Legvold, Robert
March 1979
Foreign Affairs;Spring79, Vol. 57 Issue 4, p755
This article discusses the increasing ability of the Soviet Union to intrude and the limited accomplishments of détente in creating mechanisms or standards constraining its intrusions, as of March 1979. Much of the current discussion in the U.S. leaves the impression that alarm over Soviet behavior in regional areas is deepening as a consequence of the helplessness of the U.S. to deal with it. The U.S. is not helpless, of course, but it must go much further in designing a well-conceived response to the Soviet dimension of regional conflict, one adequate for the long run and inspiring confidence in the near term as well. This, however, has to be part of an overall policy toward the Soviet Union that is considerably more systematic, coherent and balanced than at present. First, the U.S. must decide the kind of economic relationship it wants to have with the Soviet Union and how this fits into the larger relationship it is trying to build. Second, not only should the U.S. talk to the Soviet leadership about the problem, it should make a far more strenuous effort to reduce the risks and moderate the effects of its rivalry in areas of instability. Third, the success of U.S. policy also requires a greater readiness to discriminate among different patterns of Soviet behavior and acknowledge restraint on the Soviet part, when the U.S. suspect the possibility. Fourth, rather than focusing on Soviet actions, the U.S. should address regional problems itself, counting on solutions or partial solutions to place the healthiest limits on Soviet opportunities. Finally, none of what is proposed above is prudent or politically feasible unless the U.S. retains the capability and the option of responding forcefully where there appears to be no other way of inducing Soviet restraint and where other of its interests are not seriously jeopardized thereby.


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