The United States and the Soviet Union must stop squabbling over relatively small differences in their capacity for overkill. The real issue is the threat of nuclear weapons in the hands of many nations.
The summit trips back and forth between Washington and Moscow have become almost routine; certainly the third summit was not marked by the sense of expectation that preceded Richard Nixon's historic first trip to Moscow in 1972, or the American people's first look at the little-known Leonid Brezhnev a year later.
The summit trips back and forth between Washington and Moscow have become almost routine; certainly the third summit was not marked by the sense of expectation that preceded Richard Nixon’s historic first trip to Moscow in 1972, or the American people’s first look at the little-known Leonid Brezhnev a year later.
Yet this routine — represented as a business-as-usual approach to U.S.-Soviet diplomacy — is deceptive. The first phase of improving U.S.-Soviet relations, which developed over more than a decade, provided a buffer against the cold war and greatly reduced the risks of nuclear war and confrontation. But that first phase is now over. A new phase is just beginning — going beyond detente. Its general direction may seem clear, but its practical substance and significance are not. In terms of maintaining forward progress, the next steps could be even more difficult than the last, which involved things like the SALT I agreements that in retrospect begin to seem relatively simple.
During the past year, the political climate in the United States has also changed. Inevitably, the euphoria and overblown expectations about improving relations between the two superpowers came to an end. So, too, Americans have been disturbed by the costs of the badly handled Soviet grain deal; they have been disturbed by Soviet treatment of dissidents and people who want to emigrate; and they were shocked by the Middle East war. The word detente itself has fallen into disfavor among some Americans, thus requiring new thinking and a new and more precise vocabulary. Ironically, skepticism has risen here at the very time that Soviet leaders are beating the drums of detente more loudly than ever.
The explanation lies in part with the pace and the depth of change itself — especially in American attitudes. We have only recently emerged from a deep preoccupation with cold war. Many Americans still have difficulty accepting that the cornerstone of our security is the mutual vulnerability of Soviet and American societies, and that each superpower is now partly responsible for the security of the other. And we have seen arms control develop in a few short years from an ideal of some between-the-wars statesmen to an important objective. In Europe, meanwhile, Berlin is no longer a major symbol of tension; while many leaders — there and elsewhere — see the consequences of worldwide inflation as a more likely danger to security and free institutions than invasion or political pressure from the East.
At the same time, the focus of American attention has shifted dramatically, in large part because of past successes in improving U.S.-Soviet relations. We are again preoccupied with our internal economic and political problems, while many Americans feel an almost romantic desire for isolationist ease. Even when we are constrained to face the outside world, many Americans are more involved with growing concerns about inflation, energy, trade, raw materials, monetary order, and our growing economic interdependence with other nations, than with the architecture of U.S.-Soviet relations.
Of course, there is much to be said for a quiet period in our relationship with the Soviet Union. We must attend to issues of inflation and of interdependence — particularly energy and the availability of raw materials. And we must join in forestalling the collapse of nations in the "fourth world" of have-not peoples, who are threatened by a crisis in food, fuel, and fertilizer.
In time, it will be important for U.S. relations with the Soviet Union to lose much of their exceptional quality. As much as possible, they must continue to evolve into a series of discrete acts and accommodations that do not have to be at center stage, preempting time and attention that is also needed elsewhere in meeting the great political and economic problems facing the world that go far beyond East-West relations.
The relaxation of tensions will gain depth and meaning only if U.S.-Soviet relations can be integrated into a broader view of the world that will permit these problems to be met. This must be the true difference between the detente of today and the evolving relations of tomorrow. Where bilateral relations have sufficed, the superpowers must join in recognizing their common involvement in the outside world, and their shared responsibilities for meeting the demands of global problems. In isolation, improving these relations can meet few of the critical items on the world’s agenda.
Nevertheless, we cannot afford to be indifferent to enduring critical East-West issues, or succumb to the temptation to rest on past achievements in reducing the risk of war. The 1972 Interim Agreement on Offensive Nuclear Arms must be revised before it lapses, less than three years from now, even if it is only to be replaced by a further interim agreement through 1985. It is not certain how much longer Congress will sustain the U.S. force posture in Europe at current levels, while the troop-cut talks in Vienna drag on without substantial results. Soviet leaders show increasing concern about the economic fruits of the increased trade promised to them two years ago and reaffirmed in Moscow at the recent summit. Nor can we much longer leave unanswered such questions as: "What kind of relationship with the Soviet Union is possible? What do we really want? And how does this whole issue relate to future U.S. relations with China, Western Europe, Japan, and the developing world?"
Last April I visited West Germany, Rumania, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union, and met with top leaders in each country. I also traveled to Leningrad and Tbilisi with General Secretary Brezhnev’s Assistant for Foreign Policy. On the basis of these talks, I returned convinced that we must put extra effort into keeping the momentum of improved East-West relations going, if we are to preserve the fragile structure of these relations. There is still a risk of slipping back, and losing much of what we have achieved. There are still problems that must be solved now -particularly in the nuclear arms race — or they will become steadily more difficult.
We also have reason to believe that this effort can work. In the United States, we often underestimate the real changes that have already taken place in the climate of U.S.-Soviet relations, in part because change has been so gradual. Yet the contrast with the late 1950s is striking. Neither we nor the Russians (apparently) now automatically view every action by the other as intrinsically hostile. Certainly, in the United States we are better able to assess which Soviet actions can impair our interests, and which can be tolerated. This, after all, is what it means to move beyond cold war not to believe in a benign Soviet foreign policy, but rather to be able to decide which issues are negotiable and which — such as our basic security — are not.
Relations Cannot Be Personalized
As we look to the future of U.S.-Soviet relations, three further conclusions come immediately to mind, concerning the "who" and the "how" of the process itself. These are key elements of the important national debate that is now beginning.
To begin with, it is clear, from the slow emergence of detente during several U.S. administrations, that this historic movement cannot be allowed to depend on anyone set of leaders or (in the United States) on anyone political party. U.S.-Soviet relations cannot be personalized; they will continue to grow and have meaning only if they reflect the basic interests of the two countries, and can command the respect and attention of a broad spectrum of public and political opinion. Leaders pass, but fundamental interests and directions endure.
It would therefore help to involve a bipartisan group of congressional leaders in Moscow summits. The long-term development of U.S.-Soviet relations needs more visible involvement of American leaders in addition to a president and his secretary of state.
Next, to a far greater extent than now, U.S.-Soviet relations must be conducted in the open and be subject to scrutiny. Indeed, American skepticism about detente is partly a product of diplomacy played too close to the chest-a product of a lack of full and open debate about great issues. We cannot hope ever to "normalize" relations with the Soviet Union, unless we do it mainly in the open, subject to public sight and sanction, gathering real strength from the play of forces in our democratic society.
Finally, we must increase our understanding of the dynamics of Soviet society and government, while encouraging greater Soviet awareness of the way the United States works and the way Americans think and act. Increasingly, hopes for continued progress will depend on greater sophistication on both sides about the ways in which each side’s policies and actions affect the other. When the cold war was in full flight, it was not necessary or very profitable to delve into the complexities of one another’s government or society. But in resolving that cold war, both sides must gain that understanding.
It is important for us to recognize that relations with the Soviet Union will continue to be a mixture of cooperation and potential conflict. And as I stressed to Soviet leaders in Moscow last April, it is important for those in each society who are committed to resolving differences to encourage constructive elements in the other.
The Arms Race Continues
These are some approaches that will be important in the next phase of U.S.-Soviet relations. But where should we begin?
In looking down the agenda, we must begin with even greater efforts to end the strategic arms race. For many years, it has been clear that imposing limits on nuclear arms is a matter of critical necessity. Furthermore, this need (and opportunity) to control the arms race has been important for us regardless of Moscow’s motives and capabilities, or the dynamics of Soviet society and government. Nor have we had to see arms control as a way of modifying Soviet behavior, attitudes, or society. The consequences of not imposing some controls-both on arms and doctrines — would have been to raise serious risks of instabilities perhaps even leading to a cataclysmic war.
The conscious effort to shape military weapons and strategies in order to reduce the risks of nuclear war has proceeded apace. Some of it has been tacit, and has even involved an increase in arms — such as the building of second-strike forces by both sides. Some of it has been explicit, stretching from the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963, through the agreements of 1972 on offensive and defensive missiles, to the unfortunately limited agreements of 1974.
At first, the most important thing was not the method of controlling arms, but the fact that it happened. Then the method itself took on added value, both because further limits like the ABM treaty were unlikely to come about through independent action on both sides, and because the process itself yielded increased understanding about the politics and doctrines of the opposing sides, In some ways, this understanding became the "most important product" of SALT I, by helping to firm up a climate in which behavior in other areas could be modified, and in which other agreements could be reached. Similarly, the climate needed for the SALT I agreements was helped by the important successes of West Germany’s Ostpolitik, especially the Moscow and Warsaw treaties and the agreement over Berlin.
Now we have reached a point when we once again need to think through the method of arms control. Will a continuing, formal set of negotiations contribute to arms control and increased U.S.-Soviet understanding? Or might it now actually cause more problems than it solves?
It is possible to ask these questions because of the agreements that have already been reached. Especially following the 1972 agreement to restrict defenses against missile attack, it has long been clear that neither the Soviet Union nor the United States can develop a means of launching a strategic nuclear war without devastating destruction in return. Neither the arms programs in progress, nor those contemplated, will shift the balance decisively.
But the doctrine of "mutual assured destruction," which guarantees that a nuclear war now or in the future would be insane, is a double-edged sword. It has helped promote some relaxation of tensions, but it has also reduced the sense of urgency about further arms control measures. As a result, it has obscured the risks of (a) an actual rise in arms expenditures, (b) a renewal of weapons-induced political tensions, and (c) a return to fears-however slight-that one side or the other will try to be able to launch a first-strike attack.
The Trouble with Bargaining Chips
The chief culprit on the U.S. side has been the building of unneeded weapons systems, which are then justified as "bargaining chips." purportedly as a way of stimulating Soviet interest in reaching further limits on the arms race. With rare exceptions, however, the weapons systems that have been built and then called bargaining chips have not been traded away. Instead, the iron law of bureaucracy makes them part of the new balance, requiring any agreement (if at all) to be set at a higher level of arms. This does not necessarily make the nuclear balance appreciably less stable, or make nuclear war more likely because of instabilities in the balance. But it does muddy the waters of superpower efforts to advance strategic understanding, and it retards the prospects for weapons agreements and progress in other areas of political relations.
At the same time, building unneeded weapons as bargaining chips undoubtedly reinforces any tendencies in the Soviet Union to match U.S. advances in weaponry, just as Soviet advances have a strong effect here. Both their generals and ours use evidence of new developments on the other side to justify new developments of their own. They and their supporters have thus helped keep the arms race going — as Secretary of State Kissinger argued following the Moscow summit — through this strange but unspoken alliance of interests and reactions.
Furthermore, the bargaining-chip approach to negotiating has reinforced the tendency to give exaggerated significance to any disparities in the number of nuclear weapons disparities that would have little or no strategic importance in the event of an actual war. Negotiations imply things that are concrete; and what can be more concrete than the number of weapons, rather than the quality of these weapons or the philosophy of strategic and political relations?
To be sure, a major difference in numbers of nuclear weapons can have political significance. It can shape the way we and the Russians would behave in a crisis. It can even make more likely a mutually-suicidal war by mistake. But this tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more attention we and others pay to these differences in number, the more likely they are to have political effects, and the harder it will be to break the spiral of arms.
We have had the answer for some time: the administration calls it "essential equivalence," while others call it "substantial overall equality" or a similar term. This means that the balance of forces on each side is roughly equal. The Soviet lead in the number and size of missiles is offset by the U.S. lead in bombers and in the number and accuracy of warheads. In warheads, we have more than a 3-to-l advantage, and are certain to retain the technological edge despite Soviet MIRV deployments. Neither nation is superior, but at the same time neither is second to the other. This is a lesson that must be impressed on military leaders in both countries, who still chase the chimera of gaining real superiority, although this futile search only provokes new and more deadly rounds in the arms race.
This problem can only be resolved by political leaders, both here and in the Soviet Union, who are committed to preventing the process of arms control from defeating its goals. This leadership is noticeably lacking on both sides. Soviet leaders join with American leaders in declaring their commitment to ending the arms race, yet they make arms control more difficult through new weapons programs and excessive secrecy about both weapons programs and doctrines of deterrence. And the Nixon administration showed little courage in opposing parts of the bureaucracy which push "worst case analysis" beyond strategic logic into the political realm of self-fulfilling prophecy.
A New Approach To Arms Control
Does this mean we should abandon the SALT talks altogether? I do not believe so. But I do believe that both American and Soviet attitudes toward these talks must change fundamentally. in five distinct ways.
First, it is time for full public disclosure of nuclear weapons doctrines and programs. In the United States, it is pointless for the Administration to hide facts about the nuclear forces of both sides from the American people, when these facts are well known to leaders in the Soviet Union. Too often, the Pentagon reveals only a partial record of Soviet nuclear developments and our capabilities. This partial record raises fears that are often unfounded, and is used to defeat control of arms. Secrecy about the details of weapons designs is important, but secrecy about the overall balance of nuclear arms only helps the opponents of arms control to stimulate new rounds in the arms race, in effect reducing American security. Full public disclosure would end the opportunity for anyone to make exaggerated claims about Soviet weapons deployments as a way of justifying higher U.S. weapons expenditures. And it would also permit greater involvement by Congress and the American people in debates about arms control and overall relations with the Soviet Union. This is an important part of "depersonalizing" U.S.-Soviet relations, and of giving them a solid foundation. At the same time, we should encourage the Soviet Union to end its obsession with secrecy, not only about weapons programs, but also about doctrines of deterrence. When in the Soviet Union, I urged this course both in my talks with Soviet leaders and in my meeting at Georgi Arbatov’s Institute of the U.S.A. I stressed that the Soviet Union, too, must act to break the hold of the weapons-builders on the process of arms control. As one Soviet official put it: "We all have our Pentagons."
Second, the United States must end the building of unneeded new weapons systems, and then justifying them as bargaining chips. Instead, we must practice restraint, and demand that the Soviet Union do the same. Our practicing restraint can be especially valuable where there is sufficient time for us to assess Soviet reactions. For example, we deployed MIRV’s several years before we could possibly have needed them — even if the Soviet Union had built the ABM system our MIRV’s were designed to counter — and thus made a Soviet response inevitable.
We are now at a critical moment. Before the recent summit, both superpowers faced a difficult challenge of resolving the dilemmas of burgeoning missile technology. With the failure of the summit to make substantial progress, we face new political as well as technological problems. These require restraint, as well as a new impetus to recapture lost political momentum. The time to do this is now, before there are so many weapons on both sides that controlling them becomes a monumental task. It would be tragic if the weapons-builders used time needed for resolving difficulties of the next agreement to make that agreement impossible.
Third, we must avoid particular arms programs that could create uncertainties about our commitment to mutual assured destruction, or that could be represented as such by Soviet opponents of arms control. And we should find new ways to impress upon Moscow that it must do the same if we are both to break the nuclear spiral.
It is therefore particularly unfortunate that the United States is now starting programs that will call into question the doctrine of mutual assured destruction, by threatening the survivability of Soviet land-based missiles! To be sure, it is important to have flexibility in our nuclear doctrines. so that the first nuclear salvo — perhaps by mistake — need not lead to full-scale nuclear war. But we have had this flexibility for many years: Many of our missiles have been targeted against Soviet military installations. What the Pentagon wants now is a "fine tuning" that would add little flexibility in the event of a nuclear war, yet which will be used by Soviet opponents of better relations with the United States as evidence that we are not committed to halting the arms race. Nor do these weapons offer the prospect of a "clean" or "limited" nuclear war: Millions of people would still die even in a nuclear exchange directed solely against opposing military targets. No one can be happy with the insanity of mutual assured destruction; but it is even more insane to raise the chances of war or lower the chances of arms control, by however little.
Fourth, the superpowers should separate arms control from the cycle of summit meetings, with its intense pressures to reach agreements that can be signed in a formal setting and proclaimed as evidence of concrete acts. Instead, both countries need to place more emphasis on negotiations below the level of the summit, but with top-level political support. This includes the SALT forum in Geneva. Where, unfortunately, an experienced U.S. team was dismantled after SALT I. thus contributing to failure at the recent summit. From time to time, both countries could build on progress at Geneva, perhaps following the precedent of the 1963 talks that produced the Partial Test Ban Treaty. Then, Governor Harriman, Lord Hailsham, and Foreign Minister Gromyko — with political preparation and strong backing from top leaders — produced an effective agreement in Moscow in a few weeks.
Fifth, we must change our view of the political role of the SALT talks. When they began, they were the most tangible evidence of communication between the superpowers. They did help to build confidence, and to promote other efforts. But now these other efforts are under way at the Conference on European Security and Cooperation, at the MBFR talks in trade and technology agreements, and in the expanding web of individual contacts between Soviet and American businessmen and political leaders.
SALT no longer has to bear the full weight of developing political understanding. In this regard, we can afford to play down its significance. Of course, we cannot play down arms control; but this one task no longer has to serve other purposes as much as before. Provided there is real political leadership, therefore. SALT talks reorganized in the ways I am suggesting here could produce further arms control measures, without stimulating the anxieties and self-defeating competition that have often accompanied the talks in the past.
Must The Bomb Spread?
We must change our approach to SALT for another reason. The U.S.-Soviet arms competition does not take place in a global vacuum. It is closely linked to the prospects not only of including China in future arms control efforts, but also of limiting the spread of nuclear weapons to more countries. India’s test of a nuclear device on May 18 shattered the plate glass window which we had complacently believed would limit, psychologically, the number of nuclear powers to the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. Unless we and other nations act soon, others will follow suit.
Over the years, some commentators have argued that the superpowers could contribute to their own and others’ security by creating such sizeable arsenals, and such advanced delivery vehicles, that other countries could not "buy in" to the club of significant nuclear powers. But even if new nuclear powers can only explode Hiroshima-size bombs — even if they prove to be as responsible as the first five nuclear powers — the world will become an immensely more dangerous place. In the interests of all nations, we must begin a major and urgent effort to stop the further spread of nuclear arms.
A non-proliferation strategy must have many elements, and in today’s world the superpowers simply cannot discipline all the world’s potential weapons-builders. One element of this strategy, as we approach the five-year review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1975, must be real evidence of serious restraint by Moscow and Washington. They must stop all nuclear testing which they not only no longer need, but which also sets a bad example for non-nuclear nations. And they must limit both the size of their nuclear arsenals and the political uses to which they are put.
It would be ironic for the United States and the Soviet Union to continue squabbling over relatively small differences in their capacity for overkill, while the real issue for them and others becomes the threat of nuclear weapons in the hands of many nations, particularly in crisis-prone areas of the world. Principally for this reason, 37 senators wrote to President Nixon before the Moscow summit, urging him "to go beyond a threshold ban, to an agreement that will lead progressively to a total ban on nuclear testing by the United States and the Soviet Union."
This did not happen. The summit yielded only another partial test ban treaty to begin in March 1976 (which does not show real superpower restraint), instead of an agreement to reduce testing progressively to zero (which would do so). This was a clear refusal to abide by commitments to end testing and to make substantial progress in arms control — commitments made in the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty and the 1969 Non-Proliferation Treaty. Furthermore, both sides immediately resumed testing, and the administration requested funds to step it up. Thus the threshold treaty actually makes proliferation more likely, and threatens to reduce the impetus to impose further limits on testing.
The need to limit the spread of nuclear weapons is also an added reason to regret Secretary Schlesinger’s effort to make a "limited" nuclear war possible, by increasing the accuracy of U.S. land-based missiles. This effort will tempt other countries to believe that there is, indeed, real military value in nuclear weapons for limited war. It is a relatively short step from this to the first use of nuclear weapons in war since 1945.
The Arms Control Dividend
Beyond the strategic and political arguments for a more vigorous commitment to arms control, there is also a critical economic goal: to stop the massive diversion of resources from human needs to military machines. The gaining of a basic stability in the international system has long since justified a reduced level of expenditures made on both sides for military weapons-nuclear and conventional — even though there are and will remain particular conflicts of interest and unresolved rivalries. Yet the distrust that remains and colors relations even after mutual assured destruction has been achieved, and tests of superpower military strength, elsewhere, have declined, imposes real costs on the two superpowers and other countries that none should have to bear. These costs — like the large defense budget increases this year in the United States — also contribute to inflation and thereby actually help to undermine our overall national security and that of all other countries suffering from this affliction.
These costs can be reduced, provided that strategic balances and understandings can be further removed from the atmosphere of hostility that gave them birth, and be given a more neutral coloring as tools for preventing war between the major powers and for permitting the greater independence and development of individual nations and peoples.
The Limits Of Understanding
So far in this article, I have stressed the critical importance of arms control. But U.S.-Soviet relations now include a host of other areas and concerns, as well. It will be increasingly important to see arms control efforts as part of the larger picture of developing relations. Progress in this one area will be reflected in others, just as the improvement of the political climate has made it easier to begin limiting strategic arms.
Yet how far can this process go? Despite progress made so far, the development of
U.S. relations with the Soviet Union still has real limits, as we discovered in the Middle East last year. Perhaps it was premature of us to expect the Soviet Union to play a truly responsible role there. Yet we did do so, as the appropriate consequence of earlier agreements. We have not drawn a distinction between Soviet restraint when Moscow shares an interest with us, and a lack of it when Moscow does not.
At this point in U.S.-Soviet relations we must learn to draw this distinction, in order not to sacrifice the critical gains already made in limiting the arms race, and in order to exploit the possibilities for further agreements in Europe and elsewhere. For example, we must be careful about linking events in the Middle East with efforts to control the arms race. Too close a linkage could spoil even more important efforts to reduce risks in U.S.-Soviet relations.
At the same time, we should increasingly require greater Soviet sensitivity to our expectations. In assessing its own policies in places like the Middle East. Moscow must increasingly understand that a failure of restraint will help provoke a direct U.S. response, and color overall U.S. views of relations with the Soviet Union.
The United States has to be sensitive to Soviet interests, as well, In the Middle East, this means recognizing the strong Soviet demands to playa greater role in peacemaking diplomacy, as co-chairman with us at the Middle East Peace Conference in Geneva. We should seize this opportunity to seek Soviet support for real peace efforts, and impress upon the Russians the damage they too would suffer from renewed conflict in the area. They cannot have lasting stability in Europe with the Middle East in turmoil.
At some point, a constructive Soviet role will be needed at Geneva. Like it or not, Moscow still has the potential — through its relations with Syria, Iraq, and others — to prevent a final peace. Soviet intentions must be tested and concrete acts should count for more than words; but its role cannot be denied if there is to be peace in the Middle East and greater Soviet willingness to pursue steps that will ease tensions elsewhere.
Closely allied to the future of U.S.-Soviet relations in the Middle East is the potential growth in importance of other centers of competition and rivalry. However many agreements we reach directly with Moscow, other areas of disagreement will remain, and the Soviet Union will no doubt continue to challenge the United States as a world power. Most immediately, Moscow is increasing the size of its naval forces, and its ability to project sea power in distant parts of the globe. The United States must be prepared to deal flexibly with Soviet actions. On the one hand, we must be ready to meet real Soviet challenges that could, indeed, threaten our vital interests or those of our close allies. On the other hand, we must try through diplomacy and the search for mutual restraint to prevent damage to both sides from any Soviet effort simply to become "equal" with us in power or position.
The requirement for U.S. flexibility is illustrated by the potential challenge of Soviet sea power in the Indian Ocean. Thus, it would be a mistake for us to expand the communications facility at Diego Garcia, while Soviet naval deployments in the Indian Ocean are still limited and while Moscow refrains from establishing a naval base there. Instead, as I argued in Moscow, we should be talking with the Russians, now, about their future plans in the Indian Ocean, and about mutual restraint. We must also indicate to Moscow that it cannot pursue, without American response, a "sphere of influence" policy in that part of the globe. We should respect the Soviet desire to feel equal; yet there is no point in countenancing foolishness on Moscow’s part nor in matching it with our own.
The Limits Of Power
The limits of understanding between the superpowers, reflected in the Middle East and the Indian Ocean, are complemented by the limits of power now imposed on both of them. The accumulated record of the last decade’s relations between East and West, based first and foremost on preventing confrontation and conflict, have led to a profound change in the global distribution of power. Alliances lose their cohesion; nonaligned countries find greater latitude for independent action (though not to play one superpower off against the other); and nonmilitary factors become more important.
There is a paradox here. The United States and the Soviet Union are increasingly able to reach bilateral agreements on a wide range of issues affecting other countries. Yet at the same time, it is increasingly unlikely that they could impose a condominium on any area of the world (much less on all of it). For example, limited efforts at the 1972 Moscow summit to reach understandings about the future of Europe were met with an outcry in Western Europe that provoked an immediate retreat. The superpowers have reduced the threat of war between themselves on behalf of all nations, but, in the process, they are gradually losing the ability to impose their will on these other nations. The resulting pluralism of power gives far more countries a chance for self-expression and an active role in the outside world.
This new pluralism of power is particularly important in Europe, profoundly affecting policies of both superpowers there. It was clear to me, after my trip to West and East Europe, that agreements on the Continent’s future must be essentially made in Europe — although both the United States and the Soviet Union are closely involved.
In the United States, the Nixon Administration finally learned we must coordinate our approaches to Moscow with our European allies, or risk greater cleavages in the alliance and a failure of diplomacy with the Soviet Union. There have to be close consultations on SALT; the MBFR talks must begin with agreement in the alliance, however painstaking it is to reach common positions; and some issues affecting both European security and U.S.-Soviet relations -like the so-called forward based systems-must be ruled "out of bounds" for bilateral agreement between Washington and Moscow. Furthermore, the United States must be prepared to cooperate with imaginative West European initiatives toward the Eastern countries, such as the Ostpolitik of former Chancellor Brandt, and to seek greater European involvement in some other areas of U.S.-Soviet competition, like the Middle East. In general, the bilateral character of U.S.-Soviet relations must be qualified where these affect Europe, or where there is an overlap of bilateral and European concerns.
Despite growing recognition of this fact, however, the European connection faces further problems. Neither the United States nor its European allies have paid enough attention to the basic Western political and economic understandings that must also underpin any sustained and serious effort to resolve differences with Moscow.
The Nixon administration was especially insensitive in recent years to changes taking place in relations across the Atlantic, as European economic power has grown at a more rapid rate than our own. And with each failure to solve economic problems among industrial states — and the political issues they have raised for the Western powers — it has been natural for the NATO alliance itself to feel added strains. This has been especially so as pressures have grown in Congress to save money by reducing U.S. troop strength in Europe — despite the offsetting of out balance-of-payments costs-and as the Nixon Administration wrongly tried to bargain with this strength to gain European economic concessions.
The Atlantic malaise has a critical impact on Western strength needed to advance U.S.-Soviet relations. It does little good to struggle with the cohesion of NATO as a way of expressing the U.S. commitment to Europe’s security and to underpin diplomatic approaches to the East, if other allied relations are foundering in heavy seas. Military security is simply not enough. In time, it could become a Maginot Line, protecting us against a reduced military threat, while the real threats to Western strength come from economic strains across the Atlantic and worldwide problems like inflation.
Thus, it was wrong for the Nixon Administration to imply a choice in U.S. policy between advancing relations with the Soviet Union and grappling with the difficult and messy problems of economic change within the Atlantic alliance (and between the United States and Japan). Both must proceed, or neither will get far.
The consequences of ignoring Atlantic economic problems were made very clear during the Middle East war last year. The Administration appeared to be startled when its major European allies pursued policies reflecting a quite different view of the Middle East from its own. Why was there this sudden difference of view? Most important, no member of the alliance had paid much attention to the basic disparity of economic interests across the Atlantic concerning dependence on Arab oil and vulnerability to an embargo — where Europe’s dependence and vulnerability were at least seven times that of the United States. Despite widespread warnings about an impending energy crisis, the alliance itself was unprepared for it. The upshot was a serious blow to Administration policy, not only in aiding Israel, but also in "managing" its relations with the Soviet Union in the Middle East.
This critical incident illustrates the depth of potential disagreement within the alliance, complicating relations with the Soviet Union. The effort to repair the damage, and to generate new Atlantic political strength, must be both broad and deep. Personal diplomacy, however spectacular, cannot substitute for the revitalizing of old institutions and the creating of new ones, including a new capacity in the U.S. government to manage complex international economic relations along with a real commitment to reduce inflation. Similarly, no declaration of principles, like that concluded by the NATO powers in June, can substitute for patient and sustained work, including an end to ambivalence about seeking a strong and cohesive European Community.
The Role Of China
The new pluralism of power in the world is also raising new questions about the role of China and its impact on U.S.-Soviet relations. It is tempting for the United States to engage in a serious effort to play the Soviet Union and China off against one another, in a "triangular politics" of great powers that bears a vague but disquieting resemblance to Orwell’s prophecy in 1984. Yet giving in to this temptation would be misguided or even worse.
One of the most significant factors in developing U.S.-Soviet relations is the need to increase mutual trust that neither side will threaten the other’ vital interests. This is a basic theme of mutual assured destruction, arms control, agreements in Europe, and the search for restraint in the Middle East. There is little point in jeopardizing these understandings by seeming to undermine Soviet confidence in security on its eastern frontier.
Likewise, improved Sino-American relations are largely based on our actions in reassuring China about its security, and about our neutrality in the Sino-Soviet conflict. Our relations with the Russians do tremble the Chinese; but it would be worse to become involved in risky triangular politics, in which our commitment to stability on the Sino-Soviet frontier seemed less important to us than meddling in that difficult situation. Instead we should try to hasten the time when China will join serious discussions about arms control beginning on the informal basis established with the Soviet Union at the Pugwash Conferences. We should increasingly demonstrate our recognition of China’s importance as a major power. And we should extend to it the same trading opportunities extended to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. In this way, we can help to quiet Chinese fears without, in the process, raising legitimate Soviet fears.
The Importance Of Trade
After progress in the strategic and political realms, the evolution of trade and other economic relations ranks next in importance as a potential way of changing the overall climate of East-West relations. In itself, trade and other economic relations may not lead to profound changes; but coupled with other efforts they can have an important impact, especially if trade benefits us substantially, as well, for example, in gaining access to Soviet energy and raw materials.
Furthermore, the economic realm is significant in involving a wide range of people and institutions in the process of improving relations with the Soviet Union. It should be part of developing broader and deeper ties, extending (on our side) far beyond the narrow precincts of government. It involves many Western nations in relations with the Soviet Union, some outpacing us.
This conclusion is based on the belief that highly developed economic relations between countries can help reduce the incentives to develop and exploit tensions. Of course, the belief that economic ties can make war "impossible" or "unthinkable" was popular before World War I. and for that era was discredited by it. And we should not be overly optimistic that drawing the Soviet Union into the web of international economic relations will in itself lead Moscow to play a more responsible role.
Yet this process does pose a choice for Soviet leaders. It will become increasingly difficult for them to depend on Western support for efforts to join us in what Andrei
Sakharov has called "the second industrial revolution," while continuing foreign policies that can be seen as adventurous. They may follow a one-shot wheat deal with high-risk actions in the Middle East. But as they become increasingly dependent upon Western economic cooperation on a regular and continuing basis, they will face greater pressures to modify their political behavior. Pressures will also increase as parts of the Soviet bureaucracy become more committed to maintaining economic contacts with the West, and as the Russians begin to emphasize production of consumer goods. Of course, Moscow may judge its long-range interests differently; but such a calculation could bear a high price.
For our part, improving economic relations with the Soviet Union for political and economic reasons entails several steps:
(a) granting the Soviet Union "most favored nation" (MFN) treatment, (b) continuing to extend credits (of far more immediate importance than MFN), and (c) building on the economic agreements that have already been reached. When and how this should be done is related to important human rights, and will be discussed below.
Progressively, Soviet economic involvement with the West should also expand beyond the bilateral agreements that have made up most of the contacts so far. Increasingly, all sides will derive benefits from a greater Soviet role in multilateral economic institutions. Some of the economic currents moving in the West — especially inflation-have not yet had an appreciable effect in the Soviet Union. But it is not clear that even non-market economies can provide effective shelter from this worldwide crisis. Certainly in other areas-food, energy, pollution, raw materials, the seas, and the prospects for developing countries — the Soviet Union and the outside world cannot keep entirely aloof from one another. Nor can the Soviet Union escape the social consequences of industrial society, where it has much to gain by sharing experience with the industrial nations of the West. The Soviet Union, too, must solve some problems in common with other countries, to solve them at all.
Prospective Soviet membership, both in new institutions and established ones (like the International Monetary Fund and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), must impose responsibilities as well as benefits. And Moscow is only just beginning to see the value in playing a larger role in the world economy. Yet its participation in world conferences this year on food, population, and the law of the seas could be the start of a trend. Both the potential and the growing need for greater Soviet involvement are there. So too are the related prospects for East-West political development — even though we will often see intense rivalry and competition in these nonmilitary areas.
Of course, there will be difficulties posed for the Soviet Union and Western states in seeking broad cooperation with one another through economic institutions. Different philosophies still form a barrier to easy contacts and coordination of economic policies. Yet despite these limitations — despite ideology — there is scope for mutual gain. And cooperation in the West need not be in conflict with reaching out to the East, as well.
The Human Dimension
For some time, the issue of increasing trade with the Soviet Union (and the granting of credits) has been linked in Congress and in much public debate with an internal policy of the Soviet Union: namely, the limits placed on the emigration of its people, and the harassment of many who apply to leave. This linkage has become one important vehicle for posing a central question: "What are the human dimensions of changing relations with the Soviet Union?" Nor is the question limited to Soviet emigration policies. The examples of Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov also compel U.S. concern.
Soviet leaders parry this question, and assert that firm understandings between our two countries must be based on complete respect for one another’s sovereignty. On the issue of linking emigration to trade, they argued to me that this is an internal matter, permitting no outside interference. And they cited the increase in Jewish emigration between 1970 and 1973, from below 1.000 to 34,000 (the number has dropped off significantly in 1974). It would be impossible to disregard the impact that U.S. pressures have had on Soviet emigration policy.
Many of us are troubled by this issue because of our American tradition of concern for human rights wherever they are threatened. It is important for Soviet leaders to understand this concern as part of gaining a more sophisticated view of American society. To be sure, there is a growing American acceptance of the value of trade and other economic relations in helping to develop a broad and firm base for U.S.-Soviet relations. Yet the continuing repression in the Soviet Union is a cause of both human and political concern — the latter stimulating real doubts about the pace and even the prospects of political evolution in East-West relations.
I raised this issue in my talks with Soviet leaders in Moscow, and I met with some of the Soviet Jewish dissidents–a group of courageous and gentle people.
In my address at the Moscow State University, I expressed my own deep commitment to the cause of human rights, and the concerns of many Americans that improving U.S.-Soviet relations not be clouded by Soviet policy on this issue:
Can we resolve it? I am hopeful we can. I am hopeful that we can go beyond the frustrations and the anger on both sides that are damaging to all and of benefit to none. And I am confident that a magnanimous action on the part of your government would lead the American people to respond as well — in the interests of seeking genuine friendship between our nations, and in the interests of our major and shared responsibility for the fate of mankind.
However, a resolution of the immediate trade-emigration issue will not still the more basic uneasiness about the nature of Soviet society. It may be that a continuing reduction of international tensions, coupled with a rising Soviet standard of living, will in time help to liberalize Soviet society — despite today’s concessions made to repressive elements in the Politburo by Soviet supporters of improved U.S.-Soviet relations. Even so, the pace of change will inevitably be slow, with very real limits on the extent to which the Soviet Union will adapt in ways that are to our liking-just as our evolution will rarely (if ever) meet Soviet desires for American society.
In general, it is important to be cautious about interfering in one another’s society, if only because of the risks to fundamental political and strategic understandings. Yet it is also clear that improving relations must bring with it an increase in frankness between nations, and more sensitivity to human needs as well as concern for political stability. There is no reason for silence, and every reason for setting examples and for making repeated appeals to standards of human decency. Exerting this kind of pressure-both in bilateral relations and in multilateral forums like the Conference on European Security and Cooperation (CESC) — is an essential part of securing popular support for overall policies toward the Soviet Union, both here and in Western Europe.
We should also press the Soviet Union to permit increasing contacts between our two peoples, through expanded tourism, professional exchanges, and an end to the policy of restricted travel within each country of all U.S. citizens in Russia, and of Soviet diplomats here, in retaliation.
In the long run, the Soviet system is cursed by its dependence on repression to maintain a particular regime in power. The test of our two societies ultimately lies not in our respective military, political, or even economic strengths, but rather in the lives that our two peoples are able to lead. And in its nurturing of a poverty of the human spirit, the Soviet system is surely the loser.
In sum, the era beyond detente in our relations with the Soviet Union must be carefully conceived, and must emphasize the methods of giving these relations both breadth and depth. I have singled out five important steps for the United States:
1. We must involve far more people and institutions than the President and the Secretary of State in the development of U.S.-Soviet relations, and involve all facets of American society in public debate about the directions these relations should take.
2. We must increasingly conduct these relations in the public view, to the fullest extent possible, and seek an end to Soviet secrecy about nuclear programs and doctrines.
3. We should increasingly emphasize a step-by-step approach to resolving difficulties and creating a web of relations, while institutionalizing the process.
4. We must work with those Russians who are committed to improving relations with us, and seek a more sophisticated view in each country about the impact of its policies on the other’s domestic politics.
5. We must relate the needs of U.S.-Soviet relations to broader world problems if there is to be balanced growth and development both in this area of U.S. foreign policy and in its larger perspectives.
This last step in the method of developing U.S.-Soviet relations may, in the long run, be the most important. For the true test will lie in our mutual ability and willingness to face the truly great challenges to mankind for the balance of this century: challenges of food, of fuel, of population, of sharing resources, and of the need for a broader sense of social justice toward the poor countries. This will be more likely if and when superpower relations reach a point where managing them no longer absorbs the primary attention of our statesmen, thus liberating energies to concentrate on the more basic problems for mankind. Here is President Ford’s greatest challenge.
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