Courtesy Reuters

U.S.-Soviet Relations: The Return of Arms Control

On November 23, 1983, the Soviet Union walked out of the intermediate-range nuclear force negotiations in Geneva and shortly thereafter suspended the strategic arms talks, thus closing down all U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms control negotiations.

For the next 12 months U.S.-Soviet relations were frozen. From Moscow, for years the self-proclaimed champion of détente and arms control talks, there was a flood of angry and hostile anti-American rhetoric, vows not to resume negotiations unless the United States withdrew its missiles from Europe, and cries of alarm about the growing danger of nuclear war. From an Administration in Washington that had taken office parading Soviet misdeeds and warning against the opiate of arms control, there was a steady stream of conciliatory gestures toward Moscow and assurances that the world was now a safer place thanks to the rebuilding of American strength.

But 1984 also proved to be a year of transition. After years of talking past each other for the benefit of Western public opinion, the two sides finally began, toward the end of the year, to probe and explore in earnest the possibility of dealing with each other again as serious negotiating partners.

In November, the resounding reelection of President Ronald Reagan and the apparent stabilization of Konstantin Chernenko’s leadership in Moscow set the stage for resumed negotiations. Precisely one year after the breakdown of the Geneva talks, Washington and Moscow simultaneously announced that U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko would meet in Geneva on January 7, 1985, in an effort to reach a common understanding on the subject and aims of "new negotiations" on the whole range of questions concerning nuclear and space weapons. On January 8, 1985, after two days of intense discussions, they agreed to resume formal negotiations on the basis of a new framework. A crucial branch point in the evolution of U.S.-Soviet relations had been reached.

A new phase seems almost certain to lie ahead in 1985, but there is

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