ENDGAME: The Inside Story of Salt II by Strobe Talbott

ENDGAME: The Inside Story of Salt II

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Now mired in Congressional debate, the SALT II agreement between the U.S. and the USSR has been in the works since May, 1972, when Nixon and Brezhnev signed the first products of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I). During that time, the public has been treated to a confusing barrage of acronyms and code-names--like ""backfire bomber,"" ""cruise missile,"" and MIRV--which have now become a part of the international lexicon. Talbott, Time magazine's diplomatic correspondent, does a good job here of explaining the intricacies of SALT II while rehearsing the bureaucratic maneuvering that produced it--with an emphasis on the final phase of the negotiations that began with the Carter Administration (hence ""Endgame""). Talbott documents the give-and-take between the two sides, as well as within the different departments and bureaus of the U.S. government--between SALT II negotiator Warnke and Secretary of State Vance, who were willing to give ground for the sake of an agreement, and Secretary of Defense Brown, who tried to stand firm; and between Brown and the Joint Chiefs, who wanted to take ground from the Soviets. But though Talbott notes that Henry Kissinger viewed SALT as part of a larger structure of U.S.-Soviet relations, while Brzezinski tended to pursue it for its own sake, he makes no serious effort to put SALT in perspective with regard to U.S. and Soviet global interests; instead, he confines himself to the bilateral concepts of offense and defense that characterized the public discussion on strategic arms limitation. Not once, indeed, does Talbott ask the simple question, are there larger motives involved here than the innocent desire to limit nuclear weapons? Instead of extending the discussion of SALT II to include its effects on other present or future nuclear powers, or on the military form conflicts are likely to take as a result of SALT (either between the U.S. and USSR, their ""surrogates,"" or wherever), Talbott is content to remain within familiar borders. A helpful reprise, but too narrowly focused to advance public debate.

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 1979
Publisher: Harper & Row