Courtesy Reuters

American policy toward the Soviet Union has been replete with examples of incoherence and inconsistency. Responding in part to Soviet moves and in part to the political competition inherent in our democratic politics, American attitudes have alternated between overemphasis and underemphasis on the threatening nature of the Soviet Union. The result has been inconsistent policy and missed opportunities.

During the cold war, our exaggeration of Soviet capabilities prevented us from negotiating at a time when our position was strong. Subsequently, the ideological interpretation of policy and domestic political constraints prevented American policy from exploiting the diplomatic opportunities in the Sino-Soviet

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