THE SOVIET VIEWPOINT by Georgi & Willem Oltmans Arbatov
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THE SOVIET VIEWPOINT

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As Director of the Institute of USA and Canadian Studies in Moscow, Arbatov's main responsibilities are to advise the Soviet leadership on American affairs, and to explain Soviet positions to English-speaking audiences. That's what he's doing here, in an interview with Dutch journalist Oltmans that (though originally conducted in English) was published in German in 1981, and is now updated for this volume. Sticking mostly to international relations, Arbatov blames the collapse of detente on the ideological campaign against it by the likes of the Committee on the Present Danger, rather than on such events as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (which he doesn't see as such). In Arbatov's view, Americans have been fundamentally hostile to the USER since the Russian Revolution, on account of economic interests. (Even when someone relatively friendly comes along, Arbiter looks to economic interest; in Averell Harriman's case, his family enjoyed a mining concession in Russia.) A weaker, progressive faction of America's ruling class also exists, Arbatov thinks; it backed detente, and lost. He reminds Oltmans that the Soviets have endured hostility from all quarters, and repeats the Russian position that a rough east-west parity exists in nuclear weaponry; but generally he decries the weakness of the Soviet position. Thus, he notes that the Soviet army is conscripted, which largely accounts for the large gap between Soviet and US military spending. According to Arbatov, the Soviets spend only $24 billion annually (not the $180 billion that Western experts estimate), but Oltmans is clearly unbelieving. Citruses also has a hard time swallowing Arbatov's claim that the Soviets have done more for human rights than the West--supposedly because they include social rights in the equation (education, health care), while the West fixes on the right to emigrate. America, a land of immigrants, cannot understand (says Arbatov) that in the USSR, where emigrants have generally been foes of the system, emigrant is synonymous with traitor. Brezhnev's death and the installation of Andropov, says Arbatov with satisfaction, mean that a peaceful transition has taken place. Nothing phenomenal--but very enlightening, especially on first acquaintance.

Pub Date: March 28th, 1983
Publisher: Dodd, Mead