An American Conservative Views U.S. -Soviet Relations

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An American Conservative Views U.S. -Soviet Relations

September 1, 1990 20 min read Download Report
Burton Yale
Senior Associate Fellow in African Affairs

(Archived document, may contain errors)

An American Conservative Views U.S.-Soviet Relations

By Burton Yale Pines

must start by telling you something that you here in Moscow already know very well: the world is changing enormously. At the center of this change is the changing relationship between my country and yours. A very small symbol of this change is that I am in Moscow today with you. A couple of years ago, I w ould not have come to speak with you. I would have said that you and I had nothing to talk about. And you probably would not have wanted to meet with me. Now I think that we have much to talk about. Let me tell you who I am. I am an American Conservative. I am an activist American con- servative, perhaps some even would say a shock worker - an oodarneek. As a conservative, all my professional life I have been anti-Communist and anti-Soviet. I felt strongly that the Soviet Union was the most dangerous enemy of America; the most threatening enemy. I saw the Soviet Union as the Great Satan. In believing this, I have been typical of millions of American conservatives - and typical of tens of millions of American voters. Ronald Reagan, of course, also held these beliefs. It was, after all, Reagan who declared that the Soviet Union was an "evil empire." When he said this he was applauded by me and my colleagues. And this was one very important reason why Reagan was elected and re-elected president by huge majoriti e s. But that was yesterday - a day that seems long ago. Since then so much has changed that I must ask myself. Are my former beliefs still valid? As I question these beliefs and analyze the new relationship between your country and mine, I discover some th i ngs that we may have in common. Certainly the level of our cooperation in the Persian Gulf reveals common interests. Remember, however, that I am a conservative. T'his means that I am going to be cautious about all changes - including changes in internati o nal relationships. I am not yet sure whether the changes here in your country are reversible or not. I am not yet sure that the Cold War is really over. I believe that it is, but I cannot be ab- solutely sure. Not yet. Let me tell you personally, honestly : I want the Cold War to be over. I do not enjoy worrying about the threat from the Soviet Union.

B urton Yale Pines is Senior Vice President and Director of Research at The Heritage Foundation. He delivered this lecture on September 18,1990, at the Diplomat ic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Moscow-, on September 19 at the Young Political Lzaders Club of Moscow-, and on September 20, at Moscow State University. ISSN 0272-1155. 0 1990 by The Heritage Foundation.

I do not enjoy spending so much A merican money on defenses designed to oppose the Soviet Union. I know that money spent by the government - by any government, for any- thing, including defense - is money that is not spent wisely or efficiently. I know that when a nation increases its mil i tary power, it also increases the size of govern- ment. As a conservative, I do not like this. I do not like big government. Thus, I would prefer a world in which America is not threatened by the Soviet Union and thus a world in which America could spend l ess on defense. I prefer a world in which America could work with and cooperate with a reformed, democratic and free market Soviet Union - or a reformed, democratic, free market Russia, Ukraine, Utvia and other nations of this region. Ibis is a point I mu s t emphasize. My fight never has been with the Russian or Ukrainian or the Soviet people. Rather, my fight has been with Stalin and Brezhnev and those other ar- chitects of Soviet foreign expansion after World War H. I believed - and continue to believe - t hat such expansion threatens America. If you no longer are expanding, if you no longer seek to dominate and control the nations on your borders and elsewhere, then I do not want to fight you. In fact, I may want to work with you. I seek no unilateral adva n tage for my country. As a conservative, I know that the world is not a Zero Sum game; I know that it is not necessary for you to lose in order for me to gain. I hope that you no longer feel that the only way for you to win is for America to lose. It is po ssible, after all, for us both to gain together. So I welcome the changes that we have been seeing here and in our relations. I want the changes to be permanent.

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In some respects, just as the nature of our antagonism and hostility was special, so the na - ture of our emerging relationship may become special. Despite the tremendous differences between your nation and mine, there are important similarities. We may be more like each other than we are like Europe. We both have been told for centuries by Old W orld Europe that we are unsophisticated - that we are peasants, country bumpkins, Oblamovs. Yet we both long have known that we have something that Old World Europe does not have and never can have. We both - your country and mine - are huge continents. W e both have had frontiers that challenged us to become pioneers and to be brave enough to settle in virgin lands. We both have a romantic sense of the land and the people. We have a romantic sense of who we are and a sense that we have a special destiny.


We both have a sense of mission, a sense that we are different from other nations. In my country we express thi s as The American Dream, as Manifest Destiny. Throughout our his- tory we have seen ourselves - and Ronald Reagan reminded us of this often - as a Zion in the Wilderness, a City upon a Hill, the last great hope of man. It is Reagan who asked us in a way t h at Americans deeply understood: "If not now, then when? If not us, then whom?" And you too have seen yourself as a special place, a special land. You have viewed your- self as The Tbird Rome or, later, as the center of a world revolution. The results of t h e American sense of mission and the Russian sense of mission have been different - at times, tragically different. And I cannot overlook the differences. But what is similar is that we are both nations able to dream. For good reason did Tolstoy, Dostoevsk i and other of your philosophers observe that Russians are not really Europeans. As a conservative I appreciate these feelings and impulses. And because of what we have in common, we may find that it is possible to build a special relationship. Alexis de T o c- queville, the French writer who understood America so well, recognized this 150 years ago, when he wrote: T'here are now two great nations in the world which, starting from different points, seem to be advancing toward the same goal: the Russians and t he Americans .... Each seems called by some secret desire of Providence one day to hold in its hands the destinies of half the world.


I call myself a conservative. Ixt me tell you what it means to be an American conservative. First. Because we believe t hat man is created by God, we believe that each individual must be treated with respect. Each must enjoy liberty and freedom. At the heart and center and soul of conservative belief is liberty. Second. We believe that man is fallible, that man makes mista k es and always will make mistakes, that human judgment is not perfect. 71bis means that we need some checks to con- trol human behavior. The checks are provided by our culture, religion, tradition, parents, families, community and public authorities. And b e cause we believe that men are not perfect, we reject the idea of utopias. We know from history that all attempts to build utopias have been disastrous and have led to terrible repression. The great mistake of utopian thinking is to believe that man can be smart enough and good enough and generous enough to create and live in perfect societies. His- tory teaches us that this is not true. Third, we believe that not all men and women are equal. Perhaps it would be nice if everyone had equal talent and ability and kindness, but this simply is not the case. Ine- quality is a fact of life. As a conservative I believe that those who are the more fortunate thus have a responsibility for those who are the less fortunate'.


Fourth, we believe that each generation has a responsibility to the generations that follow - and to those that,came first. We have an obligation to preserve what is valuable for future generations. It is this that makes us cautious about what we change and cautious about how we change it. Fift h , we believe that wealth is created only by human beings. This means that the only economic system that can succeed is a system that unleashes the creativity and mobilizes the efforts of individuals. The only system that we have discovered that does this is the free market -what Karl Marx called capitalism. Every other system has failed to mobilize in- dividual creativity and thus has failed as an economic system.

I V. I have described the fundamentals of American conservative belief. Now, more specifical- l y, how do we approach foreign policy. I must start by admitting that conducting foreign policy makes conservatives uncomfort- able. After all, we really do believe that - as Ronald Reagan said frequently - "Govern- ment IsThe Problem Not The Solution." We do believe that government inevitably erects obstacles to individual creativity and that government inevitably becomes the enemy of liberty. And thus, we believe that the bigger the government, the bigger the problem. The conduct of foreign policy - espec i ally an activist, interventionist foreign policy - re- quires more government than conservatives like. Yet, in the Cold War, when we were confronted by the dangerous threat from you, we conservatives concluded - reluctantly and not happily - that we must c onduct a vigorous foreign policy backed up by a strong military. And what has been the purpose of this foreign policy? I answer by quoting a former American Secretary of State who I know did not have one of the most popular names in Moscow. I quote John F o ster Dulles. In 1958, he said: "There is nothing mysterious about the goals of United States foreign policy. They seek to defend and advance the interests of the United States."' As a conservative, I am not ashamed to say that the goal of American foreign policy is to help American interests. The key question, of course, is: What are these interests? For almost its entire history, my country has defined its interests as a world inhabited by democratic states conducting open and free trade. It does help Ame r ica if other nations are free and democratic. It is good for America if other nations grow economically and expand their trade. Sure, some of us also want to advance morality - and American policies often do advance morality. But we must not confuse advan cing morality with advancing our interests. Advanc- ing morality is the by-product, not the reason and goal, of American foreign policy. For me,


as a conservative, it is American interests that must be the goal and core and driving force and center of American foreign policy.

V. What does this tell me about the prospects of relations between your country and mine? Ile short answer is: our relations can improve enormously. They can become very friend- ly. We can discover many areas of cooperation. We can discover considerable mutual inter- ests. Of course, there still will be problems. A big problem is that we still will be worried about your nuclear arsenal. Only you can - and for the foreseeable future will be able to - attack and devastate my country. 11is will always worry us and create residual anxiety and tensions in our relations. Many things, however, can change. I see five big areas in which it is possible for our rela- tions to improve: 1) global security; 2) regional security; 3) bilateral conc erns; 4) American participation in your economic reforms; and 5) helping7bird World nations grow economi- cally.

First, let's examine the matter of global security. This is the most urgent and important area, of course, because this was the heart of the co ld war. What brought America in 1947 and 1949 back into world affairs, what forced us to develop advanced nuclear weapons, was to keep first Europe and then other parts of the world secure from Soviet expansion. We developed our terrifying weapons to halt your expansion. It is this "global" confronta- tion that created the nightmare of Nuclear Holocaust. The Cold War, thus, will truly end only if we end it in this area. To start, we must agree on genuine and large reductions of conventional weapons in Euro p e. Then we must conclude a strategic arms agreement that really - not cosmetically, but really - eliminates the most dangerous and provocative weapons, especially the giant-size missiles. T'his is a polite way for me to say that your SS-18 missiles must b e eliminated. They are the only weapons in the world capable of inflicting a devastating First Strike attack. In the new world of our new relations, no nation needs such a weapon. Tle nuclear threat, of course, will come not only from our countries. More t r oubling, per- haps, is that too manyThird World countries appear to be developing nuclear, chemical and biological arsenals. We must work together, and with Europe, to impose a very tough regime to prevent Third World states from becoming nuclear powers. A nd then, we must start working together on strategic defenses, on defenses against mis- sile attack. As a conservative, I favor strategic defense more than any other weapons system. As a conservative, I insist that the only indisputable legitimate functio n of government is to defend its people. Strategic defenses at last will enable my government - and your government - to do this. If I manage today, and in future conversations, to persuade some


of you to become conservatives, then you will understand why strategic defense is the most important weapon we can develop. Throughout the entire nuclear age, after all, we both have been unable to defend oursel- ves from nuclear attack. Instead, we relied nervously on the threat of devastating counter- strikes to deter attack. We conducted hundreds, perhaps thousands, of academic seminars on the virtues and problems of Mutual Assured Destruction. Perhaps tens of thousands of scholarly articles were written about it. And yet, during all this time, we were nervou s . We talked nervously about miscalcula- tions; we talked nervously about launching-on-warning; we talked nervously about a leader's need to make a counter-attack decision in just 15 minutes; and we talked nervously about the hairline trigger. With strateg i c defense we will not need to be nervous about any of these. American security will not have to depend on rational decisions being made in Moscow. Your security will not have to depend on rational decisions being made in Washington. Strategic defense may n ot be a 100 percent protection against a massive nuclear attack, but it can be an almost total protection against miscalculation and irrationality. And, perhaps as important and surely with increasing importance, strategic defense can protect us fromThird World tyrants - from a Hussein, a Gadhafi, a Kim 11 Sung - who builds rockets armed with chemical or even nuclear warheads. I urge that we begin working together on devising a system for deploying strategic defen- ses. Perhaps we can even work together on some aspects of developing the technology. Give us a chance to convince you that strategic defense will increase the security of all of us. I suggest that the most important thing that we can do to demonstrate that the Cold War has ended and that a new ep och has begun would be for us to shift the foundation of our security from devastating offensive weapons to a defensive shield.

T he second big area in which our relations can improve involves regional matters. Your very constructive efforts opposing Iraqs i nvasion and military occupation of Kuwait give me hope that the most serious tensions of the volatile Middle East at last can be reduced. A main cause of the tensions in the past 40 years has been that Arab nations have known that you probably would back t hem if they opposed the U.S. and Israel. Your action on Iraq this past month very much changes this and could create an environment in which most Middle East nations conclude that it is wise for them to begin pursuing peaceful policies. This would be help ed enormously if you normalized your relations with Israel and then help us repeal the 1975 United Nations General Assembly Resolution that declares that Zionism is racism.


Also constructive have been your recent contributions to stability in East Asia . I know that you have reduced - and perhaps even ended - your support of the anti-government guerrillas in the Philippines; now it would be useful to repudiate them publicly. I know that you have reduced significantly your naval operations at Viet Nam's C am Ranh Bay; now I suggest that you begin reducing your arms shipments to Viet Nam"s navy and air force. Meanwhile, I welcome your increased commercial relations with Taiwan. The most important policy in Asia, of course, concerns Japan. As an American, I f ind that discussing Japan requires some delicacy. I almost hesitate to do so publicly. As an American, I am proud that my country's policies have helped make Japan a good citizen of the world, a democracy and an economic power. I am proud that we have hel d our security umbrella over Japan so that Japan could recover politically and economically from the war that Japan started and Japan lost. And yet, I worry about Japan - as I suspect you do. The main problem is that Japan - once again - can become a milit a ry threat to all of Asia. Japan has the technology and the money to build - once again - a mighty war machine. I do not believe that Japan at this moment wants to do so. I know that Tokyo is very sensi- tive to the fears of Japan that run deep throughout A sia. Ile danger is that if Japan begins to feel threatened, then Japan understandably will begin to acquire the weapons it needs to protect itself. These weapons will include those which Japan so far does not have: aircraft carriers, long-range bombers an d , perhaps, even missiles. If Japan builds such an arsenal, all of Asia will be terrified. Asia will be destabilized. This would be a threat to America; it would be a threat to you. I hope that stability in Asia becomes a Soviet foreign policy objective. T h en my country and yours could explore ways to prevent Japan from feeling threatened. If Japan does not feel threatened, then Japan probably will not expand its arsenal. I believe that a large American military force in Asia is necessary to prevent Japan f r om feeling threatened. The main purpose of this force increasingly is to give Japan a sense of security. If we withdraw our troops from Asia, Japan almost certainly would begin to do more to defend itself. I thus make two suggestions: 1) that you accept t h e need for American forces to remain in Asia to maintain stability; and 2) that your own actions in Asia, perhaps working with us, contribute to stability. A good first step towards this may have been Foreign Minister Shevardnadze's visit to Japan earlier this month.


The third big area of potential improvement in our relations involves our bilateral con- cerns. Here I hope that your NewThinking means that you will end those programs that directly damage America - such as giving military aid to Cuba. I also hope that y o u will end entirely those disinformation campaigns that attempt to dis- credit my country. Some of these campaigns, in the 1980s, as you may know, said that the U.S. army deliberately created and spread the AIDS virus. Some campaigns said that America kid n apped South American babies to use them for medical experiments. All of this, of course, was nonsense. There is no reason for you to have said such things about us. I know, and welcome, that such campaigns have been decreased substantially in the past yea r . Now I hope that they are ended entirely. I also welcome the decreasing aid and shelter that you have been giving to terrorists. I hope that terrorists will discover that they have no friends in your country. I suggest that we work together on policies a n d programs to end state-supported terrorism. Another matter important to America, of course, is the international narcotics traffic. I know that the drug problem mainly is an internal American matter. It is mainly for we Americans to solve ourselves. Yet m ore could be done to stop drugs from reaching the U.S. In this regard, I ask you to use your very strong influence in Laos to pressure its government to take strong action against narcotics traders. Uos is becoming an increasing source of nar- cotics that reach America. Finally, I am sure that you share America's concern about North Korea's apparent efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. It would be useful for you publicly to ask North Korea to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect all North Korean nuclear facilities.

The fourth area of possible improvement in our relations concerns how America can as- sist perestroika. If you want our help in developing your democratic institutions and your market economy, we are ready to help. In fact, The He ritage Foundation and other American conservative organizations, for more than a year, have been giving advice to economic reformers in Russia, in the Baltic states and elsewhere in the Soviet Union. If we help perestroika, we will ask nothing in return. B ut I want to make certain that you understand me. We are not offering to help you because we want to do something nice for you. We are of- fering help because we want to do something for America. The creation of a democratic, free market Soviet Union is i n America's interest. For this reason I urge that there be linkage in America's help to you.


Let me explain this linkage: our help must be used only to create democracy and free markets in your country. We do not want to help keep your central planners in power. We do not want to help you subsidize producers. We do not want to help you distort market dynamics. Ibis will not help you grow economically and it will not help us. We can help you in several ways - with advice, with investment, even with dire c t financial aid. Specifically, as a start, we would like to help you do six things: 1) Create an absolutely free price system. Only this allows an economy to operate at top efficiency. 2) Establish private property and create a judicial system to protect p rivate property. Only this gives individuals the incentives to work hard, to improve what they own and to save for future generations. 3) Create a convertible currency. 4) Establish private banks and other private credit institutions. 5) Create a tax syst e m that does not penalize the private sector and that does not dis- courage entrepreneurs, inventiveness, creativity and risk-taking. 6) Make it easier for individuals to start their own businesses. To do this, you should reduce regulations and simplify re q uirements for obtaining business licenses and permits. As you begin progressing towards a free market economy, we will not object to you be- coming a member of international organizations designed to advance the free market - or- ganizations like the GA71 T, the International Monetary Fund, and the International Stand- ards Organization. If you remain a centrally-planned economy, of course, you do not qualify for GATT membership. As a free market economy, you deserve to be a member.

T he fifth area of possibl e improvement in our relations is in promoting T'hird World economic growth. Ilere is so much that we together can bring to the T11ird World. Here the most useful vehicle may be international organizations. Just as we are working together at the United Na t ions on the Persian Gulf crisis, so too we can begin to work together at the U.N. on economic development matters. The Heritage Foundation has conducted extensive studies on Tlird World economies. From these studies we learn that what T'hird World countri es need most is not our money


and not your money. What Third World countries need most is good advice on economic policies. Such advice they have not been receiving from the United Nations. Instead, U.N. economic agencies consistently give bad advice b y advocating central economic planning, state-run agriculture, artificial price systems and all of those other policies that guarantee economic stagnation, even decline. It is no coincidence that most Third World countries are poorer today than they were 3 0 years ago. For this, the United Nations bears a major share of the blame. And you too are partly to blame. This is because Third World nations and U.N. agencies have looked to Moscow for guidance on economic issues. The advice you gave them has been as b ad for their economies as it has been for your economy. Now, of course, you can begin giving Third World nations much better advice. You could tell them that central planning and a New International Economic Order are formulas for economic catastrophe. In the place of that strategy, you could recommend your own "500 Day" economic reform plan. If they adopted it, Third World states would benefit enor- mously. What I thus suggest to you is that your country and mine can require the United Nations to give Thi r d World countries good economic advice. We can change the agenda of those U.N. bodies that are hostile to free market principles - bodies like the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (called UNCTAD, in English), the U.N. Capital Development Fund, the U.N. Industrial Development Organization and the U.N. Development Program. Further, your country and mine can prevent the U.N. programs on the environment, oceans, shippin& multinational corporations, international financial institutions and even space fr om blocking economic growth.


Let me conclude. I am very pleased to be here. I am very pleased to be talking to you about a new era of relations between America and you, between American conservatives and you. Georgiy Arbatov of your U.S.A. and Canada I nstitute said, with some amusement, last year, that the Soviet Union would do something for which America is not prepared - take away America's enemy. Comrade Arbatov was wrong. As a conservative I am prepared to lose you as my enemy. I don't want you as my enemy.

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I have been a reluctant fighter in the Cold War - a tough and persistent fighter, I believe, but also a reluctant -one. I welcome the end of this fight. Even during the long years of the fight, I tried to be an honest enemy of the Soviet- re gime and thus a good friend of the Soviet people. I and my conservative colleagues certainly have been better friends of yours than have been American liberals. These liberals - like Jimmy Carter or George McGovern or Walter Mondale and their ad- visors - have not been your friends because they have not been honest with you. They made excuses for your economic failings; they made apologies for your military expansion. Though it may be painful, let us recall what Cyrus Vance, when he was Secretary of State, told the press. He actually said: "President Carter and President Brezhnev share similar dreams and aspirations on all the important issues." You know better than I do what outrageous nonsense this statement was. Vance not only was lying to us, he was lyi n g to you. Conservatives did not pretend that America and Brezhnev shared anything. We did not pretend that everything was fine in the Soviet Union. We did not make excuses and apologies for you. We told you the truth. We told you that there was no need fo r you to expand militarily, that you had no reason to fear America and that your economic policies would drive you to bankruptcy. In the long run, we have proven to be true friends of yours. Now is the time to build solid structures on this friendship. Let me end by recalling that when American liberals and other leftists would visit you, they typically would return to America and would declare that in the Soviet Union they have seen the future - and it works. Today I come to say to you that we conservative s have seen the past - and that is what works. History teaches us great lessons. As a conservative, I offer - in friendship - to share these with you.



Burton Yale

Senior Associate Fellow in African Affairs