In This Review

The Big Five: Arms Control Decision-Making in the Soviet Union
The Big Five: Arms Control Decision-Making in the Soviet Union
By Aleksandr G. Savelyev and Nikolay N. Detinov
Praeger, 1995, 204 pp.

From 1969 to 1991, if U.S. policymakers could have been flies on the wall, nowhere would they rather have been than the rooms in which their Soviet adversaries were deciding their next steps in strategic arms negotiations. General Detinov, a representative of the defense industrial sector in the party apparat, was at the center of these deliberations, first as a key player in the critical five-agency group staffing the ultimate decision-makers during the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaties, and eventually as the number-two man in the Soviet delegation to the intermediate-range nuclear forces talks.

In the forward, Paul Nitze describes Detinov as a negotiator of integrity who cared about the truth and avoided gamesmanship, a characterization the text echoes. Detinov and his collaborator, an academic specialist on strategic nuclear arms, not only outline the politics and players -- and how these changed over time -- but they provide considerable insight into the reasons the Soviets did what they did.

While they are frank in admitting the twisted logic in some of the demands and, at times, even prevarication of their side, in the end they do not lend much support to those who viewed the Soviet stake in strategic arms control as a cynical subterfuge to secure unilateral advantage at every turn. The truth seems to have been the opposite. Yes, Soviet leaders sought the best deal they could get and resisted yielding any of their military advantages, but, when their demands looked like an attempt to disadvantage the United States seriously, they were usually reacting to their own black, worst-case assumptions about U.S. programs and intentions. If the authors were not so candid about the Soviet position, this tale might be dismissed as the rationalizations of a participant seeking to put the best face on an enterprise in which he participated.