D(product)TENTE AND CONFRONTATION: American-Soviet Relations From Nixon to Reagan by Raymond L. Garthoff

D(product)TENTE AND CONFRONTATION: American-Soviet Relations From Nixon to Reagan

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An exhaustive, penetrating review of the rise and fall of d‚tente over the past 15 years, from a very knowledgeable source. Garthoff, an eminent American scholar of the Soviet Union, was a key member of the US diplomatic team that negotiated SALT I, the 1971 strategic arms limitation treaty with Russia. With summitry again in the news, Garthoff offers a reminder that the policy of d‚tente aimed at easing strained relations between the US and Moscow was developed during the Nixon-Kissinger years and blossomed after Nixon's meeting with Brezhnev in 1972. Yet even before the 70s ended, d‚tente was a casualty. Jimmy Carter abandoned it following the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and Ronald Reagan rejected it completely. What replaced it was confrontation, although the Soviets consistently voiced support for d‚tente and blamed Washington for its failures. Sparing neither side, Garthoff offers a number of causes for that failure, the foremost being what he terms a fatal difference in the conception of d‚tente's basic role by both sides. ""The American leaders saw it (in Kissinger's words) as a way of 'managing the emergence of Soviet power' into world politics in an age of nuclear parity. The Soviet leaders envisaged it as a way of managing the transition of the United States from its former superiority to a more modest role in world politics in an age of nuclear parity. . . Thus, underlying the attempts by each of the two powers to manage the adjustment of the other to a changing correlation of forces in the world there were even more basic parallel attempts by both to modify the fundamental world order--in different directions."" Among other causes of the collapse of d‚tente, Garthoff lists the failure to turn to greater use of collaborative measures to meet the requirements of security (SALT, he says, did not do enough), failure to define a code of conduct between the two sides, and the view held by both that the other was acquiring military capabilities beyond what was needed for deterrence and defense. Looking ahead to relations with Gorbachev, Garthoff urges both sides to resume a common effort to contain risks and to recommence to build areas of cooperation. As the quotation on its flyleaf says, ""In Order to know what is going to happen, one must know what has happened."" The adviser: Machiavelli.

Pub Date: June 19th, 1985
Publisher: Brookings Institution