Anatomy of Mistrust: U.S.-Soviet Relations During the Cold War

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Anatomy of Mistrust: U.S.-Soviet Relations During the Cold War

By Deborah Welch Larson
Cornell University Press, 1997
329 pp. $35.00
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This work, by a political scientist at UCLA, considers a variety of explanations for the proclivity of states to mistrust one another. The author believes that the United States and the Soviet Union missed a number of opportunities to cooperate during the Cold War, the reason being their profound suspicion of one another's motives rather than underlying conflicts of interest between the two. Not all the five cases Larson studies -- centering around various phases of the German problem and arms control negotiations -- are equally persuasive. It is doubtful, for instance, that the West's interest lay in pursuing the idea of German unification in exchange for German neutrality. While Larson has perceptive things to say about the phenomenon of mistrust and how to overcome it, she minimizes the dangers that may be associated with the unilateral concessions necessary to build confidence in the other side. Nowhere mentioned in this book is the devastating experience of the preliminaries to World War II that haunted this generation of American policymakers, a memory that made them twice shy in dealing with Stalin's successors. The lessons for building trust the author adduces would be more applicable "to areas such as the Middle East, Northern Ireland, and Korea" if the point were registered that while mistrust may indeed lead to missed opportunities, trust has on occasion led to disaster.

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