BONES OF CONTENTION: An Enquiry into East-West Relations by Terence Garvey

BONES OF CONTENTION: An Enquiry into East-West Relations

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As a career diplomat with experience in the USSR, Yugoslavia, China, and India, Britain's Garvey would seem to be ideally situated to assess the current ""crisis"" over Iran and Afghanistan. This ""enquiry,"" unfortunately, was written in 1977 and published in Britain the following year, when detente was not yet a dirty word. But though a victim of events, Garvey still has some sensible things to say, and the current turmoil can hardly be a surprise to him. The ""bones of contention"" between the West and the USSR (China being ignored) are: 1) the state of human rights in Russia; 2) arms competition; and 3) the opportunistic underpinnings of the Soviet quest for ""peaceful coexistence""--which occasionally give way to reckless ""adventures."" (As, of course, in Afghanistan.) Garvey points out that the structure of Soviet society is relatively static, and the geopolitical orientation of their foreign policy--fear of invasion from the west, the desire for a warm water port, etc.--is deeply ingrained. Consequently, western governments have to take a long-term view of relations with the USSR and not expect any sudden changes in outlook. On this basis he is severely critical of Carter's human rights approach to the Soviet Union--and more particularly, of Senator Jackson's--which, he believes, will worsen the lot of Soviet dissidents. Garvey does see hope, though, in the dissatisfaction of Soviet consumers, who may pressure the Kremlin into further economic integration with the West; that eventuality, coupled with resignation to the failure of world revolution--which he sees as implicit in Soviet acceptance of SALT--would provide at least a basis for moving from dÉtente to a more settled cooperation. The U.S. shift away from dÉtente and SALT, because of Afghanistan, is an example of the short-term view Garvey is arguing against. With the bones of contention uppermost today, Garvey's hopeful outlook appears out of date; but this kind of sober analysis may be even more needed now than when it was written.

Pub Date: March 21st, 1980
Publisher: St. Martin's