged of course by Moscow, which thereby strengthens its position vis-à-vis its partner and rival before the latter has even begun to translate its policy into action. Thus, "linkage" between U.S. behavior toward Moscow and some more or less aggressive action by the U.S.S.R. is a fact of life; it is obvious that one cannot make an abstraction of Soviet behavior in Afghanistan or of its menacing presence in Poland, even for the purpose of arms control negotiations. But it is enough that the word "linkage" be mentioned-and, in due course, given the force of doctrine-for its critics to make any application of the concept more difficult.

To some degree Ronald Reagan's policies escape this criticism because they have avoided, despite their simplistic appearance, doctrinaire labels and slogans. No "buzz word" sums them up, unless one wants to attribute solely to President Reagan the appetite for a rearmament that was in fact begun by his predecessor. And the strongly anti-communist ideology that impregnates his rhetoric sits well with his equally strong pragmatism: not only has this "cold war" President resumed grain sales to the U.S.S.R. and stimulated a marked growth in U.S.-Soviet trade, but he has maintained, throughout 1982, and despite the replacement of his Secretary of State and the changing of the guard in the Kremlin, about the same level of dialogue with the other superpower as did President Carter in 1978, the corresponding year of his mandate.

This said, it is still the doctrinaire part of Reagan's policy that has created difficulties, and not just because it contradicts some of his actions. Where their goals are concerned, Reagan's philosophy, and that of his advisers, is not fundamentally different from that of previous administrations. To oversimplify, the desired end is always (a) to avoid war or aggression by deterrence; (b) to contain communist expansion; (c) if possible, to convert to a peaceful end a system deemed fundamentally evil and aggressive. Even if this last objective has not yet been stated officially, it lies at the back of the American mind, just as the elimination of "imperialism" is the ultimate objective of Soviet policy. And, again like its predecessors, the Reagan Administration is trying to steer the Soviet leadership in a direction more favorable to Western interests.

But while previous administrations, that of Johnson as well as those of Nixon and Carter, hoped to achieve this end through a combination of inducements and sanctions, though more often than not preferring the carrot to the stick, the Reaganites have placed their emphasis on the stick, to the point where they have seen it as the only effective tool. In this fundamentally pessimistic view, the problem is not to try to create a "positive" attitude on the part of the Soviet leadership, an attitude which does not in fact exist, but to demonstrate to this leadership, doves and hawks alike, that choosing armaments and aggression will only lead to an impasse and that, therefore, the Soviets must change their tactics if they want their regime to survive.F

Unlike the policies of earlier Presidents, which played on the nuances of U.S.-Soviet relations, the Reaganites' doctrine goes straight to the heart of the matter: the military-industrial complex of the U.S.S.R. This approach seeks less to discover a hypothetical good will on the part of the Kremlin than to force it to change its course; less to entice Soviet leaders with the advantages of cooperation than to back them into a corner; and using the very weapons-armaments and propaganda, for instance-with which the Soviets have chosen to do battle.

Such a reaction is only normal after a decade in which the other tactic-inducement-was used on a grand scale and led only to the well-known disappointments of "détente." The Soviet appetite for weapons and the resumption of the arms race in Europe called for a global response. That response had been initiated by Jimmy Carter, but the former President was somewhat inhibited by his previous emphasis on détente and peaceful inducements-an approach embodied by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. While Carter's human rights policy was used at the beginning of his term as an offensive instrument against the Soviet system, this pressure was not maintained consistently. Moreover, Carter's about-face on deployment of the neutron bomb and on the potential significance of the Soviet brigade in Cuba gave the wrong signal to Moscow and deprived his policy of the needed credibility.

The Reagan response took on added strategic importance from the fact that the Soviet Union, at the start of the 1980s, was at a crossroads: having lost the bets Khrushchev made as to standard of living and ideological attraction, it staked everything on winning the arms race and on what it calls "changing the correlation of military forces to the benefit of socialism." If this last wager were to be lost, if America manages, through economic and technological power, to impose on the U.S.S.R., as Reagan has warned, an arms race "that you cannot win," what power and legitimacy would the Soviet leadership retain?

This hard line also has the advantage of strengthening the global deterrent against the periodic challenges favored by the Kremlin in the past. No one will ever know whether the Kremlin's moderation in the Lebanese war, its relative inactivity throughout 1982 in Africa, the Middle East and even Central America, was due to the "macho" stance of the White House, or to other causes. Nor can anyone know whether the United States would back its warnings with corresponding action should the need arise, since it has not yet been put to the test. But it is a fact that, in his two years in the White House, Ronald Reagan has not been confronted with the kind of serious East-West challenges and crises faced by his predecessors-with the exception of the Polish crisis, which was not invested with the same character of international aggression as was, for example, the invasion of Afghanistan.

Before examining the obstacles to Reagan's East-West policy, however, it seems appropriate to point out an initial theoretical difficulty. Despite the simplicity of the Reagan doctrine, it is not without its contradictions. There are two kinds of Reaganism: one is pessimistic, exclusively American, sees only the dangers of Soviet aggression and preaches retaliation "on all fronts," without placing much emphasis on what is happening in Moscow; for this school of thought, even if it is not expressed in these terms, the only satisfactory solution is the restoration of total American and Western supremacy in the face of an adversary that will always be evil incarnate. But there is another, "Sovietologist," school, which is more optimistic and which looks at the great economic, institutional and ideological vulnerability of the Soviet system and feels that it is not far from collapse.

If the two schools combined to advocate a firm policy toward the U.S.S.R., the second would have only a small step to take before conceding that such firmness would be the "final straw" precipitating the fall of the Soviet regime, or at least its profound transformation. For the one, the arms race is a necessary response to Soviet endeavors, a vital contribution to protecting U.S. interests in changed circumstances. For the other, it is the stage of history that will aggravate the internal contradictions of the Soviet system and reveal its technological weaknesses while asphyxiating its economy.

But this second school is divided, in its turn, between those who fear that the Kremlin will seek a solution to its internal problems through external adventures, and the "true optimists" who think it will finally turn to reforms and transform the system into one that is more acceptable. One senses these contradictions, for example, in Richard Pipes, the highly competent Soviet expert of the Reagan team recently returned to Harvard, who insists, in turn, on both the perversity of Soviet intentions and the enormous frailty of its political and economic system. Without disputing either point, whether the emphasis is placed on one or the other has certain consequences and there may be an unexpected "boomerang effect" on a psychological level. To depict the Soviet leadership as military chessplayers, drunk with power, and to insist on the overwhelming might of their military apparatus, galvanizes those who are already convinced, which in turn can help the Administration to garner the necessary votes for an increased military budget. But it can also frighten the timid and accentuate the "Finlandization" of opinions, especially in Europe.

Conversely, emphasizing the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the Soviet empire is reassuring, but it is also demobilizing: what is the use of making new sacrifices to strengthen Western military forces if the Russians are losing anyway? In the extreme, the idea of backing the other superpower into a corner can give rise to feelings of understanding, even of sympathy, toward the Soviet Union, especially if one fears irrational or adventurist reactions on its part. From the point of view of a large segment of Western opinion, the idea of victory over the U.S.S.R., even in the name of democracy, can seem shocking, or at least less noble than that of coexistence, the cooperative compromise which should be sought among different members of the international system, including the "socialist system."

This contradiction gives a foretaste of the difficulties involved in carrying out Reagan's doctrine for East-West relations. No foreign policy is valid, no matter how well-founded its intentions, unless the economy of the country is strong enough to provide the means with which to implement it on the one hand, and unless it is supported by domestic and allied public opinion on the other. And it is here that the greatest obstacles have been encountered in the two main areas to which Reagan's policy has been applied: the arms race and East-West trade.


Reagan's arms program and the important budgetary sacrifices it implied were bound to encounter difficulties as long as the economic recovery had not been achieved and the deficit, therefore, could not be absorbed as the President had promised. The controversy in December 1982 in the House of Representatives over the financing of the first mobile land-based MX missiles was a strong sign that this problem could become acute in 1983. To be sure, the controversy on this weapons system is confusing because of disagreements over the basing mode of the missile, which overlap other considerations. In fact, the House did approve further research and development of the MX. But an important minority objects to the missile itself, considering that at the present stage land-based weapons are of doubtful value and not affordable at a time of economic difficulties. Stronger resistance to the more controversial portions of the strategic arms program announced in October 1981, such as the B-1 bomber, is also predictable.

But other obstacles result from what the Europeans-at least those who do not sympathize with the "peace movement" in Europe-call American "pacificism." An undoubtedly exaggerated term, considering that most proponents of a "freeze" on nuclear weapons, like the advocates of "no first use" of nuclear weapons, do not consider themselves pacifists. But opposition to military programs plays no less a role in the United States than does the pacifist movement in Europe.

While it is not within the scope of this article to examine the ramifications and internal components of the "pacifist" movement, it is important to judge the extent to which its blossoming in the spring of 1982 influenced international relations. Curiously, American "pacifism" did not reinforce European "pacifism" as much as one might have expected. The latter has seemed less active in 1982 than in 1981-awaiting perhaps a resurgence in 1983-for the simple reason that its motivations and objectives are far different from those of American "pacifism." The Europeans are concerned with the deployment in their countries of intermediate-range missiles (INF); American proponents of a nuclear freeze include these missiles in their proposals but do not seem inordinately preoccupied by the military imbalance in Europe.

On a broader level, they both have the pacifism of their fear. As opposed to the Americans, for whom the only real risk is that of nuclear war reaching their territory, and who therefore try above all to raise the nuclear threshold as high as possible (even if this diminishes the value of nuclear weapons in deterring peripheral conflicts), the Europeans seek to avoid both nuclear war and conventional war, destruction and invasion. European pacifists call not only for arms reduction, but also for a climate of peace, that is to say cooperation with the U.S.S.R. They are also anti-American, since the weapons they do not want deployed are American and are, in their eyes, imposed by Washington on an unwilling Europe. American pacifism is not anti-European, it is simply indifferent to Europe, as it is to the Soviet Union. Its arguments remain independent of the state of U.S.-Soviet relations and rest on the premise that "enough is enough."

On the other hand, the anti-military movement in the United States has had a direct effect on the conduct of the American and Soviet governments and on their relations with each other. Reagan's November 18, 1981, "zero option" proposal-dismantling of Soviet SS-20s, SS-4s and SS-5s in return for no deployment of U.S. cruise and Pershing II missiles-was already a response to the European peace movement, whose demonstrations, several weeks earlier, culminated in cries of "No Pershing, no SS-20" in most of the European capitals.

Similarly, his proposals, on May 9, 1982, for "deep cuts" in central strategic weapons were designed to pull the rug out from under the "freezers." While they spoke of leaving existing weapons in place, Reagan responded with a plan for radical reductions in the weapons arsenal. Nor have the Soviets been inactive on these proposals. Even before Andropov, in December, made his public proposals which responded, at least in part, to the demands of the peace movement in Europe and in the United States, Brezhnev had judged it possible to satisfy immediately the two major demands of American "dissent": the freeze was formally accepted by Brezhnev on May 18, 1982-and again endorsed by Andropov in December; and "no first use" of nuclear weapons was the subject of a solemn Soviet pledge before the U.N. General Assembly on June 15, a few weeks after former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and his friends first proposed the concept in these very pages.1

One must of course distinguish the concrete realities from the artifices of propaganda. But it has to be admitted that in this last area Reagan's "audacity" has given him a certain advantage. At a time when public opinion (at least in the West) weighs heavily on defense programs and when the use of simplistic and eloquent slogans is convenient and even necessary, the White House scored points with its "zero option" and "deep cuts." Changing the name of the SALT negotiations (for Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) to START (for Reduction instead of Limitation) was a clever move, even though engaging in these talks earlier-for example, together with the negotiations on intermediate nuclear forces, which started on November 30, 1981-instead of delaying them until June 30, 1982, would have been advisable. The Soviets, rather clumsily, seemed to oppose the new name and preferred a combination of both: they now talk of negotiations on the limitation and reduction of strategic arms.

In the event, the Kremlin was put on the defensive and had to take into account the new mood. Without accepting Reagan's "deep cuts" plan, it did not view it as a reason for breaking off talks, as the Soviets did when they rejected former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance's relatively more modest reduction proposal in March 1977. In their turn, they put forth an arms reduction proposal that, while more restricted than that of the White House and in fact similar to Vance's offer, was still a significant improvement over the numbers agreed upon in the SALT II accord. In the same way, the INF proposal publicized in Andropov's speech of December 21, 1982-which suggested a reduction of SS-20s to the level of the French and British nuclear forces in return for the cancellation of planned U.S. missile deployments in Europe-was a significant departure from the Soviets' previous attitude, when they claimed that the SS-20s were there only to counter American forward-based systems.

We will discuss later what could be done with those proposals, but it is useful to point out here, as a more general observation, the value of propaganda in any discussion on arms control. Its use should not be seen as secondary or dishonorable, if only because popular support is as necessary as hardware to a good defense. To be sure, the "propagandistic" approach is not encumbered by nuances. The Soviets quickly objected to Reagan's "zero option" because it did not take French and British capabilities into account, and to Reagan's START proposal because, as land-based intercontinental missiles-the foundation and strength of the Soviet triad-would be the first to be cut, it would require the U.S.S.R. to make the greatest sacrifices. However, simplifications cut both ways. There were many in the Pentagon, as well as civil and military leaders in Europe, who were leery of the "zero option" proposal and convinced that Pershing II and cruise missiles are needed for Europe's defense, even in the absence of the SS-20. Furthermore, the new sensitivity to public opinion obliged Reagan to stop his careless remarks about a "limited nuclear war" in Europe, and the Soviets to denounce, at least publicly, their officially stated doctrine of the 1960s regarding a "winnable" war.

Finally, one might point out that a greater effort by the Reagan Administration to move toward disarmament, even a campaign for "general and complete disarmament" similar to those mounted by the Russians in the past, would be as compatible with Reagan's "doctrine" as the rearmament program of today. If the Soviet leaders, having lost all their other cards, are left only with the military card to play, they will find themselves at a dead-end if such a posture were made impossible, either by an internationally verifiable accord or by American technology. But this time the avenue of external adventurism will also be closed off to them, to the benefit of all.


The balance sheet is far more negative in the second area to which the Reagan "doctrine" has been applied: East-West trade and relations with the allies. The two should be considered as tightly linked: the sanctions directed against Poland and the U.S.S.R. in December 1981, in the wake of General Jaruzelski's imposition of martial law, were irreproachable in themselves, even though they remained largely symbolic and omitted the only area, grain sales, in which they might have had a serious impact. Neither is it a question of justifying, a priori, the attitude of the Europeans, who, while often more indignant than Americans about the repression in Poland, have imposed sanctions of an even more symbolic nature while according massive credits to the U.S.S.R. for the construction of the Euro-Siberian gas pipeline.

What can be criticized was the way this issue was handled at and after the Versailles summit, a meeting that will certainly go down in history as the summit of misunderstandings and misconceptions. To be sure, the Europeans could not be surprised at American hostility toward their contracts with Moscow (this had been expressed to them at the previous summit of the Seven in Ottawa), nor at Washington's insistence on curtailing Europe's generous credit policy toward the communist nations.

All of this was not new, but the White House rushed to pocket as a European concession a general expression of intention which was very far from a formal agreement. French President François Mitterrand was quick to demand a more complete understanding involving all sorts of credits to the East-not only the government-guaranteed credits used far more by France than by other nations. And President Reagan seized this pretext for taking new measures which were in fact sanctions directed more against his allies than against the Soviet foe.

Reagan's decision of June 18, 1982, which extended the U.S. embargo on pipeline-related goods to include both subsidiaries of U.S. companies abroad and foreign companies working under American license, shocked all European governments alike, since it violated two fundamental principles of international law: non-extraterritoriality and non-retroactivity (the licensees could not have anticipated such a development when they signed their contracts). That the decision was reversed five months later in exchange for a very vague promise of an allied study of East-West trade indicates that it was ill-conceived, or at least that it raised problems far more serious than those it was intended to solve.

This episode is instructive in the degree to which it illustrates the weakness of taking an exaggeratedly doctrinaire approach to a problem as concrete as that of East-West trade. The whole world knew, in the first months of 1982, that the official justification for the Reagan Administration's tougher stance on East-West trade, the coup in Poland, was nothing but a pretext. As has been pointed out, the Administration's hostility toward the pipeline project, as well as its desire to end the liberal extension of credit to the Soviet Union, had been demonstrated long before the events in Poland. And, behind these two perennial goals, the main elements of the Reagan philosophy were clearly evident: at a point when the Soviet economy was badly weakened by internal paralysis, the country's external commitments, and the weight of the arms race being conducted by its leaders, it was an opportune moment to aggravate this weakness by denying the U.S.S.R. the technology it needs to build its military apparatus, the means by which it pays for this technology, and the credits which allow it to await an economic recovery. It was no longer a question of punishing Moscow for this or that aggression, but of applying global and strategic pressure intended to destabilize the entire Soviet system.

Even if this objective has not been officially stated, this is how it has been perceived, and probably accurately, by most of the European governments. And it is hardly a coincidence that the Reagan Administration's arguments against the pipeline changed from 1981 to 1982. Rather than insisting, as it did in the beginning, that the Europeans risked becoming dependent on the U.S.S.R. for their energy supplies, it began to argue that the important hard currency derived from the sale of gas would alleviate the Soviets' economic problems. This was intended to differentiate the purchase of gas from the sale of American grain, which would drain Moscow's foreign currency reserves. But it was also an admission that the aim of this policy was less the welfare of the allies than the damage to the enemy, that economic war was more important than sanctions.

This policy ran counter, in many ways, to the interests and philosophies of America's European and Japanese allies. It reversed the previous American position, a position that ten years earlier had been so eloquently defended by former President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, and according to which trade with the East would induce moderate behavior on the part of the U.S.S.R. and foment reform at the very heart of the Soviet system. Whether or not the Europeans believed in these ambitious goals, the fact is that they did benefit from this encouragement to develop their trade with the East throughout the 1970s. They were not about to renounce these benefits simply because Washington had reversed its policy. And, anyway, who could predict what the next President would say?

In the second place, Washington was setting a very bad example by its grain sales. Because of those sales, American exports to the Soviet Union had increased by 58 percent in the first quarter of 1982, compared to the first quarter of 1981, while French sales to Moscow had fallen by 25 percent-and German sales by 20 percent-during the same period of time.2 Ronald Reagan went even so far as to promise, on October 15, the delivery of 23 million tons of grain: an amount which exceeded the projections of the 1975 grain agreement and is larger than any single previous commitment made by any American President. Besides, if the allies were contributing to the solution of one of the Soviets' economic difficulties by the currency they provided Moscow for its gas, the Americans were alleviating, not just in the long run but immediately, a grave problem facing the Soviet leadership, that of food supplies, the political nature of which has been underlined by both Brezhnev and his successor, Yuri Andropov.

Finally, the Polish people themselves appeared divided on the issue of American sanctions. If certain dissidents, notably Soviet ones, consider trade sanctions as a moral obligation of the West, Pope John Paul II made it clear, on February 19, 1982, that he did not approve of Reagan's actions.

In fact, the different theories advanced for or against East-West trade need to be reconsidered in the light of present circumstances. The utopian theories of trade as a "weapon of peace" were questionable from the start, as there is nothing to ensure that the material advantages of economic cooperation would not be eclipsed in the minds of political leaders-and all the more so in the dictatorships-by the more attractive charms of the prerogatives of power and domination. After all, trade rarely flourished between France and Germany as it did in 1914, or between Germany and Russia as it did in 1941, two years which saw the outbreak of war between these countries. And the international crises and the arms race of the 1970s have amply demonstrated that détente and economic exchanges between East and West did not change the familiar pattern.

But if trade is not "a weapon of peace," neither is it a weapon of war. For one thing, to use it as such violates the principles of political and economic neutrality which constitute its only valid foundations: there will always be some country which will break the rules so laboriously laid down. Above all, the idea of using supplier-client relationships for political ends (whether for "rewards" or "punishment") operates on the false premise that it is the client (especially a poor or backward client such as the U.S.S.R.) that is the supplicant. In fact this dependence is not even shared equally by supplier and client. In the current economic crisis of the West, it runs much more to the detriment of the supplier, and, conversely, has less impact on a purchaser organized as is the Soviet Union. Even the fact that the client must receive credits in order to make purchases does little to change this situation.

There is no doubt that trade with the East represents only a small part-never more than five percent-of the international commerce of the major Western industrial powers and Japan. But, at a time when unemployment is the major preoccupation of most European governments, when the loss of a few dozen jobs often creates serious political problems on a local level, this trade represents an important margin in maintaining economic stability. At a certain point, receiving payment becomes almost of secondary importance, which explains the willingness of suppliers to extend credits and Moscow's adamant stance on the issue of interest rates (the U.S.S.R. has, for instance, suspended almost all its orders for equipment from France since she conformed to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's "consensus" to hold guaranteed interest rates above ten percent). Coordination on credit rates and availability is certainly desirable, as is a tightening of control on high technology exports. Some progress was achieved in 1982 in this last area in the framework of the COCOM, the Paris-based allied coordination group for "sensitive" trade with the East, although most European governments are not willing to go as far as the Americans would like.

The whole issue seems, however, to be less acute at the beginning of 1983. Secretary of State Alexander Haig had to leave the Administration in June 1982, for being too moderate-and too "pro-European"-in this area, but his successor, Secretary George Shultz, seems to follow the same policy with even more moderation and tact. In fact, the cease-fire which was concluded during Shultz's visit to Europe in December 1982 was not a real agreement, and relied mainly on the willingness of the Reagan Administration to withdraw some of its extreme demands of the previous months. Should such demands be reiterated, tensions would rise again. And it remains unrealistic to hope that Washington's allies-and commercial competitors-could adopt a unified and global policy for East-West relations, and even more so to think that they could rally to anything resembling economic war against Moscow.


The 1982 succession in the Kremlin is bound to test Western policies toward the U.S.S.R., but it is likely to test even further Soviet policies toward the United States. It will not, of course, be a question of fundamental changes: the Soviets have no reason to abandon existing objectives of consolidating power in Eurasia, dividing the United States from its allies, and profiting as best they can from any crisis occurring in the Third World. But the death of a head of state can result in a modification of tactics, and it may offer a good opportunity to straighten out unsolved problems and back out of the more obvious dead ends to which previous policies have led.

Stalin's death allowed his successors-despite their disputes on domestic issues-to end their involvement in the Korean and Indochinese wars, to sign the Austrian Treaty and to become reconciled with Tito, to evacuate their troops from China and later from Romania. In the same way, Brezhnev's accession to power was accompanied by an official repudiation of his predecessor's challenge over Berlin-and this well before former chancellor Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik permitted "normal" relations between the two Germanies and recognition of the German Democratic Republic.

Will the same pattern occur this time with respect to the costly and uncertain engagement in Afghanistan that resulted from Brezhnev's policies? It is still too early to tell. A long article in Pravda on December 16, 1982, made the usual accusations of Western interference in the conflict, and reaffirmed the "irrevocable" nature of the Afghan revolution, but also spoke of a need for policy adjustments and gave favorable consideration to the negotiations begun in Geneva under the auspices of the United Nations between the Kabul regime and Pakistan. Later, there was a toughening of the tone, and on December 31, TASS reaffirmed Moscow's intention to "fulfill up to the end its internationalist duty" toward what it called the "legal government" of Kabul. At the same time, the Soviet military position in Afghanistan has clearly deteriorated in 1982 despite a slight reinforcement of its contingent. And it is hard to see how a disengagement could take place without an immediate further weakening of the Kabul regime, given the determination of the Afghan resistance.

As a whole, Moscow's diplomatic balance sheet was clearly less favorable, at the end of 1982, than it had been some years earlier, in 1979, for example. From its vantage point, in addition to the rise of the "peace movement" in Europe and in America, which has been described earlier, only two bright spots could be seen:

-In Poland, after the turmoil of the previous 18 months, the "normalization" introduced by the military takeover of General Jaruzelski on December 13, 1981, was a real success. To be sure, the unwillingness of the Polish population to cooperate with its new rulers, the continuing chaos in the economic situation and the bad image of the Jaruzelski regime in the world are enormous weaknesses. But Moscow could not hope for better in the first year of the suppression of the Solidarity movement. It has to cope in any event in most East European states and in the U.S.S.R. itself with a passive and demoralized population, unwilling to make sacrifices for the cause of "socialism." What matters is that the Soviet leaders, from December 1981 on, were spared the need for direct intervention in Poland by the Red Army, with all the catastrophic consequences such an event would have had, and could rely on an effective and repressive government in Warsaw, willing at last to impose on Poland law and order, Moscow style. Furthermore, the role assumed by the Polish church in calming down the dissenters and avoiding any violent resistance confirmed to the rulers in Warsaw, as in Moscow, that they were on the right track. It gave them legitimate reason to hope that the population as a whole will come to accept a fait accompli.

-Another bright spot in the balance sheet was the rapprochement with communist China. Starting in March 1982, with a speech by Brezhnev in Tashkent expressing Moscow's good will and the need for talks, the move was not, in fact, a shift in Soviet policy. Since the very beginning of the feud between the two communist great powers in the early 1960s, Moscow has been posturing as the aggrieved party, compelled to rebuff the propaganda campaigns of Beijing against Soviet "hegemonism," but willing to discuss ways of reducing tensions as soon as more favorable Chinese behavior manifested itself (as was the case in 1964 after Khrushchev's departure and in 1969 after the violent clashes along the Ussuri River). When such a mood again appeared in China at the beginning of 1982, Brezhnev did not hesitate to welcome this overture, all the more so when it was confirmed by a decrease in Chinese propaganda against Russia, by the renewal of talks on bilateral relations in the fall, and, later, by the presence of the Chinese foreign minister at Brezhnev's funeral.

To be sure, the situation worsened again in the following weeks, when it appeared that the new Soviet leadership, like the old one, was not ready to make concessions on Kampuchea, the most sensitive issue for the Chinese, and even less to impose a new line on its Vietnamese ally. But the trend toward normalization of Soviet-Chinese relations is here to stay. Confronted with this evolution, Washington decided, correctly, to put on a good face as its contribution to the relaxation of international tensions. Yet the prospect, however remote, of a real rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing, perhaps even moving so far as to reconstitute a common front on certain international issues, is something to worry about for any Western government. But one must question whether a more positive approach by the Reagan Administration toward China's problems, and a little less concern for Taiwan and its military hardware, might not have prevented, or at least impeded, the Sino-Soviet rapprochement. A wise East-West policy should give primary consideration to national interests over ideological considerations, but it also requires a better knowledge of one's partners and an awareness of the diversity within the communist world.

While there were bright spots at the end of the Brezhnev era, there were also some serious setbacks for the Soviet Union in the international situation. Aside from the stalemate in Afghanistan, these were:

-The consequences of Soviet inaction during the Lebanese war, notably the deterioration of Moscow's relations with the Arab world in general, and with Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in particular. To be sure, this Soviet inaction was neither unexpected nor incomprehensible. Moscow had no reason to pretend to be "more Arab than the Arabs." Given the inaction-if not the hidden Schadenfreude-of most Arab nations before the discomfiture of the PLO, there was no reason for Moscow to engage in a policy of confrontation with Israel and the United States in a highly unfavorable military environment. The Soviet Union was probably ready to keep its commitments to Damascus, but only to defend the territorial integrity of Syria proper, not to help it retain its conquests in Lebanon, a country Moscow has always considered as within the Western sphere of influence. But the obvious impotence of Soviet policy during the long weeks of the war did hurt Moscow's image, which will have unfavorable consequences for Soviet policy in the Middle East in the months to come.

-A second setback was the poor showing of Soviet military hardware in the hands of the Syrian military. Here the damage is more far-reaching: various Third World nations seem to have taken this failure into account before turning to new arms suppliers, and Soviet political influence may suffer from this evolution. More generally, the scope of the American military buildup and Western advances in weapons technology confronted the U.S.S.R.'s politico-military establishment with new challenges, adding to the perceptible demoralization in Moscow during this last, interminable year of Brezhnev's rule.

Brezhnev's last speech, before the Red Army commanders on October 27, bore traces of this demoralization. "Russia declares détente with the U.S. is dead," the British newspaper, The Guardian, could headline on October 30. In fact, Moscow seemed resigned to waiting for a more favorable attitude in Washington, and to trying, in the meantime, to stay ahead in an arms race imposed upon it by the United States. It was no coincidence that this last speech ignored earlier proposals for conciliation or arms control: there was no mention of agreements for "no first use" of nuclear weapons, or an arms freeze, or, more generally, of the arms control negotiations in Geneva; Brezhnev even indirectly retracted his announcement of March 16, 1982, of a unilateral suspension of the deployment of SS-20 missiles in the western U.S.S.R.3

This pessimistic and disillusioned tone disappeared after Brezhnev's death. On the contrary, Yuri Andropov's first speeches, supported by those of Nikolai Tikhonov, Chairman of the Council of Ministers, took care to affirm that détente "is not dead." Even if the word "détente" has an obviously different meaning for them than it does for its Western adherents, it was assurance of a desire, despite discords and polemics, for a renewed East-West dialogue. Reagan's weapons programs were necessarily denounced, but the confidence-building measures suggested by the American President (improvement of the hot line, prenotification of missile test firings, etc.) were favorably received by the Party General Secretary himself.

These auspicious attitudes remain to be confirmed, all the more so as the Soviet military, having supported Andropov as head of the Party (over Constantin Chernenko, who was by all accounts Brezhnev's own choice of successor), was quick to let him know that its views would have to be taken into account. In a comment attributed to "Soviet military circles," the news agency, Novosti, let it be known that Moscow would respond to the deployment of Pershing missiles with a posture of "launch on warning"-a position obviously intended to frighten the Europeans, but one which American military leaders have always refused to adopt. And on December 6, Marshal Ustinov stated that the Red Army would match the MX with a new missile "of the same class and character," although Pravda had suggested the reverse several days earlier.4

Ronald Reagan and his team have thus far reacted sensibly to the changes in the U.S.S.R. Despite the urgings of several American newspapers, the President wisely abstained from attending Brezhnev's funeral in Moscow, where his presence would probably have embarrassed the Soviet leadership. His visit to the Soviet embassy in Washington and Vice President Bush's representation in Moscow were sufficient indications of his willingness to engage in a dialogue with the U.S.S.R. In the same vein, the discretion with which Washington seems to have handled the Italian government's embarrassing revelations of the "Bulgarian connection" with the attempted assassination of the Pope-which could have been a sort of "Sofiagate" for Andropov-was probably appreciated in Moscow, the Soviet media's inevitable counterattacks against the turpitudes of the Central Intelligence Agency notwithstanding. The lifting of the economic sanctions on trade affecting the Euro-Siberian gas pipeline-coinciding as it did with Solidarity's Lech Walesa's liberation and Brezhnev's death-could also have been seen as an indirect gesture toward Moscow.

Finally, Reagan wisely decided not to let himself be pushed into a corner where Moscow could regularly propose more or less new "peace initiatives" and he would appear the villain by refusing those "overtures." His willingness, expressed at the beginning of January, to have a summit meeting with Andropov and even to talk about such a worn-out suggestion as a nonaggression pact between the two military blocs (an old Soviet idea put forth once again at the Warsaw Pact summit meeting in Prague on January 5, 1983) has to be explained in this light.

It is difficult to go much further in the initial phase of the Soviet succession and to act as if the simple fact of Brezhnev's disappearance calls for new initiatives from Washington (which is pretty much what Georgi Arbatov, principal Soviet spokesman to the American academic community, has suggested). This said, the opportunity should be seized to reopen the books in anticipation of initiatives that might be taken by a Soviet leadership that is visibly less conservative and rigid, more subtle and more sophisticated than the previous one, and from which one must expect greater mastery of all the techniques of international relations: official and secret diplomacy, pressure and seduction, propaganda and "disinformation," demonstrations of force and "campaigns for peace."

But for this very reason, there will have to be a quiet reassessment of the main issues under discussion in order to be ready to make the proper moves when the time comes, and to anticipate the other party's moves. This will be particularly true in two areas of negotiation.


As regards the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START), progress is both necessary and possible in the months to come. The fact that Moscow has accepted the idea of important cuts in its arsenal is already progress, compared to its rigid stance of the late 1970s. It should be possible to strike a compromise between the 50-percent cut suggested by President Reagan and the 25-percent cut proposed by his Soviet counterpart. The United States will have to accept, nevertheless, an early discussion of its strategic bombers and of its growing arsenal of cruise missiles, while Moscow will have to make concessions in the area of its intercontinental ballistic missiles. Here the pressure of public opinion might be constructive; the more so since the idea of "deep cuts" should have much more popular appeal than a mere "freeze."

More imagination will be needed in the talks on intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF). Given the state of public opinion in the German Federal Republic, Great Britain and, of course, the "Scandilux" countries, the Reagan Administration will have more and more difficulty in maintaining its original version of the "zero option," especially when new and even more attractive Soviet proposals will be made.

There is no question but that Andropov's proposals of December 21 created a new situation by changing traditional Soviet positions on three issues: (a) Moscow now accepts the American position, as far as procedure is concerned, of putting into different baskets the various weapons systems in Europe-missiles on the one hand, aircraft on the other; (b) the whole rationale for the SS-20 deployment has been changed: for many years Moscow stated that those weapons were needed to counter U.S. forward-based systems; now they are there only as a counterpart to French and British missiles; (c) finally, the Soviet Union accepts the idea of reducing the SS-20 stockpile itself, not just as part of a bargain to remove the older SS-4s and SS-5s, which were to be dismantled anyway. We cannot exclude as a further step-for example, after the March elections in West Germany-a unilateral gesture by Moscow: the Soviet leadership might announce that it has already reduced its SS-20 arsenal to 162 launchers in Europe, pending an agreement in Geneva or the deployment of the American missiles in Europe.

To be sure, the December proposals of the Soviets cannot be accepted at face value. France and the United Kingdom have rightly stated that their forces-conceived from the beginning as mere deterrents against external aggression-cannot be weighed on the same scales as the SS-20, a weapons system which was built in addition to other Soviet nuclear weapons and which clearly has a coercive value. Furthermore, it is questionable whether or not submarine-launched missiles (SLBMs)-which are the main bulk of the British and French deterrent forces-should be put in the same basket with ground-launched mobile missiles such as the SS-20, the more so since the Soviet Union already has a huge arsenal of SLBMs.

But the pressure for compromise will be growing in Europe as the talks proceed toward the December 1983 deadline for the deployment of U.S. missiles in Europe. For the most active members of the "peace movement" any compromise would be preferable to any deployment of these missiles. A quite different type of compromise would be one in which a reduced deployment of NATO missiles would compensate for a reduction of the SS-20 arsenal.

The first approach would mean that the Soviets would come away with some 100 or so SS-20s (and perhaps many more in Siberia targeted on China and Japan) while NATO would drop its plans for deployment. That would mean a clear victory for the Soviets and a far-reaching defeat for the Western Alliance. The second approach could lead to a more satisfactory balance of power in Europe at a reduced level of armament. But to achieve such a result, some suggestions should be considered. It will be difficult to resist Moscow's demand, already supported by a few political leaders in Germany and other European countries, to include French and British nuclear forces in the discussions on arms control. But instead of dealing with those forces in the INF talks, it would be logical to include them in the START ceilings as part of the SLBM "Western" contingent, where they rightly belong (even if London and Paris do not officially acknowledge this fact).

Some concessions might be held in reserve to deal with the Pershing missile, as opposed to the ground-launched cruise missile. While 464 of the latter are to be deployed, the Soviets are concentrating their attacks on the 108 Pershings, arguing that its six-minute flight time puts them in a dramatically grave situation. It might not be too difficult for NATO to reduce the number of Pershings and to put more emphasis on the cruise missile, a low-flying, typically second-strike weapon.

Finally, President Reagan's "zero option" would be more palatable if the United States included in its part of the bargain some of the shorter-range nuclear weapons which constitute their forward-based systems in Europe. Many of those weapons are obsolete, and the new concept of warfare in Europe, actively promoted by NATO commander General Bernard Rogers, in favor of raising the nuclear threshold and using highly accurate conventional weapons against targets deep in the rear of the Soviet bloc, makes those weapons even less useful in the future. This is an area where concessions could be made with relative ease in Geneva.

In retrospect, when NATO made its "double-track" decision in December 1979 to deploy intermediate-range missiles if arms control talks with Moscow failed, the West should have anticipated that this move would create new tensions in Europe, raise the danger of new Russian pressures and create political difficulties in many European countries. The excessive delay between the decision and its execution played an important role in creating these conditions, but that is all the more reason now to manage the new situation with care and determination. After all, NATO has already obtained from the Soviet Union concessions on the SS-20 program. It is, therefore, not unreasonable to believe that an agreement is still possible. This will be the main task for 1983, a test of the vision and will of the West, but also a chance to explore the possibility of conducting a balanced and reasonable foreign policy with a new Soviet leadership.

1 McGeorge Bundy et al., "Nuclear Weapons and the Atlantic Alliance," Foreign Affairs, Spring 1982.

2 See the speech of Claude Cheysson, French Foreign Minister, before the French National Assembly, July 6, 1982.

3 In effect, Brezhnev said that American preparations for deployment of intermediate-range nuclear forces in Western Europe had already begun. In announcing his moratorium, March 16, the Soviet leader had specified that it would be valid only so long as the West had not taken such steps.

4 "The Soviet Union does not intend to engage in a race with the U.S. in the creation of each new weapons system, to imitate them," wrote Pravda in an anonymous editorial, November 25, 1982. Nevertheless, Yuri Andropov had to rally to the views of his minister of defense when Marshal Ustinov announced, December 21, that Moscow will respond to the MX "by a similar rocket of our own." This position is even more surprising, as the U.S.S.R. already has, in the SS-18, a missile twice as powerful as the MX, which needs only improved precision.



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  • Michel Tatu is an editorial writer for Le Monde in Paris, and has been its correspondent in Moscow and Washington. He is the author of Power in the Kremlin and Le Triangle: Washington-Moscou-Pékin et les deux Europes, among other works.
  • More By Michel Tatu