An important element in recent European criticism of U.S. foreign policy is the claim that neither the Administration nor its critics has presented a coherent strategy for the decade of the 1980s. Responsible Europeans suggest that American statements on foreign policy have stressed the value of good personal relations, the importance of goodwill, and the desirability of shared aims, but have offered little in the way of practical guidelines as to how we should deal with the growing power of the Soviet Union. These critics ascribe the erratic nature of U.S. policy to the lack of a sound strategic concept. They are not, however, much happier on this score with the Administration's domestic critics than with the Administration.

It is timely, therefore, to outline an approach to a more coherent Western strategy. By way of introduction, I offer some comments on basic concepts, on the evolution of the correlation of forces, and on Soviet strategy.


Clausewitz uses the word "strategy" to describe an approach to war which links the outcomes of a number of military engagements in space and in time. Its object is to achieve a favorable overall position in which your opponent has no remaining courses of action open to him reasonably likely to reverse the course of the war. He must, therefore, accommodate to your side's political will.

Since Clausewitz's time, much thought has gone into expanding his concept into something broader than military strategy, often called "grand strategy," in which all factors bearing on the evolving situation-including economic, political and psychological factors as well as military-are taken into account over long periods of time, including times both of peace and of war. The Soviet leaders are careful students of Clausewitz and his successors and pay much attention to questions of doctrine, policy, strategy and tactics. Doctrine includes principles that are virtually unchanging over time, such as the primacy of the Communist Party over the state, the high importance of maintaining the security of the Soviet Union as the base of the Soviet Communist Party's power, the historical inevitability of progress toward world communism, and the Party's duty to assist that progress by exploiting class tensions and the tensions resulting from colonialism.

Policy deals more specifically with what should be the general aims and lines of action in a given era and thus changes somewhat over time depending on basic changes in the world situation. The Soviets view strategy as being considerably more flexible and fluid, the better to capitalize on new opportunities for exploitation as they may arise.

One of the basic Soviet guidelines for action is that there must be a careful and continuously updated appraisal of what they call the correlation of forces. When the correlation of forces has evolved significantly in the Soviets' favor, their doctrine calls upon them to exploit that change to nail down permanent gains for their side. Having once achieved what they intend to be a permanent gain, the Brezhnev Doctrine, in effect, calls on them to defend the permanence of that gain with Soviet armed forces, if necessary. In the correlation of forces, they include the political, psychological and economic factors bearing on the situation, as well as the military factors, but the balance in military factors plays a particular and fundamental role in their appraisal. In assessing the military balance, they examine all its components concurrently-ground, air, and sea, nuclear and non-nuclear-in all potential theaters.

Nothing about the Soviet approach is particularly surprising. It is, however, different from the U.S. approach or that of any other non-Soviet regime. It is unique in its demand for ideological purity and discipline within the Party, the primacy of the Party over the state, in its opposition to all potential centers of power and influence the Soviets do not control, and the subordination of all other goals or principles to the security and expanding influence of the Soviets' own group and the groups which they do control.


How has the correlation of forces evolved since the period immediately following the end of World War II?

It was in the economic field that the United States' position, after World War II, was clearly dominant. We capitalized upon this economic strength by initiating the Marshall Plan and building a strong international economic structure which included the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, GATT (the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), and the technical assistance program known as Point Four. These helped in the building of a political structure strong enough to assure for many years the political containment of Soviet expansionism.

Even today, the strength of the economic position of the so-called Western nations represented in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (principally the United States, the nations of Western Europe, and Japan) is four times that of the U.S.S.R. and its associates, if measured in terms of the aggregate of their gross national products. In combination, their economies provide a strong and flexible structure, which has been able to cope with the enormous increase in payments to the Persian Gulf oil-producing nations over the last six years-but at the cost of serious inflation and growing imbalances in the flows of earnings, of payments, and of debts between member nations, and reduced growth with accompanying political strain. The temptation for individual nations to adopt selfish competitive policies is constantly growing.

Similarly, the economic progress of the developing countries, never adequate, has been retarded, and a special problem is now presented by the net borrowing requirements of the non-oil producing developing countries, which will amount to over $50 billion in 1980 and may exceed that amount in 1981. These deficiencies have been met to a major extent by the Western private banking system, but there is grave question as to how long individual banks will carry the increasing risks involved. The result is to increase the difficulties of the developing countries and their vulnerability to external threats.

The Soviet-controlled group of states, what the Soviets call the "camp of peace and freedom," also has serious problems, but their system is already tightly managed from the center. Their economies are less productive but may be better able to weather a storm.

A key to economics, however, is politics, both domestic and foreign. Politics are affected by many things, including swings in public attitudes and therefore by propaganda, by the spread or atrophy of ideologies, by changes in class structure, and by the impact of events reflecting changes in the world power structure.

In the world political arena the influence of the United States has diminished. All is not roses for the U.S.S.R., either. Fear of Soviet expansionism has been latent in the world ever since the Winter War against Finland in 1940. During the long period of the so-called cold war, from 1947 to 1970, Soviet expansionism was contained and the world breathed somewhat more easily. Many governments felt it was safe to make tactical gains through indiscriminate attacks on the United States. Over the last few years, many have begun to see again that the real danger to their security and integrity comes from the U.S.S.R. and that a weakened United States adds to their danger. Furthermore, the Soviet version of communist ideology appeals to far fewer, particularly among the young, than it once did.

What can be said about the evolution of the military strategic position of the United States? Ever since the end of World War II it has been U.S. policy to support the independence of Western Europe and Japan from Soviet control. It was also early recognized that the security of the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa could have a bearing on the security of Europe, of East Asia, and of the United States as well. This being the case, it was important to defend as close to the perimeter of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies as feasible.

At all times since World War II, the Soviet side has had potential superiority in the capability of the conventionally armed forces which could be brought to bear on that perimeter. The United States, however, had superior force projection capabilities supported by a superior navy and a worldwide base and logistics structure. This gave it the ability to reinforce at any point on the perimeter. We also had, for a time, a nuclear monopoly. The potential military effectiveness of nuclear weapons, which were for many years very few in number, may have been largely exaggerated in the public mind. Nevertheless, these weapons did contribute to the West's strategic posture.

Subsequently, when the Soviets had developed a nuclear capability of their own, they demonstrated by the surprise attack by North Korea against South Korea that they were prepared actually to use military power under their control in support of their political aims. As a result, it became necessary for the United States greatly to increase its military defense effort. We did so beginning in 1950, rapidly increasing our defense expenditures from $12.5 billion to $40 billion per year (in 1950 dollars). We and our allies strengthened our conventional forces, including the power of our naval forces, added a substantial number of theater nuclear systems, and completely rebuilt our intercontinental nuclear forces. As a result, we were able to continue the containment of Soviet military expansionism for another two decades.

It was in 1968, 1969 and 1970, as a result of the setbacks and frustrations of the Vietnam War, that many came to the conclusion that such efforts at containment beyond NATO and Japan were not worth the cost and that we were perhaps carrying too great a share of the burden even with respect to Europe and Japan. The European members of NATO, and Japan, Korea and Taiwan, had prospered beyond all expectation. Could not they bear a greater share of the burden? Mainland China had broken with Moscow. Didn't that significantly alter the strategic balance in favor of the West? Wasn't there hope that détente with the Soviet Union would alleviate tensions worldwide and reduce the possibility of serious crises between the two countries?

The developments leading to and following the Middle East crisis of 1973 demonstrated that these hopes were not well founded. The Soviet Union had a major role in encouraging the surprise attack on Israel and the subsequent OPEC oil squeeze. Despite the European and Japanese economic strength they could bring little positive contribution to containing the crisis. The principal burden fell on the United States.

The subsequent events in Cambodia, Laos, Somalia, Ethiopia, Angola, South Yemen, and Zaïre, though not all to Soviet advantage, gave evidence of Soviet determination (with the aid of Cuban and other proxies) to expand the sway of Soviet influence across Africa and the routes of access to the Persian Gulf. The revolution in Iran, and later seizure of U.S. hostages, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan demonstrated much more convincingly the depth and extent of the problem.

As the 1970s came to a close, there was wide recognition that the hopes of the early portion of the decade had been disappointed. Even though the West had rejected hostility to the Soviet Union, had reduced its military programs, and had sought to alleviate East-West issues while pursuing a constructive approach to North-South issues, Soviet expansionism continued, and Soviet leaders began to state with growing confidence that the correlation of forces had shifted in their favor. The question now to be answered is: How should we cope with the challenges of the coming decade? What are those challenges likely to be?


Soviet strategic ideas are worked out in the Politburo and its subsidiary committees. No one in the West has access to those deliberations. The Soviet system lends itself to effective secrecy. But the Soviet system is not wholly silent. The word must be gotten down to the cadres and to the troops. There is a high degree of continuity and persistence in their strategic approach. It therefore is not a useless exercise to try to judge what the main elements of that approach may be.

Let me outline some of the main Soviet strategic objectives for the 1980s. I would put high on the list the political separation of NATO Europe from the United States. A second aim is to increase Soviet influence and control over the Persian Gulf. A third is the encirclement and neutralization of China. A fourth is to stimulate trouble for the United States in the Western Hemisphere, particularly in the Caribbean. A fifth is the ability to deal successfully with the contingency of a direct Soviet military confrontation with Western military forces. A sixth is to build the image of the Soviet regime as a responsible, legitimate, peace-loving participant in the international community.

Each one of these aims warrants a separate Soviet strategy for its support. All six strategies are interrelated and mutually supportive.

Looking at the NATO European scene, I should think the Soviet side would judge West Germany, closely followed by France, to be the states on which to concentrate. They are the key states economically, militarily, and politically. Without them, NATO Europe is capable of nothing.

West Germany, in the Soviet view, could be particularly vulnerable to a carrot-and-stick approach. The Federal Republic's economy depends on exports, on raw material imports (particularly energy-oil and natural gas), and on its earnings from overseas investments. A significant portion of its exports go to the Warsaw Pact countries. Much of its natural gas comes from Russia, and most of its oil from the Middle East. West German banks have made extensive loans to the Warsaw Pact countries and to countries in the Middle East or immediately adjacent to it, such as Turkey. Much of the Warsaw Pact's military power is poised as a direct threat to NATO's central front in Germany.

Given these West German vulnerabilities, what carrots might the Kremlin hold out to Bonn? The Kremlin can offer to continue and to expand its deliveries of natural gas. The Warsaw Pact countries can continue to service their debt obligations. The German Democratic Republic can expand permitted contacts between its citizens and those of the Federal Republic. The Soviet Union can offer unilaterally to place limits on its and the Warsaw Pact's military buildup facing Germany.

Each of these factors has been evident for some time. What may be less recognized is the now-emerging possibility that the Soviet Union may offer to join West Germany and France in joint negotiations with Persian Gulf suppliers for long-term oil-purchase contracts in adequate volume and at stable prices. Already the Soviet Union and the East European countries can use Middle East oil, and most estimates conclude that this need is likely to increase. Thus, the Soviet Union can urge a common interest with West Germany and France in securing oil purchase contracts on favorable terms. Such contracts would tend to be at the expense of those countries not covered. Fear of Soviet pressure can already be seen in the actions of certain of the Persian Gulf countries. It might therefore not be unrealistic on the part of West Germany and France to see advantages in negotiating in partnership with the Soviet Union rather than as an opponent. Whether or not the Germans and the French agree to such a negotiation, the very suggestion thereof can cause misunderstanding between them and the United States and serve the purpose of weakening the links between them.

If the above are important carrots the Soviet Union can offer to the Germans and the French, the stick would be the implied or actual threat to do the reverse of all those things, and in particular to use its power in the Persian Gulf area in a manner inimical to West European interests.

The Russian ambition to have direct access to the Gulf goes back some 200 years. Stalin renewed that aim. Immediately after World War II the West's initial confrontation with the Soviet Union was over the Iranian province of Azerbaijan. For the last 20 years much of Soviet foreign policy has been devoted to increasing its influence in the area-acquiring access, overflight, base or treaty rights from African and Middle Eastern states whose geographic position bears upon Soviet or U.S. access to the Persian Gulf area by land, air or sea. The thrust into Afghanistan advances the Soviet base structure by 500 miles so as to outflank Iran and bear directly on the Arabian Sea. Soviet strategy exploits the fears caused by a realization of Soviet military preponderance in the area, political tensions between the Arab states and Israel and between feudal regimes or narrowly based successor regimes and other groups desiring themselves to monopolize power, and every possibility that presents itself for disliking the United States. The so-called militant students who seized the American hostages have acted in a manner which appears to be competently controlled and directed. The official and clandestine broadcasts from Soviet soil have encouraged and urged them on. From photographs it can be seen that some are beyond normal student age. It is said that some have been identified with the Moscow-oriented Tudeh Party. Regardless of the extent of Soviet control, their activities, and the U.S. reaction which they stimulate, serve to poison U.S.-Iranian relations.

Military or political domination of the Persian Gulf states would not only dramatically support the Kremlin's European strategy but also the Kremlin's third strategy, the encirclement of China. That strategy concerns Pakistan, India, Southeast Asia, Japan and Korea.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the movement of over a million Afghan refugees into Pakistan increase both the immediacy and power of the military threat to Pakistan and provide an opportunity and excuse to provoke and exploit tribal differences and incidents. It is quite evident that Pakistan's rulers have understood the message: they have transferred their most highly regarded ambassador from Washington to Moscow, and have rejected the U.S. offer of military assistance, at least in the absence of a firm U.S. security commitment. As the situation stands, Pakistan apparently is relying on its ties to Islamic and nonaligned nations to deter direct Soviet military pressure.

India many years ago adopted a position of neutrality. Mrs. Gandhi now appears to have moved closer to collaboration with the Soviet Union and away from the West. In any case, the relations between India and China have long been strained.

In Southeast Asia the military success of the North Vietnamese, with Soviet support, against South Vietnam, then against Cambodia and Laos, and finally in defending against the 1979 Chinese incursion, has given the Soviets a strong ally and a useful base structure in that part of the world. North Korea has long been a Soviet client. The key to Soviet encirclement of China is Japan, which is dependent upon the Middle East for almost 80 percent of its oil. The Soviet Union can hardly hope to enlist Japan as an ally against China. They could hope, if Middle East oil were to fall under their influence, that Japan would, in effect, be neutralized.

Soviet strategy in the Western Hemisphere has long been oriented toward the support of subversion and guerrilla groups. Its outstanding success, of course, has been in Cuba. Attempts to exploit that success fully were checked by the U.S. handling of the Cuban missile crisis and the frustration of Che Guevara's subsequent attempts to spread the movement in Colombia, Bolivia and other parts of Latin America.

But 18 years later we see a renewal of the threat in a different form. There is acknowledged to be a Soviet training brigade in Cuba. Fifty thousand trained Cubans are now estimated to be in Africa, actively supporting Soviet strategy in that area. Another 50,000 are estimated to be trained and available for similar activity in the Western Hemisphere. Cuban influence is already strong in Nicaragua and Jamaica. With Cuba operating under effective Soviet control, there is the grave possibility of a whole series of disruptive developments. These could drain American attention and resources, even if they do not result in additional cases of direct Soviet military presence in this Hemisphere.

A central concern of the Kremlin, however, has been, and must continue to be in the 1980s, the fifth strategy-the Soviets' ability to deal with the contingency of a direct confrontation of Soviet military forces with Western military forces. The Kremlin leaders do not want war; they want the world. They believe it unlikely, however, that the West will let them have the world without a fight.

Accordingly, they wish to maximize the possibility that at no single point of progress toward the attainment of Soviet aims will the gain appear so great and the prospects of successful Western resistance so strong that the West will use military force to confront directly Soviet military forces. The Soviets have for some time had reason to believe that their conventional forces on the Soviet-Warsaw Pact perimeter are superior in capability to those that might oppose them. They are developing and deploying non-nuclear forces and theater nuclear forces which can be projected to considerable distances beyond that perimeter. These will expand the range of circumstances under which they could expect to achieve local military superiority. They believe such a capability minimizes the prospect of direct Western-Soviet military confrontation.

If there nevertheless is such a confrontation, they further believe that, the stakes being vital, rather than accept their loss the West may escalate to the use of nuclear weapons. Therefore, the Soviets are driven to put themselves into the best position they can to achieve military victory in such a war while assuring the survival, endurance and recovery of the core of their party and as much as possible of their power base in the Soviet Union.1

It is for that reason that they have put such a large percentage of their military effort into their nuclear offensive and defensive weapons. Whereas the U.S. government estimates that, overall, the Soviet military budget exceeds that of the United States by some 50 percent, the cost of their strategic nuclear programs has, for some years, been triple ours.

The sixth Soviet strategy-building the image of their regime as responsible, legitimate and peace-loving-is of a different type from the other five but of almost equal importance. When the Soviets decide that their other strategies require a given action, such as the invasion of Afghanistan, considerations of the sixth strategy give way. But immediately thereafter the full panoply of propaganda, diplomatic and economic tools return to the effort to restore and advance the desired image.

Finally, as a tactic amounting almost to a seventh strategy, the Soviets use every variety of covert operation on a scale far greater than the West has ever done. Today this focuses on the training, organization, and support of terrorist activities designed to break down the confidence of groups not under their control. The evidence, although often difficult to come by, supports the view that the Soviet Union has been, and is, a principal supporter of terrorism, both with material aid and in its politics and propaganda. For example, it appears probable that the Red Brigades in Italy, the assault on the Mosque at Mecca, and the seizure of the American hostages in Iran were supported and perhaps instigated by agents of the Soviet bloc.2


What then is an appropriate strategy for the West? Immediately after the close of World War II, most Americans thought that the West's policy should be wholly positive and constructive; it was hoped that the wartime alliance with the U.S.S.R. could be continued indefinitely into the peace. By the spring of 1947 it was clear that this was a false hope, that in addition to building a constructive system of political and economic order in the world under the aegis of the United Nations structure, the West must be prepared to defend that order against the quite different ambitions of the Kremlin.

As one looks into the 1980s, it is clear that the Soviet threat has increased and that the adequacy of Western means to resist it has become more uncertain. It is important to continue with the constructive task of adapting the system of political and economic world order to changed circumstances, but the reactive, defensive aspects of Western strategy must again play a more important role. The principal task of the early 1980s must be to check, blunt, and, as far as possible, frustrate the interrelated Soviet strategies while the energies of the many nations similarly threatened have an opportunity to become mobilized and linked so as to reverse the currently adverse trends in the correlation of forces. Until not only those trends have been reversed, but also the actual correlation of forces has become more favorable than it is today, the United States and the West must play for time in many threatened areas, employing their resources with prudence and fortitude, while making a major effort to build up their overall strength.

If this is a correct analysis of the present situation and of the multiple threats posed by Soviet strategy, there can be no doubt that the situation is the gravest that the United States and the West have faced at least since the Soviet threat to Berlin in 1958-62 and possibly at any time since the end of World War II. Both the executive branch of our government and those aspiring to the presidency in the current political campaign should be frank and explicit in explaining to the American people the seriousness of the threat and the need for effort, energy and sacrifice to turn the situation around. Providing for the common defense now requires the kind of priority that it had in 1950, and it is a disservice to the American people to pretend that this can be accomplished without a major adjustment of national priorities, in which, of course, an equitable sharing of the burdens must be a central feature.

We must rid our minds of the fallacy that the concepts of détente and deterrence absolve us from concern with the possibility of military confrontations and the probable outcomes of such confrontations. We should seek to end the alienation of the U.S. middle class from our military. We should lessen the degree to which we conduct our foreign and defense policies in response to the public mood created by yesterday's television programs and guided by today's public opinion polls. Instead, our leaders should adopt a strategic view of foreign and defense policy-one which, even when dealing with specific problems, takes into account the entire world chessboard and the correlation of forces five and ten years from now, not just today's hot issue.

Above all, we must submit to enough discipline to cope with our economic problems realistically, even as we undertake an enlarged defense effort. In the 1950s and in the period that extended to roughly 1971, energy was cheap and readily available, the productivity of our economy was high and inflation was minimal. Today we must undertake an increased defense effort at a time when our total economic output is far greater, but when we must cope with serious energy, productivity and inflation problems. Unless all four are tackled in tandem, the overall program will remain ineffective. Without seeking to spell out all the policies necessary, let me note some of the highlights.

In the case of energy, the short- and medium-range problem is to reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil-both to strengthen our hand in the Middle East and to reduce the serious frictions with our major allies that arise from what they rightly perceive as excessive American oil consumption and oil import requirements that contribute directly to their own economic and political problems. In the effort to reduce our oil dependence, increased efficiency and conservation, conversion to coal, synthetic fuel production, and resumption of the construction of fission nuclear power plants must all play their part. Conservation is painful. It must be stimulated by strong economic incentives including increases in the price of oil and gas. Substantial shifts in the patterns of urban and suburban living will be necessary. Choices must be made between degrees of economic growth and progress in environmental protection.

Moreover, we must never lose sight of the long-term problem of developing national policies for the use of energy and for the development of alternative sources that will put us eventually in a strong and largely self-sufficient position in the changing conditions that loom in the next century. Fusion energy deserves maximum support, along with the development of other widely available and renewable energy sources.

On the economic front, the control of inflation and the restoration of American productivity gains are at the core of our problem. Both trace in large part to excessive consumption and an inadequate rate of capital formation: at 4.5 percent of disposable personal income, the current American rate of saving is drastically lower than the 15 to 17 percent rates of our three largest NATO allies, Britain, France and West Germany, and even further below Japan's 20 percent rate.3 Although our proportion of investment to GNP is somewhat better in relative terms, there is no escape from the conclusion that as a rough measure we need to reallocate some five to seven percent of our GNP to increasing our rate of savings-thus permitting those investments necessary for improved productivity and job creation. The burden of such reallocation will be substantially relieved as productivity gains are realized. Many current inefficiencies and disincentives in and out of government must be reversed, tax policies must be revised to promote productive capital investments, and rates of wages and other financial rewards to individuals, instead of being fully indexed for inflation, must be adjusted downward to reflect the need to increase savings, productivity and defense.

All of these efforts are essential in any circumstances. But alongside them, to deal with the fifth Soviet strategy-that of the Soviets being prepared, if necessary, to use predominant military force in support of their expansionist objectives-it is necessary for the West, and the United States in particular, to reverse current adverse military trends. To do so we will need to increase somewhat the size of our current naval and other general purpose forces; we should not have to denude our forces in Europe and the Far East in order to deal with a crisis in the Middle East. However, it is even more important to restore the fighting quality of our forces. This will require an improvement in their operational readiness, the procurement of modern operational equipment, an immediate and substantial pay increase for military personnel to improve retention, and the prompt institution of a democratic and equitable Selective Service system.

During the 1970s, a major objective of U.S. policy and its principal hope in dealing with the strategic nuclear problem was to limit the threat through the negotiation, ratification and entry into force of an effective SALT II treaty. Whatever the merits of that treaty might have been-I came to the conclusion they were almost entirely illusory-there is virtually no possibility that it can be considered by the Senate until the summer of 1981. By that time the Protocol would have only a few months to run and the treaty would have only four years or so before it too expired. Four years is far too short a time for such a treaty to have any significant effect. Therefore, the sensible course would be to skip SALT II and prepare now for negotiation of SALT III, with an expiration date further in the future, say 1995 to 2000. The prospect of the Soviet Union agreeing to such a treaty in a form which would meet our needs and those of the West is, however, low unless we have earlier demonstrated that we are prepared and able to handle our strategic security without a SALT treaty.

We should always be prepared to negotiate, but we should also never forget that when we are negotiating with the Soviet Union we are negotiating with an adversary.

Concurrently with building our conventional capabilities, the United States therefore should do what is necessary to deny the Soviet Union strategic nuclear superiority. This means curing the inadequate survivability of our land-based ballistic missiles and enhancing the power of those that can be expected to survive, proceeding with the modernization of the submarine-based component of our strategic deterrent, replacing our aging B-52s, rebasing our bombers at greater distances from our coasts, equipping them with high performance cruise and self-defense missiles, and assuring the survivability and endurance of our command, control, communication and wartime intelligence facilities.

In their entirety, these general purpose and nuclear programs would call for increased expenditures, after taking into account practicable increases in efficiency, of some $40 billion to $50 billion a year, in 1981 dollars.4 This is approximately 1.5 to 2 percent of our GNP. How these costs will be met, in view of the budgetary, inflation and energy issues which must be dealt with concurrently, is not clear. There is, however, a change in public attitudes in the United States toward the need to restore its power, including its military power, as a necessary support toward a constructive foreign policy.

In terms of overall effort, the scale of defense spending now required would therefore amount to 6.5 to 7 percent of our GNP, as compared to the present level of 5 percent. This compares to a level of defense spending that stood at approximately 10 percent throughout the 1950s and at 5.9 percent in 1973, when our involvement in Vietnam ceased. To say that such an effort-in relation to the present basic strength and size of the American economy-cannot be undertaken seems to me nonsense. But, to repeat, it must be meshed with comprehensive and much more effective attacks on our energy, productivity, and inflation problems. I believe we can carry out this kind of increase on an equitable basis, in which the level of sacrifice that is required of every segment of our society is fairly distributed and proportioned to economic status. What is required, above all, is a sense of national discipline and resolve that flows from clear understanding of the gravity of the situation.

And here the heart of the matter is that both the government and candidates for office, during the current campaign and afterwards, must give full publicity to the facts as we know them and not obscure them for short-term political reasons. During the 1970s, a tendency developed to play down the facts concerning, and the significance of, a number of Soviet actions. In general, this was done on the theory that if one did not find an excuse for Soviet actions the hope for a reasonable accommodation with the Soviet Union would be endangered; more specifically, it was done to avoid harming the prospects of Senate ratification of the SALT agreements.

These problems are not unique to the United States; they affect other countries as well. It is not only in the United States that the growing penetration of Africa with support of Cuban military forces was given little significance. It is not only in the United States that developments in Afghanistan were underplayed prior to the Soviet invasion, and indeed now are still being underplayed. Furthermore, it is not surprising that the campaign to discredit the United States is given comprehensive support in many countries.

Despite its many and manifest shortcomings, the Soviet system does, in certain ways, "work." Most notably the Soviet system imaginatively designs, centrally coordinates, and widely disseminates a powerful and effective propaganda line. The targets of that propaganda line shift from time to time. At one time the Federal Republic of Germany was the principal target of scorn; at another time it was the leadership of communist China; today, it is the United States. In the internal politics of foreign countries the usual target is the party most closely following the social democratic line; it can switch, however, to the party following a conservative line, and communist parties are not exempt, if insufficiently subservient to Moscow. Often the central accusation is designed to shift attention from some comparable but more serious Soviet action. Coordination of a Western response is often difficult to reconcile with freedom of the press. The Soviet propagandists thus have extensive opportunities effectively to divide their opponents and cover their own actions in a fog of conflicting assertions. Nevertheless, a prime task of the Western strategy in the 1980s, and of U.S. strategy in particular, must be to assure that the facts get out and are understood despite the obfuscations of Soviet propaganda.


Obviously, if the United States mounts an overall program such as that described above-as I believe it must-it will take time for its material effects to become real and usable. There are those who argue that if the Soviet Union sees the United States acting in such a way as to reverse what they see as a strong current trend in favor of the Soviets in the correlation of forces, the temptation will be all the greater for the U.S.S.R. to step up its efforts to stir up new opportunities and to consolidate tentative gains of recent years.

There are also those who, for one motive or another, would seek to depict the United States as starting up a new "arms race." In my judgment, the facts are exactly contrary to any such claim. It is the Soviet Union that failed to respond to the more relaxed policies pursued by the United States in the 1970s, but instead moved relentlessly forward, first to build up its military power and then to extend its whole pattern of expansionist activity culminating in the invasion of Afghanistan. What is needed now is a redressing of the balance, undertaken not for the sake of any expansion of American influence or power, but to prevent further Soviet assaults on the national independence of individual countries and on the security of key regions of the world. Seen in this light-as I believe it can and should be-the picture of the United States pulling itself together should be understood, and welcomed, by all threatened nations whether or not allied with the United States. The object of the effort-as must be made clear at every point-is to reduce the threats to peace in the world and to advance the universal cause of a world in which nations can develop as they see fit. That such a free and plural world is also the one most conducive to the national interests of the United States is simply a reflection of the profound difference between American and Soviet national objectives.

Yet the danger that the Soviets might seek to exploit their temporary advantages in terms of military power cannot be dismissed. Crises may indeed arise a little sooner than they would otherwise have done, just as an always latent Soviet threat to Berlin ripened into direct threats in 1958 when the Soviets (as it turned out, mistakenly) thought that they had achieved a superiority in ballistic missiles. But what is clear beyond doubt is that if the United States does not act along the lines proposed here, the kind of Soviet gains and threats to world peace that have arisen in the last five years will multiply inexorably and perhaps, in the end, irretrievably.

Let us look, then, at the first four objectives of Soviet strategy, outlined earlier. To prescribe detailed American and Western counter-strategies for each would require more than a single article. But a few key points can be noted.

With respect to NATO Europe, the proposed program should, almost at once, help to restore a confidence that is now shaken concerning the defense of Western Europe itself. Existing plans for strengthening NATO, including the plans for deployment of theater nuclear weapons, should go forward-subject only to the unlikely prospect of reaching effective agreements for mutual reduction of forces. And our European allies, as well as Japan, can reasonably be asked to take on greater shares of the burden of their own defense.

Similarly, the picture of a United States getting its house in order on the energy and economic fronts can only have a heartening impact, and should specifically, and soon, help to reduce the frictions that have arisen in these areas. There, and in respect to the Middle East and Africa, the United States could adopt the general line that we are prepared to do as much as, and more than, our allies, but that we are not prepared to act alone or with only one or two of them. We are therefore not only prepared fully to consult but insist upon consultation and agreement as a precondition to U.S. action. With respect to the Germans and the French in particular, we ought to be quite frank with them as to Soviet strategy as we see it, but willing to modify our views on the basis of the additional evidence they can bring to bear on the question.

The situation in the Middle East is obviously dark. The key American interests there are, as always, the independence of individual nations, preserving access to oil on an equitable basis, and the special American commitment to the survival of a healthy Israel roughly within the pre-1967 boundaries. Iran presents special problems, including the threat of a Soviet-oriented leftist takeover, and for the time being there is little possibility of effective U.S. influence there. But those nations seeking to retain their independence should have our quiet support on all fronts, and the United States cannot avoid the responsibility for furthering any possibility of peace between the Arab states and Israel, and for balancing its relationships with Israel and with moderate Arab nations.

Meanwhile, the all too likely prospect that the Soviets will not withdraw from Afghanistan-where they are embarked on an apparent campaign of total destruction of villages-and the continuing Soviet threat to Pakistan may at any time present acute problems. I see no prospect, at least until there has been a substantial improvement in the military balance, for the successful use of U.S. military force in that area except in circumstances where a majority of Muslim states as well as Israel, our European allies, Japan and China join in resisting the expansionist pressure of the Soviet Union. The principal task, therefore, is to help foster the emergence of a consensus among them. I believe it more feasible for such a consensus to be found in support of the principles of nonaggression and collective defense of the United Nations Charter than merely in support of U.S. leadership.

The encirclement and eventual dismemberment of China appears to be a more formidable task for Soviet policy. There are, however, opportunities. The Soviets could, for instance, stimulate a Vietnamese attack on Thailand, thus raising the possibility of Chinese action against Vietnam, followed by Soviet pressure on the province of Xinjiang and eventually Tibet. I believe the United States is right to emphasize its existing commitment to Thailand as a deterrent to any such chain of events, and that the existing U.S. relationship with China is about right, stopping short in present circumstances of any direct military ties. But if such a sequence should come about, the United States and other major nations will be faced with an extremely grave threat to world peace, and the result could easily be a cementing of the very ties between China and the West that the Kremlin apparently fears.

The problems of the Caribbean and the Western Hemisphere differ qualitatively from those of the Eurasian landmass and of Africa. The interests of our NATO European allies and Japan are less, our own more direct. Soviet conventional military power projection capabilities play a smaller role. But in Latin America the political disposition toward antagonism to a powerful neighbor is substantial. In the short run, the United States must seek to identify and support moderate elements wherever possible, and must expand its resources for economic aid and, in selected cases, military assistance. And, in the longer run, what is required is a long and patient effort at building a group of Americans interested, knowledgeable, and professionally competent in the fine structure of the myriad facets of a most difficult set of psychological, economic and political problems.


Even if the United States were not only to adopt but fully to carry out a strategy for the 1980s of the type and magnitude here proposed, that would not in itself assure the containment of Soviet expansionism. Success in restraining the Soviet Union requires a significant degree of parallel action and cooperation by substantially all those threatened. Otherwise they can be isolated and picked off one by one. To call such cooperation a "coalition of the free" is an oversimplification. Not all countries threatened by the Soviet Union enjoy much internal freedom, but all are freer both from external influence and internally than are members of the communist "camp of peace and freedom." What they share above all is the glue that has bound all coalitions in the past: the realization of a common danger.

Given the unifying force of a common danger, there are still many centrifugal forces and many grounds for rationalizing individual rather than common approaches to the problem. In the United States there is a deep tendency toward isolation from the hard facts of international conflict and escape into easy moralism. In Europe the provisions of the NATO treaty limiting the commitment of the participants to common action only in the case of threats to the NATO area are rationalized as absolving all participants but the United States from responsibility for dealing with threats outside that area. In the case of Japan, the limitations of the Japanese Constitution are used as a rationale to justify defense expenditures no larger than one percent of the GNP. The Chinese government argues that it is an underdeveloped country and will require 20 years before it will be in a position to play a role in the common defense commensurate with its position in the world. The Federal Republic of Germany notes its unique position as a divided country between East and West.

In the face of these obvious difficulties, how does one go about fostering the parallel and coordinated action which is necessary? Again, there is no easy formula for success but certain guidelines do suggest themselves.

More than half the task will be accomplished when others in the world sense that the United States is pulling itself together internally, that it is achieving a degree of control over its energy and economic-fiscal problems, and has settled on a responsible and consistent general line for its foreign and defense policies. The task will be further eased if a high measure of bipartisan support for that policy in and out of the Congress can be developed.

Fostering the necessary parallel and coordinated actions will require a persistent and flexible U.S. effort in many forums and through many channels. The North Atlantic Council is an appropriate forum for the discussion even of issues arising outside the NATO area. The U.N. General Assembly and the Security Council are other necessary forums. But the real work must be done through bilateral channels. In the past it has been wise to give special consideration to bilateral coordination with the British, the Germans, the French, the Japanese and the Canadians. But, depending on the issue, a wide range of other countries must also be consulted. The volume of work required is so large that the President must divide the burden with his executive branch subordinates and his diplomatic officers. The necessary subdivision, articulation and delegation of the task can only be successfully accomplished if there is a common understanding of the main lines of a consistent strategic approach.

The United States no longer enjoys the unquestioned primacy in the non-Moscow-controlled world which it once enjoyed. We succeeded in the positive task of assisting many of today's developed and developing nations to achieve the positions of strength and influence they now enjoy. Today, they must be expected to decide for themselves those actions which they believe are necessary for their continued well-being and security. The principal hope for the success of a U.S. strategy for the 1980s lies in its being consistent with the long-range interests of our allies and potential allies and being so perceived by them.

In the short run we must expect that local, narrower, more petty interests will result in action by them which will appear to us in the United States not to be in the general interest. In the long run the essential soundness of our position and the deceptive techniques, the brutal means, and the hegemonic aims of the Soviet Union will tend to force them back to actions more in the general interest. To buy time and to use it well is therefore of the essence.

If any of us are to survive the decade of the 1980s we must keep our eyes on the essential decency and goodwill of our associates. It is always tempting to find fault with others. It is important to avoid mutual recrimination. The best antidote for recrimination about the past is to concentrate on doing what needs to be done now to assure the future.

3 U.S. Department of Commerce, International Economic Indicators, June 1980, Table 12.

4 This estimate derives from the detailed proposals published by the Committee on the Present Danger, which call for added defense spending amounting to $260 billion over a six-year period. CPD, "Countering the Soviet Threat-A U.S. Defense Strategy in the 1980s," May 9, 1980.



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  • Paul H. Nitze was Director of the Policy Planning Staff in the Department of State from 1950 to 1953, Secretary of the Navy and Deputy Secretary of Defense in the 1963-69 period, and a member of the U.S. SALT delegation from 1969 to 1974. He is currently Chairman, Policy Studies, of the Committee on the Present Danger. This article reflects his personal views.
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